Human Rights Council holds General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

UN Human Rights Council, 9 June 2010

Concludes General Debate on Human Rights Situations that
Require the Council’s Attention

The Human Rights Council today held a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms. The Council also concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers emphasised the necessity and importance of the independence of the Special Procedure mandate holders, which allowed them to exercise their competences with a professional and impartial assessment of fact. This independence contributed to the credibility of the Council’s work, and it should be respected in all cases, including where States may disagree with the findings and recommendations issued. Other speakers believed that special mechanisms must abide by their mandates and code of conduct and that when expressing their views, they must be factual and independent. Speakers also said that it was imperative that Member States prevent the intimidation of and reprisals against people who cooperated with the United Nations and its mechanisms. Speakers thanked the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the progress report of the best practices on the issue of missing persons and said the report made it clear that missing persons were different from forced or involuntary disappearances. The report touched upon the humanitarian and human rights dimension of this problem and rightly pointed out that the problem of missing persons impacted not only the victims but their families too.

Speaking in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms were Spain on behalf of the European Union, China, France, Russian Federation, Azerbaijan, Cyprus and Armenia. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: World Organization against Torture, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights and Amnesty International.

Turkey and Cyprus spoke in right of reply.

The Council also concluded its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention. During the general debate, speakers said there were many human rights concerns regarding widening repression of dissent and crackdowns on journalists, students, political and human rights activists. Many speakers also raised the issue of violence against human rights defenders and journalists in countries around the world as well as the right to self-determination. Speakers also noted with concern the ongoing discrimination against and persecution of religious minorities in many countries.

Non-governmental organizations that spoke included Human Rights Watch, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, Action Internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grand Lacs, the Society for Threatened Peoples, Centrist Democratic International, Union de l’Action Féminine, Agence Internationale pour le Développement, Democracy Coalition Project, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, the International Institute for Peace, International Service for Human Rights, the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the International Humanist and Ethical Union and Amnesty International.

China, Morocco, Iran, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Algeria spoke in right of reply.

Alex Van Meeuwen, President of the Conference, said he had briefed the Council on Monday about the difficulties faced regarding the participation of the Independent Expert on Sudan in an interactive dialogue during this session and accordingly deferred the interactive dialogue for few days. In the meanwhile, he had asked the Secretariat to clarify the situation and he also undertook relevant consultations. The Secretariat advised him yesterday evening that the Independent Expert was on sick leave from his office until mid August. He was however more than willing to participate in a videoconference but his condition would have made it difficult for his presence to exceed an hour. Additionally, the Secretariat informed him that technicians had not been in a position to guarantee that the video-connection, if established, would have been of the quality and stability necessary to proceed with the Council’s work in an appropriate manner. Accordingly, he had prepared a draft decision which was being circulated and which aimed at technically extending the mandate until the end of the September Session to enable an interactive dialogue to take place at that session. He would let the Council consider this text and proceed with its adoption at the earliest possible opportunity tomorrow. He would let the Council know later when this could be done.

The Council today is holding a full day of meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Council will meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to consider the outcome of universal periodic review of Kazakhstan, Slovenia and Bolivia.

General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Need the Attention of the Council

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said Human Rights Watch was particularly concerned about the situation of human rights defenders and ethnic minorities in China, who continued to be the target of systematic Governmental repression. The Chinese Government had not yet allowed the High Commissioner or Special Rapporteurs to visit the areas of Tibet and Xinjiang. The Chinese Government had the duty to maintain public order and prosecute violent protestors, but officials in those areas had yet to account for hundreds of detainees arrested in the wake of unrest, and such a highly politicised judicial system precluded any possibility of protesters being judged fairly. Many other human rights concerns in China demanded the Council’s attention: the use of re-education through labour and administrative detention, deprivation of liberty, forced confessions and torture in the justice system, abuses against petitioners and other citizens seeking redress against State institutions and large-scale forced evictions, among others.

SAMUEL DANSETTE, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said repression continued in Iran, and the authorities had been using, again, capital punishment as a tool of terror against the population. All prisoners of conscience should be freed immediately and without conditions in Iran, and the Council should take note of the situation and investigate the violations of human rights perpetrated in the context of the 12 June 2009 elections. There was also great concern for the deterioration of the situation of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The situation in Burundi was also of concern, and all Burundian political actors should implement everything to guarantee the credibility of the electoral process as a whole, and the Council should debate the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi at the soonest possible date.

LESLIE BUTTERFIELD, of Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, said Special Procedure mandate-holders had once again altered cases of human rights violations inflicted upon the Tibetan people by China before this fourteenth session of the Council, particularly in the aftermath of the 2008 uprising on the Tibetan Plateau. Hundreds of Tibetans had died as a direct result of the “people’s war” launched by China since March 2008 and more than a thousand Tibetans had simply disappeared. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights urged the Chinese authorities to fully implement the concrete recommendations by Special Rapporteurs, Working Groups of the Council and Treaty Bodies to ensure that the human rights of the Tibetan people were fully respected.

HASSAN NAYEB HASHEM, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said there was no sustainable development without human rights and it was therefore imperative to defend victims of abuse where their voices were being silenced by systematic violence, repression and censorship. In Iran, publications had been closed, the Internet was filtered, and mobile phones had often been blocked. In addition, since 2005 Iran had not allowed United Nations Special Rapporteurs to visit the country, which left the “standing invitation regarding Special Procedures” dishonoured. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik urged the Council to hold the Government of Iran to its standing invitation regarding Special Procedures, investigate ill-treatment of detainees, and release all political prisoners pending fair and public trial with access to legal counsel of their choice.

JIDE MACAULAY, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Federation (ILGA-EUROPE), said that homosexuality in Africa had been blamed on Western European influence, yet it had been present in the African culture throughout history, while the laws criminalizing homosexuality were foreign imports brought by the injustice of colonialism. The European Region of International Lesbian and Gay Association urged States to return to the values of dignity and respect for all people and to urgently repeal discriminatory laws, address underlying prejudices and promote media training designed to discourage discrimination, incitement to violence and stigmatisation.

MAURICE KATALA, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs (AIPD), denounced the assassination of Mr. Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and said that given the extreme gravity of the facts surrounding the assassination, this called for the establishment of an international commission to determine the circumstances of the death and the responsibility for numerous killings of journalists that had been carried out in countries in the region over the years. Action Internationale also called on the Council to set up a serious programme to help the judiciary in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and said they knew of 98 investigations in murder cases which had failed to produce results.

KATHY POLIAS, of Society for Threatened Peoples, said the Society for Threatened Peoples was deeply troubled by the persecutory measures that had been exacted by the Chinese authorities against the Uyghur people in connection with the July 2009 protest and ethnic unrest in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Since the protest and the ethnic unrest that followed, the authorities had arrested thousands of people, many of them during mass detentions, and an untold number had been subjected to enforced disappearances. The authorities had ensured that defendants prosecuted in connection with the July 2009 events had been denied due process. The Human Rights Council should call on the Chinese authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all those who were only alleged to have protested peacefully or who had been held without evidence and to ensure that those accused of cognisable crimes under international and domestic law were afforded due process, and not subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment.

SEMALI AABEDILA, of Centrist Democratic International, said Centrist Democratic International wished to alert the Council to the situation of Moroccan Saharawis who had been kept for three decades in the camps of the Polisario of Algeria, where they were denied their basic human rights, a violation of international humanitarian law. Given this horrendous situation, the Council should ensure that those responsible for these reprehensible criminal acts are brought to justice, and the population of the Tinduf should be taken care of. It was unacceptable to see the geopolitical interests of States flouting the human rights of peoples in a situation that was a relic of the Cold War. The international community should take a bold initiative in Morocco and give proper autonomy to the area, allowing for a peaceful resolution of the situation, and returning their rights to the inhabitants. This would make it possible to turn this painful page of conflict.

AICHA RAHAL, of Union de l’Action Féminine, welcomed the work done by the various Special Rapporteurs so that the work of the fourteenth session of the Council would be crowned with success. The importance the Council attached to women’s’ rights was considerable. The situation of women interned in the camps in the Moroccan Sahara that were controlled by the Polisario was very difficult and they had been suffering, had been detained against their will, forced to do inhuman work, and had to bear terrible high temperatures in the desert. The Council needed to promote initiatives which put an end to that suffering, justice should be done, and the Polisario needed to be held to accountability.

ELGHALLAOUI SIDATI, of Agence Internationale pour le Developpement (Aide-Federation), said in order to consolidate achievements and move on to see the fulfillment of all human rights the right to food merited the Council’s special attention as it had a great importance in humanitarian and other settings. Also, some representatives of non-governmental organizations had tried to twist the situation prevailing in Morocco; thousands of Moroccans were being detained in Tinduf camp against their will and Agence Internationale pour le Développement felt duty-bound that every effort needed to be done to end that situation which was a violation of human rights.

LAETITIA BADER, of Democracy Coalition Project, said that almost a year ago Iranian citizens began peaceful protests against the election results, and these were followed by systematic attacks resulting in hundreds of killed and arrested, and torture and rape of those arrested. Many human rights defenders were in prison, and many others were in exile. The situation was worsening and Iran had become a country in which economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights were not respected. The Council must address this situation of flagrant and gross violation of human rights standards and laws. Democracy Coalition Project was deeply shocked by the killing of Mr. Chebaya in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and called for an immediate investigation in his killing.

PIERRE YVES BUNZLI, of Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, in a joint statement, said that members of the European Parliament had taken notice of an attack perpetrated by fundamentalists in Pakistan against the Ahmediya community. This oppressed community had literally been outlawed because of its beliefs; its adherents were treated as non-citizens and forbidden to preach openly. The average citizen of Pakistan was not responsible for the plight in which the country found itself, but the problem was that people in Pakistan were fed a diet by successive rulers. There was a need for a far greater effort to neutralize inside Pakistan the thought processes and ideology underpinning policies that depend on the use of non-State jihadi groups to achieve the State’s objectives.

DANIEL MARTEL, of International Institute for Peace, said one of the characteristics that set human beings apart from other animals was not just the capacity to think and cognate, but also the capacity to speak and express in language. Without freedom of expression, there was no culture, no tradition, no morality, no science, no technology, no philosophies, no ideology and no values. Sadly, this aspiration was being violated and destroyed day in and day out in many parts of the world. In regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan, where a war-like situation prevailed and the central Government was using armed force against the civilians, the situation was such. Unless the international community took up the cause of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Baluchistan, they would continue to suffer at the hands of Pakistani authorities. The international community should focus on the lack of freedom of expression in these areas, where the Pakistani army was carrying out genocide.

VOULE CLEMENT NYALE, of International Service for Human Rights, said the International Service for Human Rights was deeply shocked and saddened by the death of Floribert Chebeya, a prominent and courageous human rights defender in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Council should react to his death by calling for concrete actions that ensured justice and accountability. There should be no impunity for attacks on human rights defenders. The Council must also help protect other Congolese human rights defenders and journalists who faced intimidation, threats and harassment. States should continue to show their concern for the situation of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and ensure an effective investigation into Mr. Chebeya’s killing, and the Human Rights Council should remain informed about progress in the investigation, and the development of the situation of human rights defenders in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

GIYOUM KIM, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development continued to be concerned about the planned general elections in Myanmar. These had been characterized by suppression of opposition party activities through undemocratic election laws and a total lack of transparency. It was also of concern that more than 60,000 internally displaced persons still remained in camps in Sri Lanka, not informed about their resettlement plans, and that any clear plans for reconciliation between the different ethnic communities were still missing. While the Government stressed that domestic mechanisms for accountability were in place the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development was of the view that the Commission on Lessons Learned and Reconciliation lacked the mandate to offer adequate justice and redress.

ROY BROWN, of International Humanist and Ethical Union, said the International Humanist and Ethical Union found it remarkable that one of the States most active in the promotion of respect for religion should be the scene of frequent appalling attacks on religious minorities. The Union was particularly concerned at the ongoing discrimination against and persecution of the Ahmadiyya community in Pakistan and called upon the Government to repeal section 298 of the Penal Code which severely restricted the daily lives of that group. The International Humanist and Ethical Union also discouraged inflammatory events such as the “End of Prophethood” conferences in Lahore and invited the authorities to remove all propaganda that promoted hatred, religious superiority and religious defamation from textbooks.

PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said that the human rights situation in Iran showed serious further deterioration. A widening crackdown on dissent had left journalists, students, political and human rights activists, as well as members of religious and ethnic minorities in prisons. The Iranian authorities had launched a campaign of fear that aimed to crush even the slightest opposition to the Government. In 2008, Sri Lanka promised this Council that it would take all necessary measures to prosecute and punish perpetrators of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. At its Special Session on Sri Lanka, the Council rightly condemned LTTE attacks on the civilian population and its practice of using civilians as human shields. Amnesty International, like so many others, was deeply shocked by the murder of Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and urged the Council to call for the Congolese Government to set up an independent inquiry commission with the help of the United Nations and to inform this Council of the outcome of this investigation.

MAHMOUD REZA GOLSHANPAZHOOH, of Organization for Defending the Victims of Violence, said that the situation of secret detention centres around the world was of a great concern, particularly those in Iraq established by the United States. There was no doubt now that detainees at Guantanamo were subjected to cruel mistreatment and torture. The international law clearly forbade secret detentions and in some circumstances those might even amount to crimes against humanity. Unfortunately, those crimes often happened, and sometimes with the knowledge of European countries which described themselves as indispensable in the promotion and protection of human rights globally.

MARYAM SAFARI, of Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims, said that one of the most destructive effects of the conflict in Iraq was mental and psychological disorders which affected more and more children on a daily basis. A considerable number of Iraqi children suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and the opening of a specialised clinic in Baghdad showed the seriousness of this problem. While welcoming the efforts of the Iraqi Government in handling the post-conflict conditions of the country, the Charitable Institute for Protecting Social Victims believed that the least that could now be done was to increase the budget of child support and protection organizations and to set up more specialised clinics for children.

ALTAF HUSSAIN WANI, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said the denial of the right to self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir was in clear defiance of international law and in violation of the United Nations resolutions. These people remained robbed of their basic rights and more than a half a million Indian forces were engaged in gross and systematic human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, rape, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and restriction on the freedom of movement and expression.

SARDAR AMJAD YOUSEF KHAN, of World Muslim Congress, said the spectre of death and State violence haunted Kashmiri civil society each day. Violence was anticipated, expected and intimate to their everyday lives. Facts that came out surrounding the deaths of three young men recently indicated that the youths were lured from their homes, kidnapped, involuntarily disappeared and murdered by members of the Indian Armed Forces and State sponsored militia. They were persuaded to leave their homes with the promise of paid employment. The military claimed that they were “infiltrating militants” from Pakistan. The World Muslim Congress requested that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir receive special Council attention.

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said the statement made by Syria yesterday falsely accused Israel of being a State that not only was “built on hatred… and a paranoid feeling of superiority,” but was also one that glorified the “ripping of flesh” and the “sucking of blood”. United Nations Watch reminded Syria and this Council that the EUMC working definition of Anti-Semitism included “using the symbols and images associated with classic Anti-Semitism… to characterize Israel or Israelis”. Yesterday’s patently false and hateful remarks were historical incitements to prejudice and violence and had no place in the United Nations.

FRANZ MEKYNA, of Comité Africain pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, drew attention to the situation of the Moroccan Saharawis who were detained in camps by the Polisario. The Comité Africain pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des droits de l’Homme et des Peuples was alarmed by the atrocities the Polisario had perpetrated and which had remained unpunished for long years. Reports of victims and non-governmental organizations on the plight of people in those camps were a major source of concern and the organization invited the Council to intervene in order to allow the captive population to leave the camps.

LALLA LAKHAFI, of World Federation of Democratic Youth, said that the undeclared blockade of people of the Western Sahara had continued for over 35 years. International observers did not have access to the occupied territories of the Western Sahara, proof of which was the recent refusal of Morocco to allow access to a delegation of the European Parliament. It was not the first time, since an ad hoc mission of European Parliament had to wait for three years before being allowed to visit the territories in January 2009. The civilian population was suffering grave violations of their human rights including repression of peaceful manifestations, arbitrary arrests, frequent torture, murders and forced disappearances. It was urgent that the Council addressed the situation in the Western Sahara and that it help bring about lasting peace in the region.

KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, said that the situation in Kashmir had continued to be of grave concern for over 20 years. The legal status of Jammu and Kashmir was supposed to be decided by the plebiscite in accordance with the Security Council resolution. The plebiscite had not yet taken place and the parties must be urged to establish the conditions for it to take place. International Educational Development drew attention to the situation of Uyghur people in China and Tamil people in Sri Lanka and said it was pleased that the Secretary-General was urging an independent, international investigation in Sri Lanka. International Educational development recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights set up a task force on the situation of ethnic nationalities who were distinct from minorities, had their traditional homelands, distinct cultures, but had been overpowered by a dominant government. International Educational Development said it had also pointed out the situation of the Iranians in Camp Ashraf and said that the Council should encourage a solution to this situation in accordance with the wishes of the residents.

FAYSAL ELBAGIR, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the recent presidential and parliamentary elections that took place in Sudan in April were marked by serious human rights violations, including the intimidation of voters. Domestic and international observers noted that the balloting process fell far short of international standards for free and fair elections. In the weeks following the election, the Government of Sudan had increased its efforts to repress civil and political rights. For example, the Rai Al Shaab newspaper was shut down by the National Intelligence and Security Services and four journalists working for the paper were arrested and tortured. On 18 May 2010, censorship of newspapers by intelligence and security service agencies was re-imposed. The Human Rights Council and Independent Expert on Sudan had a very important role to play to both monitor and assist Sudan in the lead up to their 2011 elections.

RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said the indigenous peoples of Chile, in violation of the Mapuche Treaty, were being killed, the area where they lived was being militarized to undermine their legitimate demands, and there was political persecution and police harassment in other areas. This was happening against a historical backdrop based on an 1823 case that said that indigenous people had to give up their land to the white race for the “superior” Europeans. It was transported to North America via Alaska and applied to indigenous groups there. The Council was asked to look into this question as it affected all people in the Western Hemisphere and around the world today.

Right of Reply

LUO CHENG(China), speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made by certain Western States and non-governmental organizations, said those speakers had attempted to mislead the international community. Special treatment had been provided in Tibet and the Government had made much work and progress. China had taken actions that it believed would consolidate the socialist ethnic relationships. The Government had supported and protected human rights and its efforts would not be affected by the criticism directed against China. Also, Tibet was part of China and those statements could not change that fact.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), speaking in a right of reply, said that the Algerian delegation should have been in the Guinness book of records for the number of negative comments it made about Morocco. Those comments did not disguise the very basic Morocco-phobia. Algeria would have done better if it expressed its concern over the human rights situation in Algeria itself. When a country violated the human rights of its citizens, it had no right to comment about its neighbours. The description of the Western Sahara by Algeria was surreal, while the human rights situation in Algeria had been condemned by the United Nations. In 2009 Amnesty International had issued a report in which it referred to forced disappearances of human rights defenders in Algeria. Morocco asked how Algeria could call for a high-level United Nations investigative mission, while it was doing everything to stop the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights from opening a regional office.

ASADOLLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran), speaking in a right of reply, said that Iran strongly rejected the baseless allegations and distortions voiced in yesterday’s meeting. Iran vigorously rejected the allegations of Israel, a regime whose entire history was based on the gross and systematic violation of human rights. This was to distract the international community’s attention from Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians and the recent horrific attack on the humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza. It was crystal clear that no amount of slander from countries like the United States, the United Kingdom or Spain could cloud the fact that the plight of the Palestinian people was the most urgent human rights situation the world was facing today and should be addressed by the international community. It was ironic that countries like the United States pretended to have human rights concerns in other parts of the world when they had been recognized as having horrible human rights records of their own.

SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo), speaking in a right of reply, said at one of the meetings of the Council last Thursday, in reply to the Special Rapporteur on summary or arbitrary killings, the delegation of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had referred to the tragic disappearance of Floribert Chebeya. The delegation had noted the actions by the Government to very diligently clarify this sensitive issue, and last weekend the Head of State involved himself in the case by calling a high-level meeting with all authorities responsible for security and territory, following which important measures were taken, including the arrest of potentially-suspect police members; the General Inspector of the Police Force was also suspended. The Attorney General was asked to investigate the case in a clear and detailed manner in strict conformity with the law. An autopsy would be carried out according to the strict rules of judicial investigation. The Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would do everything along the lines called for in resolution 13/13 on the protection of human rights defenders.

FAISAL BELKACEMI (Algeria), speaking in a right of reply, said that by attacking Algeria yet again, Morocco tried to divert the attention of the Council from the deteriorating human rights situation in the Western Sahara. The simplest way to establish the situation on the ground was to send in a United Nations mission, which would report back to this Council. Regarding the hangover from the colonial period, Algeria said that Morocco just wanted to cause problems within Algerian society. Algeria said that people who lived in glass houses should not throw stones.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco), speaking in a second right of reply, said that what Algeria said and its activities had already caused stagnation in the Maghreb. Algeria had said that it would only open the frontier if its desires were heeded, but this area had also become a hotbed of terrorism that had allowed Al-Quaeda to flourish in this region. Morocco shared with the Council a line from a European study on terrorism in North Africa which said that it had become a major strategic location for terrorism. Members of the Polisario had broken with their leaders, noting the failure of the movement. However, the region had seen other worrisome developments including 600,000 young people coming back from Tindouf, whose presence refuted Algeria’s false allegations in the human rights arena.
Documentation

The Progress report of the HRC Advisory Committee on best practices on the issue of missing persons (A/HRC/14/42) mainly focuses upon the international legal obligations of States and parties to an armed conflict relating to the issue of missing persons.

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

BORJA MONTESINO (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union strongly believed in the importance of the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, and emphasised the necessity and importance of the independence of the Special Procedure mandate holders, which allowed them to exercise their competences with a professional and impartial assessment of fact. This independence contributed to the credibility of the Council’s work, and it should be respected in all cases, including where States may disagree with the findings and recommendations issued. In this context, the European Union regretted the continuing and increasing attacks by some States on the integrity of several mandate holders. It was essential that human rights defenders and civil society were able to work with the Special Procedures without fear of intimidation or reprisals. It was important for the work of the Special Procedures to be guided by internationally recognized human rights standards, and to be free from any kind of extraneous influence, incitement, pressure, threat of interference, either direct or indirect. The European Union was concerned about the functioning of the complaints procedure, which appeared not to be living up to the Council’s expectations, nor to those of the numerous victims of violations and abuses that had placed their confidence in it.

LIU KENFEI (China) said that the Advisory Committee was a think-tank of the Human Rights Council and China supported its conducting thematic studies as decided by the Council. China believed that special mechanisms must abide by their mandates and code of conduct and that when expressing their views, they must be factual and independent. To ensure that independence and factuality, China was in favour of discussing monitoring mechanisms during the upcoming review of the Human Rights Council. China would continue to support the special mechanisms and would actively participate in the work of the Council, its mechanisms and Special Procedures.

RAPHAEL TRAPP (France) said that it was imperative that Member States prevent the intimidation of and reprisals against people who cooperated with the United Nations and its mechanisms. There were several particularly grave cases that were being reported. States also needed to combat the impunity of perpetrators. The credibility of the Council and the working of the mechanisms were at stake. France also wanted to let the Council know that in May it hosted an extraordinary seminar on the elimination of discrimination against women, which brought together people from a broad spectrum and showed France’s attachment to the key role that the defence of women played in guaranteeing human rights. The seminar focused on two key areas: ending discrimination against women and the role of women in peace building. Women’s rights were a priority and an ongoing concern for France.

ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation) said the Advisory Committee should continue to perform its functions as an expert Human Rights Council body. The format and working methods of the Advisory Committee allowed it to work fairly effectively – at the same time, all interested parties should reflect on how to increase the output of the work of the Committee. During the review of the Council, they should not forget about the other Human Rights Council subsidiary bodies – the Social Forum, the Forum on Minority Issues, and others, and it was important for them to continue to carry out their basic task. It was necessary to ensure that their work did not overlap with the work of other United Nations bodies and mechanisms. It was difficult to overestimate the importance of the work of the Special Procedures, whose work should be based on dialogue with States, taking into account existing realities. Mandate holders should pay particular attention to instructions given to them by the Council and the General Assembly, and should respect the Code of Conduct and Terms of Reference, which continued to be violated. The Human Rights Council should examine control mechanisms on the activities of Special Procedures and make sure they were more transparent and effective.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) thanked the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the progress report of the best practices on the issue of missing persons and said the report made it clear that missing persons were different from forced or involuntary disappearances. The report touched upon the humanitarian and human rights dimension of this problem and rightly pointed out that the problem of missing persons impacted not only the victims but their families too, especially dependent women, elderly and children, and States should therefore take measures to meet their legal and material needs. The report also highlighted the need to disseminate international human rights law and international humanitarian law among the members of armed forces and Azerbaijan believed that the Advisory Committee would finalize the study by benefiting from the responses to the questionnaire sent to States last November.

MARIA MICHAEL (Cyprus) said that Cyprus welcomed the report of the Advisory Committee on the best practices regarding missing persons. Cyprus had experience with the tragic problem of missing persons, and as such it placed high importance on the matter. They developed a missing persons unit whose job was to obtain information from families and to exhume and identify the remains of victims. Over 371 burial sites had been visited and opened by the government and hundreds of remains had been returned to families. It was imperative that the establishment of truth be sought and impunity be punished. In addition, it was also necessary to keep in mind that cases of missing persons could also constitute war crimes and as such governments should take pains to investigate these cases, pursue reparations for victims and punish perpetrators.

VAHEH GEVORGYAN (Armenia) said the scrutiny of best practices in the field of missing persons was a good contribution towards further development of norms and approaches in this particular dimension of international humanitarian law. In Armenia’s view, strengthening national legislation was a necessary step to embed the outcomes of international cooperation into Governmental actions, and it considered the expertise and involvement of the International Committee of the Red Cross to be invaluable in both assisting in practical matters of finding and return of missing persons, and in elaboration of relevant laws. Model laws would not only provide comprehensive normative frameworks in accordance with the requirements of respective national legislation, but also draw avenues for cooperation with all parties involved in addressing the issues relating to missing persons and protect and promote of the rights of their families.

ALEXANDRA KOSSIN, of World Organization against Torture, said the World Organization against Torture was deeply concerned by attacks at Special Procedure mandate holders and the number of interferences with their work. A number of Special Rapporteurs had mentioned the lack of cooperation of some States, which undermined the effectiveness of the Council. The World Organization against Torture recalled that Special Procedures were an inherent element of the work of the Council, and their independence and autonomy must be preserved and have full latitude to take initiative. In cases where reaction of a State was extremely insufficient, the World Organization against Torture expected that Special Procedures would play a proactive role in searching for the causes of violations and other ways to react.

MARIA MUNARETTO, of Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, said the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights welcomed the work of the Advisory Committee and the progress on the report on missing persons and said there was a need for a distinction to be drawn between missing persons and enforced disappearances. The Permanent Assembly for Human Rights was concerned about the contradiction that existed with regards to confidentiality of personal data, and where the limit was between necessary information and exhaustive information. The Permanent Assembly for Human Rights urged the Advisory Committee to redefine paragraphs related to confidentiality of personal data.

PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said that reprisals and acts of intimidation against persons and organizations who engaged or sought to engage with the United Nations in relation to human rights were not just attacks on those individuals and organizations. They were also a challenge and an affront to the authority of the United Nations, to the human rights mechanisms in question and to this Council. This Council must not tolerate reprisals or acts of intimidation and it should ensure that all credible allegations of reprisals were brought promptly to the Council’s attention. It must also request that the Government concerned inform the Council of its efforts to investigate any such credible allegation and the outcome of such investigations. Amnesty International welcomed the attention given to this subject.

Right of Reply

FATIH ULUSOY (Turkey), speaking in a right of reply, said the issue of missing persons in Cyprus, dating back to 1963, was a humanitarian issue affecting both sides, and could not be considered in a vacuum without considering the historical framework of this tragedy. Up until this date, the Greek Cypriot side had misrepresented the issue, inflating figures. Hundreds of Greeks, military and civilians, were killed during the coup. Portraying the question as a problem of invasion and occupation required to also mention the ethnic cleansing question perpetrated by the Greek Cypriots on the Turkish Cypriots. The statements were disappointing and discouraging, as they reflected a frame of mind that was far from the realities and was not conducive to resolving the situation.

MARIA MICHAEL (Cyprus), speaking in a right of reply, said that the matter had been taken up both by the United Nations and the Security Council and since the United Nations had already issued a resolution, Cyprus would not take up any more of the Council’s time.

__________

For use of the information media; not an official record