Human Rights Council hears from 13 dignitaries in high-level segment

Report
from UN Human Rights Council
Published on 27 Feb 2018 View Original

Human Rights Council AFTERNOON

27 February 2018

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard statements from dignitaries of 11 countries and two organizations and closed the second day of its high-level segment.

Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said Armenia continued to implement the national plan of action for human rights protection, had a good record of submission of national and follow-up reports to the treaty bodies, and would submit the Universal Periodic Review second mid-term report on a voluntary basis.

Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that Egypt would present during the current session a voluntary report on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. Egypt positively engaged with international human rights mechanisms, and it had one of the highest response rates to treaty bodies.

Margot Wallström, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented an opportunity to recall binding obligations, especially as many leaders questioned the validity and universality of human rights. Sweden called from stronger ties between the Security Council and the Human Rights Council to better consider the links between human rights and security.

Marie Ange Mushobekwa, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked all Member States for supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their membership to the Human Rights Council for the first time. In December 2017, the Catholic Church and activists had called for demonstrations in Kinshasa which had unfortunately ended with the death of civil society activists and political party members.

Geoffrey Onyeama, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that Nigeria remained fully committed to ensuring the full and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

Seyyed Alireza Avaei, Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said expansionist policies and overambitious domineering measures of certain States and their proxies in the region had resulted in mischievous attempts through supporting terrorists and extremist groups in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, aimed at sowing discord and creating divisions among nation States in the Middle East region.

Noureddine Ayadi, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, said legislative reforms, including constitutional amendments had been pursued to guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and belief, participatory democracy and local governance. He called upon the Council to look into the occupied territory of Western Sahara and to undertake measures to this effect.

Barbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, said that with the Human Rights Council, a comprehensive system to monitor State compliance with human rights obligations was in place and was helping people around the world realize their fundamental rights. The Council acted as a forum to highlight violations with a view to ending them.

Maria Luisa Navarro, Vice-Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, said the Council was experiencing political manipulation by some States. Panama regretted the decision taken by High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein not to stand for another mandate. His voice had been unique, unflawed and impartial, and he had stood up to States.

Adel Ahmed Al-Jubeir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, said a distinction had to be made between the truly universal human rights principles and principles that were favouring certain countries. Foreign values should not be imposed on other countries. The Arab-Israeli conflict, as the longest world conflict, included numerous violations of rights of Palestinian people to self-determination and the international community.

Stavros Lambrinidis, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, said that in 2018, no policy to ensure tolerance would succeed without human rights at its core. He affirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights was at the centre of multilateralism and at the very core of the European Union. The European Union reaffirmed support for reforms that would make the Human Rights Council as effective as possible.

Manabu Horii, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said Japan was committed to establishing the rule of law and human rights in its region. Japan and the European Union would draft a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, said the Council’s increased focus on national implementation and involvement of national processes was welcomed. The involvement of parliaments had increased during all stages of the Universal Periodic Review and the recent Council resolution 35/29 additionally strengthened the relationship of the Council and parliaments.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 February, to conclude its high-level segment.

High-Level Segment

EDWARD NALBANDIAN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said that 2018 marked the anniversary of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. In February 1988, anti-Armenian pogroms had broken out, leaving numerous Armenians killed and deported. Crimes had been perpetrated by the Azerbaijan authorities to punish the people of Nagorno-Karabakh for their right to self-determination. The Sumgait massacre had been widely condemned by the international community, including by a resolution of the European Parliament. Impunity had opened the door for ethnic cleansing in Baku, Kirovabad, Maragha and many other places. Azerbaijan had tried to conceal such atrocities but the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination as well as the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance had expressed concern at continuous hate speech in Azerbaijan. In 2015, upon the initiative of Armenia, the Human Rights Council had passed a unanimous resolution on genocide prevention. In December, the Third International Global Forum against the crime of genocide would be hosted in Yerevan. Armenia continued to implement the national plan of action for human rights protection, had a good record of submission of national and follow-up reports to the treaty bodies, and would submit the Universal Periodic Review second mid-term report on a voluntary basis.

SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that Egypt had played a great role in instituting the Council and the promotion and protection of human rights was a priority for the Government. Egypt would present during the current session a voluntary report on the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review recommendations. The National Electoral Commission had assumed its mandate, the right to peaceful assembly had become more accommodating, and the national human rights institution had received further guarantees of effectiveness and independence. Major achievements had been made on the right to freedom of belief. It was regretful, however, to notice occasional lack of professionalism of some media outlets in the search of scoops, such as last week’s report of BBC on Egypt, showing alleged torture of an Egyptian girl. On the contrary, women and girls were protected from all forms of violence and had been empowered. Egypt positively engaged with international human rights mechanisms, and it had one of the highest response rates to treaty bodies. Mr. Selim regretted wide scale conflicts in Syria, Libya, Yemen, South Sudan and Somalia, as well as the plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and of the Palestinians.

MARGOT WALLSTRÖM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, said that while some progress had been made since the last Human Rights Council session, lack of respect for human rights, democratic values, and the rule of law persisted. The situation in Myanmar stood as a clear case of this lack of respect as actions taking place in that country could be termed as crimes against humanity. This situation was unacceptable and the international community must bring those responsible for atrocities to justice. Meanwhile, the situation in Syria remained one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, she said, calling for implementation of the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights presented an opportunity to recall binding obligations, especially as many leaders questioned the validity and universality of human rights. When rights were challenged, human rights defenders could help States live up to obligations. Yet impunity for crimes against rights defenders was on the rise. Sweden called for stronger ties between the Security Council in New York and the Human Rights Council in Geneva to better consider the links between human rights and security. The Human Rights Council must play an important role in preventing conflict. Turning to women’s rights, she assured that Sweden would pursue a feminist foreign policy. To reflect this focus, Sweden was now the largest core donor to UN Women.

MARIE ANGE MUSHOBEKWA, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, thanked all Member States for placing their trust and supporting the Democratic Republic of the Congo in their membership to the Human Rights Council for the first time. The membership had been a sign of the confidence that the authorities had been investing significant efforts to improve the human rights situation in the country. The President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo personally supported the work of the Council. It was stressed that 2018 was an election year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and provincial elections would take place in December. The Council was informed that in December 2017, the Catholic Church and activists had called for demonstrations in Kinshasa with 167 starting points and without itinerary. The protests had unfortunately ended with the death of some civil society activists and opposition political party members. A joint inquiry commission with representatives of relevant line ministries and United Nations representatives had been established in January 2018 to investigate further into events which had led to the deaths. It was reiterated that the Church should not stir up clashes and conflicts but should serve to call for the unity of the people.

GEOFFREY ONYEAMA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nigeria, said that the promotion and protection of human rights remained one of the most important remedies for the attainment of international peace and security. Nigeria remained fully committed to ensuring the full and efficient implementation of the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the fight against terrorism, Nigeria appreciated and fully recognized the imperative of respect for human rights and adherence to its international human rights obligations. With the establishment of a human rights desk in the Nigerian Defence Headquarters, its security agencies were continually sensitized about respect for human rights while countering terrorism. Another priority for the Government was the fight against corruption, which hampered the right to development. Mr. Onyeama called on States to respect the rights of migrants and to accord them humane and dignified treatment. Transit and destination countries should give priority to saving the lives of vulnerable migrants, regardless of their immigration status. Mr. Onyeama stressed that the imperative of genuine and sustainable international cooperation was based on the principle of universality, transparency and non-discrimination in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations Charter, and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

SEYYED ALIREZA AVAEI, Minister of Justice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the huge losses of life and gross abuses of human rights that took place during the world wars had been a driving force behind the development of modern human rights machinery. Growing global yearning of individuals and nations for peace, equality and human dignity had played as a propulsive force acted on the United Nations and its Member States to develop much of the discourse and the bodies of law that were required to make up international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Effectively, the cold war competition during years had polarized the human rights players into two camps and built a negative international political system, which had left some defects in human rights standards and appalling deficiencies in the mechanisms, in particular, the United Nations human rights mechanisms and means for implementing them. In the new era, the noble concept of human rights predominantly fell within the monopoly of some certain States, reduced to an instrument to advance their political agenda. Arrogating to themselves a leading global role in human rights advocacy, these States had exploited human rights for their political ends. This disturbing trend, stemmed from a deep-rooted old-fashioned mind-set and had been abusing human rights machinery for years. Expansionist policies and overambitious domineering measures of certain States and their proxies in the region had resulted in mischievous attempts through supporting terrorists and extremist groups, among others, Jabhat al-Nusra, Ahrar al-Sham and Daesh in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, aimed at sowing discord and creating divisions among nation States in the Middle East region.

NOUREDDINE AYADI, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Algeria, commended the work of the Council aimed at promoting and protecting human rights. Progress achieved in the past 70 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been noted in numerous areas. Algeria had presented its third report to the Universal Periodic Review, fulling its commitments from the previous cycle of recommendations. Legislative reforms, including constitutional amendments had been pursued to guarantee the freedoms of expression, association and belief, participatory democracy and local governance. All reforms had been conducted through broad-based consultations with different stakeholders, including civil society actors. Tamazight language had been recognized as a national language in the Constitution. Policies of de-radicalization and prevention of violent extremism had been put in place and training of religious authorities and teachers had been organized. These measures had reduced the susceptibility of young people toward jihadist ideologies. Efforts had been conducted towards reconciliation and two elections had taken place after the end of the last session, resulting in the election of 121 women to Parliament. The bureau of the Council needed to look into the occupied territory of Western Sahara and take measures, seeing how human rights defenders had been imprisoned or prevented from accessing the territory.

BÄRBEL KOFLER, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid of Germany, said a comprehensive system to monitor State compliance with human rights obligations was in place and was helping people around the world realize their fundamental rights. All individuals, regardless of any distinction, were entitled to human rights. All rights were universal and universality began at home, Ms. Kofler stressed. Challenges such as racism, migration flows and gender equity required dedicated action. To effectively tackle those challenges, civil society organizations must play an important role in human rights dialogue. Discussions on human rights matters must take place at all levels of government. Upholding universal human rights encompassed standing up for human rights defenders. Still, rights defenders and civil society organizations were unable to work freely in many countries. Discrimination of any kind could provoke radicalization, leading to the possibility of conflict. The Human Rights Council had through its work developed tools to alert world leaders of rights violations and allow for crisis prevention. Effective protection of human rights was a powerful element of conflict prevention. The Council acted as a forum to highlight violations with a view to ending them.

MARIA LUISA NAVARRO, Vice-Minister of Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, said that this year the Council would have to face delicate operational and financial issues. This was not the first, and it would not be the last time this body would go through a similar period, but on this occasion the damage that could be caused to the Council and other organs of the United Nations could have serious repercussions. The Council was experiencing political manipulation by some States. These were a result of a misunderstanding of the noble mission entrusted upon the Council. That was why the international community had to fight and face up to the many violations of human rights and the humanitarian crises. If the Human Rights Council did not take steps against extremism, violence and political selectivity, it would only be time before it would fall in front of international public opinion. The Council had to bring a halt to the barbarism which was shattering so many parts of the world, and not draft proposals that could not be followed up in the field. The Council and its Member States had to be guided by consistency and resolve, and must be based on universality, indivisibility and the interdependence of human rights. Panama regretted the decision taken by the High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein not to stand for another mandate. His voice had been unique, unflawed and impartial. Panama applauded his courage to stand up in front of States as a true proponent of human rights. Conflicts were seriously undermining the credibility of the Council, and all knew that proxy wars were being led and masterminded in New York. This could not continue.

ADEL AHMED AL-JUBEIR, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia, stated that since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, States had undergone different paths in advancing human rights at the national level. However, a distinction had to be made between the truly universal human rights principles and principles that had been favoured by certain countries. Saudi Arabia reaffirmed that foreign values should not be imposed on other countries. International instruments provided legitimate restrictions on freedom of expression such as the interest of national security or the public morals of the community. The Arab-Israeli conflict, as the longest world conflict, had included numerous violations of the rights of Palestinian people to self-determination and the international community had been urged to react. Gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya minority was condemned and necessary humanitarian assistance was warranted. Saudi Arabia was investing efforts to combat terrorism internationally, including a donation of 100 million euros to fight terrorism and extremism in African countries. Saudi Arabia continued to support the legitimate Yemeni Government against the Iran-backed militia and 1.5 billion euros had been pledged with participation from the Coalition countries supporting the legitimate Government in Yemen for humanitarian assistance. Total assistance would go up to $ 10 billion.

STAVROS LAMBRINIDIS, European Union Special Representative for Human Rights, said that in 2018 no policy to ensure tolerance would succeed without human rights at its core. Mr. Lambrinidis affirmed that the promotion and protection of human rights was at the centre of multilateralism and at the very core of the European Union. The European Union reaffirmed its support for reforms that would make the Human Rights Council as effective as possible. During the current session, the European Union, along with Japan, would pursue initiatives to address systematic rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Bloc would also present a resolution on Myanmar recalling major concerns about actions being taken against minority groups in that country. The Syrian conflict remained a clear priority and the European Union would advocate for increased action to find a solution. People across the world relied on the Council to protect their dignity and rights, and as such, rights must not be politicized. The promotion and protection of rights required an accountability framework and the European Union continued to support the International Criminal Court. European Union Member States assured support for civil society organizations and those individuals standing up in defense of human rights. The Bloc would continue to support United Nations Member States enacting laws to defend rights defenders. The repression of minority groups was condemned.

MANABU HORII, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan, said the world was besieged by the challenge of fundamental rights through protracted conflicts, massive flows of refugees and other major challenges. Significant efforts were required to maintain efforts against these plagues. Japan was undertaking its role in this direction, including through participation in many United Nations and international fora, as well as through technical cooperation. Despite its efforts, issues continued to persist. Japan would work with relevant countries where democracy was unstable. Regarding Rakhine state in Myanmar, Japan had conveyed to the Government the importance of cooperating with the international community. In addition to humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, in order to improve the situation and in view of the complex situation, Japan was implementing development assistance and other initiatives that helped realize harmony among the communities. These included the return of the displaced in Rakhine state. Japan was committed to establishing the rule of law and human rights in the region. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was urged to end gross human rights violations, which included abductions of Japanese citizens. This issue had to be resolved. Mr. Horii informed that Japan and the European Union would draft a resolution on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and would ask for the support of all Member States to this effect. Finally, Mr. Horii announced that the Government of Japan had dealt with the comfort women issue via diplomatic efforts in 2015, by which it had been confirmed that this issue had been resolved finally and irreversibly.

MARTIN CHUNGONG, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, stated that the Inter-Parliamentary Union had been accompanying the development of the Human Rights Council since its inception. The Council’s increased focus on national implementation and involvement of national processes was welcomed. Since the adoption of the Council’s first resolution on the contribution of parliaments to its work in 2014, the Inter-Parliamentary Union had pursued sensitization campaigns to encourage member parliaments to be part of the process. The involvement of parliaments had increased during all stages of the Universal Periodic Review and the recent Council resolution 35/29 additionally strengthened the relationship of the Council and parliaments. The Inter-Parliamentary Union worked to bolster parliaments as the guardians of human rights and was helping equip parliaments to effectively institutionalize the 2030 Agenda and mainstream various goals into legislative process. Every year the world was making progress, with the percentage of women parliamentarians slightly above 23 per cent. The Inter-Parliamentary Union stood ready to contribute from a parliamentary perspective to the implementation of the Council’s recommendation on women and youth. In closing, it was noted that an increasing number of parliaments had been under assault, their powers had been usurped by the Executive and their authority undermined. __________

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