General Assembly Debates Breadth of Human Rights Council’s Mandate as Members Consider Its Annual Report

While some delegates spotlighted the link between ensuring fundamental freedoms and achieving sustainable development, several others expressed concern that the Human Rights Council was overstepping its mandate, the General Assembly heard today, as it considered that body's annual report.

Briefing Member States on the Council's latest report, Choi Kyonglim (Republic of Korea), its President, said it was exploring new opportunities to advance human rights based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In its many debates, the Council had focused on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in preventing abuses, women's equal rights and business and human rights.

Given its many resolutions on a wide range of issues, the Council had demonstrated its ability to overcome political differences, he continued. Despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the wider United Nations, however, human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage. "But we cannot lose our hope and optimism," he emphasized. "These two words are our guiding lights, with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world."

Over the course of 2016, he noted, the Council had established an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development. Challenges persisted in regards to the universality of its work and small countries had been encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement. The active participation of civil society was also central to the work of the Council, he said.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the Council had time and again indeed "shone a light" on human rights violations, helping to establish new international norms and provide accountability. It now had a central role in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. With much more work remaining to be done in the decade ahead, the international community must stand firmly in its support of the Council's work, however difficult that might be, he stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, many delegates expressed concern that the Council may be overstepping its mandate, with several speakers citing the adoption of resolution 32/2, titled "Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity". The Russian Federation's representative said the Council had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States. He expressed alarm at relentless efforts to bring up matters unrelated to its work, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Elaborating on that issue, Botswana's representative, on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern over attempts to focus on certain persons on the basis of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring the existence of other types of intolerance and discrimination. Concerned that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, he said notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.

However, the representative of the United States emphasized that those issues clearly belonged on the Council's agenda. No one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, he added.

Delegations raised other concerns, with some saying they had been unfairly targeted. Israel's representative said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations had characterized the attitude of the Council towards her country. "Instead of trampling in the political swamp," she said, "it is crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights." While Israel had faced many security challenges, it remained committed to upholding human rights.

Raising a similar concern, Iran's delegate said it was regrettable that certain countries had been persistent in politicizing the issue of human rights. He urged the Council to firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures while refraining from imposing a single lifestyle on others. It was more important to focus on issues such as confronting violent extremism and raising awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, he said.

Many delegates welcomed the Council's universal periodic review process for enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries. The representative of Maldives said that as a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, it had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens. Despite its situation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council. "We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community," she added.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein (also on behalf of Iceland), Australia, Mongolia, Cuba, Kuwait, India, Switzerland, Argentina, Hungary, Costa Rica, Norway, Colombia, Philippines, Georgia, Ukraine, Cameroon and Qatar, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Georgia and Ukraine.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Monday, 7 November, to begin its consideration of the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other related matters.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the comprehensive human rights mechanisms the Council oversaw, particularly the universal periodic review, special procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies, had put it at the forefront of upholding human rights. "They have allowed us to establish new norms, provide accountability and remedies for violations and ensure that the human rights dimensions of emerging challenges are elevated and understood," he said. Time and again, the Council had "shone a light" on human rights violations requiring urgent action by the international community. The universal periodic review had been key in enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries. The open and inclusive nature of the review process had also been fundamental to its credibility.

He welcomed the participation of civil society and encouraged Member States to support national institutions, academia and other human rights defenders so that they could conduct their work freely. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, if implemented effectively, would build peaceful and inclusive societies, empower women and girls, tackle discrimination and inequality, promote rule of law, eliminate extreme poverty and fight climate change. The Council had a central role to play in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards. With much more work remaining to be done, the international community must, in the decade ahead, stand firmly in its support of the Council's work, however difficult that might be. It was essential for the Council to remain credible and retain its universal character.

CHOI KYONGLIM, President of the Human Rights Council, said many of its resolutions, including country-specific issues, were cross-regional initiatives, affirming the body's capacity to overcome political differences and take unified action. With Syria remaining high on its agenda throughout the year, the Council had, in October, held a session on the deteriorating situation in Aleppo. The Council had requested its Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to conduct an investigation and identify all those responsible for alleged violations and abuses of human rights law. The Council had also considered updates of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and the report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, having dispatched a mission of independent experts to the latter country to investigate human rights violations.

Recalling the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, he said a group of independent experts were mandated to focus on issues of accountability, in particular to violations amounting to crimes against humanity. The experts were expected to deliver their report to the Council in March 2017, when a report stemming from monitoring the situation in South Sudan was also expected to be presented. In 2016, the Council had extended the existing country-specific special procedures mandates to Belarus, Central African Republic, CAte d'Ivoire, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

He said the Council was exploring new opportunities in advancing human rights based on the 2030 Agenda, including discussions on how to help to bring the three pillars of the United Nations closer together. To that end, the Council had engaged in a range of thematic debates, holding 20 panel discussions specifically focusing on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in the prevention of human rights abuses, women's equal rights and business and human rights. The Council had also focused on the issue of improving accessibility for people with disabilities, pursuant to obligations arising from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council, he said, had acted as its "ears and eyes", constituting one of the main sources of reliable information on human rights situations around the world and providing a solid basis for debate. In 2016, the Council had established an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development. The Council had also amended the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to represent each of the seven indigenous sociocultural regions.

Regarding the universal periodic review, he said one challenge to the principle of universality had been the participation of small countries that did not have representation in Geneva. To that end, regular attention had been given to those States' needs through programmes and activities that had contributed to keeping them engaged in the process. Going forward required strengthening the focus on follow-up and implementation in order to safeguard the mechanism's effectiveness and credibility. States were also encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement with and follow-up on recommendations. The active participation of civil society was central to the work of the Council and its representatives must be afforded adequate protection to operate in open and safe environments.

Highlighting the many resolutions the Council had adopted, he said it had recommended that the Assembly submit the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Security Council for appropriate action. The Council had also requested the Assembly to submit to all relevant organs of the United Nations the report of the Commission of Inquiry in Eritrea and that the world body remain apprised of the matter of ensuring justice for all violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Turning to challenges, he said the Council continued to adopt a high number of resolutions, which carried significant resource implications. While the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had been requested to comply with Council decisions, its regular budget had not kept pace with the growth. The Council was also faced with the real possibility of having its meeting time reduced, which would impact its responsiveness to address human rights issues worldwide in an efficient and timely matter.

He said that despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the United Nations, as a whole, to effectively respond to the multiple crises that the world faced in 2016, the current situation did not appear to have vastly improved. Human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage. "But, we cannot lose our hope and optimism," he said. "These two words are our guiding lights with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world."

Statements

FRANCESCA CARDONA (European Union) underscored the severe consequences of the Syrian crisis and violations that had been committed by all parties. Any breaches of international law, especially humanitarian and human rights law, which might constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice. The Council's ongoing response to the crisis remained vital, as mirrored by related efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity. The Council had also provided technical assistance to authorities in CAte d'Ivoire, Libya and Mali to promote human rights and continued to assist the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Guinea, South Sudan and Ukraine. It should continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building could make a difference and should act when necessary.

She expressed concern over a draft resolution, tabled in the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the Council's report. That text sought to subvert a legitimate Council decision by deferring one particular resolution from its report - Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 on "protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity". Any attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the Council resolution had no legal foundation, she said, noting that based on its adoption, Vitit Muntarbhorn had been appointed the new Independent Expert in September, with the agreement of all 47 Council members. Questioning that mandate was to question the delicate institutional relationship between the Council and the Assembly.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized the importance of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the Council's work. Expressing support for the Council's agenda item on technical cooperation and capacity building on human rights issues, he stressed that related advisory services should only be issued upon the request of the State concerned, based on its priorities and national ownership and with full respect for sovereignty and political independence. Deploring all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, hate speech and violence, he expressed deep concern over attempts to introduce and impose new notions and concepts that were not internationally agreed upon, particularly in areas where there was no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument. The Group was even more disturbed at attempts to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring that other types of intolerance and discrimination regrettably still existed.

Spotlighting the Council's adoption of resolution 32/2 as such an attempt, he expressed concern that such efforts were being pursued to the detriment of issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development. Alarmed that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, the African Group believed that notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments. Recalling that the Group had tabled a resolution to defer the consideration of resolution 32/2 in order to engage in further discussions on the matter, he reiterated a call for the suspension of the appointed Independent Expert's activities, pending the determination of clarity on the issue.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), also speaking on behalf of Iceland, said that what had begun in 2006 as a project that had faced opposition from different sides had now become one of the international community's most important instruments in promoting universal respect for all human rights. Unfortunately, the Council had recently become more polarized, with opposition to certain country-specific and thematic issues being a matter of politics and the actual human rights of thousands of people sometimes taking a backseat. Noting that Member States' voluntary pledges and commitments now barely factored into the selection of the Council's members, he stressed that overall political commitments, such as support for the Accountability, Transparency and Coherence Group's code of conduct on mass atrocities, should play an important part in decision making in Council elections. Expressing particular concern about the Council's insufficient action on the situations in Yemen and Syria, he called on all countries to cooperate with the body's special procedures, such as by issuing standing invitations and enabling them to conduct their work independently and without interference.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) welcomed the Council's increased focus on improving the human rights outcomes for indigenous peoples, including through strengthening of the expert mechanism. She supported the body's resolution on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, saying it represented a significant step towards protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. However, it was disappointing to hear that some States were challenging the appointment of the independent expert. Furthermore, she noted that Australia had put forward its candidature for the Human Rights Council for 2018-2010. Given the opportunity to serve, her country would focus on five key areas, including good governance, freedom of expression, national human rights institutions, and the rights of women, girls and indigenous peoples.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said that as a newly-elected Council member, his country was focusing on a wide range of issues in the promotion and protection of equitable rights and fundamental freedoms that were at the core of all governmental policies. Mongolia's report had been reviewed a second time and a national action plan, developed through consultation with all stakeholders, had been adopted to implement the resulting recommendations. He called for more focus in the Council on such implementation through constructive engagement, cooperation and technical support. Commending efforts that had been aimed at improving the Council's working methods, he affirmed his Government's commitment to continue to contribute to the body's activities.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States), expressing her delegation's strong support for resolution 32/2, said no one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and that those issues clearly belonged on the Council's agenda. She strongly supported the appointment of an Independent Expert. Yesterday, the African Group had tabled its annual resolution on the Report of the Human Rights Council, which, during the current session, had contained "incredibly problematic language" and had attempted to delay consideration of resolution 32/2. Such actions could undermine the Council's ability to function if countries could reopen any mandate they deemed objectionable under the guise of legal concerns. Warning that the African Group would set a dangerous precedent, she recalled that the Latin American Group would table an amendment removing the language that went against the Council's decision. She strongly urged all Member States to vote in favour of the amendment, and, if that failed, to vote against the resolution itself.

ANA SILVIA RODRA�GUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), underlining the need for the Council to avoid a repeat of the negative practices that had discredited the Human Rights Commission, expressed regret over the former's increasing trend to impose double standards in its consideration of human rights. "The Council must be rescued from a situation in which selectivity and political manipulation will prevail," she stressed, noting that the universal periodic review, which was the sole comprehensive mechanism for the consideration of human rights, had distinguished itself from the Human Rights Commission through its respect for the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity. Stressing the need for those principles to also be observed by the Council's special procedures and its treaty bodies, she said that, as long as the current unfair and exclusive international economic and political order continued, the Council must take a stand in favour of equity and democracy. In particular, it must reject such universal and coercive measures as the one which had faced Cuba for more than 50 years.

NOUR KHALED ALDUWAILAH (Kuwait) said promoting and protecting human rights was the full responsibility of States. She welcomed the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and international efforts to promote the sustainable development agenda. For its part, Kuwait had already implemented national plans to promote human rights and public freedoms in line with international conventions. Indeed, the concept of human rights was closely linked to sustainable development. The United Nations Charter urged the international community to promote human rights and preserve fundamental freedoms. Having hosted three international conferences to address the humanitarian situation in Syria, Kuwait called for a concerted international effort to find a political settlement to the crisis. Her Government also strongly condemned Israel for violating the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said international cooperation was increasingly important and the United Nations must ensure ongoing dialogue between States. While the Council played a particularly crucial role, its agenda had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States. Citing certain dubious actions that had diluted the work of intergovernmental bodies, he said the Council itself was becoming a platform to test-run politically loaded matters. United Nations bodies with human rights mandates should not encroach on matters of international security, development, counter-terrorism and human trafficking. They must also have limits and avoid duplication. The Council's agenda went beyond its mandate and jurisdiction, he said, expressing alarm at "relentless efforts" to bring up other matters, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity. Overstepping its mandate was becoming a typical characteristic of the Council. While welcoming the objectivity of the universal periodic review process, he raised concerns about other worrisome trends that could discredit the work of the United Nations in protecting and promoting human rights.

MAHESH KUMAR (India) said that intrusive monitoring and finger-pointing while dealing with specific human rights situations was inimical to the Council's objectives. The Council must continue to strengthen its adherence to principles of universality, transparency, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and historical, cultural and religious backgrounds. The universal periodic review mechanism provided a forum for non-politicized, non-selective and non-confrontational discussions. The mechanism should not be adjusted, as any such attempt could dilute the universal support it currently enjoyed. Related issues could not be approached in isolation, nor could addressing them ignore the complex relationship between human rights, development, democracy and international cooperation, he said.

AISHA NQEEM (Maldives) underlined the importance of the Council's work, as human rights violations and abuses were rapidly increasing. The universal periodic review process had come to be widely recognized as the biggest achievement of the Council. Special attention must be given to the situation in Syria, particularly the grave human rights violations being committed in Aleppo, she said. She called on the Council to step up efforts and adopt a more proactive role in addressing the grave violations being committed against the women, men and children there and the violations Israel was committing against the Palestinian people. As a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, Maldives had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens. Despite its limitation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council. "We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community," she added.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said the draft resolution on the Human Rights Council's report was not necessary, as it aimed at isolating Council resolution 32/2 in its call to defer its consideration. The relationship between human rights and peace and security was worthy of special attention, not least because of its conflict-prevention potential. While the Council's increasing workload had confirmed the relevance of its mandate, that pace was not sustainable over the medium-term. It was crucial to continue reflecting on optimizing working methods and implementing relevant proposals to do so. Stressing the importance of improving its working atmosphere, he pointed out a lack of transparency in a number of negotiations and resolutions, a growing and combined use of written and oral amendments and requests to vote on concerns that had never been expressed during informal negotiations. Such issues fostered a mood of confrontation, he said, calling on all States to work constructively to enhance the body's credibility and efficiency.

MARTA�N GARCA�A MORITA�N (Argentina) said his Government had always been a strong defender of the Council's independent efforts to protect human rights and believed that the body should be placed on an equal footing with the United Nations main organs. Among other things, he said, the Council had increased dialogue between States on crucial human rights issues. Expressing concern over recent actions aimed at undermining the Council's legitimacy, including questions posed about the legal basis for its appointment of an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, he said it was unacceptable that attempts, through the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), had been made to disregard the mandates created by the Council. Pointing to other important issues on the body's agenda, he spotlighted the protection of the rights of older persons and the consideration of human rights and transitional justice, noting that the latter could contribute to the prevention of grave violations of human rights and international law.

KATALIN ANNAMA�RIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said her country had been active in the work of the Council, having led various initiatives on a number of thematic issues, including the independence of the judiciary and the prevention of reprisals against individuals cooperating with the United Nations. Hungary had also facilitated the exchange of views and disseminated knowledge about the Council and its mechanisms. In that regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had continued to host the annual Budapest Human Rights Forum, which had been launched in 2008. The upcoming forum would focus on major human rights issues such as the prevention of mass atrocities and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

NELLY SHILO (Israel) said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations characterized the attitude of the Council towards Israel. "Instead of trampling in the political swamp," she said, "it was crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights." The United Nations faced an unending list of calls to address the situation in Syria. Meanwhile, others worldwide continued to face torture, rape and starvation. Israel was a strong democracy in the Middle East region. While facing many security challenges, Israel would remain fully committed to upholding human rights and would continue to firmly object any attempts for the political abuse of the Council.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica) said the work of the universal periodic review was guided by principles of cooperation and constructive dialogue. She reiterated firm support for the Council's work and its independence while expressing concern that some practices could undermine its legitimacy. The Council must be recognized as the main international body to promote and protect human rights, and all efforts must be focused on strengthening that system. Costa Rica had historically been committed to human rights. To stray from independence would be to deny the universality of human rights, she said, adding that the system could be further refined through increasing support and maximizing resources and capacities. The Council must avoid scattering its efforts and must focus on grave and systematic violations around the world. Women, children and the most vulnerable deserved the protection of the international community now more than ever before.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed that when the Council adopted a resolution, the General Assembly had no role in reopening or overturning those decisions. Such a step undermined the very role and independent mandate that States had given that body. She called on States to respect the Council's decisions, including those specifically establishing special mandate holders. "There is no shortage of rights to be implemented," she said. "It is the implementation itself that is the problem." Special mandate holders were crucial to implementing commitments that had been made. Norway was disappointed and troubled by the decision to again bring forward a resolution in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), aiming at reopening the Council's report. She strongly opposed the attempt to defer the decision establishing the Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, stressing that the attempted deferral had no legal basis.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LA�PEZ (Colombia), spotlighting the Council's transformative impact on the lives of millions of people around the world, emphasized the need to continue to work towards streamlining the number of resolutions to be adopted and items to be considered. Noting that controversy and dispute were inherent in the Council's work, he stressed that "we should not fear the differences" that arose between States, as critical and constructive debate was positive and enabled gradual progress towards consensus. In that regard, he called on Member States to avoid polarization and redouble their efforts to strengthen the Council's work.

THERESE RODRIGUEZ CANTADA (Philippines) said her country remained committed to actively participating in the Council's work, while recognizing the growing complexity and breadth of human rights issues. The performance of special procedures mandate holders must always be in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251, which recognized that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their obligations. The universal periodic review was a very useful tool in upholding and allowing Governments concerned and members of the international community to engage with each other. However, the review process should not be the "end-all and be-all" of the human rights protection process. Given that migrants were recognized as positive contributors to inclusive and sustainable development in origin, transit and destination countries, she urged everyone to respect their economic, social and cultural rights.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said that, over the past decade, the Council had stood at the forefront of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. Nevertheless, systematic human rights violations remained a common phenomenon worldwide, and violence and brutality continued to infest the world. Welcoming the body's work in addressing the human rights situation in Syria, Ukraine, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries, as well as its adoption of several landmark thematic resolutions, she underscored the importance of universally applying universal periodic review regulations. The effective participation of civil society representatives in the Council's work was instrumental, she said, noting that such organizations were actively involved in all of Georgia's major reform processes. The basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of residents of Georgia's occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions continued to be violated in a systematic manner. The attention of the Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to that matter was of paramount importance.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union delegation, said his country had been suffering from military aggression and the grave human rights violations caused by the Russian Federation. The human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine continued to document numerous compelling accounts of violations, he said, expressing concern that international organizations still had no access to Crimea, where the situation was worsening. The systemic character of the ongoing situation required a separate detailed OHCHR report. Transparency, dialogue and cooperation were essential in achieving human rights around the world. Further evidence-based research must advance understanding and ensure the effective implementation of measures that could prevent human rights violations. In that regard, the Council had adopted a resolution requesting an expert workshop be held to discuss the role of civil society and other groups. Despite challenges in the field of security, Ukraine had embarked on the path of comprehensive reform, with human rights at its core.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said the universal periodic review had the potential to translate human rights discourse from confrontational to cooperative. Iran had begun implementing the latest review recommendations. Despite the existence of cooperative mechanisms, it was regrettable that certain countries were persistent in continuing their "worn-out policy of confrontation". Their sinister ways of politicizing human rights was hard to comprehend, he said, urging them to stop "naming and shaming". He disassociated himself with part of the report that included the situation in Iran. The Council should firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures, and should refrain from imposing a single lifestyle on others, he said, emphasizing that Iran did not recognize the body's work in sexual orientation or gender identity. He highlighted the important role of the Council in confronting and addressing violent extremism and raising global awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, which was "creeping throughout the Middle East" and beyond.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council served as a platform for dialogue and exchange of views between States on human rights issues. Cameroon hosted the United Nations Sub-regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, which held capacity-building seminars on human rights and submitted regular activity reports to the Assembly and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Expressing hope that the latter would provide increased attention to the Centre and bolster its financial and human resources, he went on to say that human rights were enshrined in Cameroon's Constitution and its national laws, policies and programmes. Among other things, his Government published an annual report on efforts to promote and protect civil, political, economic and cultural rights, in particular those of vulnerable groups. In December 2015, Cameroon had also adopted a national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), emphasizing the Council's importance as the most appropriate international human rights mechanism, said the body was faced with new burdens emerging from recent increases in conflict, extremism and terrorism. Spotlighting the gravity of the violations committed against the Palestinian and Syrian people in particular - which required the prompt attention of the international community - she said Qatar was sparing no effort to address those matters and ensure peace throughout the world. Among other things, the country was working to build the capacity of States to address human rights violations and it had launched numerous initiatives aimed at promoting the right to education, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and ending human trafficking.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, replying to the statements by Georgia and Ukraine, said that Georgia should recognize the political reality on the ground. South Ossetia and Abkhazia existed as autonomous republics and any concerns of human rights there could be referred to their governments. In regards to the Ukraine, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol had voted and, just like any other individuals under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, enjoyed all the human rights ensured under Russian law. If they had any concerns, the appropriate Russian bodies would respond to them accordingly.

The representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea called the accusations made by the European Union groundless and said that the European Union was the main violator of human rights. The European Union had a "deplorable" human rights record, especially in its treatment of refugees, who were far from being protected. The European Union and other Western countries should address their own human rights records first and refrain from interfering in the sovereignty of other countries. They should focus on engaging in constructive dialogue instead.

The representative of Georgia, replying to the Russian Federation, said that she did not mention the Russian Federation in her statement. In regards to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, she said that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and that human rights were systematically violated in those territories. She reiterated her call for the monitoring of human rights in the occupied territories and said that given the Russian Federation's role as occupying Power, its statements on the matter had no credibility.

The representative of Ukraine, responding, stressed that the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk had begun with the Russian Federation's occupation of Crimea.

Source: United Nations.

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