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Experts Explore Legal Means to Mitigate Human Rights Inequities, as Third Committee Delegates Caution Against Political Bias in Judicial Reform

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27 OCTOBER 2017

Ways and means of addressing human rights challenges through the rule of law, whether domestically or globally, was the topic of the day in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as delegates engaged with experts on gender identity, the Palestinian Territories, and truth and justice in general.

Despite a global trend to decriminalize consensual same-sex relationships, more than 70 countries still made them a crime, said Vitit Muntharbhorn, Independent Expert on Protection against Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, who presented his first and last report under the mandate. Even when laws were not implemented, they could still give rise to “an environment of fear and foreboding” and required effective repeal. Addressing negative media, he pressed States to respect freedom of expression. At times, what might be needed was counter-speech and at other times, criminal laws against incitement to hatred.

Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, also focused his presentation through a legal lens. He had devised a four-part test, anchored in international law, to determine whether an occupying power was the lawful occupant of territory. “Israel, the occupying power, is in substantial breach of each of the four parts of this test,” he said, urging the General Assembly to sponsor a legal study on ways for States to ensure respect for international law, including the duty to end a wrongful situation.

Taking a broader view, Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, said reforms must ensure that international human rights instruments were ratified and implemented, and that security-related legislation was reviewed to ensure compliance with relevant norms.

The international community’s option to use law to address inequalities was also taken up by speakers in the afternoon, as the Committee opened its general debate on human rights. Liechtenstein’s delegate said 20 years after the Rome Statute’s adoption, billions of people still did not enjoy legal protection under the International Criminal Court. The Court could not fill the impunity gap alone. He cited the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for crimes committed in Syria as an example of how the United Nations could help ensure accountability.

Meanwhile, South Africa’s delegate said on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons that existing legal frameworks had not effectively protected their rights. He called for a universal legally binding document to address the “regulatory dispersion”. Noting that the promotion of human rights had evolved into an elaborate architecture, India’s delegate recognized the primacy of national responsibility in enabling all people to realize their fundamental freedoms.

Also speaking were representatives of El Salvador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Argentina on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Core Group, Australia on behalf of several States, Switzerland, Japan, Egypt, Peru, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Russian Federation, Qatar, Norway, Iran, United States of America, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Thailand, Canada, Algeria, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Togo, Bangladesh, Armenia and Libya.

A representative of the European Union also spoke.

The representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, China, Pakistan, Venezuela, Egypt and Japan also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 30 October, to continue its General Debate on human rights.


The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).

Interactive Dialogues- Truth, Justice, Reparation

PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence, said the Secretary-General had placed prevention at the core of United Nations reform. Immense resources were being used to respond to crises, rather than to prevent them. Existing prevention measures lacked any significant link to human rights, he said, adding that international organizations did not have the coordination needed to address the matter. Comprehensive prevention frameworks must account for the inputs of civil society, as an involved civil society was a resilient one, he stressed.

The development of comprehensive prevention frameworks would help define the links between prevention and sustainable development, he said. Truly comprehensive approaches required legislative reforms that targeted the civil and security sectors. Further, reform must ensure the ratification and implementation of international human rights instruments and review of security-related legislation to ensure compliance with relevant norms. Yet, a framework approach was not the same as a policy blueprint, he said, noting that frameworks would include elements some States did not have to, or could not, address.

When the floor opened for interaction, the representative of Norway said the United Nations “Human Rights up Front” initiative required continued support to deliver on its objectives, and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on next steps to ensure that an approach to prevention was integrated in reform efforts.

The representative of the European Union agreed that civil society played an important role in preventive work. As civil society actors faced significant challenges, he asked the Special Rapporteur what steps the United Nations could take to facilitate the work of those working in the most difficult environments.

The representative of Colombia spoke about national achievements related to the country’s peace process, noting that on 14 November 2017, the names of the commissioners [of its newly created truth commission] would be made public and they would work to clarify the truth.

The representative of Switzerland recalling a chapter in the Special Rapporteur’s report on prevention within the United Nations, asked about the next steps the Organization must take to overcome structural and organizational challenges.

The representative of Ireland associated himself with the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur for examples of civil society actors establishing platforms and coalitions of networks, as recommended in his report.

The representative of the United States said transitional justice was essential to building stable, participatory and prosperous societies after conflict. The Special Rapporteur was asked what challenges he saw to progress in Sri Lanka, as well as what was needed to overcome the crisis there. He also asked about overcoming challenges in Burundi, and how the past had affected ongoing conflicts in “Burma”.

Mr. DE GREIFF, responding, said he sought to establish links between transitional justice and the work of various United Nations agencies. Prevention work was once again on top of the Organization’s agenda, he said, however disaggregated knowledge remained a challenge. The creation of a framework would bring discussions within the system together, he said, adding that rhetorical agreement about the inclusion of human rights in the prevention agenda was not being matched by action, he said.

Turning to the role of civil society, he said most prevention discussion had been reduced to questions about the transformation of official State institutions. It was imperative to include civil society in the design of prevention policy. He said Sri Lanka had capable civil society networks but they were not being given the tools to act effectively. Civil society organizations required the opportunity to interact with State officials.

Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity

VITIT MUNTHARBHORN, Independent Expert on Protection against Violence Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, presented his first report under the mandate which followed from a report to the Human Rights Council presented earlier in 2017. Listing human rights violations faced by persons whose sexual orientation and/or gender identity differed from a particular social norm, he said the global scenario was “a crucible of egregious violations”. He identified six areas of concern, among which his report addressed two: decriminalization and anti-discrimination measures. He welcomed the United Nations recent position to ban the death penalty linked with the criminalization of consensual same-sex relations. In some regions, the judiciary had stepped in to enable non-governmental organizations working on such issues to be registered as part of the freedom of association.

Yet, he said there were also signs of regression, with law enforcement in some countries using “public decency” laws to criminalize consensual same-sex relations. Some laws criminalized not simply conduct, but acted against people because they were perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Despite a global trend toward decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships, more than 70 countries still criminalized them. The death penalty might be applied in “about eight” countries in the African and Asian regions, he said, urging the immediate end to the death penalty interlinked with criminalized consensual same-sex relations. Even when laws were not implemented, they might still give rise to “an environment of fear and foreboding” and required effective repeal. Law enforcers and other power groups needed education to enhance their understanding and respect for human rights law and gender diversity.

When the floor opened to questions, the representative of Chile, speaking on behalf of a group of States, said the opportunity to mitigate sexual and gender-based violence must be seized and all relevant agencies should cooperate with the Independent Expert. He agreed that all States must adopt legislation to combat discrimination.

The representative of Argentina, associating himself with Chile’s statement, congratulated the Independent Expert for his work and said Argentina was the first country visited by the Expert. He reiterated support for the mandate.

The representative of South Africa said notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be conflated and were not similar. He called for non-discriminatory approaches and better protections against gender- or sexual-based violence. He asked how to enhance dialogue on the matter and promote overlap with such issues as racism.

The representative of Mexico said capacity building and dialogue were vital to address the needs of all people. Her Government would continue working with the Independent Expert. She asked for an assessment of international cooperation and the role the United Nations could take.

The representative of Belgium, associating herself with the European Union, vowed to remain engaged in the fight against gender- and sexual-based violence, noting that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex communities were great contributors to society.

The representative of Albania welcomed efforts to promote international dialogue on the matter and condemned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The representative of the United States said it was unacceptable for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people to face punishment for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and asked what tools the Independent Expert had to engage with States that criminalized same-sex conduct.

The representative of the United Kingdom said that, pending repeal of discriminatory laws, States must not apply those laws and asked how the United Nations could respond to such issues.

The representative of Canada asked about best practices to ensure all persons were included in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The representative of Japan asked what efforts were needed from Member States to better consult lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex individuals.

The representative of Colombia said dialogue was a central tool to address discrimination, and that his Government had adopted affirmative action legislation.

The representative of the European Union reaffirmed that cultural or religious values could not be invoked to promote discrimination and asked for best practices to address the needs of vulnerable groups.

The representative of Australia said criminalization of homosexuality violated international commitments States had accepted as obligations, and called for decriminalizing consensual same-sex relations. She asked about the most common barriers to people based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The representative of France asked how the international community could move to decriminalize homosexuality and how the United Nations could protect individuals from violence related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The representative of Spain said education was a fundamental factor in fighting discrimination and requested approaches to promote diversity.

The representatives of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, expressed concern over efforts by some States to defer implementation of the Independent Expert’s mandate.

The representative of the Netherlands, associating himself with the European Union and Canada, asked how sexual orientation and gender identity issues could be addressed without further fuelling controversies.

The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, asked what methods existed to pursue capacity building, and what barriers prevented organizations from addressing sexual orientation and gender identity issues.

The representative of Slovenia said no country was immune to violence related to sexual orientation and gender identity and asked how violence could be addressed in cultures with deeply-rooted stigmas.

The representative of New Zealand called for urgent action to prevent violence and noted legislative efforts in his country to promote the rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The representative of Switzerland, noting the growing role of social media as a platform for hate speech, asked how an environment conducive to greater empathy could be fostered, and how the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could benefit the Independent Expert’s mandate.

The representative of Israel urged States to adopt anti-discrimination legislation, noting that such measures could help end violence and cautioning the international community against politicizing the matter.

The representative of Malta, associating herself with the European Union, said her Government had made significant gains in addressing legal protections related to sexual orientation and gender violence.

Mr. MUNTHARBHORN, on how to promote decriminalization, replied that States must build checks and balances at the local level. Sometimes, reform came from Parliament and other times, from the judiciary, while the executive branch might be slow. On the topic of capacity, he said that bilaterally, States might help neighbours develop. There was also the possibility of regional and interregional cooperation, such as between the inter-American human rights system and the African system, together with support from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Offering examples of good programming, he proposed using HIV and AIDS programming to insert messages of anti-violence and anti-discrimination. States could seek out advisory services for ensuring that all people enjoyed human rights, and one good entry point was the Sustainable Development Goals, with its focus on leaving no one behind.

To a query on inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, he said good role modelling was important. He asked which countries now had transgender people as judges and urged States to provide positive examples. Argentina, for instance, had affirmative action programmes. At the local and national levels, the voices of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people could be heard through their direct involvement in human rights discussions and non-governmental organization forums. At the multilateral level, that could happen through the United Nations system as a whole. To protect human rights defenders, access to freedom of speech, in terms of the indivisibility of human rights, was important. Equally so was action against reprisals, he said, notably through the United Nations, and beyond, through hotlines and access to funding, which was inhibited in some systems. He urged States not to implement laws that did not comply with international human rights.

Education was an entry point to nurture understanding, he said, and to that end, a relation between the child, parent and teachers was important. In Argentina, he had met a teacher who had said one could use fairy tales, anecdotes, and family involvement so that children understood. Education, including through social media on empathy, meant education for all — not only the child, but the general public. He encouraged positive social media and respect for human rights. Addressing negative media, he pressed States to respect freedom of expression. At times, what might be needed was counter-speech and other times, criminal laws against incitement to hatred. His advocacy was to evaluate structural issues from a “total approach” perspective, while not forgetting the need to nurture empathy through nurturing education, he said.

Palestinian Territories

MICHAEL LYNK, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967, said Israel had refused to cooperate with his mandate and respond to his requests to visit the Territories. His report’s central theme explored whether an occupying power, which treated the territory in an acquisitive manner — in violation of international law — had become an illegal occupant. Until now, the international community had treated Israel as the lawful occupant of Palestinian territories, despite that it had breached international law through its settlement enterprise, construction of the wall, annexation of East Jerusalem and systemic violation of human rights.

He had devised a four-part test, anchored in international law, to determine whether an occupying power was the lawful occupant of territory. The first part centred around the established legal principle that an occupier could not annex or gain title to any part of the occupied territory. The second part was that the occupation must be temporary. As such, the occupying power was required to establish conditions to end the occupation, such as public order and a functioning economy. The third part involved determining whether the occupying power acted in the best interest of the people under occupation. The fourth part required the occupying power to administer the territory in good faith — a cornerstone principle of the international legal system — meaning that it must carry out its duties in an honest, loyal, reasonable and diligent manner.

“Israel, the occupying power, is in substantial breach of each of the four parts of this test,” he said. Israel had annexed East Jerusalem and parts of West Bank. Its occupation was not temporary in nature. Israel had not acted in the best interests of Palestinian people, having exploited occupied land for its settlers. Israel had failed to live up to the demands of the good faith principle and defied relevant Security Council resolutions. Its role as an occupant had “crossed the red line” into illegality and he urged use of legal and diplomatic tools to end the occupation.

When the floor opened to questions, a representative of the State of Palestine expressed full support of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, noting that his report could transform the discussion towards the illegality of Israel’s occupation. After 50 years, the international community must realize not enough had been done to help Palestinians. The report identified the human rights situation in Palestine as deteriorating and stated that Israel’s rule had reached the point of illegality under international law.

Facts and analysis revealed Israel had failed the test of a lawful occupant, she said, pointing to the Special Rapporteur’s comment that Israel’s role had “crossed a red line”. De-facto annexations of territories, human rights violations and disregard for Security Council resolutions demonstrated that Israel was not operating in good faith and with impunity. A large reason for such behaviour was that the international community had failed to hold Israel accountable.

She asked the Special Rapporteur about the implications of finding the occupying power as illegal, what framework could protect Palestinians and how the international community should react. She condemned Israel’s refusal to participate with the mandate and called on it to be brought into compliance with international obligations.

The representative of Israel said Hamas was an internationally recognized terrorist organization that targeted Palestinians speaking out against their actions. Palestinian authorities were also paying terrorists to attack Israeli citizens, she said. The report’s disregard for such rights violations made it clear that the Special Rapporteur had an anti-Israel bias and wished to isolate Israel, noting that he recently had called for sanctions against Israel and was seeking to exploit United Nations mechanisms to pursue his own agenda. The Special Rapporteur had no choice but to resign, she said.

The representative of Namibia expressed concern over Israel’s failure to grant the Special Rapporteur access to the region to gather first-hand information. Continuous non-cooperation from Israel was “highly regrettable”, she said asking the Special Rapporteur to discuss the possibility of seeking an advisory opinion on the Palestinian question from the International Court of Justice.

The representative of South Africa voiced opposition to the negative effects of occupation on the people of Palestine and agreed that the occupation had become an “illegal oxymoron”.

The representative of Morocco said the Palestinian issue was at an impasse and reiterated her support for initiatives aimed at creating a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.

The representative of Saudi Arabia said Israel continued to violate basic human rights and pursue colonial policies.

The representative of Nicaragua said that despite appeals from the international community, Israel continued to build illegal settlements and asked how such policies affected Palestinians’ right to development.

The representative of the European Union said achieving a two-State solution was central to the bloc’s policy. He opposed Israel’s settlement building, and condemned terror attacks from all sides and in all circumstances.

The representative of Cuba demanded a just, peaceful solution and called for recognition of a Palestinian State.

The representative of China vowed to pay attention to the human rights situation in the occupied territories and expressed support for a two-State solution.

The representative of Turkey said Israeli policy continued to violate United Nations resolutions, and he expressed commitment to development efforts in the region.

The representative of Malaysia said Palestinians faced great violations including movement restrictions and inability to construct new homes. He asked about the implications of those policies.

The representative of Iran said the report outlined violations by Israel and asked if the Special Rapporteur had approached that country’s allies to encourage his potential visit.

The representative of Indonesia said fundamental human rights and freedoms must be prioritized, and that violations from the occupying power must end.

The representative of the Maldives said the crisis in Palestine was entirely man-made and caused by Israel. Occupation was a flagrant violation of international law, he said, calling for an independent and sovereign Palestine.

The representative of Norway urged Israel’s full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur. He expressed concern over practices amounting to collective punishment and called for pursuit of a two-State solution.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that despite international efforts, little progress had been made in recent decades. He said the two-State solution was the only way forward and called for an end to unilateral actions.

The representative of Iraq called on the international community to ensure Israel complied with international rules.

The representative of Syria encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue working to expose State terror promoted by Israel.

The representative of Egypt said Israel was pursuing new Greater Jerusalem legislation and asked about the implications of such legislation.

Mr. LYNK urged the United Nations to commission a study on the legality of Israel’s continued occupation of Palestinian territory. When that had been done in 1971 regarding Namibia and South Africa, the situation there had persisted for over 40 years. He urged the General Assembly to sponsor a legal study on ways and means for States to ensure respect for international law, including the duty to end a wrongful situation. If those avenues did not succeed, the Assembly should consider the Uniting for Peace resolution. If there were a determination that Israel’s occupier role was no longer lawful, a declaration of illegality of any further rule by Israel would not affect the framework of international protection, such as the Geneva Convention. Those were two separate questions, and a declaration of illegality would maintain protection until the end of the occupation.

To comments by Israel’s delegate, he said advancing ad hominem personal attacks had never been a persuasive argument. On how settlement enterprises affected Palestinians, he said it meant the loss of property, restrictions on the freedom of movement, the pillage of water and natural resources, and the creation of a separate political regime with no place in the modern world. Regarding a query on the implications of a new Jerusalem bill, he noted that in 1967, the initial annexation of East Jerusalem had been disguised as municipal fusion. That had meant to bring in several hundred thousand settlers by a first step of extending the laws of Jerusalem to them. The international community should take up that issue with great alarm.


HECTOR ENRIQUE JAIME CALDERÓN (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said the region had been affected by the multi-dimensional reality of migration. He called for a better understanding of migration patterns through varied perspectives, adding that the focus must be on making migration safe. Migration required a response from all States, with the cooperation of relevant international agencies. Countries at all levels of the migration flow must work together, he said, pledging that the Community would protect the freedoms of all migrants, regardless of their status.

While all human beings were born equal with the right to be recognized everywhere as a person before the law, many States had responded to migration through xenophobic approaches, he said. Origin and destination countries must implement policy through a humanitarian lens, while all Governments must respect the rights of all migrants and guarantee return procedures with safeguards when applicable. The Community was committed to fostering gender-sensitive public policy that enhanced the development of all people and recognized migrants’ contribution to the global economy.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex Core Group, said the group’s overarching goal was to ensure universal respect for the rights of all people without distinction, including in protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons from violence and discrimination. States’ legal obligations to uphold the human rights of all individuals without distinction were well-established in international human rights law.

Thus, he said the creation of the Independent Expert on Protection against Violence and Discrimination based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity had been pivotal. He expressed the group’s commitment to tackling violations and abuses at the domestic and global levels, stressing that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people faced human rights violations and abuses in all parts of the world. He commended OHCHR for raising global awareness, and welcomed States’ voluntary commitments to end violence and discrimination linked to sexual orientation and gender identity.

EPHRAIM MMINELE (South Africa), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said their global population was projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030, outnumbering youth and children under age 10. That trend posed a development challenge and required greater attention. As older persons could make significant contributions to social, economic and sustainable development, it was imperative to fully empower them.

He expressed concern over multiple forms of discrimination against older persons, calling for policies and legal frameworks that promoted their rights and social inclusion. Existing legal frameworks and mechanisms had not effectively protected or promoted their rights, he said, calling for a universal legally binding document to address the “regulatory dispersion”. Explaining, he said the absence of provisions in international human rights law on the rights and needs of older persons had led to a normative dispersion and lack of international standards. He encouraged open and frank discussions regarding the needed measures to address gaps.

PENELOPE MORTON (Australia), speaking also on behalf Canada, Costa Rica, Fiji, Iceland, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Mexico and Norway, said dialogue was an essential for protecting human rights and the United Nations should embrace multi-stakeholder engagement. National human rights institutions — independent bodies established by Governments — were key stakeholders. As of May 2017, there were more than 100 such institutions worldwide, 78 of which had been accredited as being in full compliance with the Paris Principles.

She commended the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions and its regional networks for promoting the establishment of those bodies acknowledging progress made since 2015 in formalizing their participation across the United Nations system. Those institutions had contributed to discussions of the United Nations Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, and participated in the development of a Global Compact on Migration.

GERTON VAN DEN AKKER, European Union delegation, rejected the politicization of human rights, stressing that the bloc made every effort to avoid the perception of double standards in its approach to that issue. For example, its Fundamental Rights Agency annually assessed shortcomings of the bloc’s member States, pointing to such issues as the inclusion of the Roma people, the need to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and the need to better support migrant and refugee children. The European Union also applied those principles to its relationships with international partners. Encouraging greater multilateral cooperation, he said the same principles should also hold true of the United Nations human rights system, and every participant should “accept the rules of the game” including collective platforms for constructive criticism and debate.

Calling on all Member States to extend a standing invitation to Special Procedures mandate holders, he went on stress that the Assembly’s attention must not be diverted from that grave and systematic human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Calling on Pyongyang to end such violations, and on China to abstain from forcibly repatriating persons who had fled that country, he voiced deep concern about reports of serious rights violations in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, which “must end immediately”. Further, the Security Council should refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court, he said, citing other situations of concern, including those in Burundi, Ukraine, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Egypt, Pakistan, Cambodia, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

LAETITIA KIRIANOFF CRIMMINS (Switzerland) welcomed the ongoing trend in favour of abolishing the death penalty, but voiced concern that some countries might reintroduce it and that others had carried out executions after years of moratorium. She also expressed concern over restrictions on civil society space, which had seen violations of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association. States must guarantee a safe environment for civil society and ensure that violations did not go unpunished. On terrorism, she expressed concern about the impact of States’ humanitarian and medical assistance measures, recalling that procedural safeguards should be protected, including in the context of the sanctions against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh) and Al-Qaida. She advocated attention to the rights of children suspected of belonging to terrorist groups. She expressed Switzerland’s commitment to the Appeal to place human rights at the heart of conflict prevention and invited all States to join that effort.

JUN SAITO (Japan) said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to engage in acts of provocation, citing the launch of ballistic missiles over Japanese territory, made possible by diverting resources from its own people. Japan and the European Union would submit a draft resolution to the Committee on the topic, which he hoped would be approved with broad support. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea also had abducted Japanese citizens, a serious rights violation. Elsewhere, he called on Myanmar to restore security in Rakhine State in a manner consistent with the rule of law and in full respect of human rights. On Syria, while some progress had been made in de-escalation zones, atrocities against civilians persisted, and he expressed grave concern about the human rights situation there.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said 20 years after the Rome Statute’s adoption, billions of people still did not enjoy legal protection under the International Criminal Court and it was time to explore alternatives. Recalling that the Statute gave primacy to national proceedings, he said some States did not have the capacity to investigate and prosecute. As such, the United Nations, regional organizations and Governments could provide technical and capacity-building assistance to countries requiring it. The Court could exercise jurisdiction in situations when States were not willing to investigate crimes. However, its jurisdiction was based on the consent of States, which often was not given. The Security Council also did not typically create jurisdiction, which had led to inaction and rampant impunity. He cited the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for crimes committed in Syria as an example of how the United Nations could help ensure accountability, as the Court could not fill the impunity gap alone.

MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt) said progress in “crystalizing” human rights frameworks had not resulted in measures to protect those freedoms. Conflicts in the Middle East had revealed international inaction in protecting the rights of civilians, he said, stressing that radicalization, terrorism and Islamophobia required concerted global efforts. Some States used human rights to achieve political goals and he pressed States to engage in constructive dialogue and avoid using human rights to interfere in internal matters. He underscored the need to be sensitive to countries’ cultural differences, noting that the right to development had not been given sufficient attention by States which had appointed themselves “guardians” of political and civil rights.

FRANCISCO TENYA HASEGAWA (Peru), expressing his country’s commitment to human rights, said it had established the rule of law and a true culture of peace. Indeed, Peru had a solid institutional structure and justice system, which protected the rights of women, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people, as well as indigenous people. Among the first States to participate in the universal periodic review, Peru was now working to produce a new review by year-end. It also had been elected to the Human Rights Council. As extreme poverty hindered the full respect for human rights, Peru sought to provide quality public health, education, child nutrition and safe drinking water services.

FERNANDO ANDRÉS MARANI (Argentina), associating himself with CELAC and the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said human rights were interrelated and indivisible. Argentina was increasing its cooperation with mandate holders and treaty bodies, having hosted several such visits, and urged the international community to redouble efforts to assist the most vulnerable populations. He expressed particular concern over the situation of older persons, saying that mandatory international instruments were needed to assist them. He also stressed the need to strengthen protection for journalists.

RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil) said his country’s commitment to open dialogue both internally and internationally had contributed to its progress in strengthening human rights practices. To monitor success, the Government had launched a national system of human rights indicators and was responding to the demands of civil society. He underscored the need for greater global efforts to combat prejudice, intolerance and racism, adding that the right to privacy was also a priority for Brazil. He expressed concern over the negative impacts of surveillance and interception of digital communications. Brazil’s strength as a nation came from its diversity, he stressed, noting its commitment to uphold human rights for all and eradicate the causes of inequality.

NATALIE COHEN (Australia) said the United Nations must send a message that rights violations were always unacceptable, adding that gender equality was central to sustainable development. Universal access to reproductive health had a profound impact on women and girls, enabling them to participate equally in society and the economy. Reiterating the importance of multi-stakeholder engagement at all levels, she said human rights institutions and defenders enriched debate. Attacks on those groups were unacceptable and their safety must be ensured.

KAMARAJ KALITHEERTHAN (India) said the promotion of human rights had evolved into an elaborate, interconnected architecture, with the 2030 Agenda now defining collective efforts to enable all people to realize their rights. Recognizing the primacy of national responsibility in that regard, he said the universal periodic review had emerged as an effective instrument. Special procedure-mandate holders must work in an impartial manner, he said, pointing to “sweeping generalizations” in some expert reports. He called for transparency in funding mandate holders and avoiding duplication of mandates. There must also be zero tolerance for terrorism, he said, affirming the “supreme importance” of enshrining the right to development.

TATIANA SHLYCHKOVA (Russian Federation) said politicization, dual standards and geographic imbalance had hindered human rights discussions at the United Nations. The United States did not have the right to lecture others on such issues when it was dealing with the use of force by police against certain racial groups, and incarcerating more people than any other country. Its use of force in Iraq, Syria and Libya had led to unprecedented deaths, she said, also pointing to the existence of 917 extremist groups in the country and reported arrests of media members. In the European Union, there had been increased use of force against people, while the freedom of expression had been suppressed and the media was under pressure. Associations, authors and scientists also had been banned. Torture had been used in Ukraine, while in the Balkans, the teaching of languages used by minorities had been curtailed.

ALANOUD QASSIM M. A. AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) expressed her country’s commitment to protecting human rights, a fact reflected in national legislation that was in line with international standards. Qatar had safeguarded the freedom of information and introduced legislation to protect labour rights which complied with International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions. Further, Qatar’s election to the Human Rights Council reflected its commitment to human rights, she said, refuting reports by Amnesty International of human rights abuses.

TORE HATTREM (Norway) said freedom of expression was essential for self-fulfilment. To be able to choose the best policy options, free and open exchanges of opinion were crucial. An independent and diverse media sector was vital in providing the public with information and holding Governments accountable. He expressed concern that some Governments, whose responsibility was to protect and implement human rights, imposed laws and policies doing exactly the opposite, undermining the freedom of expression and the press. Noting that curtailing free speech and media were often signs of a pending crisis, he said inclusive dialogue and free exchange of opinion were the best defences against repression, violence and conflict.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said the blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia on Yemen placed millions of children at risk of famine and disease, adding that Saudi Arabia had killed more children than any terror organization in the world. Its systematic anti-Shia campaigns continued, while at the regional level, it was determined to “choke” peoples’ dreams. Serious rights violations also persisted in the United States, including torture and detention without charge, with hate-speech fuelling anti-Muslim policymaking. Discrimination remained pervasive in Europe, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable, particularly Muslims and migrants. Turning to Israel, he said occupation caused instability in the Middle East and beyond, calling the scale of its rights violations appalling.

Ms. CURRIE (United States) said when States violated human rights, instability was sure to follow. She condemned brutal treatment of detainees in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and noted gross violations of international law in Syria. Arbitrary dentitions, abuse and torture in Iran were being imposed on foreigners and nationals alike, while in the Russian Federation civil society groups continued to face oppression. She called on the latter to hold accountable those responsible for extrajudicial killings of gay men, and urged Myanmar to both provide immediate media access and cease hostilities within its borders. She expressed concern over the detention of lawyers in China and condemned Venezuela’s turn to authoritarianism, also urging Cuba to release political prisoners.

JA SONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) identified abuse of United Nations mechanisms by some States as the main challenge, pointing to the anti-Pyongyang campaign “viciously” staged by the United States and its followers in the Organization as a clear example of such. That campaign aimed to politically and militarily stifle his country and had gone “beyond imagination”. Furthermore, coercive and inhumane Security Council sanctions had hampered the country’s development. He rejected the politicization of human rights and assured that the people of his country fully enjoyed their rights under the “warm care and love” of Kim Jong Un. Noting visits and dialogue with mandate holders, he said his country would continue to strengthen its system of rights protections.

Ms. INTARASUWAN (Thailand) said human rights were crucial in promoting sustainable development, and the Thai Constitution underscored those principles, including freedom of religion or belief. The draft fourth national human rights plan had expanded target groups to include human rights defenders and the media, she said, adding that the rule of law was fundamental to the promotion and protection of human rights. Thailand would organize a United Nations regional consultation for the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration in Bangkok next months.

CAMERON JON JELINSKI (Canada) said no country had a flawless human rights record, noting that his Government was confronting its legacy of colonialism and reconciliation. Efforts included addressing the socioeconomic gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Canadians and changing its laws, policies and operational practices based on the recognition of rights to self-determination and self-government. Respect for diversity and inclusion required the rejection of discrimination, exclusion, bigotry, intolerance, homophobia, transphobia, sexism and racism. Those harmful mindsets were fuelling human rights crises in Venezuela, Myanmar, Chechnya and Iran. He encouraged respect for diversity by rejecting all discrimination and calling for gender equality.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria) said his country cooperated fully and in good faith with the special procedures, noting that five mandate-holders had visited Algeria upon invitation. The United Nations human rights pillar must be strengthened, he said, citing large implementation gaps. As such, he called for increasing the impact of limited resources available to OHCHR and enhancing the ability to respond to complex field challenges. He also appealed for an increase in the share of the United Nations regular budget allocated to human rights, and greater efforts by the High Commissioner to achieve an equitable geographic balance among staff.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), calling on States to afford high priority to extreme poverty, illiteracy and the lack of access to health care — which characterized the current unjust world economic order — also urged them to engage in more respectful cooperation that rejected attempts to use human rights as a “weapon” or a “bargaining chip”. Drawing attention to Cuba’s submission of resolutions aimed at promoting a democratic and equitable world order, she rejected selective approaches against developing countries and called the universal period review the appropriate body for addressing rights issues without distinction or politicization. She also condemned the economic, commercial and financial blockage against Cuba by the United States.

BAKHTIYOR IBRAGIMOV (Uzbekistan) described efforts to build a democratic State and just society guided by human interests, noting that in February, the Government had outlined five development priorities for the 2017 to 2021 period. Uzbekistan also had designated 2017 as “the Year of Dialogue with People and Human Interests” with the goal of strengthening people-centred mechanisms. Special attention was paid to youth rights, with the adoption of a national law and implementation of a youth policy — important efforts, given the links between extremist activities with people under age 30. Efforts should promote conditions for young people’s self-realization and creation of a barrier against the spread of the “virus” ideology of violence. He proposed formulating a Convention on the Rights of Youth.

KAMBA DOUTI (Togo) said his country had improved legal and institutional human rights frameworks. Special legal status had been accorded to refugees, and cruel and degrading treatment was illegal. In addition, measures to combat discrimination against people living with HIV had been put in place, and vaccines provided to women and children. Togo had also worked to reduce youth unemployment to 3.4 percent through job training. He called for dynamic country partnerships in efforts to protect human rights around the world.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh) said his country was strongly committed to protecting human rights, notably as a party to various rights instruments. While Bangladesh ensured its citizens fully enjoyed their social, cultural and other rights, intolerance stereotyping, hate speech based on religion and belief had hindered such enjoyment elsewhere, which could lead to serious tensions, as in Myanmar’s Rakhine State. He expressed hope that recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on the situation in Rakhine would guide the search for solutions. The Human Rights Council should convene a special session on protect the rights of the Rohingya, he said, stressing: “The international community has failed the Rohingya over the years.” He also urged States to end the occupation of Palestine.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said amendments to the Constitution had been critical in ushering in a new phase of legal and judicial reforms. There was now emphasis on the prohibition of discrimination on any grounds, including sex, race, colour, ethnicity or religion. Armenia’s electoral code had enhanced the Central Electoral Commission, strengthened the quota for female candidates, and provided up to four seats for ethnic minorities. The Government had also approved a new human rights action plan and developed a new draft judicial code. It continued to reform its penitentiaries and criminal procedure code, and to focus on criminalizing torture. Combating domestic violence was a top priority as well, she added, noting that a draft law on combating domestic abuse and protecting victims would soon be submitted to Parliament.

Ms. BEN ATEGH (Libya) welcomed the recent visit to Tripoli by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which should provide a complete picture of the human rights challenges her country faced. It was no secret that Libya was experiencing difficulties in building a State based on the rule of law and human rights. Numerous programmes seeking to achieve the right to development required efficient funding, and Libya called on States with Libyan assets and funds from illicit sources to assist it in tracking and gaining those funds. On illegal migration, she noted that Libya was a transit country, adding that authorities were working to curb the dangers posed by smugglers and criminal gangs.

Rights of reply

The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in exercise of the right to reply, rejected accusations made by his counterparts from the United States, Japan and European Union. Human rights violations were occurring in the United States, and that country had slaughtered innocent civilians across the world in the name of the global war on terror. It was a shame for the European Union to argue about other countries’ rights issues, as Islamophobia, human trafficking and other abuses persisted there. The bloc should address its own rights issues rather than the non-existent issues of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The representative of China rejected accusations by her counterparts from the United States and the European Union. The United States sought to politicize rights, yet remained silent on violations committed by itself and its allies. In the United States, gun violence and imprisonment rates were high, and police abused their power. The gap between the rich and poor had expanded, and migrants faced exclusion. In the European Union, migrants faced repatriation, among other abuses. China’s progress in protecting human rights should be recognized. China was committed to the rule of law, having established an administrative law on non-governmental organizations with the goal of protecting those groups. Such foreign groups would have an enabling environment in which to operate if they abided by laws in China.

The representative of Pakistan, to remarks by the European Union delegate, said his country was determined to ensure that every citizen enjoyed full human rights. The recent election marked a vote of confidence for Pakistan’s respect for those freedoms. Acknowledging the challenges, he said Pakistan had taken a holistic approach to empower women and minorities, and was committed to engaging with the international community.

The representative of Venezuela said the United States delegate did not know the reality of the situation in Venezuela, pointing to racist policies and discrimination in the United States. That country also had not taken responsibility for the deaths of millions in all the wars it had caused. He rejected the use of human rights for political reasons, stressing that despite the challenges of external aggression, Venezuela would continue to work on social investment for the people.

The representative of Egypt said in response to the European Union delegate that baseless accusations were disturbing, and such comments reflected ignorance of Egypt’s political landscape. Such claims sought to selectively target Egypt. There were increasing incidents of discrimination based on religion in European Union countries, he said, with hate crimes against Muslims a serious problem in Germany. He also expressed concern about the situation in the United Kingdom.

The representative of Japan said in response to the delegate of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that that country had promised it would conduct comprehensive investigations into all missing Japanese people, including victims of abduction. Over 70 years since the end of the Second World War, Japan had been facing up to its past.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea recalled that a Special Rapporteur had pointed out issues with freedom of expression in Japan. It was universally accepted that Japan had used women from other countries as sexual slaves during the Second World War and he called on the United Nations to hold Japan accountable for past crimes.

The representative of Japan urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to address concerns raised by the General Assembly and other United Nations bodies around the testing of nuclear weapons.

For information media. Not an official record.