Human Rights Council holds general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention
Thursday, September 18,2008 10:50
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on human rights situations that require its attention after concluding its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan.
In the general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council"s attention, States expressed concerns over the situation of human rights in a number of countries, including Sri Lanka, Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, Zimbabwe, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Belarus, Somalia and Uzbekistan. Concerns were also expressed about the situation in Georgia and in European Union countries, Canada and the United States.
Speaking in the general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council"s attention were France on behalf of the European Union, Chile on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, the Russian Federation, Pakistan, Japan, Ghana, Switzerland, Canada, Bolivia, Cuba, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Georgia, the League of Arab States, Latvia, Ireland, Yemen, Romania, the United Arab Emirates, Poland, Belgium, Lithuania, Estonia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq, Belarus, Venezuela, Iran and Uzbekistan.
Also speaking were representatives of Europe Third World Centre and the International Humanist and Ethical Union.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan.
Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan, in concluding remarks said that the Government of Sudan had to take stronger action to stop the culture of impunity. In order to support these efforts, the United Nations should support the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur (UNAMID). This was necessary especially to protect humanitarian aid workers and to facilitate access to the vulnerable ones in Darfur. Also, her mandate should not be stopped. She called on the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference Member States to help the Sudanese Government to overcome the culture of impunity. The United Nations and the international community should continue to provide technical assistance and support.
In the interactive dialogue on Sudan, States expressed concern over arbitrary detentions, restrictions on freedom of speech and the use of child soldiers, as well as the frequent and continuous attacks on civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian aid workers. But it was also noted that the Sudanese Government was attaching importance to the question of human rights and this could be seen in the unprecedented collaboration of Sudan with the Council. The best means for achieving peace and development was through a peaceful solution and dialogue. Sudan continued to carry out every effort to contain the humanitarian crisis and continue on the path to peace. Those efforts deserved the full support of the international community. Others also underscored that the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur could not carry out its mandate without the technical assistance of the international community.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on Sudan were the delegations of Switzerland, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Tunisia, Australia, Uganda, Qatar, Malaysia and Iran.
Also speaking were the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International and Femmes Africa Solidarite.
When the Council reconvenes at on Wednesday, 17 September, it is scheduled to conclude its general debate on human rights situations requiring its attention before hearing the presentation of oral reports from the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee and the Social Forum. It will also hold a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.
General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council"s Attention
JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the promotion and protection of human rights was today a priority and it was important that each State examined its own record and accepted it was examined by other States. Certain human rights situations required particular attention and urgent action on behalf of the victims.
In Burma, the population remained confronted with an extremely difficult situation, worsened by the cyclone Nargis. Political prisoners, including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, whose health had deteriorated, and the lack of transparency around their arrests and detentions were points of concern. The European Union encouraged the efforts of the Secretary-General and called again on the Burmese authorities to implement the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and the latest resolution of the Security Council.
The European Union remained concerned about the human rights situation in Sudan, particularly Darfur, where violations of human rights and international humanitarian law continued. The European Union reminded that the fight against impunity should be the priority for the Government of Sudan. The European Union said the International Criminal Court played a key role in the international justice system and invited the Government of Sudan to cooperate with the Court.
There were no improvements in the human rights situation in the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, the European Union noted. The violations of civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights continued, while the humanitarian situation remained precarious. The European Union was particularly worried about the refugees from the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea and called on host countries to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
The European Union expressed its concern over the internal conflict in Sri Lanka as it offered a fertile ground for deterioration of human rights and violation of international humanitarian law: numerous violations had been committed, such as forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and extra-judiciary executions. The European Union was particularly concerned about the humanitarian situation in the north of the country.
The European Union congratulated the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo for their cooperation with the International Criminal Court that permitted the arrest and transfer to The Hague of the third warlord accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity. The European Union deplored the continuing violations of human rights in the country and was very concerned about the massive and systematic sexual violence, particularly in the East.
The European Union was concerned about the human rights violations committed in Iran, including the execution of minors and sentences to death by lapidation. The situation of ethnic and religious minorities was a point of concern too.
The European Union expressed its concern about the continuation of violence against civilians in Zimbabwe, including massive displacement, beatings and assassinations. The Government had to put an end to all the violations. The European Union noted that the legitimacy of the elections was closely related to respect for principles of democracy and transparency recognised by the international community.
The European Union was very concerned about the human rights situation in Somalia and other countries in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia the violence continued regardless of the Djibouti cease-fire agreement. In Georgia, the recent developments opened the door to violence and insecurity. The European Union was particularly concerned about the allegations of the violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the parties and also worried about the great number of refugees and internally displaced persons. The European Union expressed its support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the joint call issued to the Russian and Georgian authorities to fully cooperate.
CARLOS PORTALES (Chile), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, expressed their solidarity for the democratic progress in Bolivia. On behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, they wished to express their deep concern over the massacre which had happened on 11 September in the department of Pando. It must be ensured that this massacre did not go unpunished and that impunity should not prevail. The Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries reiterated their appeal for an immediate halt to actions linked to violence and appealed for dialogue in order to overcome the current state of affairs, with full respect of human rights. The request of the Government of Bolivia for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to monitor the situation in the field was supported by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries.
VALERY LOSHCHININ (Russian Federation) said that it was inadmissible that some States were being portrayed as rogue States and persistent violators of human rights, while gross violations of human rights were deliberately concealed in other States for the sake of economic or geopolitical interests. A clear example of such an attitude was the one towards Georgia. Ignoring the lawlessness in Georgia had just strengthened this country leadership"s sense of impunity and finally led to the military aggression against South Ossetia. This happened 40 days ago from August 7 to August 8. The name of the Georgian military operation "The Clean Field" spoke for itself and revealed the ultimate objective: physical destruction or expulsion of the Ossetian people from the lands of its ancestors. The military aggression became a logical consequence of Tbilisi policy vis-à-vis South Ossetia and its people. Only through military measures could a full-scale genocide and ethnic cleansing of South Ossetian people be prevented.
The Russian Federation further reminded the Council that everything was forgiven to M. Saakashvili. After the presidential elections in January, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe presented in Vienna a report on the outcome of the May parliamentary elections in Georgia. The report was full of evidence of the authoritarian nature of the regime in Georgia.
The Russian Federation was fulfilling in bona fide the obligations assumed as a result of negotiations between the President of Russia Dimitry Medvedev and the President of France Nicolas Sarkozy and had started withdrawing the remaining troops. Finally, the Russian Federation thought it was ironic that at the same time a meeting was held in Tbilisi between Georgia and NATO where the NATO Secretary General cynically spoke of the illegitimacy of Russia"s action against the aggressor. It seemed that some countries of this bloc learned no lesson from the August events on South Ossetia. That was not surprising since killing of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan had become business as usual for the coalition forces. The Russian Federation suggested that the Council consider restoring the mandates of Special Procedures on Afghanistan and Iraq.
IMRAN AHMED SIDDIQUI (Pakistan) said that the right to self determination was essential to the enjoyment of the many other human rights and was contained in many of the United Nations declarations and conventions. The Human Rights Council had an obligation to protect and promote this right and remind States to refrain from violating this right. The people of Jammu and Kashmir were denied this right and suffered many violations of their rights by the Indian occupation forces. Peaceful and non-violent protests in Kashmir had been countered with extreme counter-measures by the Indian forces. International human rights organizations and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had expressed their concern over the violent reaction of India in Kashmir. Pakistan requested an investigation in the killings.
India had to be reminded of its obligations under the human rights and international humanitarian laws. Pakistan was committed to peace in Jammu and Kashmir, which was essential to the stability in the region. The dialogue had led to several confidence-building measures, what was needed now was a genuine solution to the Jammu and Kashmir issue, including the right of their people to self determination. Peace and prosperity depended on the enjoyment of this fundamental right. Pakistan expressed its hope that the Human Rights Council would play its role in alleviating the suffering of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
MAKIO MIYAGAWA (Japan) said that, concerning Myanmar, the Government of Japan had consistently assisted the development and unification of Myanmar since its independence. During Myanmar"s hardship in past decades, Japan had been sending signals of encouragement to the Government and the people of Myanmar to improve their internal and external situation. While some progress had in fact been perceived, concerns remained. The visit of the Special Rapporteur to Myanmar was welcomed. Japan hoped that his continued efforts would help to improve the human rights situation.
Concerning the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea, it had so far not exhibited signs of improvement. Japan urged the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea to cease its persistent refusal of the visit of the Special Rapporteur and to commence cooperation with the international community. Turning to Sri Lanka, Japan had been encouraged by the recent positive steps taken by the Government. As for the past human rights violations, now under investigation before the Sri Lankan President"s Commission of Inquiry, it appeared significant to present the output at the earliest possible time. On Zimbabwe, Japan welcomed the achievement of the agreement on power sharing. However, Japan was still concerned about the situation in the county and hoped the agreement would lead to a swift solution to the issues involved.
MERCY YVONNE AMOAH (Ghana) said that there was progress to be noted in Sudan, for example the finalized Child Act and the employment of police forces. There were also grave human rights violations being reported. Ghana was concerned that many recommendations had not been implemented. Also, not even UN personnel could be sufficiently protected by African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur. Ghana called on the Sudanese Government to double its efforts to bring perpetrators to justice. The international community had to play its part in the assistance for the elections in 2009.
ROBERTO BALZARETTI (Switzerland) noted Switzerland"s concern over the human rights situations in Burma, Sri Lanka and Sudan, and the lack of progress and improvement since its previous address to the Human Rights Council on the topics of human rights situations of concern. Switzerland was concerned about the situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which it described as dramatic. Insecurity and violence prevailed in some provinces, pushing people into displacement. Switzerland reminded the Council of the recommendations of the Expert Group on the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the area of consolidation of peace and the fight against impunity and noted that these recommendations were as relevant today as they were at the time they were just issued. It also recalled the United Nations Secretary-General"s report on the Democratic Republic of the Congo of May 2008 and noted that the Special Rapporteur on the violence against women should pay another visit to the troubled east of the country. Switzerland called on the Government of Zimbabwe to adopt measures to improve the human rights situation, including freedom of speech and press and to stop arbitrary arrests and extra judiciary executions.
Switzerland noted that Kenya was a country where the human rights situation had evolved in a positive direction since February 2008. Switzerland encouraged Kenya to continue its reforms and take into consideration the important role that civil society played in the process. Kenya deserved full support from the international community in order to ensure that the efforts bore fruit.
TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said that the Human Rights Council had a special responsibility in human rights emergencies. The humanitarian and human rights situation in Sudan, particularly in Darfur, required the Council"s attention. Canada called on the Council to continue to address the situation.
The agreement between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe was welcomed by Canada. Still, Canada recalled that between the elections of March and June, more than 170 people had been killed and thousands needed medical treatment. An entrenched leadership had used the coercive powers of the State to safeguard their rule and privileges. Canada called on the new Government to implement polices which would improve human rights in Zimbabwe.
In light of the recent conflict in Georgia, Canada believed that it was imperative that Georgia and Russia both worked to ensure respect for the human rights of internally displaced persons. All parties were called on by Canada to ensure free and unhindered access by international humanitarian workers.
In Iran, respect for human rights was deteriorating. Confirmed instances of torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment remained. Women"s rights were suppressed. On the situation in Belarus, Canada had expressed its serious concerns about the human rights situation there since the presidential elections of March 2006. Canada noted the release of a number of prominent political prisoners, as well as the Belarus" agreement to allow observes under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to observe parliamentary elections this September. Canada was further disturbed by the recent reports of increased pressure on journalists, unlawful killings, disappearances and arbitrary arrests in Sri Lanka. Canada called on the Government of Sri Lanka to take further action to end human rights abuses.
ANGELICA NAVARRO LLANOS.(Bolivia) said that there had been an attempted coup d"état in the department of Santa Cruz, Tarija, Beni and Pando. In the department of Pando, the groups under the command of Leopoldo Fernandez did not give access to humanitarian aid or let families bury their dead family members, directly violating human rights. For this reason, the Government of Bolivia had sent a mission including representatives of the High Commissioner, of the Red Cross and others in the zone of conflict to help the families to bury their family members. Bolivia called on the Human Rights Council, the international community and non governmental organizations to condemn this coup d"état.
JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) hoped that the debate on the human rights situation of concern to the Human Rights Council would follow the new path opened by the Human Rights Council and characterised by respect and cooperation. Cuba appealed to certain parties to reconsider their conduct. Cuba was concerned about the human rights in the rich industrialised North, with xenophobia, racism, disrespect for the minorities, and illegal and secret prisons.
The situation in Bolivia was complex and had its origins in the activities of the minorities associated with the oligarchy. The violence generated by those groups resulted in the death of dozens of peasants and indigenous peoples. The situation in Bolivia had to be resolved with respect to the constitutional order and territorial integrity of the country. The international cooperation had to respect the rules of non-interference in the internal affairs of Bolivia. Political, economic and media pressures threatened the integrity of the country. Cuba reiterated its solidarity with Bolivian people and expressed full support to the legitimate Morales Government.
SUSANNA TERSTAL (Netherlands) said that the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights underlined the importance of human rights and their responsibility. The Netherlands was deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They continued to receive reports on widespread sexual violence against women and girls. Impunity prevailed. A long term solution called for extra efforts from all parties involved. The Netherlands urged all parties involved to make sure that the Special Rapporteurs could visit the country as soon as possible. The Netherlands also expressed the hope that the agreement reached in Zimbabwe would pave the way for a constructive cooperation aimed at restoring the rule of law. Further, Sri Lanka should take further steps to combat impunity and improve the human rights and humanitarian situation. The Netherlands remained concerned over the humanitarian situation in the north as fighting between Government forces and the LTTE had escalated over the past weeks. Safe access of humanitarian aid workers had to be ensured.
Turning to Iran, the Netherlands remained concerned about the executions and urged Iran to respect its obligations under international human rights law. In Somalia, the human rights and humanitarian situation remained critical. Finally, the Netherlands remained deeply concerned about the freedom of expression in Uzbekistan.
PETER GOODERHAM (United Kingdom) said the United Kingdom was concerned about the situation in the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea. It encouraged third countries to treat emigrants as refugees in accordance with UNHCR rules. Regarding Sudan, the United Kingdom was concerned about the violence. There could be no impunity and those accountable must be brought to justice. The United Kingdom was also concerned about the high number of executions in Iran. Iran executed more juvenile offenders than any other country. The United Kingdom also urged Iran to release the Bahai leadership that had been detained. Concerning Georgia, international observers should be allowed access. The United Kingdom supported a proposal for a United Nations fact finding mission. Regarding human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Kingdom was concerned about rape and sexual and gender based violence, arbitrary arrest and appalling prison conditions. The United Kingdom promoted judicial reform in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Finally, the United Kingdom urged Burma to comply with recommendations set up by the Special Rapporteur. After a point of order raised by Myanmar, in which it urged the delegations to call the country Myanmar and not Burma, the United Kingdom said that the democratically elected government referred to it as Burma.
TOMAS HUSAK (CzechRepublic) expressed deep concern at the deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in Darfur and said the CzechRepublic was particularly alarmed by the sexual violence, including against children. The CzechRepublic called on all parties to the conflict to end the suffering on the ground and to bring those responsible to justice.
The human rights situation in Iran was not encouraging either, on the contrary. Despite the Government"s declarations on the inhuman execution by stoning, there was no guarantee that such punishment would stop in practice. The CzechRepublic renewed the appeal to the Government of Iran to start cooperating with relevant Special Procedures of the Council.
People in Burma/Myanmar continued to suffer in dire poverty and insecurity. The practice of child soldiers, forced labour and attacks on civilians were frequent. Democratisation remained an empty promise, political opponents remained imprisoned, including the winners of the 1990 elections. The CzechRepublic called on the leaders of the country to stop the massive violations of human rights of their people and to start a real reconciliation process and dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic and minority leaders.
The CzechRepublic was also preoccupied by the situation in Georgia which was acquiring an important human rights dimension. The number of refugees and internally displaced persons were a cause of concern.
The CzechRepublic was pleased it could welcome the release of all internationally recognized political prisoners in Belarus, which represented an important step towards fulfilling the universal human rights standards.
GIORGI GORGILADZE (Georgia) said that Georgia was deeply concerned over the international armed conflict that had broken out in their territory. Georgia had had to defend itself against the Russian aggression. Georgia fully agreed with the European Union that the peace process required the full realisation of the peace plan. Georgia deplored all loss of civilian lives and underlined the obligation of Russia to grant free and unhindered access to humanitarian workers. Ethnic cleansing of Georgians was taking place on a massive scale. Those facts had to be analyzed through an international inquiry.
SAAD ALFARARGI (League of Arab States) said that the Government of Sudan had made serious efforts to promote human rights. At the economic level, with the help of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Sudan had built bridges and roads. The Council of the Arab League held a week ago in Egypt had encouraged Sudan to hold peace talks and carry on with its efforts to promote human rights, especially in Darfur.
JANIS MAZEIKS (Latvia) said that the military conflict which recently took place in separatist regions of Georgia resulted in the loss of human life, suffering of the population and in a large number of displaced persons and refugees. There had been allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. Latvia noted with deep concern the reports on attacks, abductions and killings of civilians as well as looting and burning of ethnic Georgian villages both during and after the armed conflict.
Latvia believed that it was of crucial importance to ensure that the internally displaced persons and refugees could return home as soon as possible and to guarantee their safety. In this context, the announcements of de facto authorities that they would not allow large-scale return of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia were worrying. Latvia invited all concerned parties to ensure free access of humanitarian aid to all the population of South Ossetia affected by the conflict. Latvia considered that the protection of nationals abroad should not be used as a basis for disproportionate use of force and reaffirmed its full support for the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of Georgia.
DAITHI O CEALLAIGH (Ireland) said that Ireland was deeply concerned about the continuing conflict in Darfur and condemned the excessive, disproportionate use of lethal force by Government forces against the Kalma internally displaced persons camp this August. All parties were urged to work towards a peaceful settlement. Ireland also urged the Zimbabwean authorities to ensure a complete cessation of violence and restoration of the rule of law. Ireland was also deeply concerned about the human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar. They had seen no evidence whatsoever that the military Government of Burma had done anything to improve the human rights situation. The authorities were urged to release all political prisoners. Ireland also remained deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Sri Lanka and deplored the effects on the civilian population of both terrorist acts of the LTTE and other rebel groups. There could be no military solution to the problems that divided the country.
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that Yemen welcomed the developments achieved by the Government of Sudan. It was crucial to respect the sovereignty of Sudan. It should not be undermined by the politicization of international principles. The African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur (UNAMID) should be enabled to fully carry out its mandate in Sudan.
DORU ROMULUS COSTEA (Romania) said Romania firmly believed that the humanitarian and human rights situation of refugees and internally displaced persons caused by armed conflicts was a matter of concern for this Council and the allegations of human rights violations under these circumstances should be addressed by this body.
Romania expressed its deep concern about the situation of refugees and internally displaced persons who fled due to the armed conflict in Georgia and joined other delegations in calling on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to take action and investigate the allegations.
Romania was particularly worried about the consequences of the humanitarian situation in Georgia, more so as the winter was approaching. Romania urged all parties to cooperate with the international community to ensure humanitarian access to those in need. The Romanian Government had already provided humanitarian aid to the internally displaced persons and refugees through the programmes of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
ADEL ESSA HUR AL MAHRI (United Arab Emirates) said that, on the situation of human rights in Sudan, the United Arab Emirates considered that the Government was making notable efforts. Sudan and its Government had spared no efforts in restoring peace and security in the region, as shown by the signing of the Peace Agreement. Sudan had also collaborated with all United Nations mechanisms and had accepted to receive the joint African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur on its territory. The United Arab Emirates hoped that these valuable efforts would be appreciated by the international community. The Human Rights Council was called upon to place its confidence in the Government of Sudan.
ANDRZEJ MISZTAL (Poland) welcomed the recent release of all political prisoners by the authorities of Belarus. It also hoped that the upcoming parliamentary elections in September would be carried out in line with international standards. Poland called on all sides in the conflict in Georgia to strictly observe international human rights and humanitarian laws. Poland urged a prompt and impartial international investigation on human rights violations in the course of the conflict and called on all concerned parties to cooperate fully with relevant organizations.
ALEX VAN MEEUWEN (Belgium) noted that when the Council was created it received an explicit mandate to consider the situation in countries where necessary and it was important that the Council exercise this dimension of its mandate to respond in a credible manner to human rights violations everywhere.
Victims of the violations of human rights were usually among the most vulnerable parts of the population. In Iran, it was women, students, journalists, human rights defenders, and religious and ethnic minorities. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo women were the victims of the most atrocious violations. Sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had reached dramatic proportions. Belgium supported efforts to improve coordination between the national Government and the United Nations, to better respond to the needs of the victims. In Iraq and Afghanistan civilians were the victims of violence that continued to reign in these countries. The absence of the State was often the principal cause of the human rights violations.
Belgium noted that the work had to focus on the victims and the response to their plight and thus the fight against impunity had to be one of the priorities.
EDUARDAS BORISOVAS (Lithuania) said that Lithuania had long supported the view that the human rights situation on the ground was the main goal of all human rights activities. Lithuania had noticed that recent changes in Belarus could be seen as positive signals. The release of political prisoners was one of the welcome steps, as well as the cooperation with foreign election observers. Unfortunately, in other parts of the region, events had dangerously developed and left them particularly concerned. Actions of the Russian Federation in Georgia left them in a position where they could not but condemn them. The unilateral recognition by the Russian Federation of the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia did not only violate the territorial integrity of Georgia, but was at the same time a step that furthered the complicated human rights situation by artificially creating territories out of the international legal system. Lithuania also did not see steps facilitating the implementation of the right to return for internally displaced persons. This situation should be of particular concern for the international community. There was an urgent need to improve the humanitarian situation on the ground.
TONIS NIRK (Estonia) was very concerned about the humanitarian situation of the civil population in Georgia. Humanitarian assistance had to be delivered to persons in all the conflict zones throughout Georgia. Access to all areas affected by the conflict had to be guaranteed to international humanitarian organizations. The humanitarian situation and granting safe return to internally displaced persons must remain a priority.
SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that peace was a fundamental right inherent to any human community. Certain groups had taken advantage of aspirations to break this modus vivendi and were feeding negative tendencies by providing weapons. Such was the case of the circulation of small weapons in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It represented the violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and was the cause of the deteriorating situation of economic and social rights in the east of the country.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo had suffered for a few years from the embargo on the import of arms, while armed groups in the east had been supplied by arms and in complicity with some arm manufacturers. The situation in the east was the result of the indulgence of the international community that usually spoke opposite of its actions.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo invited the members of the international community and the States that had influence on the movement of small arms to assess the impact of the trade on the peace process.
AMANZHOL ZHANKULIYEV (Kazakhstan) said that concerning the situation in Southern Ossetia, these events were a severe alert for the future of the security of the region. Any action further aggravating the situation should be avoided. The use of force had led to many civilian victims and the death of peacekeepers. Kazakhstan expressed its deep concern and appealed to all parties to resolve the issue through dialogue. The active role of Russia in assessing peace in the region was noted by Kazakhstan. One of the prior objectives was an urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance and the return to normal life for civilians. The international community had to take effective measures to normalize the situation and to reduce tension in the region. Kazakhstan also supported the agreements achieved by the parties and was prepared to take part in the negotiation process of the parties concerned.
MUKTAR DJUMALIEV (Kyrgyzstan) said that the conflict in South Ossetia had shown the danger of resolving conflict by force. Kyrgyzstan supported the active role of the Russian Federation to ensure peace and stability in this region. Kyrgyzstan approved of the cessation of hostilities and the beginning of a dialogue.
OMER BERZINJI (Iraq) said that Sudan had been making continued efforts to strengthen human rights by cooperating with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan. Some examples included the authorisation of the deployment of the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur that made it possible to strengthen stability and peace and protect civilians. In addition there was the Abuja Peace Agreement that reflected the wish of the Government of Sudan to promote human rights. Iraq said that the international community must be reminded to respect its obligations to Sudan in the form of technical and financial assistance, in addition to the assistance needed to the Hybrid Force to enable it to fulfil its mission.
EVGENY LAZAREV (Belarus) expressed the concern of Belarus at the gross violations of human rights in South Ossetia, after the aggression launched by Georgia. They also could not understand the irresponsible campaign in the western media to support the aggressor. Further, Belarus supported a peaceful settlement of the crisis.
GERMAN MUNDARAIN HERNANDEZ (Venezuela) said that the Government of Evo Morales had recently been endorsed by a large majority of the Bolivian people. Now, the Government was being harassed, all with funding from foreign powers. Recently, acts of violence were committed with the intent of pinning the blame on the Government. The groups accountable did not want an indigenous person in power. Venezuela condemned the absurd killing of their Bolivian brothers and called on the Council to ensure that there was no impunity for the perpetrators.
MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) noted its concern about the human rights situation in the European Union Member States, vis-à-vis the general situation and the situation of ethnic, racial and religious minorities in particular. Islamophobia had become a prevailing phenomenon and incitement against Islam was being transcended into political ideologies. The increase in racist violence and xenophobic ideas in the political circles and public sphere had led to the denial of the rights of immigrants and foreigners. Using some of the European Union airports as transit points for so-called rendition flights of persons to countries where they risked being subjected to torture or ill treatment also represented a point of concern.
In France there were a number of serious concerns over discriminatory practices, especially against minorities, and concerns over the situation of terrorist suspects in custody. The French Government carried out a series of discriminatory acts to limit the social and professional freedoms of the Muslims residing in France. Serious cases of violations of human rights occurred in the United Kingdom. The erosion of human rights in the United Kingdom under counter-terrorism legislation and the extension of the maximum period of detention without charge was a matter of serious concern. Canada"s human rights record revealed a series of systematic abuses and violations, including social exclusion policies, police brutality, racial discrimination against aboriginal people and harassment of religious minorities. The United States had a very poor record of human rights both at home and abroad. The failure of the Government to stop the use of torture and other forms of degrading treatment was indicative of its unwillingness to comply with international human rights norms and standards.
BADRIDDIN OBIDOV (Uzbekistan) said that in resolution 60/251, establishing the creation of the Human Rights Council, members had expressed the wish that future debates would take place under the principle of dialogue and non-selectivity. Uzbekistan was thus quite surprised by the statements of the Netherlands and Ireland and did not see the logic behind them in the absence of any human rights violations in Uzbekistan. In Uzbekistan legal reforms had taken place which ensured civil and political liberties and a sound civil society. Uzbekistan underscored that in the Netherlands and Ireland, there were many cases of xenophobia and violations of the rights of migrants.
MALIK OZDEN, of Europe-Third World Centre, in a joint statement with Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; World Federation of Trade Unions; and Women"s International League for Peace and Freedom, drew the attention of the Council to small farmers in Turkey where trade unions of small farmers had been established. This had been ruled as unconstitutional by the Turkish judicial system. The organizations had been outlawed and peasants were treated as criminals. Turkish authorities were failing to comply with international obligations and the Centre called on the Council to remedy this situation.
XAVIER CORNUT, of International Humanist and Ethical Union, in a joint statement with Association for World Education; et Centre for Enquiry, said that Darfur required particular attention from the Council. Heavily armed Sudanese forces attacked a village in Darfur in August 2008, killing 64 persons, mainly women and children. This attack represented a flagrant violation of the Darfur Peace Agreement. International Humanist and Ethical Union was moved by the words of the new High Commissioner on the prevention of genocide. The situation in Darfur would get worse and future generations would be haunted by it, like they were haunted by Rwanda. The reputation of the Human Rights Council depended on how it managed the crisis in Darfur.
Continuation of the Interactive Debate with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan
MURIEL BERSET (Switzerland) said Switzerland was concerned about arbitrary detention, restrictions on freedom of speech and the presence of child soldiers, among other issues in Sudan. It was the civilian population which suffered. There were also frequent attacks against humanitarian actors. It was important to put an end to all attacks against civilians. The recent report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan referred to positive steps, such as legal reforms. To encourage these positive signs, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should be renewed. Switzerland supported the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur and would like to know what she saw as major challenges under the human rights perspective for the upcoming elections in 2009.
BASHAR ABU TALEB (Jordan) welcomed the positive developments concerning the human rights situation in Sudan, all the while acknowledging the many challenges that still remained. The implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the promulgation of the Elections Act, and the establishment of the national Human Rights Commission were a few examples of the work of the Sudanese Government. Jordan noted that further positive developments, such as deployment of the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur, had taken place on the ground in Sudan, which helped in consolidating the human rights situation. Jordan believed that a transparent dialogue and cooperation with the concerned countries that willingly cooperated with the human rights mechanisms was a positive approach and it would be beneficial to build on the cooperative attitude adopted by the Government of Sudan.
ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan for her report. The Sudanese Government was attaching importance to the question of human rights and this could be seen in the unprecedented collaboration of Sudan with the Council. Sudan had asked for a fact-finding mission to take place and had requested the deployment of the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur (UNAMID). This was clear proof by Sudan that it was willing to collaborate with the international community. The international community had to give support to the UNAMID in order for it to be able to conduct its mission. The best means for achieving peace and development was through a peaceful solution and dialogue. Saudi Arabia welcomed the Sudanese Government"s efforts to protect and promote human rights.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) welcomed the positive developments in Sudan following the signature of the Abuja agreement. Peace and development needed political support. Bahrain supported the efforts of the Sudanese Government in its undertakings to ensure that all Sudanese could enjoy freedom and human rights.
ALI CHERIF (Tunisia) thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Sudan for her statement and the contents of the report. Tunisia stressed the need for further efforts to strengthen the path to peace. It encouraged and thanked the Government of Sudan for its engagement on the promotion and protection of human rights and the continued peace process on Darfur. The violence against civilians confirmed the need to step up civilian protection and Tunisia called on the international community to deliver on its obligations and to strengthen the efforts to date, in cooperation with regional organizations.
GUY O"BRIEN (Australia) noted the serious ongoing problems in Sudan as mentioned in the Special Rapporteur"s report, including the ongoing impunity. Her call to address this issue was highlighted. Australia also noted the fact that the Special Rapporteur had not had access to all parts of the country; Sudan was called to ensure her access to all areas. Attacks on peacekeepers and humanitarian workers were unacceptable. All parties were called to work towards a peaceful and endurable solution. It was crucial that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the north and south be fully implemented.
CISSY HELEN TALIWAKU (Uganda) said that the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur could not carry out its mandate without the technical assistance of the international community. The commander of the force lamented "We are here to keep the peace but there is no peace to keep". That statement was an expression of a commander of a force that was in a state of hopelessness. Uganda said that more efforts were needed to address the security, political as well as economic concerns of the people in Darfur, especially those living in camps for internally displaced persons.
ABDULLA FALAH ABDULLA AL-DOSARI (Qatar) said that Qatar had examined the report on the human rights situation in Sudan and had followed closely developments on the ground, especially since the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had been signed. Qatar noted the steps taken by the Government of Sudan to implement the peace agreements. Qatar appreciated the cooperation of the Government of Sudan with the international community, particularly on the deployment of the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur, which should help in curbing the violence. Sudan continued to carry out every effort to contain the humanitarian crisis and continue on the path to peace. Those efforts deserved the full support of the international community. The Government of Sudan had also made tangible progress in the protection of the civilian population and the protection and promotion of human rights, under very difficult conditions, which had to be recognised and acknowledged. The international community had to fulfil its commitments in offering its support to Sudan and remembering that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur had to be terminated once the work had been accomplished.
JOHAN ARIFF ABDUL RAZAK (Malaysia) said that Malaysia was encouraged to note that the Government of Sudan had extended cooperation to the United Nations mechanisms, in particular the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur. Some of the progress achieved by Sudan in the area of the protection and promotion of human rights was welcomed. The Special Rapporteur in her report had stated that some initial steps had been taken by the Government of Sudan to implement the recommendations of the Group of Experts on Darfur. Malaysia acknowledged the manifold challenges faced by Sudan. Relevant United Nations bodies and agencies were called to provide funds to assist Sudan to improve the human rights situation in the country. Given the already significant presence of the United Nations on the ground in Sudan, what as the view of the Special Rapporteur concerning the consolidation of those existing activities?
ASADOLLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran) noted with interest that the Sudanese Government had increased its cooperation with the United Nations. Iran encouraged Sudan to further facilitate humanitarian assistance to affected populations. Iran welcomed the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur to continue supporting the implementation of the peace agreement.
SIMIA AHMADI, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH), in a joint statement with World Organization against Torture, expressed its concern for the situation in Sudan, where violence and violations of human rights continued. Human rights defenders and civil society activists continued to be targeted. Courts set up under the terrorism law violated national and international standards. Darfur remained a region with massive violations of human rights. To achieve peace, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had to be fully implemented, justice restored and human rights respected. Sudan needed to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and ensure accountability for the crimes committed in Darfur.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said that Human Rights Watch remained gravely concerned over the situation of human rights in Sudan and strongly urged the Council to maintain the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. As the Special Rapporteur had noted in her report, many challenges remained in the country. One of the most important challenges to human rights protection in Sudan continued to be the lack of justice and accountability for serious crimes. Civilians, peacekeepers and humanitarian workers had repeatedly come under attack by armed actors. However, no charges had yet been brought in any domestic court in relation to a single major atrocity in Darfur. Meanwhile, the still-nascent Southern Sudan police and justice system had little reach into the provinces and lacked staff and resources. The Council should not consider any further downgrading of its attention to Sudan.
LUKAS MACHON, of the International Commission of Jurists, said there were new outbursts of violence against women, children, humanitarian aid workers and others in Sudan. To work towards the respect of basic humanitarian law principles the International Commission of Jurists called on the Council to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. It asked how the Special Rapporteur could support the substantive legislative reform that was taking place in Sudan. The Commission also asked the Rapporteur to explain how she cooperated with the Expert Group on Sudan. Finally, it wanted to know more about the implementation of Security Council resolutions 1325 and 1820.
CLARA PALLANCH, of Amnesty International, said that the human rights situation in Sudan in general and Darfur in particular remained of a great concern. Violations of civil and political rights continued and violations of the right to a fair trial were endemic. Individuals were arbitrarily arrested by the Government forces and held incommunicado for a long period of time in illegal detention centres, where torture had been reported. Newspapers suffered from excessive censorship. The situation in Darfur was characterised by systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by all the parties to the conflict. Attacks on the civilian population by the Government forces and the militias continued.
The Human Rights Council must renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur who should continue to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Darfur Group of Experts by the Government of Sudan. Amnesty International wanted to hear more from the Special Rapporteur about the measures taken by the Government of Sudan to bring to justice those who had committed crimes in Darfur and the measures it was taking to ensure freedom of the press.
BINETA DIOP, of Femmes Africa Solidarite, said that they valued the findings of the Special Rapporteur, it showed the need for partnership between all stakeholders and the ratification of all remaining human rights international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. The efforts to consolidate peace in Darfur should include a gender perspective. The women were demanding peace, security and justice.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan
SIMA SAMAR, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Sudan, said in her concluding remarks that with regard to the Special Court for events in Darfur that was established in 2005 and then recently they tried to re-establish it again, unfortunately the Court failed to bring the perpetrators to justice. There were a few cases which were tried in normal courts for criminal acts. The Government of Sudan had to commit themselves politically and investigate all the allegations of crimes against humanity and war crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. The United Nations and the international community should continue dialogue with Sudan. The Government of Sudan had to take stronger action to stop the culture of impunity, in all kinds of crimes, sexual, gender-based violence or other crimes. In order to support the situation of human rights, the international community and the United Nations should support the African Union/United Nations Hybrid Force in Darfur (UNAMID) to be able to fulfill their mandate to provide protection to civilians on the ground in Darfur and especially to protect humanitarian aid workers and to facilitate humanitarian access to the vulnerable groups in Darfur. There was no contradiction between the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and the human rights officers who were on the ground and belonged to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was very important to keep the mandate in order to give voice to the civilians on the ground. This did not mean that Sima Samar had to be the mandate holder, but the mandate should remain. Any Government, not just Sudan, if they did not have anything to hide, they should not really stop the mandate, which did not harm the situation in the country. It was every human being"s responsibility to protect the dignity of all human beings.
Ms. Samar said she believed that the situation of human rights on the ground in Darfur would show improvement of the situation with the implementation of the recommendations of the Group of Experts. The international community and the United Nations had to work with Sudan in order to implement the recommendations of the Group of Experts. She concluded by saying that the human rights situation in Sudan was critical, especially in Darfur. This should not be denied because denial would not help to promote human rights. She called on the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference Member States to help the Sudanese Government to overcome the culture of impunity. The United Nations and the international community should continue to provide technical assistance and support. The international community and the United Nations should also continue the dialogue with the Sudanese Government and should support it technically and financially to promote the situation of human rights on the ground and provide protection to civilians who were in need.