Human Rights Council opens thirtieth session, hears an update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights
14 September 2015
High-level Dignitaries from Sri Lanka, Mexico and the United Kingdom Address the Council
The Human Rights Council this morning opened its thirtieth regular session, hearing an address by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein in which he updated the Council on the activities of his Office. The Council then held a general debate on the update. It also heard from Mangala Samaraweera, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka; Roberto Campa, Undersecretary for Human Rights, Ministry of the Interior of Mexico; and Hugo Swire, Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom.
Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council, in his opening remarks underlined the importance of civil society in the work of the Council, and reiterated concerns regarding cases of reprisals and intimidation that had been brought to his attention.
High Commissioner Zeid expressed specific concerns at the international community’s failure to address the situation in Syria. Some countries in the Middle East – Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey – and in Europe – Germany and Sweden – were showing commendable humanity and leadership when it came to hosting refugees and migrants needing protection, and he implored decision-makers in Africa, the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, as well as Europe, to take swift action to establish effective and principled migration governance and urged European States to put in place an architecture of migration governance that was far more comprehensive, thoughtful, principled and effective, and to expand channels of regular migration and resettlement, which would prevent deaths and cut smuggling. The people most responsible for migration were those leaders who had failed to uphold human rights, and robbed their people of hope, said the High Commissioner. He called on all States to accept scrutiny and to fully commit to the implementation of human rights recommendations by United Nations mechanisms. Upholding human rights was intrinsic to the obligations of sovereignty.
In the ensuing general debate, delegations said that the migration crisis, which was above all a refugee crisis, confronted the world with its failure in ensuring the realization of the human rights of the most vulnerable populations. Although the present situation stemmed from conflicts in the region and the atrocities perpetrated by the Islamic State, it was exacerbated by the political and institutional disarray left behind by foreign interventions and misguided strategies for the Middle East, often outside international law. There was a need to deal with human rights violations in countries of origin of the numerous refugees and migrants, and to adopt political and economic solutions which would be aligned to international human rights norms and would ensure that human mobility was seen as an indispensable factor of development for both countries of origin and receiving countries. Speakers condemned the crimes and acts of violence committed by ISIL/Daesh. They said that particular attention needed to be paid to terrorism and extremist violence: measures to combat it and de-radicalize societies should address recruitment and financing, while perpetrators of terrorist acts should be held accountable and prosecuted according to international laws and standards.
Addressing the Council, Mangala Samaraweera, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, noted that the recent formation of the National Unity Government allowed traditional rivals in Sri Lankan politics to come together and herald a new culture of consensual politics and so face the important challenges of reconciliation and peacebuilding. The new Government recognized that the process of reconciliation involved addressing broad areas of truth seeking, justice, reparations and non-recurrence, and that the grievances of the Tamil people needed to be addressed.
In his address to the Human Rights Council, Roberto Campa, Undersecretary for Human Rights, Ministry of the Interior of Mexico, reiterated Mexico’s commitment to the protection of journalists and said that a specialized prosecution unit for crimes against freedom of expression had been established within the Attorney General’s Office, which conducted investigations on common law crimes committed against journalists and human rights defenders. Mexico had drafted the bill on enforced disappearances and was in the process of drafting the law on torture and cruel and inhumane treatment based on international standards.
Hugo Swire, Minister of State in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the United Kingdom, told the Council that the United Kingdom had granted humanitarian protection to almost 5,000 Syrians through its normal asylum procedure since 2011 and had committed to resettling a further 20,000 Syrians from the region over the next five years. The United Kingdom was already the second largest bilateral donor to this appalling humanitarian crisis. The United Kingdom’s aid would be used to provide basic services to people in Syria and in neighbouring countries, helping them to meet their basic needs where they were rather than taking the desperate decision to risk their lives by attempting to get to Europe.
Taking floor in the general debate were Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union, Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Egypt on behalf of the Like-Minded Group, Qatar, Morocco, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Argentina, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, France, Brazil, Namibia, Venezuela, Bangladesh, India, Russia, Algeria, Ethiopia, China, United States, Portugal, Pakistan, Nigeria, South Africa, Japan, Paraguay, United Arab Emirates, Montenegro, Botswana, El Salvador, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Maldives, Gabon, Ghana, Sierra Leone, United Kingdom, Switzerland, the Republic of the Congo, turkey, Norway, Spain, Thailand, Nepal, Jordan, Kuwait, Australia, Benin, Tunisia, Angola, Switzerland, Malaysia, Italy, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Greece, Iraq, Belgium, Chile, Iran, Ecuador, Senegal, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Croatia, Honduras, Haiti, Moldova, Eritrea, Armenia, Bahrein, Serbia, Libya, Myanmar, Sudan, Hungary, Costa Rica, Philippines, Colombia, Uganda, Niger, Djibouti, Guatemala, Uruguay, the African Union, Egypt, and Burundi.
Also speaking in the general debate were the following non-governmental organizations: Al Khoei Foundation, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, Human Rights House Foundation, Amnesty International, European Union of Public Relations, Human Rights Watch, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Centro de Estudio Legales y Sociales, Institut International pour la Paix, China Society for Human Rights Studies, World Environment and Resource Council, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Liberation, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, World Muslim Congress, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, Agence Internationale pour le Developpement, Global Network for Rights in Development, International Lawyers Organization, Association Burkinabé pour la Survie de l’Enfance, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Iraqi Development Organization, International Service for Human Rights, CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, and Federacion de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 4:30 p.m., the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on arbitrary detention and with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.