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Human Rights Council holds clustered interactive dialogue on the rights of indigenous peoples

AFTERNOON 

19 September 2018

Hears Address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples and with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Council heard a statement by the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations.  It was also addressed by Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary.  

Mr. Szijjártó said United Nations officials seemed to be using their positions to spread outrageous and unacceptable lies about Hungary.  Those officials were supposed to be independent from Member States, and they might be, but they must not be independent from the truth and must not be influenced by faceless and unknown international factors.  They had to respect Member States.  Recently, some United Nations officials had stated nonsense about Hungary.  The documents they had issued were biased and unbalanced.  They were nothing more than a collection of lies and those documents questioned the maturity of the Hungarian people.  Why did these United Nations officials and their documents not reflect the real will and decision of the Hungarian people about the future of their country?  Why did these officials not respect the human rights of the Hungarian people who had the right to decide who was allowed to come into the country, with whom they wanted to live, and the right to preserve their own culture, identity and heritage?  The Hungarian people had the right not to let all persons who disrespected these factors enter the territory.  It was obvious that these United Nations officials were biased, pro-migration officials.  Hungary would never be a country of migrants, would always protect its security, would never allow a single illegal migrant to enter the territory of the country, and would always protect its own border.  

Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said she had observed a worrying escalation of attacks against indigenous peoples who were defending their rights to protect their lands and resources, so her thematic report was dedicated to this topic.  Escalating militarization, fuelled by the demand over natural resources, had resulted in indigenous peoples being accused of being an obstacle to development and being targeted under national security acts and anti-terrorism legislation.  Ms. Tauli Corpuz also presented a thematic report to the Council on indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact in South America and spoke about her country visits to Mexico and Guatemala.  

Guatemala and Mexico spoke as concerned countries.  Procurador de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala and the National Human Rights Commission of Mexico also spoke in video messages.

Erika Yamada, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the new mandate of the Expert Mechanism allowed it to provide technical advice, to facilitate dialogue and in general terms to carry out broad country-level engagement activities at the request of Member States or indigenous peoples.  To date, the Expert Mechanism had received 10 requests under the new mandate, covering most of the indigenous socio-cultural regions.  In 2018, the Expert Mechanism had undertaken two missions under the new mandate to Finland and Mexico City.  Ms. Yamada presented a study entitled “Free, Prior and Informed Consent: A Human Rights Based Approach,” and the Mechanism’s annual report covering the period from August 2017 to July 2018.  The study highlighted the human rights basis of free, prior and informed consent.  

Anne Nuorgam, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, said that over the past 33 years, the Fund had had over 2,000 beneficiaries.  Grantees of the Fund had contributed to the development of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the development of international human rights jurisprudence by the Commission on Human Rights, treaties bodies, the Human Rights Council, and Special Procedures; the exposure of human rights issues, including abuses suffered by indigenous peoples; the development of the Outcome Document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and increasing international awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples.  By participating in international fora, indigenous peoples had been able to positively impact on and seek changes to human rights situations that they faced at home.  

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed grave concern over the escalation of violent attacks against indigenous human rights defenders in recent years.  Indigenous human rights defenders had to perform their work without fear of harm and it was necessary to implement legislation to protect their rights.  The need to address land tenure and efforts to ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in decision-making processes were also recognized.  Indigenous peoples found themselves at the back end of the violations of the transnational corporations that plundered the resources found on indigenous territories.

Speaking in the discussion were Finland on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Estonia, Canada, Malaysia, Brazil, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Philippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Spain, Paraguay, Colombia, Hungary, Ukraine, Australia, Bolivia, Venezuela, El Salvador, Iran, Chile, Honduras, Nepal, Greece, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Peru and the International Labour Organization.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions, Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos of El Salvador, World Organisation Against Torture, World Barua Organization, Minority Rights Group International, Prahar, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, Europe-Third World Centre, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Earthjustice, Conselho Indigenista Missionário (CIMI), Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries, VIVAT International, International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education OIDEL, Geneva for Human Rights, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action Aboriginal Corporation (in a joint statement with Indigenous World Association) and Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship.

United Kingdom, Indonesia and Brazil spoke in right of reply.

The Council will resume its work on Thursday, 20 September, at 9 a.m. when it will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Turkmenistan, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Germany, Azerbaijan, Tuvalu, Colombia, Djibouti, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan, Canada, Cuba and Russia.

Address by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary

PÉTER SZIJJÁRTÓ, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, said that recently, United Nations officials had started to spread lies about Hungary.  Those officials received their salaries based on funds supplied by Member States, including Hungary.  Those same United Nations officials seemed to be using their positions to spread outrageous and unacceptable lies about Hungary.  Those officials were supposed to be independent from Member States, and they might be, but they must not be independent from the truth and must not be influenced by faceless and unknown international factors.  They had to respect Member States.  Recently, some United Nations officials had stated nonsense about Hungary.  The documents they had issued were biased and unbalanced.  They were nothing more than a collection of lies and those documents questioned the maturity of the Hungarian people.  They suggested it would be better to put Hungary under a guardianship, to protect the Hungarian people from themselves.  History showed that had already been done with negative effect.  The documents by these officials echoed non-governmental organizations’ accusations, who turned out to be political factors who took part in recent elections, openly wanted to overthrow the Government, and became frustrated because of the outcome of the elections, namely the decision of the Hungarian people.

There were more than 60,000 non-governmental organizations working in Hungary, but there was only repeated reference to around a dozen non-governmental organizations in these reports, as though these reflected the position and opinion of the Hungarian people.  In Hungary, there was an opportunity for all tax payers to offer one per cent of their taxes to a non-governmental organization.  How many people did that? Some 796 people paid to one non-governmental organization mentioned in the reports, out of 4.5 million taxpayers.  It was a scandal that in those documents, it was suggested that these non-governmental organizations represented the society against the politicians.  That was not true.  It was the members of the government and parliament that had the right to conduct elections, not non-governmental organizations.  Some 2.8 million votes had been cast for the current ruling party.  Why did those United Nations officials and their documents not reflect the real will and decision of the Hungarian people about the future of their country?  Why did these officials not respect the human rights of the Hungarian people who had the right to decide who was allowed to come into the country, with whom they wanted to live, and the right to preserve their own culture, identity and heritage?  The Hungarian people had the right not to let all persons who disrespected these factors enter the territory.  It was obvious that these United Nations officials were biased, pro-migration officials.  Hungary would never be a country of migrants, would always protect its security, would never allow a single illegal migrant to enter the territory of the country, and would always protect its own border.  

United Nations officials would like to force on Hungary impossible things, like to allow illegal migrants to enter the country.  They said that migration was a fundamental human right, which was a lie.  No one had the right to pick a country where they would like to live in, migrate, and in order to get there violate a series of borders.  United Nations officials must stop lying about Hungary, stop applying double standards, and respect the will of the Hungarian people to have a safe and secure life at home.  Mr. Szijjártó assured that the Hungarian Government would protect the security of the Hungarian people, it would remain a country of the Hungarians, and maintain their 1,000-years-long history and their Christian culture and traditions.  United Nations officials should not think that they were independent from the truth.  They must not allow United Nations officials to spread lies about any Member States.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples (A/HRC/39/17).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples - Summary of meeting, jointly prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples of the United Nations and the Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights - Working meeting on the rules of international law relating to the human rights of indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation and initial contact in the Amazon and Gran Chaco (A/HRC/39/17/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – mission to Mexico (A/HRC/39/17/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples – mission to Guatemala (A/HRC/39/17/Add.3).

The Council has before it the Annual report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (A/HRC/39/68).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

VICTORIA TAULI CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, observed a worrying escalation in the attacks against indigenous peoples who were defending their rights to protect their lands, territories and resources.  Her thematic report to the Council was dedicated to this topic.  Conservation projects and climate change adaptation and mitigation measures also risked undermining the rights of indigenous peoples unless they built in human rights safeguards.  Escalating militarization, fuelled by the demand over natural resources, resulted in indigenous peoples being targeted under national security acts and anti-terrorism legislation.  Indigenous peoples were accused of being obstacles to development and acting against national interests.  Large projects were undertaken without consulting indigenous peoples and without their informed consent.  Failure to respect collective land rights and to provide indigenous peoples with secure land tenure undermined their ability to effectively defend their land.  

The report highlighted examples of specific cases and countries.  A rising number of attacks with particular incidents were observed in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Kenya, Mexico, Peru and the Philippines.  The same countries had been identified by the human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations that monitored attacks against indigenous peoples.  Indigenous leaders and communities seeking to raise concerns over the realization of their rights were targeted and killed, or forcibly evicted.  There was no information on the extent to which judicial harassment and criminal charges were levied against indigenous peoples.  Prosecutors and judges contributed to the misuse of criminal law by allowing unfounded prosecutions.  Legislators contributed through the adoption of vague definitions of criminal offences.   Indigenous peoples were not provided with adequate legal counsel or interpretation in indigenous languages.  Indigenous women suffered gendered impacts of criminalization.  They were subject to defamation aiming to alienate women from their families.  The report addressed prevention and protection measures, highlighting examples of community-led initiatives, such as indigenous networks and monitoring systems, and the use of indigenous guards for self-protection.  Protection measures had to be culturally appropriate and consider gender aspects, and accountability for attacks against indigenous peoples had to be established.

Ms. Tauli Corpuz also presented a thematic report to the Council on indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact in South America.  Efforts had to be redoubled to improve protection for the territories of indigenous peoples in isolation and initial contact, in line with international standards.  The report to the General Assembly focused on indigenous peoples’ own governing systems and the role they played in achieving sustainable development.  Two country visits were carried out, to Mexico in November 2017 and to Guatemala in May 2018.  Mexico and Guatemala had played an important role in the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the establishment of the mandate.  However, both countries faced serious challenges.  In Mexico, there was a need for effective and coordinated action at the federal, state and municipal levels to confront the serious situation of indigenous peoples in terms of lack of adequate implementation of their rights to self-determination and to their lands, territories and resources, their political participation and access to justice.  Violence, insecurity and poverty continued to be a problem.  In Guatemala, indigenous peoples made up the majority of the population but they had never participated on an equal footing in the political and economic life of the country.  They faced structural racism and around 40 per cent lived in extreme poverty.  Implementation of the commitments in the 1996 Peace Accord on Indigenous Peoples’ Rights and Identity remained unfulfilled, as well as recommendations issued in 2002 by Ms. Tauli Corpuz’s predecessor, Professor Stavanhagen.  In both countries, current development models had a negative impact on the rights of indigenous peoples.  Her next visits would be to Ecuador and Malaysia.  Since the last report to the Council, the mandate had issued 40 letters on allegations of violations of rights of indigenous peoples to 19 countries and various private companies.

Presentation of Reports by the Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

ERIKA YAMADA, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, presented the work of the Expert Mechanism over the past year.  She reminded that the new mandate of the Expert Mechanism allowed it to provide technical advice, to facilitate dialogue and in general terms to carry out broad country-level engagement activities at the request of Member States or indigenous peoples.  The Expert Mechanism may support States in the implementation of recommendations made by other human rights mechanisms in relation to the human rights of indigenous peoples and may provide a deeper analysis of those recommendations.  To date, the Expert Mechanism had received 10 requests under the new mandate, covering most of the indigenous socio-cultural regions.  They varied from assistance in drafting legislation to capacity building, from developing national plans of action to assisting in the repatriation of indigenous peoples’ human remains and sacred objects.  

In 2018, the Expert Mechanism had undertaken two missions under the new mandate to Finland and Mexico City.  The mission to Finland had been based on a request from the Sami Parliament and had taken place in February 2018, while the purpose of the visit to Mexico City was to provide technical cooperation focusing on the implementation of provisions relating to indigenous peoples in the new Constitution of Mexico City, adopted in January 2017.  

Ms. Yamada then presented a study entitled “Free, Prior and Informed Consent: A Human Rights Based Approach,” and the Mechanism’s annual report covering the period from August 2017 to July 2018.  The study highlighted the human rights basis of free, prior and informed consent.  The absence of a human rights-based approach had already led to many misunderstandings about free, prior and informed consent, which conflated it with mere consultation, tokenism and lip service to indigenous peoples.  In line with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, free, prior and informed consent was about really influencing the outcome of decision-making processes.  It was not only a right to be involved in or heard in processes affecting them.  It was a manifestation of the right to self-determination, which was the heart and soul of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The study was a coordinated effort and considered the advancement of international human rights jurisprudence on free, prior and informed consent.  The study gave a critical review of practices and it encouraged all actors to embrace a substantive human rights interpretation, which would avoid a narrow focus on procedural steps and promote genuine participation of the affected indigenous peoples.  

Turning to the Expert Mechanism’s activities over the past year, Ms. Yamada informed that approximately 50 Member States and more than 100 indigenous peoples’ organizations and civil society organizations had participated in the eleventh session of the Expert Mechanism.  The session had culminated in guidelines on how to better collaborate with national human rights institutions, a relationship that was of particular relevance to the new mandate of the Expert Mechanism.  The Mechanism had also held a panel discussion on recognition, reparation and reconciliation.  In many parts of the world there were initiatives to set up truth commissions, transitional justice for recognition and reparations of past and ongoing violations, as well as reconciliation processes of States with indigenous peoples after periods of regimes of exclusion, massacres and assimilation.  Those processes were the ground for the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  Accordingly, the Mechanism would focus on issuing a report on recognition, reparation and reconciliation in the following year.  In December 2017, the Expert Mechanism had held a global expert seminar on free, prior and informed consent in Santiago, Chile.  In addition, some of its inter-sessional activities had been directed at deepening cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.  

Presentation by the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples

ANNE NUORGAM, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples, said the Board was excited that the beneficiaries of the Fund, who were present in the Council, had the opportunity to bring their important issues to the international stage to advance the rights of their peoples.  They joined over 2,000 beneficiaries of the Fund over the last 33 years.  Member States were congratulated for contributing to the Fund.  With a mandate that had expanded seven times, grantees of the Fund had contributed to the development of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples; the development of international human rights jurisprudence by the Commission on Human Rights, treaties bodies, the Human Rights Council, and Special Procedures; exposure of human rights issues, including abuses suffered by indigenous peoples; the development of the Outcome Document of the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples; and increasing international awareness of the rights of indigenous peoples.  

By participating in international fora, indigenous peoples had been able to positively impact on and seek changes to human rights situations that they faced at home.  Beneficiaries of the Fund had also changed the international legal system so that it embodied the human rights it espoused.  Since its establishment by the General Assembly in 1985, the mandate of the Fund had significantly broadened so that now it supported the participation of representatives of indigenous peoples not only in the sessions of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples but also in sessions of other human rights mechanisms, including treaty bodies and the Council.  In 2017 and 2018, the Board considered a total of 734 admissible applications.  The Board and the secretariat of the Fund actively supported grantees and their objectives and Ms. Nuorgam provided detailed data for the last two years.  The Fund also allocated resources to build the capacity of indigenous peoples to make them truly effective participants in those meetings.  In partnerships, the Fund organized human rights training modules in Geneva and New York.  The Fund was also working closely with legal and academic experts on international indigenous peoples’ United Nations structures to prepare a practical “how to” guide for indigenous peoples participating in the United Nations.  The Board liaised closely with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Board had recently reached out to non-governmental organizations located in Geneva and was meeting regularly both multilaterally and bilaterally with States.  The Fund was exclusively supported by means of voluntary contributions.  Deepest gratitude was expressed to the Governments of Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Holy See, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Spain, Turkey and others for their generous contributions to the voluntary fund between January 2016 until today in 2018.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Guatemala, speaking as a concerned country, said meetings had been held in Guatemala to look at the actions and efforts deployed by the State institutions to uphold the human rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala.  There was no policy in Guatemala that criminalised the indigenous peoples as regarded the free exercise of their right to protect their land and their natural resources.  That was why it was important to draw a distinction between legal actions taken, and criminal acts, as well as the legitimate exercise to protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  On the right to be consulted, the operational guide for the implementation of consultations with indigenous peoples would be approved.  The State of Guatemala was preparing a protocol for evictions, to guarantee the human rights of those being evicted and ensure that relevant judicial resolutions during eviction cases were complied with.  In the national courts, there were ongoing criminal proceedings stemming from the internal armed conflict.  That was why it was incorrect for the Special Rapporteur to say that there were patterns of violence that kept alive the legacy of violence and genocide from 1960 to 1996.  Guatemala rejected allegations made by the Rapporteur in paragraphs 42, 54 and 55 of her report.  

Procurador de los Derechos Humanos de Guatemala, in a video statement, said that in Guatemala human rights defenders were going through a crisis, particularly when it came to criminalisation, which was reflected by received threats and assassinations of community leaders.  The State needed to investigate those acts in order to seek justice and find the masterminds of those crimes.  On the theme of evictions, evictions in Guatemala happened on a constant basis against peasants and indigenous peoples without the Government giving response as to the needs of re-locating those families.  There were also violations of the right to consultation of indigenous peoples.  There was discussion concerning the creation of a law to this effect; the State should allow those indigenous communities the right to consultation.

Mexico, speaking as a concerned country, said that it was well aware of the areas in which it needed to make progress.  Those included land titles, structural discrimination of indigenous peoples, autonomy, self-determination and political participation, self-identification, access to justice, violence and impunity, freedom of determining development priorities, and free, prior and informed consent.  The Government of Mexico was determined to maintain a constructive dialogue that would support national efforts in the implementation of new measures to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples.  As for the visit by the Expert Mechanism, Mexico underlined that it gave special attention to the autonomy and self-determination of indigenous peoples, and their free, prior and informed consent.  The Government thanked the Expert Mechanism for their visit in January 2018 and for their technical assistance provided to Mexico City in the drafting of the new constitution.  

National Human Rights Commission of Mexico, in a video statement, stated that the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples constituted a guide for safeguarding the rights of indigenous peoples in Mexico.  Their current situation reflected a gap between reality and international obligations.  The Commission highlighted the area of land and resources as particularly problematic, and underlined the importance of free, prior and informed consent.  Social and economic development in the country could not exclude the wishes and needs of the indigenous peoples.  The Commission reiterated its willingness to continue cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, and it asked the Mexican Government to immediately analyse her recommendations.  Ending exclusion, marginalization and poverty required respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.  

Interactive Dialogue

Finland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said that the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples provided important guidance about free, prior and informed consent, which was closely connected to consultations securing participation from indigenous peoples in decision-making.  European Union was gravely concerned about the escalation of violent attacks against indigenous defenders in recent years.  There was a need to address land tenure and efforts must be made to ensure indigenous peoples participation in decision-making processes.  Estonia highlighted that the shrinking of democratic space in many countries posed an additional problem for indigenous defenders.  There was a need for protection measures to be culturally contextualised, gender sensitive and to be developed jointly with indigenous populations.

Canada was alarmed by the increasing human rights violations committed against indigenous defenders worldwide.  The identification of protection measures and recommendations for the prevention of violations in the report were welcomed.  Malaysia noted the Rapporteur’s recommendations to address violence against indigenous peoples.  The Expert Mechanism was asked how it would encourage United Nations agencies to better utilize its thematic studies.  Brazil said that critical statements in the report concerning Brazil had to be based on careful consideration.  Studies mentioned by the Rapporteur had serious shortcomings and the Brazilian Government had implemented many measures to protect indigenous peoples and had a comprehensive programme to protect defenders.

Pakistan said its constitution guaranteed fundamental rights without discrimination on any basis, including gender, religion, colour or ethnic origin.  There was no bar on any caste or creed from participating in political life or society.  During elections, an indigenous man had been elected, showing the growing mainstreaming of indigenous peoples in Pakistani society.  Russian Federation said one-third of Ms. Tauli Corpuz’s report set out legal nonsense standards.  Was it worth spending time regurgitating work that had previously been discussed?  The report also contained outrageous accusations against States and Heads of State, and was based exclusively on non-governmental information.  Philippines noted that indigenous peoples comprised 15 per cent of the population.  The Philippines was one of the few countries in the world that had a comprehensive law governing the rights of indigenous peoples, the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, which recognised and protected the indigenous peoples’ ownership of their ancestral lands and domains.

Trinidad and Tobago said it had established the Amerindian Project Committee and First Peoples Development Committee whose work had borne fruit.  They also celebrated the First Peoples Heritage Week in October, a public holiday meant to sensitise the nation to the life, traditions and intrinsic values of the indigenous peoples.  Fiji noted its efforts to give indigenous peoples all protections which safeguarded their right to self-determination, particularly where land and natural resources were concerned.  Threats posed by climate change meant the relocation of 63 communities due to rising sea levels, which required the preservation of indigenous peoples’ cultural identity.  Spain said that indigenous peoples’ human rights defenders had to be able to perform their work without fear of harm.  It was necessary to implement legislation to protect the rights of those human rights defenders.  In sharing their concerns about situations facing those defenders, Spain said that within their own borders, they closely monitored cases of that nature.  

Paraguay confirmed the primary responsibility of States to ensure that indigenous peoples could exercise their rights safely.  It had made the first steps to adopt the National Indigenous Peoples Plan, which focused on thematic priorities, such as land, territories, and natural resources.  Colombia stated that it recognized 87 indigenous peoples who preserved their ancestral traditions and languages, and who had received 34 million hectares of land, which accounted for 30 per cent of the national territory.  The State had also taken measures to protect indigenous leaders.  Hungary said that it was a staunch supporter of the promotion, protection and implementation of the rights of indigenous peoples.  The systematic implementation of their rights was necessary and appropriate because indigenous peoples were still among the most vulnerable segments of their societies.  

Ukraine regretted that Crimean Tatars suffered severely under the occupation by the Russian Federation.  The Russian authorities willingly resorted to such policies as intimidation, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, killings, denial of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.  Australia underlined that at home and abroad, it supported the role of human rights defenders in contributing to the protection of human rights for all, including for indigenous peoples.  Australia recognized the importance of meaningful consultation and collaboration and it was working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples to refresh the national framework for addressing indigenous disadvantage.  Bolivia stated that it was making great efforts to consolidate the General Directorate for the Protection of Original Indigenous Peoples.  The national Constitution protected the plant of coca as an ancestral cultural heritage, a natural sustainable resource, and a factor of social cohesion.    

Venezuela said it had participated actively in sessions provided by the Expert Mechanism.  Regarding alleged attacks against indigenous peoples, Venezuela reiterated its commitment to preserving the integrity of all people in the county.  Venezuela also reaffirmed its commitment to repay the historic debt they maintained with their indigenous peoples.  El Salvador said as part of the five-year development plan, the need to promote culture was a right.  El Salvador had reformed the Constitution, created a law on culture, and reformed its agrarian laws.  El Salvador had also developed a national action plan for indigenous peoples and had launched a national policy on intercultural health, accessible by indigenous peoples.  Iran asked what kind of measures responsible States with best practices had taken in order to combat discrimination against indigenous citizens and to ensure equal opportunity for all peoples.  They also asked for information concerning the missing and murdered indigenous women and girls in Canada and how far the national inquiry had gone in its investigations.

Chile said that their President, Sebastián Piñera, had proposed a comprehensive and inclusive agreement for all people to live in peace and on an equal footing, which also recognized the cultural diversity of the population.  Hundreds of stakeholders had taken part.  They also stressed the inclusion of indigenous peoples to the promotion of development.  Honduras stressed that it was one of only three Latin American countries that protected the rights of human rights defenders, including those that defended indigenous peoples.  In March 2018, the public defender had established an office dedicated to investigating crimes against human rights defenders.  Nepal was a diverse county, with 35.8 per cent of the population belonging to an indigenous group.  Also, the Indigenous Nationalities Commission and National Inclusion Commission had been created to conduct studies and research for the protection of the rights and interests of the indigenous communities.  

Greece had supported the landmark Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples from its inception.  Indigenous peoples through their connection to their lands significantly contributed to the conservation of biodiversity.  South Africa stressed the premise that indigenous peoples depended on natural resources for their survival.  They continued to find themselves at the back end of the violations of the transnational corporations that plundered the resources found on indigenous territories and this was unacceptable.  Côte d’Ivoire was alarmed about threats faced by indigenous peoples in spite of the legal framework and human rights mechanisms.  The right of indigenous peoples to self-determination and to socio-economic rights was violated by countries as well as businesses.

Ecuador was making tremendous efforts to secure the rights of indigenous peoples through dialogue.  With Australia, Ecuador was hosting the international year of indigenous languages in the United Nations in 2019.  Peru was committed to developing policies which would ensure the right of indigenous peoples to decide on their own development priorities and use of territory.  In Peru, four million indigenous persons were exercising their language rights.  International Labour Organization closely followed the elaboration of the annual study of the Expert Mechanism and provided inputs regarding the provision of the International Labour Organization Convention 169 concerning indigenous and tribal peoples.  It was concerning that this study had not taken into account inputs.

Vanuatu spoke of cases of intimidation and attacks against Papuan human rights defenders living in West Papua who lived in fear of coercive measures aimed at obstructing their work.  They also faced criminalisation by Indonesian authorities, made worse by widespread impunity for perpetrators of crimes against them.  Lesotho noted that private companies working in collaboration with Governments had placed indigenous communities seeking to protect their lands at risk.  States and private companies needed to bear in mind the freedom of choice which rested on indigenous peoples, giving them the autonomy to choose what to do with their traditional lands.

Remarks by the Mandate Holders

ERIKA YAMADA, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said the misunderstanding concerning the right to consent and consultation had to do with the implementation of the right.  She said there was much to be done to have a respectful relationship between governments and indigenous peoples.  In the Expert Mechanism’s study, there was the notion of self-determination and non-discrimination.  Indigenous peoples’ self-determination was about their freedom to reach agreements amongst themselves.  However, when they negotiated with States, that was difficult, especially if they faced colonisation.  Historically, the right to self-determination was governed by the fact that subjugated people should be able to win back their autonomy and control their own land and natural resources.  Because of the failure to respect that, there was an intrinsic relation between the lack of free, prior and informed consent and the violations of the rights of human rights defenders.  Concerning the Expert Mechanism’s study, country experiences were listed that were looking at adopting self-determination legislation, but those laws had drawn criticism because they had to take into consideration the needs and rights of indigenous peoples.  There was concern that those laws were also drafted without the consultation of indigenous peoples.  Finally, the regional offices of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would be involved in the dissemination of the study so governments could use it in their practices.  

VICTORIA TAULI-CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said national human rights institutions said they would reach out and support the mandate by organizing meetings or monitoring the roles played by businesses.  Human rights assessment was a tool.  Several indigenous populations had taken that tool and monitored how their own rights were being respected where they lived.  They had to raise their capacities to even know, on a basic level, what their rights were.  She saw that community-based protection mechanisms were effective in protecting leaders in some cases but in others, it was not easy.  In Honduras and Colombia, she noted, those mechanisms were in place.  Good faith consultations and dialogue was the way to go forward.  Conflicts could not be resolved without those.  

Interactive Dialogue

Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions stressed the complimentary role of national human rights institutions in the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  It welcomed the development of a paper on increased collaboration between the Expert Mechanism and national human rights institutions to that end.  Procuraduría para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos of El Salvador stated that since 2005, it had been supporting indigenous communities through the work of a permanent office of the Prosecutor General, which dealt with numerous claims of indigenous peoples.  The prosecutor had called for the prosecution of the 1932 genocide and the massacre of 1983.  

World Organization against Torture called attention to the killing of indigenous leaders in Honduras and Guatemala, which were part of campaigns led against indigenous peoples.  The pattern of persecution in various parts of Latin America comprised torture and ill-treatment that was often poorly reported.  World Barua Organization pointed out to the pitiful situation of women in India.  A vast number of them were committing suicide.  The Indian Government was not doing anything to address that issue.  Minority Rights Group International recalled that the criminalization and attacks on indigenous peoples usually occurred in a multi-layered and multi-targeted manner.  Indigenous traditional activities were routinely criminalized in countries, such as Egypt and Bangladesh.  Prahar underlined that both individual and collective protection measures were considered in consultation with indigenous peoples.  India was openly discriminating against the indigenous peoples in the north-east of the country in Assam, namely through illegal immigration.  

Peace Brigades International Switzerland warned about the resurgence of violence against indigenous peoples in Guatemala in 2018, resulting in the death of 13 defenders.  Indigenous peoples were victims of forced evictions and stigmatisation, particularly in the context of mega projects.  Europe-Third World Centre was concerned about the criminalization of the Mapuche community.  The Rapporteur was asked to visit Chile to investigate violations of human rights and the Council was asked to support the development of the protection mechanism for defenders.  Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement durable au Burundi noted that all States had the responsibility to protect their indigenous peoples.  In India, this was not the case as militarization of territory had threatened the lives of indigenous peoples in north-east India.  

Earthjustice spoke on behalf of indigenous Wangan and Jagalingou from north-eastern Australia who faced destruction of their people and culture by the development of one of the largest coalmines in the world on their ancestral homeland, although they had consistently opposed the project.  Indigenist Missionary Council said that news about the murder of individuals or the massacres in the Vale do Javari and the Yanomami land in Brazil showed the serious violence to which they were exposed, even within protected areas.  Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries agreed with the Special Rapporteur that indigenous peoples in Guatemala suffered from lack of access to land and natural resources.  Defenders suffered criminalization in the context of appropriations of natural resources without free, prior and informed consent.

VIVAT International expressed profound concern about the situation of human rights of the Molembe indigenous people in the Republic of Congo, due to the opening of a forestry road by company CIB-OLAM with headquarters in Singapore.  The community had been affected by malaria, leading to the death of 57 children, and the organization called for an investigation into that case.  International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education reminded that all persons were entitled to quality education and training in respect of their cultural identity.  Indigenous peoples had the right to establish and control their educational institutions and to receive education in their own languages.
Genève pour les droits de l’homme: formation internationale drew attention to dreadful reports of violations of the human rights of people of West Papua.  Studies had shown that the number of West Papuans had decreased, and that their leaders were not included in the decision-making processes that concerned them.  

Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action Aboriginal Corporation, in a joint statement with Indigenous World Association, asked how reports on the rights of indigenous peoples could be shared with all United Nations agencies.  The organization said that it would press for the official observer status to the Council.  Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship shared concern that in Mexico indigenous peoples continued to suffer from profound structural discrimination.  Indigenous journalists and media workers faced an increased threat of intimidation and attacks by non-State actors, including murder.  

Concluding Remarks

ERIKA YAMADA, Chair of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, said national human rights institutions played a very important role in the implementation of the Mechanism’s new mandate.  Ms. Yamada expressed a hope to further develop technical assistance under the requests of States or indigenous peoples to implement their rights and recommendations.  She also highlighted, in reaction to the Hungarian intervention and regarding the Universal Periodic Review, the importance for countries that received recommendations to use them as a framework for the rights of indigenous peoples.  Regarding the study on free, prior and informed consent, the contributions from the International Labour Organization were reflected in the study and the Mechanism worked closely with them to protect the rights of indigenous peoples in that sense.  In closing, she said that the European Parliament resolution recognized the right to free, prior and informed consent and presented the impacts that European companies had on the rights of indigenous peoples and their land.

VICTORIA TAULI CORPUZ, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said that more governments should adopt laws to protect human rights defenders.  It was important to see more policies and guidelines that respected the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, so that individuals could have better access to justice.  In relation to the impacts on indigenous women, they were impacted when people in their community were criminalised, as they took care of the families of those that were victims of criminalisation and impunity.  They also needed support in access to justice and other support.  Concerning good practices, she was going to carry out an additional study on protective mechanisms to see how effective they were for indigenous peoples and their identities on national and global levels.  Ms. Tauli Corpuz mentioned that the American Commission on Human Rights had protectionary measures in place for indigenous peoples as well as the European Union.  Indigenous governance was implementing good practices in terms of their indigenous justice systems, however, more information needed to be found on that subject to see how they were governing themselves and how effective their protection was.  She concluded by saying that the contribution of indigenous peoples to sustainable development was linked to the respect for their rights.  

Right of Reply

United Kingdom, speaking in a right of reply, strongly rejected the accusations made by the Russian Federation during the interactive dialogue with the Working Group on arbitrary detention.  The United Kingdom firmly opposed any form of deprivation of liberty that would amount to placing a detained person outside the protection of the law.  The United Kingdom also strongly refuted the allegation that it had obstructed access for consular officials of third countries to their nationals in the United Kingdom.  As for the reference to a Russian national currently residing under United Kingdom protection, the delegation clarified that it was the longstanding position of the United Kingdom not to comment on individual cases.  However, the situation regarding that individual was well known following the high profile attempted murder of Sergei Skripal.  The United Kingdom referred the Russian Federation to the individual’s public statements in which she had made clear that she was in the United Kingdom of her free will and did not desire consular assistance from the Russian Federation.  

Indonesia, speaking in a right of reply, categorically rejected the baseless accusations made by Vanuatu.  It was regrettable that Vanuatu had once again not used the Council to improve the condition of its own population, which was still marred by poverty, violence and discrimination.  If Vanuatu honestly had genuine concern about the situation of human rights in any of Indonesia’s provinces, Indonesia was more than willing to have a dialogue and to listen to constructive proposals.  Those who had visited West Papua had witnessed the significant development progress in the provinces of both Papua and West Papua.  

Brazil, speaking in a right of reply, said it shared concerns over increased violence against indigenous peoples.  Allegations of human rights violations were investigated so that perpetrators could be held accountable.  Brazil had a long-standing commitment towards ensuring the rights of indigenous peoples, as enshrined in the Constitution.  Over 20 per cent of people included in human rights defenders programme were indigenous.  According to the Brazilian Institute of Statistics, in 2010, there were 900,000 indigenous persons belonging to 305 ethnical groups who spoke 275 different languages.  Brazilian indigenous populations had constantly increased since the middle of the century.
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