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Human Rights Council opens High-Level Segment

Human Rights Council 
MIDDAY

29 February 2016

 
Hears Statements from the President of Togo, Captains-Regents of San Marino, and Dignitaries from 28 States and Organizations

The Human Rights Council opened its High-Level Segment today, hearing statements by the President of Togo, Captains-Regents of San Marino, and dignitaries from 28 States and Organizations that spoke about their concerns regarding the situation in a number of countries and regions around the world and outlined some of their efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights.

Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe, President of Togo, noted that Togo took very seriously its mission and work in the Human Rights Council, and that it would spare no effort during its three-year mandate to enable the Council to fully achieve its objectives.  It was necessary to establish concrete and pragmatic links between the Sustainable Development Goals and the mission of the promotion of human rights, especially with respect to the right to development. 

Lorella Stefanelli and Nicola Renzi, Captains-Regents of San Marino, welcomed and encouraged the activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and underlined that ensuring the respect and primacy of human rights was the basic pillar for States governed by the rule of law.  Promoting dialogue and democratic practices was always a priority everywhere. 

Other speakers in the High-Level Segment were: Augusto Santos Silva, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, Didier Reynders, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, Miroslav Lajčák, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, Lütfi Elvan, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, Eladio Ramón Loizaga Lezcano, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, Susana Mabel Malcorra, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Jean-Marc Ayrault, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, Bert Koenders, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Aurelia Frick, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lichtenstein, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Program, Michaëlle Jean, Sécretary-General of the International Organization of the Francophonie, Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Gulmira Kudaiberdieva, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, Hyder Natiq Jasim, Minister of Justice of Iraq, Lenita Toivakka, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, Nilma Lino Gomes, Minister for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights of Brazil, Gilles Tonelli, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, Bert Koenders, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, on behalf of Federica Mogherini, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Edward Nalbandyan, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Nikola Poposki, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia,  Mikheil Janelidze, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Georgia, Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, Miguel Ruiz Cabañas, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Multilateral Affairs of Mexico, Linas Antanas Linkevičius, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, Tore Hattrem, State Secretary and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, and Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund.

The Council today is holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. This press release covers all statements made under the High-Level Segment until 3 p.m.

At 3 p.m., the Council will hold a panel discussion on human rights mainstreaming.


High-Level Segment

FAURE ESSOZIMNA GNASSINGBE, President of Togo, noted that Togo’s election to the Human Rights Council presented an unprecedented opportunity for Togo to continue its long-term work to make fundamental freedoms and human rights a central part of the national economic and social agenda.  Togo took very seriously its mission and work in the Council, and it would spare no effort during its three-year mandate to enable the Council to fully achieve its objectives.  Following the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals in September 2015, the time had come for all States to move from words to action.  That was a great challenge, but all countries needed to be ambitious.  It was necessary to establish concrete and pragmatic links between the Sustainable Development Goals and the mission of the promotion of human rights, especially with respect to the right to development.  In that respect, achieving social cohesion, the fight against inequalities, access to basic services, and the question of youth made up some of the most important challenges for Togo.  It was imperative to recall the importance of an integrated approach in devising strategies for the achievement of the new Sustainable Development Goals.  In order to avoid the perception that the new goals were imposed from outside, it was indispensable to adopt a participative approach based on national appropriation.   

The President of Togo underlined the danger that terrorism and extremism posed to the achievement of the transformation of society.  The recent attacks in Europe and West Africa, persistent difficulties in Libya and Syria, and insecurity in the oceans and seas illustrated the importance of security issues, which was why Togo had prioritized them in its national policies.  To that end, Togo and the African Union had convened an extraordinary summit of Heads of States and Governments dedicated to maritime security and development in Africa.  He reiterated Togo’s commitment to create a world where human rights would triumph.  Accordingly Togo would adopt a strategy to increase employment in the period 2013-2017 as a step towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  He expressed hope that the consensus that had led to the adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals would be reinforced. 

LORELLA STEFANELLI and NICOLA RENZI, Captains-Regents of San Marino, said that the people of San Marino recognized the great value of a culture of peace.  In the face of human rights violations, any member of the international community had a duty to act.  When the United Nations Secretary-General visited San Marino, he recognized it as an important member which shared the value of democracy.  San Marino welcomed and encouraged the activities of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and underlined that ensuring the respect and primacy of human rights was the basic pillar for States governed by the rule of law.  The danger of human rights to be weakened was constantly present, even in democratic States.  Promoting dialogue and democratic practices was always a priority everywhere.  San Marino had opened its doors and was expressing hospitality and solidarity to migrants.  Terrorism and violent extremism were a grave threat against peace.  Extremism found fertile ground where human rights were denied and violated.  It was therefore crucial that policy-makers focused on tackling its root causes.  San Marino condemned the destruction of cultural heritage by extremist groups, and encouraged the establishment of a task force by Blue Helmets to defend that heritage.  Fanaticism would not have the last word.  San Marino called for the establishment of a global moratorium on the use of capital punishment. 

AUGUSTO SANTOS SILVA, Vice-Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Portugal, said that as a member of the Human Rights Council, his country’s priorities remained unchanged.  Women’s rights, including the prevention and the elimination of violence against women, were among the country’s main concerns, as were children’s rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination.  Portugal would also continue to call for the abolition of the death penalty.  He expressed hope that the Council for the first time would approve a consensual resolution on the “abject spiral” of violence in Syria which would prove the unity and firm commitment of all Council members in condemning violations and abuses of human rights and humanitarian law perpetrated in that country.  Syria’s future was in its children, and Portugal attached great importance to the right to education, a human right which ranked among the first to be violated in situations of conflict.  The World Humanitarian Summit in May and the High Level Meeting of the General Assembly in September about refugees and migrants represented unique opportunities for the international community to test its commitments on that subject.  The magnitude of the current terrorist threats demanded a cross-cutting response that acted on the causes of radicalization and violent extremism, while fully respecting human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.

DIDIER REYNDERS, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Belgium, noted that since its election to the Human Rights Council, Belgium had been dedicated to ensure consistency between its international actions and the respect for human rights within its borders.  At the moment when Europe was threatened by terrorist attacks, Belgium was implementing new measures to face the menaces that threatened its society.  It was important that an impartial external analysis was regularly applied to policies in order to ensure that fundamental freedoms and human rights were upheld by States.  Mr. Reynders reminded that the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights encouraged international partners to pursue efforts to diminish discrimination on the basis of race, gender and religion, and to allow public and political participation to everyone.  Democracy, law and human rights were the pillars and were complementary to human rights.  He lamented that in certain Member States there had been an increase of attacks on human rights in pre-election periods, especially on the freedom of expression and association.   Belgium’s other priority was the abolition of the death penalty.  The application of the death penalty on a massive scale against certain groups of a population was particularly stigmatizing, and could have potentially destabilizing long-term effects.  

MIROSLAV LAJCAK, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Slovakia, stated that the international community had to ensure that the Human Rights Council would play an even more active role in addressing global human rights challenges, making prevention the core of the Council’s mandate.  It was essential to strengthen preventive capacities by addressing human rights issues more comprehensively.  The implementation of preventive tools, such as building of democratic institutions or technical assistance on the ground, would significantly reduce threats to international peace and security.  As long as human rights and fundamental freedoms were systematically violated, peace and stability would be in danger.  Slovakia strongly condemned all acts of hatred, whether it was religious, ethnic, racial or any other.  It thus welcomed the Council’s endeavour to combat violent extremism.  Mr. Lajcak expressed deep concern over the grave human rights violations committed in Iraq and Syria by Daesh and its allies.  As a consequence, there had been an unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants to Europe, which had become one of the biggest challenges of the time.  Slovakia was dedicated to the protection of the rights of asylum seekers in line with its international commitments.  Speaking of Ukraine, Slovakia called for the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements, which were crucial for the restoration of peace and the territorial integrity of Ukraine.  The state of play there required continued attention, and Ukraine would be Slovakia’s priority during its Presidency of the European Union in the second half of 2016. 

LüTFI ELVAN, Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey, said that the thirty-first session of the Human Rights Council convened among global challenges of an unprecedented nature.  Ongoing threats of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, as well as the tragedy of migrants and refugees, were hurting the conscience of humanity.  Turkey had initiated intensive legislative work which prioritized the enhancement of democracy and reform in the justice system.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said that the conflict there was causing a threat to the entire region’s peace and stability.  A political settlement and political transformation based on the Geneva communiqué had to remain a priority.  The international community should ensure the end of impunity for violations of human rights.  Turkey hosted the largest amount of refugees in the world, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency.  Turning to the situation in Ukraine, he called on the Office of the High Commissioner to prepare a separate report on the situation of human rights in the autonomous region of Crimea.  The whole world was facing terrorism; Daesh, Al Qaida, PKK and Boko Haram continued to threaten the well-being of societies, he said.  Turkey had always supported United Nations activities for promoting a united stance against that scourge.  Violent extremism in all forms was a growing source of concern on a global scale.  Turkey condemned all kinds of incitement to hatred and religious discrimination against Muslims, Jews and people of other faiths.

ELADIO RAMÓN LOIZAGA LEZCANO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, said that the Human Rights Council was key for the international community in supervising global standards for human rights, and in bringing about those transformations to ensure fairer and more equitable societies.  2016 offered opportunities for perfecting the working methods and effectiveness of the Council along with the Universal Periodic Review.   Paraguay’s Government would study the recommendations it had received and would give them appropriate follow-up.  Paraguay wished to work with civil society to achieve positive steps in achieving human rights, and urged States to continue cooperating with the Universal Periodic Review process through voluntary contributions to the fund of the Universal Periodic Review.  Last year, United Nations Member States took a historic step forward when approving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda which contained goals focused on mainstreaming social and economic dimensions in a balanced fashion.  Paraguay was moving towards a true democratic culture.  With sustained growth in Paraguay, the main challenge for the Government was to ensure that that growth was inclusive, in addition to ensuring the incorporation of a cross-cutting approach to human rights. 

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, said despite the work of the Human Rights Council for the past decade, human rights challenges continued.  Injustice and racial discrimination were widespread in different forms and manifestations.  If addressing human rights violations was not taken decisively by all stakeholders, the world would witness more violations.  The Human Rights Council alone could not improve the human rights situation in the world while double standards were adopted by the Security Council, like with the continued occupation of the Arab Territories by Israel and the siege of Gaza since 2007.  In addition, the current systematic aggressions by Israel against schools and mosques, the inappropriate treatment of prisoners and detainees, and the confiscation of land and identity of Palestinians continued.  The illegal practices of Israel were a gross challenge to international human rights and humanitarian law.  The Minister called on the Human Rights Council to call upon Israel to rise up to its legal responsibilities and end the unjust siege of the Gaza Strip, and to appeal to Israel to end all occupations of the Arab territories.  The realization of a comprehensive and just peace was an irrevocable option.  In the Syrian crisis, over 12 million people had been displaced.  The developments in Syria were tantamount to genocide and could be described as efforts to destroy and cleanse a whole society on ethnic grounds.  This was politically or morally unacceptable.  The attempts to humiliate a whole nation by threats of starvation and siege and giving them unacceptable options such as accepting the regime of Assad or ISIS were unacceptable.  Therefore a peaceful solution was needed according to the provisions of the Geneva 1 Communique.  Qatar was convinced that using armed force could be a provisional weapon to address provisional challenges but would not lead to a radical long-term solution.  This was why a wholesome approach, ending policy of marginalization, exclusion and facing up to hatred and radicalism were needed. 

SUSANA MABEL MALCORRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Argentina, said that there could be no peace without human rights.  The first session of the Human Rights Council had acted towards approving the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the International Convention for the Protection of All  Persons against Enforced Disappearance, which had been advocated very intensely by Argentina.   A decade on, Argentina invited all countries to participate in their commemoration on 11 March, and appealed to all who had not ratified the Convention to consider doing so.  This year also marked the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Argentina believed that the principles of indivisibility, universality, and interdependence should be the greatest tributes to these Covenants.  The long road since the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in 2012 was very rich.  There had been a broad participatory dialogue.  It was an agenda which was person focused and which focused on the planet, seeking out partnership and peace.  The right to education, particularly for girls, had been emphasized, as had been the principles of equality and non-discrimination.  The Sustainable Development Goals agenda had placed the rights of women and children at its heart.  It was the conviction of Argentina that human rights must embrace the Sustainable Development Goas to ensure that no one was left behind.  Early warning and monitoring of the precursors of extreme violence were the very best guarantees to avoid incidents occurring.  Argentina had been particularly concerned with the situation in Burundi.  It reinstated its desire to continue the efforts of the Human Rights Council to strengthen a mechanism that would ensure international human rights and humanitarian law in Syria.  An immediate solution to the crisis was needed. 

JEAN-MARC AYRAULT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of France, said that the many important anniversaries in 2016 should be an opportunity for an uncompromising stock-taking exercise and renewal of collective mobilization.  Human rights were more in jeopardy than ever, and the people of Syria were the first to pay the price.  The Damascus regime was torturing, assassinating and starving people with full impunity.  Impunity had to be combatted, he said, adding that the Security Council had to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court because there would be no peace without truth or justice.  The Syrian tragedy was the yardstick against which the international community would be measured.  Governments were tempted to restrict liberties in the name of security, but the only compass was the universality of human rights.  Tunisia, which had adopted a constitution that protected the freedom of belief and maintained an open political space, was an example for all.  After the November 13 attacks in Paris, a state of emergency had been declared in France, which was an exceptional measure under the oversight of the judiciary.  The migrant crisis was a test of unity, which the international community should not underestimate, but face with courage and principled respect.  The doors of French embassies were open to human rights defenders, he said, adding that France was a candidate for the renewal of its mandate to the Human Rights Council.  The international community had been building up an international human rights system, but the house it had built was fragile.  Each country had to go beyond the proclamation of principles to ensure that those principles were implemented.

BERT KOENDERS, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Netherlands, stressed three points in his address.  First, the importance of establishing the truth and seeing that justice was done.  Second, the false choice between security and human rights.  Third, the urgent need to fix the human rights system.  He underlined that the human rights situation worldwide was alarming and that it had to be improved.  Speaking of human rights abuses in Syria, he noted that they extended far beyond detention centres.  There was overwhelming evidence of violations by the Syrian regime and by terrorist organizations like Da’esh and Jabhat al-Nusra, which was only the tip of the iceberg.  The access of the Independent International Commission on Syria was still limited, five years after it had been established by the Human Rights Council.  A political solution in Syria could only last if it provided justice for the victims.  Without full accountability there could be no justice, which was why the Commission of Inquiry had to have immediate access to Syria.  Over the past year, terrorist attacks had been carried out in many countries.  In order to protect civilians, international organizations, governments and civil society had to work together.  They had to trust each other and share information.  The Netherlands rejected the false choice between security and human rights.  There was no excuse for repressing freedom of speech or the press or silencing opposition voices and human rights defenders.   Repression could create a false sense of security in the short run, but eventually it would create instability and violent extremism.  The best guarantee for stability was a society that was free from discrimination.

AURELIA FRICK, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Liechtenstein, said that the Human Rights Council was one of the international community’s most important instruments in promoting universal respect for the protection of human rights, as well as in addressing critical situations of human rights violations.  The Universal Periodic Review ranked among the most obvious successes of the Council.  It had proved itself as a powerful tool which stimulated internal debate and triggered change in a large number of countries.  However, the Council was increasingly suffocating under the ever growing number of resolutions, panels and mandates.  The international community should not turn a blind eye to the severe lack of funding of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights either.  As the Council was celebrating its tenth anniversary, the world was facing unprecedented levels of displacement, increasing radicalization and extremism, terrorist threats and continued patterns of discrimination and marginalization.  The international community’s response to such complex challenges had to be firmly anchored in respect for international human rights law and international law in general.  Ms. Frick called on all parties to strictly comply with international humanitarian law.  Ending impunity for all crimes committed against innocent civilians in Syria should be a top priority for the Council.  The situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was a sign of hope, and a recognition that sustainable development was only possible if it was strongly grounded in international human rights standards. 

HELEN CLARK, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, said that the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted in 2015 would guide development priorities for a generation to come.  The Agenda was guided by the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, grounded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights treaties, and it was informed by other instruments such as the Declaration of the Right to Development.  The United Nations Development Programme did not have a normative or a monitoring role in human rights, but it considered human rights as intrinsic to development.  Development was a means to realize human rights.  That approach was at the heart of the United Nations Development Programme’s Strategic Plan, which recognized the intrinsic value of the body of economic, political, social, civil and cultural rights established by the United Nations.  The work of the United Nations Development Programme was anchored in the principle of national ownership and focused on building the capacities of institutions.  The United Nations Development Programme worked with many partners to strengthen human rights institutions and processes.  It supported governments to implement recommendations of the Universal Periodic Review.  The Human Rights Council had advanced the global normative framework for human rights.  The challenge was to translate those norms into action and impact, especially where protracted conflict, crises and displacement had weakened national institutions and frayed social cohesion.  Such situations created fertile ground for human rights violations, and discrimination and marginalization were among their root causes.

MICHAËLLE JEAN, Secretary-General of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, said that the concerns and aims of her organization dovetailed with those of the Human Rights Council.  The International Organisation of La Francophonie would work to strengthen mechanisms for protecting human rights, she said, giving as examples the Special Procedures and Universal Periodic Review which had been supported at its inception in 2008.   Women’s rights were a burning topic, she said, urging delegates to be wise and admit that there was still a lot to do when it came to preventing human rights violations and daily persistent violations.  In the fight against terrorism, the international community’s failures would be all too visible and would have disastrous consequences if principles were sacrificed.  Barbarism could not be matched with barbarism.  She urged the Council to take time to look to the roots of the scourge of terrorism.  “We must fight the radicalization of our young people,” she said, adding her congratulations to the Secretary-General for his action plan for preventing violent extremism.  Turning to the issue of climate change, she said it caused millions to flee their homes and their numbers would grow if the international community did not urgently tackle those forced exiles.   The International Organisation of La Francophonie brought together countries of origin, transit and destination.  Promoting multilingualism was a guarantee of better ownership of principles and respect for dignity.

IRINA BOKOVA, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, said that the world had been witnessing massive, multiple and systematic human rights violations.  A deliberate destruction of cultural heritage had been taking place in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq, in addition to the persecution of persons on the basis of their ethnicity or religion.  The world had been witnessing attacks against education, schools and attacks on the freedom of expression and on journalists.  The only possible response to such a situation was a strong collective mobilization in favour of human rights.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization was strongly engaged in that respect.  The fight against extremism was carried out through education and culture, and through freedom of expression and safety for journalists.  In order to live better, the international community should teach human rights and know history.  It was necessary to introduce such instruction to the media, and to foster critical spirit.  To that end, the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization had started a campaign against radicalization of youth on Internet.  In the same vein, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization had launched a programme of education and world citizenship, which was indispensable in today’s globalized world.  It was crucial to integrate such efforts in the defense of cultural rights and protection of cultural heritage.  It was equally important to stress that the fight against extremism and terrorism should never serve as an excuse to risk fundamental freedoms. 

GULMIRA KUDAIBERDIEVA, Deputy Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan, said that the Council was one of the most important institutions promoting human rights.  Kyrgyzstan aimed to foster global dialogue on human rights and it continued to help the effective work of the Council.  The rule of law, justice, and respect for ethnic and cultural variety were some of the most important areas in which the country had been active.  Its international efforts reflected domestic policies in those areas.  Kyrgyzstan aimed to enhance social and economic development.   It had created the necessary conditions for the work of civil society.  However, it still needed to increase the participation of women in political life and in decision-making.  Children’s issues were also one of the human rights proprieties in Kyrgyzstan, in particular their social protection, and the Government intended to establish an ombudsman for children’s rights.  Attention had to be focused on persons with disabilities as well, and the Government had been working to enhance their living conditions.
The country was prepared to promote the implementation of the Council’s resolutions and recommendations.  The implementation of social and economic rights required particular attention for developing countries.  Progress in the protection and promotion of human rights required an even greater effort.

ISABEL DE SAINT MALO DE ALVARADO, Vice-President and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Panama, said the priority of Panama was to strengthen human rights.  Panama had played a key role in the drafting of the 1948 Universal Declaration for Human Rights and the creation of the Human Rights Council.  The Universal Periodic Review and the Special Procedures Mechanisms were excellent mechanisms to promote human rights.  It was viable that States provided objective information.  States had to pool their efforts for the vast number of resolutions and interactive dialogues which were a major administrative burden, as well as improve the content of decisions.  Through respective dialogue and educational cooperation, human beings could not be subject to interpretation or ambiguity.  It was vital that the Human Rights Council prevented international humanitarian law and human rights violations.  In order to do so, the various facets of the United Nations system had to be integrated.  The mission was to integrate the work of the United Nations.  Improving consistency in the process of promoting human rights and ensuring availability of experts for human rights were vital.  This would help promote the focus on development for people.  Panama had contributed 60 million dollars to creating the first humanitarian hub in the Americas.  In terms of the promotion of human rights nationally, a law had been drafted in line with the 2030 Development Agenda of the United Nations.  The Sustainable Development Goals were a  guide for the country’s development.  Investment in health and education, as primary vectors of development, were emphasized in Panama.  A National Water Security Plan was also in the works.  Panama’s commitment to promoting human rights had been recognized by the Inter-American Court.  The dialogue between Inter-American States and the United Nations had improved, and aimed at improving the situation of human rights. 

HYDER NATIQ JASIM, Minister of Justice of Iraq, said that everyone was aware of the transformation of Iraq since 2003, which marked the worst violations of human rights.  Infrastructure had been destroyed, but Iraq had not stopped to improve democracy.  Iraqi people had been targeted and this had led to security forces across the world to fight against terrorism.  Terrorism had led to the displacement of people for 13 years.  Iraq had tried to alleviate the suffering of its people.  Since 2003 the various principles of human rights had been the priority.  Various principles of human rights had been examined by treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review.  Iraq had done its utmost to apply the recommendations made by various countries around the world.  This was why Iraq had tried to ensure that the rights of demonstrators were respected and that everyone enjoyed freedom of expression.  Efforts had been made to strengthen dialogue between Iraq and the High Commissioner.  There was a danger of exacerbation of terrorism in the region. The Syrian crisis had had a negative effect on Iraq.  Many weapons had been subsequently used in Iraq.  The spill-over was apparent even beyond Iraq and Syria.  Crimes committed by Daesh had to be denounced before the international community.  These groups did not represent Islam.  Three million Iraqis had been displaced from towns occupied by Daesh.  Iraq aimed to build human capacity and welcomed technical assistance in the area of human rights and the fight against terrorism.  A Special Tribunal had been put into place to investigate complaints on human rights.  The Minister of Justice called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support Iraq in its efforts to promote human rights and expressed his concern regarding human rights violations perpetrated by Daesh.   

LENITA TOIVAKKA, Minister of Foreign Trade and Development of Finland, said that the international community had to stand united in the defense of international law, even in the face of the most severe challenges.  Finland fully supported the continued work of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria.  It repeated its call to the Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court.  All parties had to commit to the ending of hostilities and the political solution agreed in Munich.  There had been reports of serious human rights abuses in the areas controlled by the separatists in eastern Ukraine.  The human rights situation in Crimea, in particular with respect to minorities, remained weak.  Finland supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and it did not accept the illegal annexation of Crimea.  It stressed the importance of the full implementation of the Minsk Agreements by all sides.   Ms. Toivakka stressed that women could be powerful agents of change if their rights were fully realized.  The 2030 Agenda embraced the fact that sustainable development was not possible if one half of humanity was denied its human rights.  Women’s participation in decision-making benefited societies as a whole and it unlocked potential for economic growth.  As long as violence against women persisted in societies, women’s rights were not fully realized.  Speaking of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, Ms. Toivakka noted that they were among the cornerstones of free and vibrant societies. 

NILMA LINO GOMES, Minister for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights of Brazil, noted that the promotion and protection of human rights faced great challenges in the world.  Thus, the international community needed to redouble its efforts so that the initiatives of the Human Rights Council could bring forth concrete results that would generate lasting solutions and prevention strategies.  The Council had to act to enhance solidarity and cooperation, and to combat manifestations of hatred, intolerance and discrimination.  It was fundamental that the international response to crises be grounded in the respect for and the promotion and protection of human rights.  The international community had to strengthen the Council and watch over its legitimacy and effectiveness.  It was necessary to strengthen the Council’s role as a catalyst for technical assistance and capacity building.  When devising strategies for preventing and addressing situations of grave violations of human rights, the Council had to consider the deep causes of crises.  When confronting violence and intolerance, it was also paramount to implement social and economic policies that acknowledged the central role of human rights.  For Brazil, a country where the majority of the population was female and of African descent, promoting the equitable realization of rights and opportunities, including through affirmative action, was not only an imperative of justice, but a bet on a better future.  Brazil was a multiracial country that accommodated differences and recognized the importance of diversity to make it culturally, economically and socially stronger and richer as a nation. 

GILLES TONELLI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Monaco, referred to attacks on France, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and Mali, saying that these had strengthened the world’s capacity to deal with terrorism.  The Syrian conflict had lasted for too long.  The Mediterranean had become a sad witness of deplorable realities.  Monaco had contributed to the humanitarian response by the United Nations and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.  Monaco had also participated in the international effort by organizing the hosting of Syrian refugees on its territory.  The solution could only be political.  The Paris Agreement at COP21 had been a step forward and a major result in the area of human rights.  The impact of climate change on human rights no longer had to be demonstrated.  At the 10th Anniversary of the Human Rights Council, stock had to be taken of what had been achieved.   The Human Rights Council had been created to fill gaps created by the Human Rights Commission.  It was undeniable that the progress made by the Human Rights Council was satisfactory.  Impartiality and universality were principles that were important.  Monaco in 2016 had ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Fight against Human Trafficking and adopted a law on persons with disabilities.  The Principality’s devotion to the promotion and protection of human rights went further.  The previous year, it had hosted a symposium on national and international adoption, with the participation of a member of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the Princess of Hannover, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur.  Monaco also financially supported many multilateral programmes of the United Nations for the promotion and protection of human rights.  Through its policy of cooperation for development, the Government of Monaco had put in place a number of projects with the aim of fighting poverty, in particular in the fields of  health, education and social and socio-economic insertion. 

BERT KOENDERS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, on behalf of FEDERICA MOGHERINI, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, said that the Human Rights Council was where grave human rights violations were exposed.  Such scrutiny was vital: perpetrators had to be held accountable so that justice prevailed.  The international community had to act to prevent further suffering and the denial of human rights.  It was also the United Nation’s principal venue for forging strong partnerships that bridged geographical and cultural divides for a common purpose: to advance universal respect for human rights.  The European Union drew the attention of the Human Rights Council to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that a draft resolution would call for an end to serious human rights violations and renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  Regarding Syria, which was now the world’s largest humanitarian disaster, the European Union called in the strongest terms for an immediate cessation of all human rights violations and abuses.  Whilst many Syrians were now just beginning to benefit from convoys of humanitarian aid, the European Union continued to call for full and unimpeded humanitarian access to those still besieged.  In Iran, in light of ongoing human rights violations and the high rate of executions, the European Union supported the extension of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.  In addition, it promoted heightened attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in Burundi and called on its fellow Council members to cooperate with the newly-created group of independent experts.  The European Union would also support an effective response from the Human Rights Council to the distressing state of affairs in South Sudan. 

EDWARD NALBANDYAN, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, said that the tenth anniversary of the Council marked its important responsibility to face today’s challenges, including hatred, xenophobia and racial discrimination, as well as threats to the right to life.  Armenia condemned the atrocities and crimes against humanity in the Middle East by ISIS, Al-Nusra and other terrorist groups, including against Armenians who had been for centuries a genuine component of the cultural diversity of the region.  About 20,000 refugees had sought protection in Armenia due to the conflict in Syria.  Armenia underlined the Council’s achievements in the field of genocide prevention, and called for international support to United Nations activities on that issue.  Recalling that this year marked the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Armenia underlined the importance of the right to self-determination as one of the basic principles presented by international mediators for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.  Armenia strongly condemned the continued attacks of Azerbaijani military forces against civilians along the border with Armenia, which required immediate reaction from international organizations.  For its part, Armenia had undertaken constitutional reforms and actively collaborated with United Nations human rights mechanisms. 

NIKOLA POPOSKI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, said that the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council provided an opportunity to reflect on its achievements and draw lessons from the accumulated experience that might be helpful for the Council’s further enhancement.  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia attached great importance to the work of the Council, including the Special Procedures and the Universal Periodic Review, which would now enter its third circle.  The Minister also expressed support to the work and mandate of the treaty body mechanism, and recalled the golden jubilee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Mr. Poposki strongly condemned acts of terrorism everywhere in the world and called for perpetrators to be brought to justice.  The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia supported efforts to find a comprehensive political solution, to ensure humanitarian access and to implement a ceasefire for the conflict in Syria, which was one of the root causes of the current migration crisis.  On that crisis, the Minister said that there was a need to enhance international cooperation and a stronger focus on the needs of vulnerable populations.  Shifting responsibilities from one border to the next was not the solution, and a comprehensive approach was required. 

MIKHEIL JANELIDZE, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said that it was of utmost importance to ensure the independence and impartiality of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and underlined the importance of the Universal Periodic Review as the key element of the Human Rights Council.  Georgia continued to support the universalization of standing invitations.  The Government of Georgia was shocked by the atrocities committed by ISIS and called for an immediate stop of such violations.  Violent extremism was a clear and present danger.  As a result of armed conflict, millions of people were deprived of decent life and their homes.  The death toll caused by irregular migration continued to increase so it was important to root out its causes.  Joint international efforts were necessary to dismantle smuggling networks.  Georgia shared concern on human rights violations, especially in Syria and Ukraine.  In Ukraine thousands of people were deprived of their rights and Georgia urged the Russian Federation to abide by the provisions of the Minsk Agreements.  Georgia had undertaken a number of reforms to improve the human rights situation.  In active cooperation with civil society and international actors, it had adopted adequate national action plans.  Civil society would participate in their implementation and monitoring.  The penitentiary system and provisions on torture would be reformed.  It also worked to protect the rights of the child, reduce child mortality and protect children from violence.  Integrating internally displaced persons and ensuring gender equality remained top priorities for the Government of Georgia.  It continued to harmonize its legislation with relevant international treaties.  Finally, Georgia urged the Russian Federation to fully withdraw its troops from Ukraine. 

JEAN ASSELBORN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, noted that the fight against poverty remained a firm priority for his country and hailed the fact that its eradication remained an absolute priority in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  Famine, misery and unequal access to education and health remained important issues, as well as the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights.  The state of affairs in the world today was far from a world where no person would be left behind.  In the efforts to fight all forms of discrimination and exclusion, the international community needed to redouble its vigilance in order not to forget those most vulnerable, namely women and children as the principal victims of conflicts.  Luxembourg was also active in maintaining the necessary balance between individual freedoms and security goals.  To that end, it was up to the Human Rights Council to place the fight against terrorism in the framework of the full respect of universal standards of human rights.  Another factor responsible for instability was corruption.  Accordingly, the United Nations had to mobilize States so that they upheld their responsibility to protect.  There were also immediate crises that required urgent attention, such as the war in Syria.  Luxembourg fully supported the work of the International Commission of Inquiry on Syria and called for the extension of its mandate.  The implementation of a political solution for the conflict in Syria would also help resolve the root causes of the migration and influx of refugees.  That refugee crisis was a world crisis faced primarily by the European Union.  Nevertheless, the whole international community had to unite in order to fight its root causes.   The question of the Palestinian people should not be forgotten either.  The illegal construction of colonies and the destruction of Palestinian settlements and infrastructure should cease.  Mr. Asselborn also addressed the human rights violations in Burundi, Myanmar, Iran and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. 

MIGUEL RUIZ CABAÑAS, Vice-Minister for Human Rights and Multilateral Affairs of Mexico, said that Mexico supported strengthening international mechanisms which strove for the protection of human rights, adding that his country had always supported cooperation with those mechanisms.  The prevention of torture and fighting the disappearance of persons perpetrated by organized crime were priorities for Mexico, as was the protection of journalists and human rights defenders.  Efforts had been made to improve the mechanism for protecting journalists, which was established in 2012 and had proved to be effective by fostering prevention.  The creation of a criminal investigation unit for search and investigation had been a major accomplishment which was recognized internationally.  Expressing deep concern at the situation affecting Syria, he said his country would listen closely to the Commission of Inquiry on Syria, adding that efforts to achieve a ceasefire would be a turning point for humanitarian access.  Celebrating in 2016 the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council, the international community had to reflect on how to improve its work to reduce the number of resolutions, avoid the splintering of issues, and encourage the merging of mandates. 

LINAS LINKEVIČIUS, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania, said that 2016 marked not just the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council, but also the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, two treaties which had shaped the concept of international human rights.  In Syria, the civilian population continued to suffer from extreme violence.  Ukraine had been suffering from a conflict for two years now which was initiated under false pretexts and supported by an aggressive campaign of propaganda and hate.  The international community had to work to ensure that the perpetrators of human rights abuses were one day brought to justice, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine should continue their work and reporting.  Lithuania called on Russia to allow access by the international monitors representing various human rights bodies to what he termed the illegally occupied Crimea.  Noting that in just the first two months of 2016, eight journalists had been killed, the Minister said that today, wars were fought not only by means of equipment and weaponry, but through deliberate disinformation, propaganda, and media restrictions.  Lithuania would continue to speak in favour of media freedom and the safety of journalists, and advocating for a safe and enabling environment for civil society to perform their work.   More had to be done in shifting the focus from response to prevention in the Council’s work, and Lithuania would be running for election to the Council for the term 2022-2024. 

TORE HATTREM, State Secretary and Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Norway, was concerned about the unacceptable and growing implementation gap between established norms and the realities on the ground.  It was important to consolidate normative achievements and make full use of them.  Urgent attention and joined efforts were needed to respond to the current refugee crisis, which was also a symptom of the failure of States to protect and promote the rights of their citizens.  Human rights protection had to be part of efforts to address conflict and crisis.  The response to extremist violence had to respect the international principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Freedom of expression was essential for self-fulfilment, and necessary for the realization of other human rights, he said, noting that censorship, repression of free speech and propaganda were signs of a pending crisis.  Norway was dismayed at the situation of human rights defenders around the world, which continued to be very difficult and to even deteriorate further.  This was unacceptable.  The Human Rights Council had to respond in a clear message, building on its resolution 22/6 adopted in 2013.  This was why Norway would present a new thematic resolution at this session for the recognition and protection of human rights defenders, taking into account the severe risks they faced when defending economic, social and cultural rights, including environmental issues, land issues and development. 

BABATUNDE OSOTIMEHIN, Executive Director of the United Nations Population’s Fund,  said that 2016 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and recalled that these texts had inspired national constitutions and laws, and had given hope and legitimacy to social movements.  The International Conference on Populations and Development had given a voice to the women, girls, men and boys who claimed their human rights, including their rights to sexual and reproductive health, as an indivisible component of the International Bill of Human Rights.  This normative corpus had provided women and girls with a legal claims to demand access to quality sexual and reproductive health services, including information and education on sexuality and reproductive issues.  It had also given rural women a claim to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment, such as forced sterilization.  The ability of women, adolescents, indigenous peoples or persons with disabilities to speak up was however often curtailed by discriminatory laws, policies and social norms all over the world.  Referring to the tenth anniversary of the Human Rights Council, he welcomed the body’s achievements in adopting landmark resolutions that had contributed to bridge the old divide between human rights and development.  Mr. Osotimehin also expressed support to the Universal Periodic Review, and said that the United Nations Population’s Fund was committed to support the implementation of recommendations relating to sexual and reproductive health.  
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