AFTERNOON - Human Rights Council Holds General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a general debate on its agenda item four on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention, hearing about violations of human rights in many countries and territories around the world.
Some speakers recalled the human struggle for emancipation, and the struggle to achieve human rights, which occurred before the creation of the multilateral fora. Human rights and fundamental freedoms must be respected by all, everywhere, and without distinction, whether it be language, sex, colour, political opinion, national origin, wealth or birth. As part of the many global challenges, it was vital to promote multilateralism, which promoted dialogue and trust. The protection and promotion of human rights had to be based on the principles of cooperation and authentic dialogue and should be aimed at strengthening States’ abilities to protect their citizens.
However, politicisation of the Council was growing - the Council must function in a cooperative and unconfrontational fashion that was non-politicised and all States should promote greater solidarity and cooperation internationally, doing all they could to help others through capacity building and technical cooperation to support human rights. Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all States also needed to be observed. Prioritising some human rights over others was not in accord with fundamental human rights law. The Council’s actions should be geared towards fostering genuine engagement and dialogue between States.
The increasing selectivity and politicisation was demonstrated in the topics of the special sessions, of which only two were not focused on developing States. Many situations on the agenda of the work of the Council had become blind spots for its work: it should pay attention to systematic cases of human rights violations in the case of occupation, and aim to settle international disputes, a speaker said.
Similarly, speakers expressed serious concern at the continued and growing proliferation of parallel reporting mechanisms and procedures that pretended to make “impartial” assessments of the human rights situation in certain States. These mandates lacked not only the due consent of the State in question but also based their reports on unreliable sources that were biased, lacked credibility, and ended up turning such documents into mere propaganda pamphlets.
There was concern for the rise of anti-Muslim hatred, discrimination and violence. The Council was responsible for protecting and promoting the human rights of all, including Muslim individuals and communities.
A speaker emphasised that it was immoral and completely contradictory for some governments to pretend to present themselves as champions and supposed guardians, defenders or promoters of human rights when, at the same time, with their deliberate and systematic policies, particularly through the illegal application of unilateral coercive measures, they committed mass violations, and even crimes against humanity, against the human rights of billions of people around the world, on a daily basis. The misuse of agenda item four to antagonise and stigmatise developing countries through the continuous establishment of politically biased country specific mandates or engaging in actions contrary to international law and the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and non-interference was a matter of significant concern, said another speaker.
Democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing, a speaker recalled, encouraging the Council in the discussion on human rights to give adequate attention to the issues of poverty, underdevelopment, marginalisation, climate change, digital divide, instability, foreign occupation and illegal settlements, damage to the cultural heritage of countries in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation, and those affected by terrorist acts that engendered social and economic exclusion and violation of human dignity and human rights, which could not be divorced from any meaningful discussion relating to human rights.
States had the primary responsibility to promote durable solutions for internally displaced persons in situations of armed conflicts and natural disasters, including their voluntary return in safety and with dignity, as well as to ensure respect, protection, fulfilment and restoration of their human rights. To that end, a speaker stressed the importance of cooperation among States in good faith to provide these solutions, whilst also recognising the importance of post-conflict rehabilitation, reconstruction and reintegration efforts to sustain peace, foster economic development and promote cooperation.
Human rights were the backbone of the United Nations, a speaker said, noting that through the United Nations Charter, all States had committed to realising human rights for all. It was of importance that this Council supported Member States that sought to fulfil their obligations. It was equally important that the Council addressed violations and abuses when and wherever they occurred. The General Assembly had vested this fundamental task upon the Council. Addressing violations was never about naming and shaming; it was about ensuring human rights and accountability, a change that benefitted also the State concerned.
It was undeniable that in the long term, societies were more resilient and successful when pluralistic debate and public protest were allowed. There was a strong correlation between internal repression and external aggression, particularly where there were decades of consistent restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms, suppression of civil society, silencing the media, promotion of State propaganda, and disinformation. The Human Rights Council must, a speaker said, ensure that there would be no impunity for the perpetrators of human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity and that those responsible would stand trial under international law. It was owed to all victims of human rights abuses around the world to use every resource at the Council’s disposal to ensure that it was not a safe haven for those involved in such atrocities. The consistent application of international human rights law standards was key in ensuring that the Council maintained its relevance, legitimacy and objectivity.
The seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offered an opportunity to hold true the virtue that all human beings were born free and equal in dignity and rights. While the Declaration had stood the test of time, the global order in which it was carved had drastically changed 75 years later. However, the search for universal equality and dignity persisted. Racism and the effects thereof remained deeply rooted and enabled by an international order that was grossly unequal, and would require monumental efforts to uproot. At the same time, a speaker said the international community needed to be aware of a new form of colonialism that sought to entangle developing countries further into debt and economic slavery. This was a genuine threat to human rights and the pursuit of developing countries of the right to development.
The situation of human rights defenders, and the restriction of their rights such as the right to travel, was also a matter of concern for speakers, as were the rights of women. Violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be fully investigated by the Council. The rights of those who were fleeing inhuman situations in their home countries must be respected and protected in countries of destination. Climate change must be combatted whilst integrating human rights, as it violated many of those rights and threatened sustainable development and the future of all. The only way for evil to win was for good men to do nothing: the Council must act on human rights violations around the world, and remind States of their commitments to protect their citizens. The rights of journalists and other members of the media also required protection. The Council must look at the situation of political prisoners, many whom resorted to hunger strikes. Human rights were the basis and bedrock of justice for all.
Speaking in the discussion were Côte d'Ivoire on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Spain on behalf of the European Union, Venezuela on behalf of a group of countries, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Libya on behalf of the Arab Group, Venezuela on behalf of a group of countries, Czechia, Luxembourg, Finland, France, Ukraine, United States, Malawi, Belgium, Georgia, Germany, Bolivia, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Cuba, Algeria, Gambia, India, China, Viet Nam, Eritrea, Switzerland, Iran, Netherlands, Japan, Israel, Austria, Armenia, Cyprus, Türkiye, Norway, Ireland, Canada, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Australia, Estonia, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Denmark, Belarus, Sweden, Azerbaijan, Syria, South Sudan, Burundi, Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, Saudi Arabia and Iceland.
Also speaking were Fundacion Vida - Grupo Ecologico Verde, Christian Solidarity International, International Foundation Witnesses Ashoora, Iran Autism Association, Comité International pour le Respect et l'Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l'Homme et des Peuples, Human Is Right, Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, International Association of Justice Watch, Elizka Relief Foundation, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Justiça Global, Beijing NGO Association for International Exchanges, Iranian Thalassemia Society, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience, Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Iranian Elite Research Centre, International Humanitarian Society for Development Without Borders, World Evangelical Alliance, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Institute for Protection of Women's Rights, Global Institute for Water, Environment and Health, Institut International pour les Droits et le Développement, European Centre for Law and Justice, Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Centre Europe - tiers monde, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Rajasthan Samgrah Kalyan Sansthan, Jameh Ehyagaran Teb Sonnati Va Salamat Iranian, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Rahbord Peimayesh Research and Educational Services Cooperative, Medical Support Association for Underprivileged Iranian Patients, Association pour la défense des droits de l'homme et des revendications démocratiques/culturelles du peuple Azerbaidjanais-Iran, Institute of Sustainable Development, Youth Parliament for SDG, Peace Brigades International, BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, United Nations Watch, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc., Humanists International, Union of Northwest Human Rights Organization, Minority Rights Group, Africa Culture Internationale, Jubilee Campaign, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Article 19 - International Centre Against Censorship, and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.
The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fifty-fourth regular session can be found here.
The Council will next meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 September, when it will hold a panel discussion on cyberbullying against children, following which it will continue the general debate under agenda item four on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.
Produced by the United Nations Information Service in Geneva for use of the media;
not an official record. English and French versions of our releases are different as they are the product of two separate coverage teams that work independently.