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AFTERNOON - High Commissioner for Human Rights Calls on the Russian Federation to Immediately Withdraw All Troops from Ukraine as the Human Rights Council Hears an Update on the Situation in Ukraine

Meeting Summaries

 

Human Rights Council Concludes Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, Hears Presentation of Reports on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building and Starts General Debate

 

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights this afternoon presented an oral update to the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, calling for the hostilities to stop, without delay, and urging the Russian Federation to heed the clear and strong calls of the General Assembly and of the Council and immediately act to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting an oral update on the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner in its periodic report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, said that for more than one month now, the entire population of Ukraine had been enduring a living nightmare. The lives of millions of people were in upheaval as they were forced to flee their homes or hide in basements and bomb shelters as their cities were pummelled and destroyed. The hostilities must stop, without delay. The Russian Federation should heed the clear and strong calls of the General Assembly and of this Council, and immediately act to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory. In the five weeks since the conflict began, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine had recorded at least 1,189 deaths of civilian men, women and children and at least 1,901 injuries. The actual figures were likely to be far higher.

Ukraine, speaking as a country concerned, said the update described in appalling details the horrors of Russia’s assault on Ukraine and the war crimes committed by Russia against the Ukrainian people. In only one month, the Russian aggression had already had a devastating toll on the human rights of the Ukrainian people. Acting on orders from the leadership, the Russian army used the most vicious methods with disregard for human life, launching hundreds of missiles on residential areas, killings thousands of innocent civilians, bombing hospitals and maternity wards, and targeting civilian infrastructure to deliberately deprive thousands to access basic needs. Russia had failed to respect any of the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council resolutions urging them to cease their invasion, put an end to human rights violations, and stop human suffering on the ground.

In the discussion on Ukraine, many speakers said they stood united with Ukraine, which was facing a large-scale unprovoked, unlawful and unjustified aggression by Russia, enabled by Belarus. Russia should immediately cease the attacks and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, especially using explosive weapons, such as cluster munitions, in residential areas, which were grave violations of international humanitarian law. One speaker pointed out that the Council should not be used for different purposes than those for which it was established, as genuine dialogue and cooperation were the pillars of the work of the Council, and yet, such issues were being dealt with under inappropriate agenda items, fuelling the politicisation of the work of the body, thus not contributing in any way to the protection and promotion of human rights in the world, but instead reinforcing the bias, selectivity, politicisation and double standards that threatened the body. Another speaker was concerned by the massive violation of the Ukrainian military of human rights, as refugees trying to leave for Russia were targeted, and civilians were used as human shields.

Speaking on the situation in Ukraine were Lithuania (on behalf of a group of countries), European Union, Croatia (on behalf of a group of countries), Liechtenstein, Finland, Germany, Sovereign Order of Malta, Montenegro, Estonia, Japan, France, Venezuela, Luxembourg, Spain, Netherlands, Switzerland, Norway, Lithuania, Austria, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ireland, Belarus, Denmark, Slovakia, United States, Belgium, Romania, United Kingdom, Ireland, Turkey, Albania, Croatia, Poland, Latvia, Georgia, Malta, Republic of Moldova, Bulgaria, Slovenia, North Macedonia, UN Women, New Zealand, Colombia, Canada, Iceland, Republic of Korea, Cyprus, Portugal Italy, and Greece.

Also speaking were Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, Baptist World Alliance, Swedish Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights - RFSL, Caritas Internationalis, World Federation of Ukrainian Women's Organizations, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Human Rights House Foundation, Dignity - Danish Institute Against Torture, All Win Network, Minority Rights Group International, and International Commission of Jurists.

The Council then heard the presentation of reports under its agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity building.

Christian Salazar Volkmann, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, said the report provided an overview of the technical assistance conducted by the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. Since August 2021, technical cooperation activities had paused while the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the High Commissioner had focused on restoring systems for monitoring and reporting on human rights, including to this Council. Today, one in three Afghans faced emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity.

Afghanistan, speaking as a country concerned, said that as the report indicated, it was clear that there were two Afghanistans: an Afghanistan before the 15 August takeover by the Taliban, and an Afghanistan after. Prior to 15 August, the country was by no means perfect, but it had taken significant steps towards the protection and promotion of human rights held by all its citizens. The Taliban had since completely reversed this progress, but it had not destroyed the hope and aspiration of the people. What the people of Afghanistan needed from the international community and from the Human Rights Council was a coordinated, coherent and focused support of the entire human rights system to organise and rally all available and potential resources to stop the deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

Mr. Volkmann then presented the High Commissioner’s report on the overview of successes, best practices and challenges in technical assistance and capacity-building efforts. The overall aim of the Office’s technical cooperation was to support Governments and other partners to effectively protect and promote human rights. The activities of the 102 field presences worldwide were geared towards this goal, with support from the Trust Fund on Universal Periodic Review implementation, the Treaty-body Capacity Building Programme and the Regular Budget for Technical Cooperation. He also introduced the Report of the Office on Operations of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in the Work of the Human Rights Council.

Azita Berar-Awad, member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, said that in 2021, the Voluntary Fund had continued providing increased financial support for technical cooperation in implementation of international human rights standards at the national level. Technical support for the realisation of human rights was more relevant than ever, as countries moved ahead with pandemic recovery plans and efforts to bring back on track, investments towards the realisation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. The current world situation called for strengthening predictable and sustained financial support to the Office of the High Commission and the programmes it supported at national and regional levels.

The Council then began the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building, hearing from the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded the interactive dialogue on the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya.

Tracy Robinson, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, in concluding remarks, pointed out many recommendations towards accountability and reconciliation, and others on the need for institutional building to address violations of international law and international humanitarian law. The stack of violations in Libya was growing, and the absence of institutions to respond to them was allowing for the scourge of impunity.

Chaloka Beyani, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, in concluding remarks, said it was important to support the Mission to complete the fulfilment of its mandate. There was a need to support accountability mechanisms and he called for the exercise of universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators to account. He called for continuing support for the Mission.

In the discussion on Libya, speakers said there was a need to fight wide-spread impunity, and urged the further extension of the mandate of the Mission. The international community should provide technical assistance and greater capacity building in order to strengthen all branches of the Government, particularly the judiciary. The efforts made by Libya to strengthen the protection and promotion of human rights were appreciated, as was the adoption of social programmes to protect the most vulnerable. The right of Libyans to self-determination and to free and fair elections were basic rights that must be defended.

Speaking on Libya were Senegal, France, United Nations Children’s Fund, Venezuela, Luxembourg, China, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Netherland, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Kuwait, Morocco, Algeria, Yemen, Sudan, Tunisia, United States, Belgium, Bahrain, United Kingdom, Greece, Turkey, Ireland, Malta, Mauritania, South Sudan, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Cameroun.

Also speaking were Aman against discrimination, Amnesty International, Human Right Watch, International Commission of Jurists, World Organisation Against Torture, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Human Rights Solidarity Organization, Maat for Peace, Development and Human Rights Association, and Meezaan Center for Human Rights.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-ninth regular session can be found here.

The Council will continue its general debate on technical assistance and capacity building at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 31 March.

Interactive Dialogue on the Report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya

The interactive dialogue on the report of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya started in the morning meeting and a summary can be found here.

Discussion

In the discussion on Libya, some speakers said there was a need to fight wide-spread impunity in the country, and urged the further extension of the mandate of the Mission beyond the already-extant extension of nine months. There was concern for the situation of migrants and refugees, in particular where they were victims of trafficking and cruel and unusual treatment, which should be fully investigated. All parties should cooperate with the Mission to ensure that the perpetrators were brought to justice. The international community should provide technical assistance and greater capacity building in order to strengthen all branches of the Libyan Government, particularly the judiciary. Respect for the letter and spirit of the peace agreement was paramount. Credible elections were vital, and they should be free, which was crucial for the stability in the country. Serious violations of international humanitarian law continued, including by armed groups, including against refugees and members of civil society who were targeted for their political or religious views, or because of their sexual orientation. Restrictions on media freedom were also an issue of concern.

Genuine dialogue and cooperation were the basic pillars of the work of the Human Rights Council, and without them it would be impossible to move forward to promote and protect human rights. The conflict in Libya was due to hegemonistic policies by other countries. The efforts made by Libya to strengthen the promotion and protection of human rights were appreciated, as was the adoption of social programmes to protect the most vulnerable. All cooperation and technical assistance requested by Libya must be provided. The right of Libyans to self-determination and to free and fair elections were basic rights that must be defended. Attacks and intimidation against the judiciary were very worrying in this regard. The situation could only be solved through political means, leading Libya towards a stable and peaceful future. The full participation by women in the process of national reconciliation was a basic requirement for this to take place. One speaker said there was no alternative to resolving the crisis comprehensively under United Nations auspices, through targeted work with the Libyan authorities and through multilateral support.

Concluding Remarks

TRACY ROBINSON, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, noted the wide support for the mandate and acknowledged the statement made by the Permanent Mission of Libya. This was an interim report and it reflected only a fraction of the ongoing investigation on Libya. She nevertheless pointed out many recommendations towards accountability and reconciliation, and others to the need for institutional building to address violations of international law and international humanitarian law. Regarding the questions on technical assistance, Ms. Robinson explained that the June report would be the final report. The current report outlined serious violations that were continuing. The stack of violations was growing, and the absence of institutions to respond to them was allowing for the scourge of impunity. The narrowing of the civic space had impacted the work of the Fact-Finding Mission, principally when it came to its access to witnesses and victims. To respond to the narrowing of the civic space, she suggested the immediate release of the detainees whose freedom of speech had been violated. On women’s participation, she noted with concern the reduced number of women in all spaces. The Mission continued to work towards the transition to democracy and peace.

CHALOKA BEYANI, Member of the Fact-Finding Mission on Libya, expressed his deep appreciation to the Permanent Mission of Libya for the constructive statement at the beginning of the dialogue. Now was not the time to throw the baby out with the bath water; it was important to support the Mission to complete the fulfilment of its mandate. The international community could help support the law enforcement institutions in Libya; strengthen the judiciary; and support accountability mechanisms for international crimes. The Mission called for the exercise of universal jurisdiction to bring perpetrators to account by independent countries, especially in the context of mercenaries. He called for continuing support of the Mission so that it could complete both its thematic and geographic mandate. The Mission had covered eastern and western Libya but not southern Libya so far. It still needed to look at mass graves with forensic expertise. The Mission had identified ways in which the internal security forces arrested people arbitrarily, giving them no contact with the outside world. On technical assistance, Mr. Beyani explained that the mandate of the Mission had been issued under the technical assistance and capacity building item of the Council’s agenda. He commended the areas identified by the Permanent Mission of Libya such as an independent judiciary and transitional justice, among others. On the right of Libya to control its own bord er, he pointed out to the important studies of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and stated that the need to respect human rights at borders required technical support.

Interactive Dialogue on the Oral Update of the High Commissioner on the Findings of the Periodic Report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine

Documentation

The Council has before it an oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the findings of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in its periodic report (A/HRC/49/CRP.5) on thesituation of human rights in Ukraine.

Presentation of Report

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights , introducing the report, said the Council had received the report on Ukraine covering the period from 1 August 2021 to 31 January 2022 pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 47/22. As the context had dramatically shifted since then, her statement would focus on the human rights and humanitarian crisis that had unfolded since the Russian armed attack began on 24 February.

For more than one month now, the entire population of Ukraine had been enduring a living nightmare. The lives of millions of people were in upheaval as they were forced to flee their homes or hide in basements and bomb shelters as their cities were pummelled and destroyed. The hostilities must stop, without delay. The Russian Federation should heed the clear and strong calls of the General Assembly and of this Council, and immediately act to withdraw its troops from Ukrainian territory.

In the five weeks since the conflict began, the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine had recorded at least 1,189 deaths of civilian men, women and children and at least 1,901 injuries. The actual figures were likely to be far higher. The persistent use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas was of immense concern. These weapons included missiles, heavy artillery shells and rockets, and airstrikes, causing massive destruction of and damage to civilian objects. Homes and administrative buildings, hospitals and schools, water stations and electricity systems had not been spared.

Indiscriminate attacks were prohibited under international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes. The massive destruction of civilian objects and the high number of civilian casualties strongly indicated that the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution had not been sufficiently adhered to. Civilians were enduring immeasurable suffering, and the humanitarian crisis was critical. In many areas across the country, people urgently needed medical supplies, food, water, shelter and basic household items. Above all, they needed the bombs to cease, and the weapons to fall silent.

Since the beginning of the invasion, Russian armed forces had carried out attacks and military strikes on and near large cities, including Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Kherson, Mykolaiv, Sievierodonetsk, Sumy, and Mariupol, and the capital, Kyiv. Across Ukraine, the rights to life, liberty and security were under attack. Detention of civilians who were vocal about their pro-Ukrainian views in territories under control of Russian forces had become widespread. The Office had also received allegations of killings of two civilians considered to be affiliated with Russian armed forces or supporting pro-Russian views. There were reports of up to 350 conflict-related detentions by Ukrainian law enforcement officers, including four cases where the individuals’ relatives received no information regarding their formal arrest, place of detention or their fate. Freedom of expression was under threat. Independent, objective reporting of the facts on the ground was absolutely vital to counter the harmful spread of misinformation and propaganda. The devastating consequences of this war were being felt far outside Ukraine’s borders. Nearly a quarter of Ukraine’s population had been forced to flee - over 4 million people had fled the country since the attack began, and an estimated 6.5 million were internally displaced. It was encouraging to see the outpouring of support offered to refugees by Ukraine’s neighbours and other countries around the world. It was essential to extend such welcome to all who fled, without discrimination.

Additionally, a rise in Russophobia had been observed in a number of countries.

As the war approached its sixth week, Ms. Bachelet reiterated her calls for States to respect and uphold international humanitarian and human rights law, and urged that humanitarian assistance be delivered safely and effectively. All civilians must be protected and those who wished to leave must be provided safe passage in the direction they chose. Prisoners of war must be treated with dignity and full respect for their rights. The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine would continue its vital monitoring role. The terror and agony of the Ukrainian people was palpable and was being felt around the world. They wanted the war to stop, and to return to peace, safety and human dignity. It was long past time to heed their call, Ms. Bachelet concluded.

Statement by the Country Concerned

Ukraine , speaking as the country concerned, said the update described in appalling details the horrors of Russia’s assault on Ukraine and the war crimes committed by Russia against the Ukrainian people. In only one month, the Russian aggression had already had a devastating toll on the human rights of the Ukrainian people. Acting on orders from the leadership, the Russian army used the most vicious methods with disregard for human life, launching hundreds of missiles on residential areas, killings thousands of innocent civilians, bombing hospitals and maternity wards, and targeting civilian infrastructure to deliberately deprive thousands to access basic needs. The besieged town of Mariupol had been levelled to the ground by Russian rockets and missiles, and nearly 160,000 civilians remained in blockade without water, heat, electricity or communications. The local authorities estimated that at least 5,000 had been killed there. Russian forces shelled cities and humanitarian corridors, forcing civilians to flee only to east territory or to Belarus, which could be considered forcible deportation. An estimated 40,000 Ukrainian citizens had been trafficked in this way.

At least 144 Ukrainian children had been killed, and 220 injured, while 4.3 million children, more than half of the children of the country, had been displaced. In the last four weeks of the Human Rights Council session, the Russian Federation had been urged to immediately cease their attacks. Unfortunately, in blatant disregard and disrespect of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council, Russia had failed to implement any of the General Assembly or the Human Rights Council resolutions urging them to cease their aggression, put an end to human rights violations, and stop human suffering on the ground. The magnitude and viciousness of Russia’s crimes called for unified action of the international community to ensure accountability and bring the perpetrators to justice. It was hoped that the work of the Commission of Inquiry established by the Council would become an important element to ensure there was no impunity for Russia’s war criminals. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its mission in Ukraine remained crucial to monitor the developments on the ground, providing regular and objective information on the human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian aggression, which was an attack on the norms and principles that formed the basis of international order with human rights as its key element. A State engaging in such gross and systematic violations of international law was not worthy of a seat on the Council. It was the duty of all to stand up against the aggression and ensure that such atrocities did not occur again anywhere in the world.

Discussion

Speaking in the discussion on Ukraine, many speakers said they stood united with Ukraine, which was facing a large-scale unprovoked, unlawful and unjustified aggression by Russia, and enabled by Belarus. They admired the courage of the Ukrainian people defending their country. Russia should immediately cease the attacks and deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure, especially using explosive weapons, such as cluster munitions, in residential areas, which were grave violations of international humanitarian law. Russia should immediately and unconditionally withdraw all its troops from the entire territory of Ukraine. The aggression was a gross violation of international law, including the United Nations Charter, and seriously undermined global peace, security and stability. Some speakers strongly condemned the involvement of Belarus in this aggression.

Some speakers said Russia should fully abide by its obligations under international law, including the United Nations Charter, cease its aggression, withdraw all forces and military equipment from the entire territory of Ukraine immediately and unconditionally, and fully respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence within its internationally recognised borders, extending to its territorial waters. The level of destruction and the number of civilian casualties in Ukraine was devastating, as reported by the High Commissioner. There was no justification nor strategic or military significance of targeting civilians, including children. In this regard, it was important to compile comprehensive, verifiable and transparent records of all casualties. The attacks on civilians constituted war crimes and must stop.

The issue of false information was also raised, with some speakers pointing out that there was no evidence of massacres of Russians in Ukraine, and it was not Ukraine shelling its own civilians. Speakers repeatedly asked the High Commissioner how the international community could help ensure accountability for the aggression. The brutal war of aggression was grossly violating the most fundamental tenets of international law and the core principles that underpinned the rules-based international order, and the United Nations Charter. It was, speakers said, the gravest assault on the very foundation of European and global stability and security in decades.

The Council should not be used for different purposes than those for which it was established, a speaker said, pointing out that genuine dialogue and cooperation were the pillars of the work of the Council, and yet, such issues were being dealt with under inappropriate agenda items, fuelling the politicisation of the work of the body, thus not contributing in any way to the protection and promotion of human rights in the world, but instead reinforcing the bias, selectivity, politicisation and double standards that threatened the body. Another speaker was concerned by the massive violation of the Ukrainian military of human rights, as refugees trying to leave for Russia were targeted, and civilians were used as human shields. Atrocities against civilians were carried out by Ukrainians thanks to weaponry supplied by Western countries, and the Office of the High Commissioner should report and assess these events. The children of Ukraine demanded that the adults put an end to this war- and the adults should listen.

Some speakers said that for long years the discussions on the situation in Ukraine had been politicised, and current events in Ukraine had resulted in the Council’s indifference to the issues reported by the Monitoring Mission of the Office of the High Commissioner. What was required now was a swift political settlement to the situation. Civilians were being held against their will in the combat zones, and the international community had hushed up these facts. The Ukrainian authorities refused to open a humanitarian corridor to Belarus to allow its citizens to return, and were discriminating against Belarussian truck drivers, among other Belarussian civilians in the country. Ukraine should live up to its commitments under the Hague Conventions. The responsibility of Western countries for moving lethal weapons and mercenaries to the conflict zone had to be recognised, as it would do nothing to bring peace. The struggle against Russophobia should begin right here in this room.

Concluding Remarks

MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that Member States needed to continue to speak with one voice for a safe humanitarian corridor to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine and the evacuation of civilians. She noted that the United Nations was working with the parties on a cease fire and on delivering supplies. She recalled the appeal of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to support humanitarian partners to help the people in need. More support was needed. On the safety of human rights defenders and journalists, she referred to the figures highlighted in her report and explained that there were more details in the update on the human rights situation in Ukraine published by her office mission in Ukraine. The international community could strengthen the advocacy on the need to protect journalists and human rights defenders. The international community could also fund specialised protective equipment. Human rights defenders and the local civil society were at the forefront of supporting people in need and at risk of being left behind. Many had started providing assistance to vulnerable groups, as a result, there was a need for flexible fundings to help groups affected by the hostilities. The international community could further provide support for the evacuation of people with disability and in conflict affected areas.

Ms. Bachelet noted the heightened risk of sexual violence and the difficulty for victims to report gender-based violence due to fear for retaliation and stigma. She remained committed to document human rights violations in Ukraine. It was critical to ensure awareness and the recollection of facts, which was why her Office was constantly assessing and adjusting to the evolving situation. Civil society was an important counterpart and source of information about human rights violations but she acknowledged they were operating under very difficult conditions to document violations. There was a need to support civil society actors. The High Commissioner encouraged Ukrainian grassroot defenders to coordinate with accountability mechanisms. Other organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation in Europe also had an important role to play. The conflict had repercussions for every region of the world with food, fuel, fertilizer prices skyrocketing and serious risk of instability. The suffering that was being witnessed in Ukraine was immense.

Presentation of Reports under Agenda Item 10 on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Documentation

The Council also has before it the report (A/HRC/49/93) on the work of the Board of Trustees of the UN Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights

The Council also has before it the report (A/HRC/49/92) of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in the Work of the Human Rights Council

Also before the Council is the report (A/HRC/49/99) of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights.

Presentation of Reports

CHRISTIAN SALAZAR VOLKMANN, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, said the report provided an overview of the technical assistance conducted by the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. The Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021 represented a watershed moment for Afghanistan and for the United Nations’ human rights work in the country. Before this date, the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan was engaged in several substantive areas of work, namely the protection of civilians in armed conflict; children and armed conflict; the elimination of violence against women and girls and the promotion of their rights; the prevention of torture and respect for procedural safeguards; and civic space and the integration of human rights into peace and reconciliation. Much of this cooperation was undertaken in partnership with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. This Commission played a pivotal role for the human rights agenda of the country but was no longer functional.

Since August 2021, technical cooperation activities had paused while the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the High Commissioner had focused on restoring systems for monitoring and reporting on human rights, including to this Council. Monitoring had shown a sharp reduction of conflict-related casualties although civilians remained at risk of attacks by the Islamic State Khorasan Province and others, as well as by unexploded ordonnance. At the same time, there was a large economic and humanitarian crisis unfolding with a profound impact on the enjoyment of human rights, in particular, on economic and social rights. Today, one in three Afghans faced emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity. In this new context, the Human Rights Service of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the Office of the High Commissioner had sought to open lines of dialogue and engagement with the de facto authorities.

This month, the High Commissioner had made a short visit to Kabul, where she met with the de facto Deputy Prime Minister and the de facto Minister of Interior. Based on this, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan would continue to engage with all stakeholders in the protection and promotion of human rights; monitoring, reporting and advocating for human rights; and providing technical advice to duty bearers on international human rights standards. Consequently, the Office of the High Commissioner’s technical cooperation in Afghanistan would now be reoriented according to the new mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the new situation in the country.

CHRISTIAN SALAZAR VOLKMANN, Director of the Field Operations and Technical ooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presented an overview of the technical assistance and capacity building programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The overall aim of the Office’s technical cooperation was to support Governments and other partners to effectively protect and promote human rights. The activities of the 102 field presences worldwide were geared towards this goal, with support from the Trust Fund on Universal Periodic Review implementation, the Treaty-body Capacity Building Programme and the Regular Budget for Technical Cooperation. The Office contributed to the effectiveness of 54 national human rights institutions worldwide, in line with the Paris Principles. Young people should be at the centre of sustainable solutions for development and peace. Technical assistance on human rights was also instrumental in preventing crises.

Mr. Volkmann listed the contributions of the Office’s technical cooperation to help governments and civil society address the impact of COVID-19. Last but not least, he introduced the Report of the Office on Operations of the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund to Support the Participation of Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing States in the Work of the Human Rights Council submitted pursuant to the Council resolution 34/40. The Trust Fund was allowed to provide numerous online induction courses on the rules and procedures of the Council prior to its regular sessions. To date, more than 6,300 persons had enrolled in the e-learning courses, including almost 2,500 women.

AZITA BERAR-AWAD, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, presenting the report of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, said in 2021, the Fund - the second largest trust fund administered by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – had continued providing increased financial support for technical cooperation in implementation of international human rights standards at the national level. The Board, which also constituted the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Financial and Technical Assistance in the implementation of the Universal Periodic Review, provided advice and guidance throughout the year, in regards to the use of these two Funds. During the fifty-second session, the Board provided advice in the context of the extension of the Office of the High Commissioner’s Organizational Management Plan 2022–2023. The Board discussed in particular, the unfolding implications of the COVID-19 pandemic for the Office’s programmes and the adjustments needed.

At its fifty-third session, the Board particularly welcomed the opportunity to assess on the ground the challenging political transition process in Chad and the

unprecedented opportunities for change that this process was unleashing. Debates in the Council under item 10 demonstrated every year the increased willingness from States to share challenges and positive experiences in overturning human rights issues. The Board was very pleased to observe how its principles for effective technical cooperation facilitated this. The Board welcomed the increase in voluntary contributions and in the expansion of requests from Member States. Technical support for the realisation of human rights was more relevant than ever, as countries moved ahead with pandemic recovery plans and efforts to bring back on track, investments towards the realisation of the 2030 Agenda. The current world situation called for strengthening predictable and sustained financial support to the Office of the High Commission and the programmes it supported at national and regional levels.

Statement by Country Concerned

Afghanistan, speaking as a country concerned, said that when one read this report, which by all means was a careful and conservative portrayal of the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, one could not help but be dejected, heartbroken and enraged. Repressive measures included extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, crackdown on the media, and the recent indefinite ban announced by Taliban leaders preventing young girls’ access to education; they had turned life into an unbearable misery for the Afghan people. As the report indicated, it was clear that there were two Afghanistans: an Afghanistan before the 15 August takeover by the Taliban, and an Afghanistan after. Prior to 15 August, the country was by no means perfect, but it had been taking significant steps towards the promotion and protection of human rights held by all its citizens. Afghanistan had made significant improvements in mitigating civilian casualties, curbing torture, preventing the recruitment and use of children in armed services, and in ensuring women and girls could fully enjoy their civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights. This progress and the aspiration of the people of Afghanistan for a better future had been a reality prior to 15 August.

The Taliban had since completely reversed this progress, but this had not destroyed the hope and aspiration of the people. What the people of Afghanistan needed from the international community and from the Human Rights Council was a coordinated, coherent and focused support of the entire human rights system to organise and rally all available and potential resources to stop the deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan. In the face of empty words and broken promises given by the Doha-based Taliban leaders to the international community, the scope and speed of deterioration of the human rights situation in Afghanistan was much larger and faster than what was reported. Therefore, given the gravity of the situation, Afghanistan called the Council’s attention to its human rights community, which needed more attention and technical assistance and capacity building. Afghanistan’s human rights community included the human rights organizations and civil society institutions inside and outside the country working to promote and protect human rights despite all odds. These organizations needed targeted attention and support, especially until Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission was restored and a representative and inclusive government was formed.

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries said human rights were one of the raison d’être of the Community. The environmental crisis which was assailing all could not be ignored. The Community continued to encourage the implementation of various training and technical assistance activities with its Member States, and would continue cooperation with the United Nations through training and technical assistance activities. The Community helped its Member States to establish human rights institutions.

 

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HRC22.055E