Human Rights Council Hears from 24 Dignitaries as it Continues High-Level Segment – World – ReliefWeb

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1 March 2022
Afternoon
The Human Rights Council this afternoon continued its high-level segment, hearing statements from 24 dignitaries from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Equatorial Guinea, Italy, United States, Netherlands, Malaysia, Libya, Chile, Gabon, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Benin, Cameroon, Slovenia, India, Holy See, Mexico, Iraq, Monaco, Egypt, International Development Law Organization and International Committee of the Red Cross.
Speakers said that war today was raging in the heart of Europe again. The fundamental rights of people in Ukraine were under attack and their lives endangered and nobody had the right to be idle when this was happening. More than at any other point in recent history, the principles at the heart of this Council’s work, and the entire United Nations, were being challenged. The Kremlin was also ramping up its repression within Russia. Authorities reportedly had detained thousands of Russians peacefully protesting the invasions, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations. Delegations recognised the Council as the multilateral arena for a dialogue that made possible greater cooperation among States for international peace and security.
Other crisis in the world such as in Belarus, China, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, among others, also demanded the Council’s ongoing attention. The COVID-19 pandemic had tested international solidarity and the ability to work together to protect basic rights, such as the right to life. Some speakers warned that mental health had emerged as a silent parallel pandemic evidenced by the rising cases of depression, anxiety and suicide worldwide. The major challenges faced by mankind: climate change, the pandemic and inequality, were all issues that must be tackled with a human rights-based approach, and there should be an internationally binding instrument allowing to tackle future health-based emergencies in coordination.
The following speakers took the floor this afternoon: Bisera Turkovic, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Alfonso Nsue Mokuy, Third Deputy Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea; Benedetto Della Vedova, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy; Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State of the United States; Wopke B. Hoekstra, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands; Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia; Najla Mohmad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Government of National Unity of Libya; Carolina Valdivia, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile; Erlyne Antonela Ndembet Damas, Justice Minister of Gabon; Juan Carlos Holguín, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador; Wendy Carolina Morales Urbina, Attorney General of Nicaragua; A. K. Abdul Momen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh; Retno L.P. Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia; Aurélien Agbenonci, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Benin, Felix Mbayu, Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations of Cameroon; Stanislav Raščan, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia; Reenat Sandhu, Vice Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs of India; Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See; Martha Delgado Peralta, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico; Kahtan Taha Janabi, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Multilateral Relations of Iraq; Isabelle Berro-Amadeï, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco; Sameh Hassan Shokry Selim, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt; Jan Beagle, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization; and Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.
The Council will resume its work at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 March to continue the high-level segment.
Statements
BISERA TURKOVIC, Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Ministers and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina, said immediately after proclaiming independence 30 years ago, aggression had started against Bosnia and Herzegovina. The deaths in Sarajevo had happened in the heart of Europe. When the war concluded, again people repeated “never again”. War today was raging in the heart of Europe again. The fundamental rights of the people in Ukraine were under attack and their lives endangered. Nobody had the right to be idle when this was happening. As a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, Bosnia and Herzegovina was devoted to protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a multi-cultural dialogue, respect for different ethnicities, cultural and religious diversity, and combatting all forms of intolerance. The reality was that despite the determination to uphold the highest form of human rights, Bosnia and Herzegovina was still missing about 7,000 people due to the war. The mothers of Srebrenica were dying without identifying the bones of their husbands, fathers and sons and without being able to bury them with dignity.
The war in the 1990s had left deep scars and a resurgence of fear about the return of conflict: war in Ukraine was increasing that fear and that this might be the beginning of a greater trend in the western Balkans. The playbook seen in Ukraine was similar to what had been seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina: the blockade of State institutions, among other elements. This would further destabilise Europe. Being faced by the most difficult forms of human rights violations during the past war, Bosnia and Herzegovina considered that respect for diversity and human rights were very important requisites for stability and reconciliation in post-conflict societies. Bosnia and Herzegovina was committed to working persistently and relentlessly in the best interests of its citizens. Bosnia and Herzegovina strongly believed in the role of the Human Rights Council as one of the key bodies of the United Nations system in the field of peace building and stability at the global level.
ALFONSO NSUE MOKUY, Third Deputy Prime Minister of Equatorial Guinea, recognised the Human Rights Council as the multilateral arena for a dialogue that made possible greater cooperation among States for international peace and security. Equatorial Guinea maintained its commitment to raise its national standards on the promotion and protection of human rights, convinced that the respect for the rule of law was fundamental in increasing the capacity of States to improve the lives of their populations. Equatorial Guinea was aware that human rights must guide the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in order to achieve and attain sustainable development. On the COVID-19 pandemic, the Minister explained that Equatorial Guinea noted the difficulties that States had faced while suffering due to the restrictions of the pandemic, which continued to prevent the effective implementation of international commitments. In response to the pandemic, the Government of Equatorial Guinea had adopted economic measures to strengthen the national system of social protection, thus creating a programme of public social guarantees in order to counteract the socio-economic impact of COVID on the neediest families.
Mr. Nsue Mokuy said that Equatorial Guinea’s Penal Code provided for the abolition of the death penalty, as well as for the elimination of all forms of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. In terms of institutional capacity building, he explained that Equatorial Guinea had participated in workshops on the strengthening of national human rights institutions, organized by the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy for Central Africa, in order to encourage these institutions to function in accordance with the Paris Principles. Concerning the catastrophic disaster that the country had known on 7 March 2021, leaving hundreds of fatalities and significant material damage, Equatorial Guinea was grateful to all the countries that had offered assistance to the response and recovery plan designed by the Government.
BENEDETTO DELLA VEDOVA, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy, was shocked by what had happened in the last days on European soil. The Russian military offensive against Ukraine represented an outrageous violation of international law and of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine. Under Italy’s Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, they had supported the decision to suspend the Russian Federation, which was adopted with an overwhelming majority. The appointment of a Special Rapporteur for monitoring human rights conditions in Afghanistan was welcomed.
The escalation of violence and the human rights violations in Myanmar, including arbitrary detentions and lack of accountability of those responsible for the coup, raised strong concern. The adoption of new European Union sanctions on Myanmar was a sign of determination to increase pressure on the junta. The humanitarian situation in Syria called for a redoubling of United Nations human rights bodies’ efforts. The humanitarian conditions in Yemen continued to draw serious concern. Italy fully supported the work of the Fact–finding Mission on Libya, which was critical to ensure the sustainable stabilisation of the country. The Belorussian authorities were urged to fully cooperate with the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as with the Special Rapporteur on Belarus and authorities of Nigeria were called on to put an end to the crackdown against political opponents, independent media and civil society.
ANTONY J. BLINKEN, Secretary of State of the United States, said more than at any other point in recent history, the principles at the heart of this Council’s work, and the entire United Nations, were being challenged. Russia was carrying out a premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on Ukraine, violating international law, flouting the core principles of international peace and security, and creating a human rights and humanitarian crisis. Reports of Russia’s human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law were mounting by the hour. And the casualties kept mounting, including the many civilians killed and wounded in Russia’s monstrous rocket strikes. Russia’s violence had driven over half a million Ukrainians from the country in just a few days. If President Putin succeeded in his stated goal of toppling Ukraine’s democratically elected government, the human rights and humanitarian crises would only get worse.
The Kremlin was also ramping up its repression within Russia. Authorities reportedly had detained thousands of Russians peacefully protesting the invasion, as well as journalists covering the demonstrations. These were the human rights abuses that this Council was created to stop. The Council must send a resolute and united message that President Putin should unconditionally stop this unprovoked attack, as the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner had done, and immediately withdraw Russian forces from Ukraine. It must condemn, firmly and unequivocally, Russia’s attempt to topple a democratically elected government, and its gross human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law. The Council must take steps to hold the perpetrators accountable and reject Russia’s attempts to falsely justify this attack as a defence of human rights.
Mr. Blinken said the crisis in Ukraine was far from the only part of the world where the Council’s attention was needed, as the situation in Belarus, China, Afghanistan, “Burma”, Cuba, “the DPRK”, Iran, Nicaragua, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen – among others – also demanded this Council’s ongoing attention. Members of this Council had a special responsibility to strengthen – not weaken – those rights.
WOPKE B. HOEKSTRA, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, said that the single most important structure that the international community had to protect was the multilateral order. All knew that the worst human rights violations happened during armed conflicts, which was why everything must be done to protect what had been built over the last 75 years. Here, in the Council, they had the power to turn their collective anger into a collective response to protect the legal framework aimed at securing peace, justice and human rights.
The Netherlands strongly condemned Russia’s illegal occupation of Ukraine, which was an illegal violation of international law that could not, and would not, go unanswered. Mr. Hoekstra strongly condemned the violence against civilians, the loss of dozens of lives and the many more injured. By establishing the International Criminal Court, the world had signalled that the most serious crimes must not go unpunished. The International Criminal Court was called upon to pursue its investigation on Ukraine as a matter of urgency. The Netherlands fully supported the establishment of a United Nations fact-finding mission to analyse and collect evidence so that perpetrators could be identified and judged for their actions.
The Netherlands would donate one million euros to support an investigative mechanism to collect evidence of crimes committed in Ukraine, to prepare for the moment when justice would be served. “Stop this mad war”, Mr. Hoekstra said, calling on Member States to stand united to ensure the road to justice. The membership of this Council was not a free ride, it came with responsibilities, and one of them was that justice and accountability were not empty words. The Netherlands would donate an additional one million euros to support the High Commissioner’s field office in Ukraine.
SAIFUDDIN ABDULLAH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, thanked the international community for their support of Malaysia’s Council membership for the 2022-2024 term. As the world entered the third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, they were still far from overcoming the deadly virus, with new variants spreading faster and wider than the rate of the global vaccine distribution. Efforts must be intensified to ensure vaccine equity and that no one was left behind. Mental health had emerged as a silent parallel pandemic evidenced by the rising cases of depression, anxiety and suicide worldwide. Last October, Malaysia had co-sponsored a ground-breaking Council resolution recognising that enjoying a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment was a human right.
The escalating situation in Ukraine threatened to evolve into another humanitarian and human rights quagmire. All concerned parties were called on to urgently take steps to de-escalate and prevent further loss of lives and devastation. Malaysia had experienced first-hand the brutality of the conflict in Ukraine, with the downing of flight MH17 in 2014, resulting in the tragic loss of innocent lives. Other long-standing humanitarian and human rights challenges included the plight of the Palestinian people and the Rohingya refugees. Decades of Israel’s gross human rights abuses and apartheid practices must stop. It was disappointing that the predicament of the Rohingya refugees had not improved. As a Member State of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Malaysia would continue to work with all stakeholders towards the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus and ultimately an amicable and sustainable solution for Myanmar’s return to the path of democracy.
NAJLA MOHMAD, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Government of National Unity of Libya, said respect for human rights was no longer a domestic issue- it was an issue for all the international community, and all were obliged to work collectively to promote human rights across the planet. The COVID-19 pandemic had tested international solidarity and the ability to work together to protect basic rights, such as the right to life. It also highlighted that international organizations and Member States needed to coordinate better. Human rights today were at a crossroads – indeed, the very principles of human rights remained topical and relevant, as well as indivisible, at a time when there were new unknown dangers. The attack against Ukrainian sovereignty reminded all how important it was to protect and promote those rights and ban all use of force in conflict.
It was important for the international community to return to international human rights mechanisms. Libya had paid a high price for the conflict, but had been able to rebuild, thanks to national dialogue, and was striving to rebuild institutions and the State after years of conflict. Libya had organized Parliamentary and Presidential elections, and this despite the logistic and other challenges. Democratic participation was an important pillar for the rule of law. The Government had launched various initiatives to overhaul the status of detainees, including in prisons, had worked with migrants to help them find their ways home, and had punished hate speech. It was important to punish all violators of human rights, investigate perpetrators and refer them to the courts. The Government had raised the standard of living of the population. Libya was committed to the cause of human rights and had worked in cooperation with the body sent by the Human Rights Council, looking forward to working with the international community to achieve peace, justice and security not just in Libya’s region, but across the planet.
CAROLINA VALDIVIA, Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs of Chile, said Chile condemned the armed aggression of Russia on Ukraine, and appealed for dialogue to find a solution to the conflict. Both countries were members of the Human Rights Council, and as such were committed to respecting the highest standards of protecting human rights. Russia should withdraw its troops, avoid the loss of lives, and respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine. Chile hoped that dialogue and negotiation would prevail to derail a greater escalation of this conflict which threatened international peace and security. The Human Rights Council was the key area for dialogue and consensus in the field of human rights in the United Nations.
Multilateral organizations for human rights, both regional and international, should be strengthened. Chile had applied to become a member of the Human Rights Council for 2024-2025, which would allow it to reassert its commitment to protecting and promoting human rights. Promoting democracy and the rule of law were fundamental pillars of Chile’s commitment to its people. Its candidacy to the Human Rights Council was occurring at a vital time, given the need to revitalise multilateralism. The gender agenda should be a priority in the Human Rights Council. Chile valued universality, equal treatment, dialogue and cooperation, as stemming from the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, participating in the reviews of all States, viewing this as a unique peer-review tool. The Special Procedures were also a vital part of the human rights system. The major challenges faced by mankind: climate change, the pandemic and inequality, were all issues that must be tackled with a human rights-based approach, and there should be an internationally binding instrument, allowing to tackle future health-based emergencies in coordination. Chile was committed to continuing to attain truth, justice and full reparation of all violations that took place during the dictatorship.
ERLYNE ANTONELA NDEMBET DAMAS, Minister of Justice of Gabon, expressed her happiness at the return of physical meetings of the Human Rights Council. “We see a new hope that we can return to a normal life after the pandemic” she said, highlighting that Gabon had spared no effort to fight the pandemic, taking preventive, courageous and appropriate measures as well as adopting a national vaccination programme. Gabon was committed to human rights and basic freedoms.
Gabon was pursuing a policy of active engagement – through initiatives that had been taken on a national capacity – and support to peer countries. In this context, Gabon had welcomed the consensus-based resolution on the management of consolidation of gender rights under the African group banner, which underscored the importance of optimised management in protecting the rights of women and girls, bringing a new dynamic and institutional framework to insure the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. Within the framework of “Gabon equality’, Gabon had started the analysis of the circumstances under which women lived and 30 measures had already been adopted on the basis of three key laws. As Gabon was starting its second year as a member of the Council, it was determined to support the Council in the development of new tools that would serve as a basis to promote and protect human rights, in a context where challenges were becoming ever more global.
JUAN CARLOS HOLGUÍN, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Human Mobility of Ecuador, affirmed Ecuador’s unwavering commitment to the respect, promotion and protection of human rights, in line with its compliance with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Ecuador had ratified all the international conventions and instruments on human rights and collaborated openly and permanently with all the mechanisms and Special Procedures of the United Nations. The COVID-19 pandemic had impacted the entire world, and Ecuador was no exception. However, the National Government had managed the available resources responsibly, deploying all its efforts to address the crisis.
A year ago, Ecuador had presented, together with Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, the resolution on the guarantee of the right to health through equitable and universal access to vaccines in response to pandemics, which was unanimously adopted by the Council. Ecuador had shown its permanent concern to increase the protection of the most vulnerable individuals and groups in society. Regarding the rights of children and adolescents, Ecuador was promoting programmes to reduce poverty and eliminate chronic child malnutrition. Ecuador continued to defend the rights of indigenous peoples and was committed to defending the rights of people with disabilities, a matter in which Ecuador’s leadership had transcended worldwide. Ecuador would continue to promote the development and implementation of international standards on business and human rights.
WENDY CAROLINA MORALES URBINA, Attorney General of Nicaragua, said the way in which bodies and international organizations such as the Human Rights Council valued the implementation of human rights amongst countries showed that some countries were tolerant of atrocities. This led to the manipulation of human rights as a result of hegemonistic policies of imperialist countries. The development of human rights which the Council should promote was the implementation of these rights within the framework of each country. Sources used by the United Nations Office as regarded the current updates, reports and preliminary investigations were not based on true situations in societies, but only reflected the views of certain parts of society.
The so-called updates on human rights in Nicaragua were not fair or equitable, but aimed to distort the situation and harm the underpinning of the State on the basis of partial and biased information, aiming to interfere in Nicaragua’s national affairs and undermine its sovereignty. Issuing value judgements was easy – what was difficult was to ensure implementation, in particular concerning economic, social and cultural rights. There could not be human rights without the democratisation of wealth, and this was implemented by public policies as set out by the Government of Nicaragua. The attacks on the Nicaraguan people were a crime against humanity. The unilateral coercive measures would not impede it arriving at the highest levels of democracy. Nicaragua claimed justice and equality but considered that this forum was against the human rights of its people. The forum should take on its responsibility in terms of the history of mankind and respect the rights of peoples to take on their own decisions in light of their own goals.
A. K. ABDUL MOMEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, said Bangladesh had been born out of a long struggle against injustice, discrimination and oppression, which explained its strong commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Government of Bangladesh was relentlessly working to uphold the rule of law, good governance and civil liberties as it had adopted measures to ensure economic, social and cultural rights and protect civil and political rights. As Bangladesh had fought against the COVID pandemic, it had ensured that human rights remained at the centre of all prevention, preparedness, containment, and treatment measures.
On Myanmar, Mr. Momen said that despite enormous challenges, Bangladesh continued to host the persecuted Rohingya and ensure their safety and security. He urged the international community to help ensure that the recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State were implemented; accountability and justice delivered; and a conducive environment for the return of the forcibly displaced Rohingyas created in Myanmar. He further called the attention of the Council to climate change which was an existential threat to humanity. The Council had a moral responsibility to contribute to the acceleration of global climate actions to save lives and livelihoods and promote climate justice. In many parts of the world, migrants remained vulnerable and experienced discrimination. During the pandemic, migrant workers were disproportionately affected due to their unequal access to healthcare and livelihood opportunities.
The Human Rights Council was a pioneer human rights body that was created to promote and protect human rights around the world. The Universal Periodic Review was the flagship mechanism of this body, which had changed the culture of selective consideration of human rights, but it needed to remain impartial and non-selective as well as avoid confrontation and the application of double standards in dealing with human rights issues or it might lose its credibility and universal appeal.
RETNO L.P. MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, said that as the Council met today, the people of Ukraine were suffering. A peaceful resolution through diplomacy must be put forward. The conflict in Ukraine had compounded human rights challenges, particularly when most continued to struggle with COVID-19 and its multi-dimensional impacts. Global unemployment had climbed over 200 million marks. Over 1 billion people could be living in extreme poverty by 2030. Discrimination and inequalities were running rampant, robbing the less fortunate of an opportunity to have a better life. This should be the world’s wake-up call. The pandemic must not divert attention away from human rights situations around the world. There were three areas that should be focused on.
First, ensure everyone had an equal chance to defeat COVID-19. The Council must reinforce its commitment to fulfil the rights to health, including through fair and equitable access to vaccine for all. As President of the G20, Indonesia stood ready to collaborate further in this effort with a view to rebuilding a stronger global health architecture. Second, they had to uphold democratic values in addressing global challenges. Third, advance protection of women’s rights. Women continued to be disadvantaged in many aspects of life including access to healthcare, social protection, and decent employment. Indonesia was committed to helping other countries harness such potential, including Afghanistan, where they continued to explore possible cooperation on women empowerment. An adaptive and agile Council was needed that was well-prepared to address human rights challenges of the times. Indonesia was putting forward its candidacy to the Council for 2024-2026.
AURÉLIEN AGBENONCI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Benin, said this was the first gathering of the Council where Benin was taking part as a new member. Benin was committed to work for the promotion and protection of human rights both within its borders and around the world, in these troubled times where new threats to human rights were emerging. Benin was committed to universal principles and values such as those in the United Nations Charter and the African Charter of People’s Rights. This had been a constant since 1990, and was consolidated through the ratification of major international human rights instruments. There had been tangible progress in the last few years in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. With regard to health care, there was a project for strengthening human capital, which aimed to provide substantial human resources to allow people in rural areas to enjoy health insurance, loans and pensions. In education, free primary education for all had been extended to secondary schools, in particular with regard to girls. There was also a system of priority school meals. To protect vulnerable people, in 2017 a law had been enacted on the rights of persons with disabilities.
Women also continued to benefit from the protection of the Government, with legislation on the prohibition of violence against women, giving them enhanced protection and more stringent protection from sexual harassment, early marriage, female genital mutilation and violence. Benin hoped to take part and contribute to the work of the Council in these times when the demons that attacked human rights were emerging. The concerns of African people would continue to be heard and taken into account in the context of emerging rights, such as the right to access to safe, clean drinking water, and the rights of persons affected by climate change.
FELIX MBAYU, Minister Delegate to the Minister of External Relations of Cameroon, stated that many challenges still remained to be faced in order to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights, due to many sources of tension in the world, inequalities of all kinds, the long march towards the consolidation of democracy and the strengthening of the rule of law, and the resurgence of conflicts. All these phenomena, the themes of which filled the work programme of the forty-ninth session of the Human Rights Council, showed that the fight for human rights was still long and difficult. The Head of State of Cameroon and the Government were firmly committed to work for the construction of a world where the fulfilment of mankind was the primary concern of humanity.
Mr. Mbayu reassured the international community that the security situation in Cameroon was under control. By way of illustration, he explained that Cameroon had successfully hosted the African Football Cup of Nations, organized at the beginning of the year, in January/February 2022. He also referred to the Major National Dialogue, which saw the participation of many members of the diaspora, the granting of special status to the north west and south west of the country, the acceleration of the decentralisation process, the establishment of a humanitarian assistance plan, a reconstruction programme, and the creation of a centre for disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration, among other things. Despite the existence of few isolated cases of terrorist acts that the Government was working to control, in particular attacks by Boko Haram in the far north, and above all sporadic acts by armed gangs in the north west and south west and even in the east of the country, the Minister underlined the stability of Cameroon.
STANISLAV RAŠČAN, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovenia, said that last week the world had woken up into the darkest times since the end of World War Two. International law and international fora had been established to pursue dialogue and to react. It was time to react. Russia’s military aggression on the territory of Ukraine had already resulted in massive and grave human rights violations. Slovenia would support a resolution establishing a commission of inquiry at the Human Rights Council. The nature of contemporary human rights challenges had evolved over time. The COVID-19 pandemic had brought it even further. In his recent remarks to the General Assembly, the Secretary-General had recognised five concrete global challenges. To tackle them, the international community must choose cooperation instead of polarisation.
The High Commissioner’s plan provided a roadmap, guiding actions towards the final eight years that they had to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Council should continue with the use of modern technologies that were introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic and that could increase its accessibility, as well as improve its transparency. Slovenia was in favour of technical solutions that could be helpful to small island developing States and least developed countries. Together, they should be exploring ways to improve support for universal participation in the work of this Council. In the challenging global environment, all needed to rely on multilateralism and dialogue. The Human Rights Council could be a platform that united all. As an active observer State, Slovenia was looking forward to possibly re-join the Council for the third time in the 2026–2028 period.
REENAT SANDHU, Vice Minister in the Ministry of External Affairs of India, said India was a country that believed in treating all human beings as one, and had a society that was firmly rooted in ideals of equality and social justice. As this belief permeated society, human rights had naturally been accepted as one of the core values of Indian society. India’s vibrant and inclusive democracy provided a conducive and enabling ecosystem for the promotion and protection of human rights. Democracy in India was not just a system of governance, but an article of faith. India’s active engagement with the global human rights agenda dated back to the early days of the Commission on Human Rights and the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights treaties. India was committed to bring in pluralistic, moderate and balanced perspectives, to bridge multiple divides in human rights discourse and action, within the Human Rights Council and beyond, and believed that the promotion and protection of human rights were best pursued through dialogue, consultation and cooperation among United Nations Member States and through the provision of technical assistance and capacity building.
The Council should promote and protect all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, in a fair and balanced manner. Terrorism was the most serious violation of human rights as it violated the most fundamental human right – namely the right to life. The international community must take resolute action against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, to prevent and stop the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of innocent victims of terrorism. India had undertaken unprecedented steps, aimed at the economic and social transformation of India, especially during the pandemic. India remained committed to ensuring the fullest enjoyment of basic human rights of its people, including through inclusive and sustainable development. India was building a better and fairer society at home; it was also contributing to a better and fairer world.
ARCHBISHOP PAUL GALLAGHER, Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See, acknowledged with regret how the frequency and severity of violations of human rights had been exacerbated over the course of the ongoing global health crisis. The activity of the Council provided startling evidence of this fact, as in 2021 alone, it had held five emergency special sessions on the grave situation of human rights in Myanmar, Palestine, Afghanistan, Sudan and Ethiopia. These situations of conflict, violence and instability had caused alarming levels of internally displaced persons and refugees, while the pandemic had had an exponentially negative impact on the displaced. Border closures, local public health restrictions and devastated economies had limited their access to the security and safe passage guaranteed by international law. In some cases, the global health crisis was even being instrumentalised as an excuse to promote ideological policies that denied the displaced of their basic human rights.
The Archbishop highlighted that some host countries were disproportionately burdened by the enormous influx of refugees and migrants they received, being asked to go well beyond their capacity to adequately provide for the needs of these people on the move as he extended his heartfelt gratitude to all host countries for their generosity, especially in these challenging times, urging the international community to provide the necessary support and burden-sharing. On the COVID-19 pandemic, he referred to the stark increase in the number of abuses and violations of civil and political rights, including the right to freedom of assembly, of speech and of association, as well as the perpetration of arbitrary detentions. While it was necessary to respect the adoption of reasonable measures by public authorities to ensure public safety and health, every effort must be made to ensure that these were not imposed disproportionately in violation of the fundamental human rights or were politically motivated.
MARTHA DELGADO PERALTA, Undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, regretted the terrible situations seen in various parts of the world, including in Latin America. The invasion of Ukraine, a United Nations Member State, undermined the basic principles of the United Nations Charter and was condemned. Mexico would work hand in hand with the Council and other organs of the United Nations to find solutions in line with the human rights. Parties were called to keep diplomatic channels open and urged to find a peaceful solution to the crises. The Council was a key body for current and future challenges in addressing human rights and fundamental freedoms. Mexico saw coordination between the different United Nations organs and the Council that Mexico was a member of as a key for promoting multilateralism and successful foreign policy.
As Ms Bachelete had said, dialogue and solidarity had to be pursued in tackling global challenges. Mexico would continue to make efforts to promote gender equality, promoting the rights of vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, indigenous persons, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. Within the current pandemic, universal, timely and equitable access to vaccines was a priority, not just for current pandemic but also for any future pandemic. Mexico was working together with the Office of the High Commissioner and the Special Procedures as well as treaty bodies to fulfil its international obligations and improve national policies. The intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders, especially environmental human rights defenders, was condemned.
KAHTAN TAHA JANABI, Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Multilateral Relations of Iraq, said despite the current circumstances, the Government of Iraq wished to continue to strive to achieve its goals and achieve its national, regional and international obligations in all areas, particularly humanitarian ones. Despite the challenges that it had faced and continued to face in order to fulfil its commitments, the Government of Iraq had progressed. It had held Parliamentary elections in October 2021, and these were characterised by integrity, transparency and justice, and provided a fair and stable opportunity for voters to exercise their right to free choice. The elections had resulted in the election of 97 women to Parliament, which was unprecedented, and a step forward to ensure the economic empowerment of women, in the context of Iraq’s plan in that regard. The Government continued its cooperation with the United Nations Assistance Mechanism for Iraq and cooperated with other organizations, including international and regional civil society organizations.
The Government was working to eliminate all obstacles hindering their work, especially given that some were able to provide the necessary assistance to those families and individuals who had been the victims of the ISIS terrorist organization. There was a legal framework to compensate many survivors of this organization, both financially and morally, as well as rehabilitate them. Iraq had laid the foundation for the country’s efforts to support victims. Children descending from the families of ISIS fighters were an issue – the Government was seeking to return the descendants of foreign fighters to their countries of origin. All countries should take care of their nationals, whether underage children, or those who had served their sentences for the crimes they had committed under the Iraqi judicial system. Iraq sought to intensify efforts to uncover the activities of ISIS and limit their negative effects. The international community should provide the necessary assistance and crack down on human trafficking networks.
ISABELLE BERRO-AMADEI, Minister of Foreign Relations and Cooperation of Monaco, said that the pandemic had hampered the existence of human rights, and it was the most vulnerable part of societies, such as women and children that faced the biggest consequences. This was why it was essential to place human rights at the heart of their strategies as the COVID-19 pandemic had not eclipsed other crises. The Human Rights Council had shown its capacity to respond to crises, holding five special sessions last year. In this respect, Monaco would like to underscore the importance of mechanisms such as the mandates of Special Rapporteurs and other mechanisms which sought to establish evidence of the most preoccupying human rights violations. That was why Monaco could only regret the rejection of the resolution aimed at renewing the mandate of the group of experts on Yemen, the only existing one designed to document the human rights violations committed by all parties. Monaco was deeply concerned by the set back in the field of human rights in several other regions such as Afghanistan, where women were excluded from social and political spheres; the protection of women and girls’ rights was more than ever a priority that this Council must continue to uphold.
Last year, the Human Rights Council had adopted a landmark resolution which for the first time recognised, at the international level, the right to a safe, clean and sustainable environment. The right had been enshrined in Monaco’s Environment Code since 2017. Enjoying a healthy environment was essential to enjoy a number of essential rights such as the right to life. The international community needed to step up its effort in this field. The work of the High Commissioner’s Office rested on extra budgetary contributions, due to the chronic underfunding of the human rights budget part of the United Nations general budget, which was regrettable.
SAMEH HASSAN SHOKRY SELIM, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt, said that Egypt was committed to the promotion and protection of human rights. Egypt had launched a first strategy for human rights which was adopted following a wide consultation with a range of stakeholders. No country could claim they had achieved human rights standards, as each country had their own approach to it. Egypt had succeeded in achieving progress when it came to the protection of civil and political rights, in line with the Constitution. Egypt enjoyed freedom of religion and faith and they were working with religious organizations to promote tolerance. They were helping with the construction of churches.
The Government spared no effort to ensure the citizens enjoyed economic and social rights. Resources had been allocated. Social programmes had been designed to ensure that no discrimination existed. There was a special focus on persons with disabilities. There was a national plan to reduce the impact of COVID-19. Solutions were being found to protect women against violence. Egypt was implementing its human rights obligations in consultation with treaty bodies. It had recently presented a report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. Multilateral work was at the heart of Egypt’s policies. The work in the Council should not be politicised as this would only hamper it. All States were called to continue their work in dialogue.
JAN BEAGLE, Director-General of the International Development Law Organization, said that over the past decade there had been a growing backlash against human rights, multilateralism and international solidarity. The pandemic had deepened these trends, exposing major trust differences in Governments. The growing list of crisis spots, including Myanmar, Afghanistan and the Sahel, only reflected this. If human rights were to be protected and human rights and sustainable development were to be ensured, there must be investment in the rule of law, as they had a symbiotic relationship. Rights without remedies were little more than paper promises. At the same time, human rights provided the law with its moral content.
In a growing number of countries, justice institutions were being suborned or undermined. To help rebuild trust and ensure that rights were respected, the International Development Law Organization’s approach put human law and humans at the centre, working from the bottom up to arm individuals with means to deal with the issues that affected their lives. Many Sustainable Development Goals required legal capacity. The rule of law could provide the clarity and predictability that countries needed to attract investment and accelerate development, whilst ensuring that it was equal. The rule of law was also key to developing legal rigorous mechanisms that would allow countries to cooperate on such issues as vaccine equity and the digital divide. Concrete action should be done to prevent bribery and illicit economic flows. Recent events showed that the status quo was not working. The world faced fundamental challenges and must act decisively to not govern by right, and not by might, building a more just and sustainable world grounded on rights and the rule of law.
PETER MAURER, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said there was a dark shadow of conflict, resulting in death and despair for civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross’s mandate was to remind all States and parties to conflict of their obligations to international and humanitarian law which they had committed to uphold. There were mass violations of humanitarian law across the world, with negative results on civilians. Whilst each situation was unique, the long-standing impacts for civilians were well-documented. There were acute humanitarian needs: food and shelter were a daily struggle, abuse and violations were carried out with impunity. Time after time the cost of conflict was desperately underestimated. Wars dragged on as short-term political gains became long-term nightmares for civilians. This diverted attention from key situations, such as the climate challenge.
For decades, the International Committee of the Red Cross had consistently urged all parties to conflict to not target civilians or engage in disproportionate attacks, to not target civilian infrastructure, not kidnap or kill humanitarian workers, not use civilians as shields, and not use weapons illegally, among others. Too many wars were fought with impunity, as the gaps between promises and practice was growing dangerously wide. International human rights and humanitarian law was a path out of suffering. Millions around the globe were trapped in displacement. There was anguish as people fled across the borders from Ukraine – this anguish was seen around the globe, in the Sahel, in the Lake Chad region, in the Middle East. Double standards should not apply. States must find a way to ensure their safety, and this should be the norm for all circumstances. Pragmatic compassion must be found. There should be action on respect for international humanitarian law. All parties and all States must allow and facilitate the intervention of impartial humanitarian and international organizations so that they could help those in need, while sanctions and other restrictive measures must allow humanitarian action to occur. The international community must do all in its power to push belligerents to push back from the brink and stop conflict.
Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2022/03/afternoon-human-rights-council-hears-24-dignitaries-it-continues
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the information media; not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.
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