General

Human Rights Council discusses the situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and South Sudan, and the United Nations’ involvement in Myanmar

The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and in South Sudan, and discussed the oral update of the United Nations Secretary-General on the involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar (the “Rosenthal report”). The Council also began its interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Iran.

Tomas Ojea Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, presenting his report, said it focused on the plight of women in the country, noting that they had been kept out of the decision-making sphere, even though the Government had accepted the Universal Periodic Review recommendation to increase the participation of women in the Government. The Special Rapporteur thus urged the Government to seek technical assistance in that area. He also reminded that 47 per cent of the population were without access to safe water. In addition, the prison system seemed to exist above the law, placing prisoners outside the protection of the Constitution.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not take the floor as the concerned country.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers remained deeply concerned about the ongoing, systematic and widespread gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They urged the authorities to immediately end human rights violations, rapidly improve both civil liberties and social-economic rights, and without delay engage with the United Nations human rights system. Certain speakers voiced their opposition to selective and politically motivated resolutions and mandates, such as the one against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They reminded that the humanitarian crisis in that country was exacerbated by the international sanctions, which had worsened the food crisis and had led to a serious deficit of medicine and medical tools. It was necessary to put an end to any interference into the sovereign affairs of the concerned country and to move away from the politicization of the human rights agenda.

Speaking were European Union, Netherlands, Switzerland, Australia, Cuba, Japan, France, Czech Republic, Ireland, Myanmar, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Greece, Russian Federation, Syria, Republic of Korea, Iran, Spain, Venezuela, China, Norway, United Kingdom, Iceland, Belarus, Cambodia, Viet Nam, Armenia and Marshall Islands.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : Ingénieurs du Monde, Human Rights Watch, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, United Nations Watch, International Society for Human Rights, and Center for Global Nonkilling.

The Council then heard the presentation of the oral update of the Secretary-General on the involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar (the “Rosenthal report”), delivered by the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, Volker Türk.

Mr. Türk recalled that in December 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General had commissioned Gert Rosenthal to provide an independent and comprehensive analysis of the United Nations’ involvement in Myanmar since 2011. The recommendations stemming from the report covered systemic and structural challenges to greater coherence in United Nations’ action, such as those in Myanmar. They highlighted the need for better engagement with Member States in critical situations and stronger internal coordination within the United Nations system. The United Nations had taken an institutional approach in following up on those recommendations, which had enabled improvements that were systemic rather than focused on a single country situation.

Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, noted the oral update presented, and called for the use of a wider range of sources in researching such reports. The report had given the number of border post attacks in the country as three, but the number of attacks was 30, according to information that was publicly available. The Permanent Representative said the approach taken in-country should be based on the consent of the country concerned, and believed that the Resident Coordinator – the designated representative of the Secretary-General in Myanmar – was not aware of the work of some of the United Nations’ staff in the country. The Permanent Representative reiterated that a cooperative approach and not a confrontational one was needed.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers said that the Rosenthal report was central to enhancing the human rights approach, and welcomed the elaboration on how the United Nations intended to implement the recommendations of the report. Reminding that impunity bred impunity, speakers urged the international community to continue to seek justice for the Rohingya. In that regard, they welcomed the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, adding that promoting direct dialogue and interaction between countries was an important solution to conflict. Certain speakers argued that useful lessons could be drawn from the example of the United Nation’s involvement in Myanmar about the effectiveness of quiet diplomacy as opposed to outspoken advocacy.

Speaking were European Union, Sweden (on behalf of a group of countries), Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Netherlands, Russian Federation, Venezuela, China, United Kingdom, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Armenia and Philippines.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

The Council then proceeded to hear the presentation of the report by the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan and to hold an interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in that country.

Yasmin Sooka, the Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, presenting the report, underlined that since the last report to the Council, more than half of South Sudan’s population had been deliberately starved of food. Some South Sudanese leaders benefitted from corruption, which was facilitated by the predominantly cash economy, with most revenue spent on the military and governing elite. Ms. Sooka also highlighted the forcible and widespread recruitment of children into the armed forces, as well as pervasive sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual mutilation. Civil society space was shrinking, with political activists and journalists regularly subjected to attacks and intimidation, she noted.

South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, took note of the Commission’s report and acknowledged the challenges it outlined, especially in the area of humanitarian needs with respect to the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Humanitarian access and security in the country had significantly improved. With respect to freedom of speech and political space, the delegation stressed that the Government did not censor the media or freedom of expression. South Sudan urged the Human Rights Council to support those positive developments taken by the Government and to move the mandate from agenda item 4 to agenda item 10, as well as to fully support South Sudan in implementing sustainable peace.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers noted that the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity on 22 February 2020 was a key step towards peace in South Sudan. They encouraged the authorities to make further progress by swiftly establishing the cabinet and to keep working with the spirit of compromise during the transitional period. At the same time, speakers were deeply concerned about the shrinking civic space, the widespread and often targeted use of sexual and gender-based violence, and the continued recruitment of children into armed groups, including by Government forces. They also called on the international community to provide technical assistance upon request to South Sudan in order to implement the comprehensive peace agreement.

Speaking were European Union, Germany, Australia, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, France, Sierra Leone, Netherlands, New Zealand, Sudan, Ireland, Russian Federation, Spain, Albania, China, Belgium, United Kingdom, Ethiopia and Norway (on behalf of Nordic countries).

Also taking the floor were the following civil society representatives : East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Reporters without Borders International, International Federation of Journalists, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme.

The Council then heard the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman.

Presenting his report, Mr. Rehman said that Iran was currently facing significant economic challenges, worsened by sanctions, which were seriously impacting economic and social rights. He was concerned that the effect of sanctions had resulted in serious shortages of medication and medical equipment, including for rare and life-threatening conditions. At the same time, he remained deeply concerned about the arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders and lawyers. In his report, the Special Rapporteur focused on conditions in detention and fair trial rights, noting that proposed amendments would further deny the right to any legal representation for at least the first 20 days after arrest.

Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said this was not the first time that Iran was targeted, nor was the Council the only forum which was abused and manipulated to do so. As Iran mobilized all its capacity and resources to contain the COVID19 virus outbreak, the United States’ senseless sanctions continued to target the basic rights of Iranian people. The United States was even tightening sanctions to further hamper the fight against the corona epidemic. The sponsors of the mandate lacked any moral high ground to talk about Iran’s human rights, while actively contributing to drastic and systematic violations of Iranian human rights. The report patched together sporadic cases of alleged violations with the help of biased sources. Country specific resolutions establishing monitoring mandates were harmful and counterproductive to human rights, and as such Iran called for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to be discontinued.

At the beginning of the meeting, India, Brazil, Cuba, China, Iraq, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mauritania, Philippines and Pakistan spoke in right of reply, in response to statements made during the general debate on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

The Council will next meet this afternoon at 3 p.m. to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, and to hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.

Remarks by the President of the Council

ELISABETH TICHY-FISSLBERGER, President of the Human Rights Council, announced that today at 1 p.m., the Bureau of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations Office at Geneva would hold a meeting with all regional coordinators about the situation regarding COVID-19 in order to discuss whether to take any further measures.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (A/HRC/43/58). The advance unedited version can be seen here A/HRC/43/58

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

TOMAS OJEA QUINTANA, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said his work had focused on the plight of women in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, who were kept out of the decision making sphere, despite the Government having taken on the recommendation from the Universal Periodic Review to increase the participation of women in the government. Given their role in food production, women were vulnerable to sexual abuse at train stations and crossing points, where they could be forced into sexual acts in return for right of passage. Women did not have access to mechanisms where they could report abuse and seek redress. He urged the Government to seek technical assistance in this area.

With regard to the rights to water and sanitation, 47 per cent of the population were estimated not to have access to safe water. Unsafe water led to illness in children, the burden of which fell on women, and the Special Rapporteur called on the Government to address these basic needs. The prison system seemed to exist above the law, placing prisoners outside the protection of the constitution. There were frequent reports of death of prisoners due to hard labour and lack of food, and he urged the Government to provide information on this, and above all release prisoners who were at risk. Addressing COVID19 had brought into focus the impact of sanctions on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and he called on the Council to look at the impact that sanctions were having on rights.

Statement by the Concerned Country

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not take the floor as the concerned country.

Discussion

Speakers remained deeply concerned about the ongoing, systematic and widespread gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. They were saddened that there had been no significant improvement in the human rights situation in the country since the 2014 Commission of Inquiry had identified human rights violations amounting to crimes against humanity. They urged the authorities to immediately end human rights violations, rapidly improve both civil liberties and social-economic rights, and without delay engage with the United Nations human rights system. The isolation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, reinforced by the setback in the political negotiations and the coronavirus threat, was making the situation even worse, speakers remarked. The humanitarian situation remained serious, with vulnerable people suffering food and nutrition insecurity, lack of access to adequate healthcare, and with comprehensive restrictions on access to information. Speakers reminded that the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had prioritized the advancement of its programmes of weapons of mass destruction over all else. They welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s focus on the rights of women, who were particularly vulnerable and targeted, and their situation should receive particular attention. Speakers thus asked the Special Rapporteur about room for constructive engagement between members of the Human Rights Council and the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, for example on the issue of gender equality. As for the principle of universal jurisdiction, speakers asked the Special Rapporteur about any mechanism from another country situation that inspiration could be drawn from. Furthermore, speakers appreciated the engagement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in May 2019 and called on it to take meaningful and measurable steps to follow up on those recommendations.

Certain speakers voiced their opposition to selective and politically motivated resolutions and mandates, such as the one against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur was a demonstration of confrontational and discriminatory actions taking place in the Human Rights Council because it was imposed against the will of the concerned country. Those speakers urged all countries and United Nations human rights mechanisms to constructively engage with each other, share good practices and experiences in the field of human rights, and provide technical assistance upon the request and consent of the concerned country. The accusations against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea were part of a strategy that had nothing to do with human rights. The humanitarian crisis in that country was exacerbated by international sanctions, which had worsened the food crisis and had led to a serious deficit of medicines and medical tools. It was necessary to put an end to any interference into the sovereign affairs of the concerned country and to move away from the politicization of the human rights agenda, speakers stressed, adding that the Special Rapporteur’s report was not based on facts and reliable information. The international community should pay attention to the legitimate concerns of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea about security and development.

Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

TOMAS OJEA QUINTANA, Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Korea, in concluding remarks, said that the key challenge was to end the isolation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and reintegrate it in order to improve the human rights situation. A constructive dialogue with the Government was needed in order to achieve this, and regional States should play a key role, including by co-sponsoring resolutions. Access to the country was vital, as the Special Rapporteur for persons with disabilities had shown, and this must be repeated. Where crimes against humanity were suspected, it was very important that trials moved forward. This would send a message that the Human Rights Council did not tolerate abuses of human rights, and he called for an expansion of this process at the level of the High Commissioner’s Office.

Interactive Dialogue on the Oral Update of the Secretary-General on the Involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar

Presentation of Oral Update of the Secretary-General on the Involvement of the United Nations in Myanmar

VOLKER TÜRK, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, recalled that in December 2018, the United Nations Secretary-General had commissioned Gert Rosenthal to provide an independent and comprehensive analysis of the United Nations’ involvement in Myanmar since 2011. The report had been issued in May 2019 and the Secretary-General had shared it with all Member States and civil society, and he had endorsed the recommendations of the report. The recommendations covered systemic and structural challenges to greater coherence in United Nations’ action, such as those in Myanmar. They highlighted the need for better engagement with Member States in critical situations and stronger internal coordination within the United Nations system. The Secretary-General’s reform efforts were key to addressing a set of issues that were at variance with a more coherent United Nations response in Myanmar. Those reforms had helped put a greater emphasis on prevention. The conclusions and recommendation offered valuable insights that were relevant for the United Nations’ work not only in Myanmar, but beyond.

The United Nations had translated Mr. Rosenthal’s recommendations into a number of concrete actions, Mr. Türk explained. Recalling the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights, he said that Mr. Rosenthal’s recommendations folded into the Call to Action. The Call to Action stemmed from the recognition that human rights must be above power and politics. In order to turn that aspiration into reality, the United Nations system must be open to all available channels and opportunities to enact positive change for the people it served. What Mr. Rosenthal’s inquiry had confirmed was the need to ensure that actions taken were coherent, coordinated and that they placed human right at the centre. Elaborating on one of the areas under the Secretary-General’s Call to Action, Mr. Turk noted that it was incumbent upon the United Nations, as well as Member States, to foster effective and rights-based prevention to crises. Upholding human rights was the single best crisis prevention mechanism that the United Nations had and it must be used more energetically to that end. The follow-up to Mr. Rosenthal’s recommendations was an integral part of the Call to Action.

Statement by the Concerned Country

KYAW MOE TUN, Permanent Representative of Myanmar to the United Nations Office at Geneva, speaking as the concerned country, noted the oral update presented, and called for the use of a wider range of sources in researching such reports. The report had given the number of border post attacks in the country as three, but the number of attacks was 30, information that was publicly available. He believed the approach taken in-country should be based on the consent of the country concerned, and believed that the Resident Coordinator – the designated representative of the Secretary-General in Myanmar – was not aware of the work of some of the United Nations’ staff in the country. The Permanent Representative reiterated that a cooperative approach and not a confrontational one was needed, and in particular information sharing between the Government and non-governmental organizations on the ground was crucial. There should also be conformity with the principle that work should be “need driven, not donors driven”.

Discussion

Speakers said the report by Mr. Rosenthal was central to enhancing the human rights approach, and welcomed the elaboration on how the United Nations intended to implement the recommendations of the report. They stated that impunity bred impunity, and urged the international community to continue to seek justice for the Rohingya. In this regard, speakers welcomed the Secretary-General’s Call to Action, adding that strengthening the human rights capacity of the United Nations was important. Promoting direct dialogue and interaction between States was an important solution to conflict, though States should not politicize the issue of internally displaced people. Some States believed it was time to establish an international tribunal to investigate allegations of human rights abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar. Other States argued that useful lessons could be drawn from the example of the United Nations’ mission in Myanmar, on the effectiveness of quiet diplomacy as opposed to outspoken advocacy. A genuine and coordinated action plan needed to be developed in close consultation with human rights groups and civil society organizations. The Secretary-General should publish updates on the implementation of the report of Mr.Rosenthal.

Concluding Remarks

VOLKER TÜRK, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Coordination, thanked speakers for the positive feedback on the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights. He reminded that the report by Mr.Rosenthal had focused on three sets of findings and lessons learned : interactions with the host country, interactions with other countries, and the United Nations internal coordination. When the Secretary-General had received the report, he had made sure that it was not only shared with Member States, but also within the United Nations, Mr. Türk noted. One of the analyses that the United Nations had looked into in particular was that the reforms of the Secretary-General were very much aligned with the report’s findings. The United Nations would be looking at country situations in a comprehensive and integrated way, with much better country planning in line with framework of the Sustainable Development Goals and with a human rights-based focus. In addition, the United Nations system would place more emphasis on human rights in both recruitment and induction processes. The Call to Action for Human Rights was a very integrated approach to human rights, Mr. Türk stressed, and reminded that more than 90 per cent of the Sustainable Development Goals were related to human rights.

Interactive Dialogue with the Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan (A/HRC/43/56).

Presentation of Report by the Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan

YASMIN SOUKA, Chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, presented the fourth report of the Commission. Since the last report to the Council, more than half of South Sudan’s population had been deliberately starved of food, an economic crime that especially impacted women and children. Some of South Sudan’s leaders benefitted from corruption, and regional support for accountability was needed. Corruption was facilitated by the predominantly cash economy, with most revenue spent on the military and governing elite. The Commission had uncovered numerous instances of bribery in recent months, and subsequently the Commissioner-General and Board of Directors of the National Revenue Authority announced they would no longer provide statistics on government revenues, making accounting impossible.

The forcible recruitment of children into the armed forces, of both the government and the opposition, was widespread, with the United Nations Children’s Fund reporting around 19,000 children in the ranks of the national army as recently as July 2019. Sexual and gender-based violence, including rape and sexual mutilation, was pervasive across the country, with little prospect of justice for victims. Civil society space was shrinking, with political activists and journalists regularly subjected to attacks and intimidation. Cattle rustling had also escalated from traditional neighbourhood clashes to deliberate strategies to strengthen local politicians. The Chair warned the international community not to be lulled into believing the conflict was over, now that a unity government had been established in the country, citing the increase of over 200 per cent in the number of civilian casualties from 2018 to 2019. The Commission called on the unity government to establish a clear timeline to set up transitional justice mechanisms. The Commission had also compiled a list of dossiers of individuals it believed should be investigated for specific violations, and would pass these to the High Commissioner.

Statement by Concerned Country

South Sudan, speaking as the concerned country, took note of the Commission’s report and acknowledged the challenges outlined in the report, especially in the area of humanitarian needs with respect to the effectiveness and efficiency of the delivery of humanitarian aid. Clarifying some points, the delegation noted that immediately after the eruption of the conflict in 2013, the Government had received support from international partners to secure humanitarian access to the affected areas. There had been no impediment from the authorities regarding humanitarian access. In fact, humanitarian access and security in the country had significantly improved. With respect to freedom of speech and political space, the delegation stressed that the Government did not censor the media or freedom of expression. There were 151 media agencies and 48 stations operating in the country. In addition, in an effort to improve the human rights situation, the Government had signed two actions plans, namely on gender-based violence and on children associated with armed forces, and it conducted regular reporting on them.

In cooperation with international development partners, the authorities had set up a specialized court to try gender-based crimes and child abuse. The Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity would work on the establishment of a hybrid court as stipulated in the peace agreement, and work on reconciliation, rehabilitation, compensation and reparation. The delegation urged the Human Rights Council to support those positive developments taken by the Government and to move the mandate from agenda item 4 to agenda item 10, as well as to fully support South Sudan in implementing sustainable peace.

Discussion

Speakers noted that the formation of the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity on 22 February 2020 was a key step towards peace in South Sudan. They encouraged the authorities to make further progress by swiftly establishing the cabinet and to keep working with the spirit of compromise during the transitional period. At the same time, speakers were deeply concerned about the shrinking civic space, the widespread and often targeted use of sexual and gender-based violence, and the continued recruitment of children into armed groups, including by Government forces. They were appalled by the deliberate denial of human rights, including the right to food, water and sanitation. More than half of the civilian population, mainly women and children, were facing acute food insecurity. Speakers called for full accountability for all abuses and violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, and the terms of the revitalized peace agreement. They urged the Government to fully implement transnational justice mechanisms and the hybrid court in order to ensure accountability. Speakers asked the Commission to recommend that South Sudan take measures to pave the way for national reconciliation. Speakers also noted the urgent need for the restructuring of the army, the disarmament and demobilization of former combatants, and the State boundary delimitation, noting that sustainable peace was more than just the absence of fighting. Finally, they noted that particular attention should be paid to corruption in the management of Government revenue and the resulting lack of basic economic and social service delivery, which constituted a breeding ground for new cycles of violence.

Some speakers said noted that the key to peace and stability in South Sudan was held by regional actors and the African Union. They also called on the international community to provide technical assistance upon request to South Sudan in order to implement the comprehensive peace agreement. Accordingly, the Human Rights Council should move the mandate on South Sudan to agenda item 10 on technical assistance and capacity-building. The people of South Sudan had waited for a long time for reconciliation and accountability. At the current session, the Council should continue sending the right message to all stakeholders by renewing the mandate of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan in full to allow it to pursue its vital work. Speakers asked the Commission about the most urgent steps that the new Government should take.

Concluding Remarks

BARNEY AFAKO, Member of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, in concluding remarks, said that now was the time for the unity government to demonstrate its seriousness regarding questions of justice, accountability, reconciliation and national cohesion. Their mandate was very broad, but they had focused on prevention, and as such the drivers of the conflict which were predominantly economic crimes.

ANDREW CLAPHAM, Member of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, reiterated the importance of establishing the transitional justice mechanism, that 1 per cent of oil revenues be put aside for compensation, and for the establishment of a specialist chamber for investigating sexual and gender-based crimes.

YASMIN SOOKA, Chair of the Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan, called on the Government to sign the memorandum agreement with the African Union, and ensure that relevant sexual and economic crimes were domesticated in South Sudanese law. Many of the recommendations were not about technical assistance, but about political will.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/HRC/43/61).

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran

JAVAID REHMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, reiterated his request to Iranian authorities for access to Iran. Iran was currently facing significant economic challenges, worsened by sanctions, which were seriously impacting economic and social rights, the Special Rapporteur noted. He was concerned that the effect of the sanctions had resulted in serious shortages of medication and medical equipment, including for rare and life-threatening conditions. Sanctions were also increasing medical prices, with associated risks of corruption, as well as causing significant food price increases. The Special Rapporteur thus urged the countries imposing sanctions and the international community as a whole to take all measures to mitigate the negative impact of sanctions on human rights, especially the right to health. At the same time, he remained deeply concerned about the arrest and imprisonment of human rights defenders and lawyers. He was dismayed that 12 months after his report focusing on child offender executions, children could still be sentenced to death. He urged Iran to immediately commute the sentences of child offenders on death row and to introduce a moratorium on the death penalty against child offenders. The Special Rapporteur also continued to receive concerning reports about the arbitrary detention of dual and foreign nationals, cultural workers and conservationists. The situation of ethnic and religious minorities remained a deep concern, especially the proposed legislation that could criminalize membership in certain religious and ethnic groups.

Explaining that his report focused on conditions in detention and fair trial rights, the Special Rapporteur remarked that those issues were all the more significant in the aftermath of the security forces’ severe crackdown against nationwide protests in November 2019. At least 7,000 people had been reportedly detained. He was deeply concerned that the serious deficiencies in law and practice that he had found would impact the protestors who had been detained. Individuals charged with national security offences, which often included peaceful human rights defenders, journalists and labour rights activists, were denied their due process right to choose their own lawyer. Proposed amendments would further deny the right to any legal representation for at least the first 20 days after arrest, the Special Rapporteur underlined. Another concern was the use of forced confessions, the use of solitary confinement contrary to the Nelson Mandela rules, overcrowding, poor nutrition and lack of hygiene, and the use of torture and ill-treatment in detention. Mr. Rehman urged Iran to uphold its human rights obligations and to bring detention conditions and practices in line with international standards.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Iran, speaking as the concerned country, said it spoke as the targeted country, not the concerned one. This was not the first time that Iran was targeted, nor was this the only forum which was abused and manipulated to do so. As recently as 3 January, Iran’s iconic defender of human rights and dignity, Qasem Sulaimani, had been targeted and assassinated in an outrageous breach of all international norms and standards. As Iran mobilized all its capacity and resources to contain the COVID19 virus outbreak, the United States’ senseless sanctions continued to target the basic rights of Iranian people. The United States was even tightening sanctions to further hamper the fight against the corona epidemic. States sponsoring the resolution and the mandate were hypocrites as this was an injustice to the Human Rights Council. The sponsors lacked any moral high ground to talk about Iran’s human rights, while actively contributing to drastic, systematic violations of the human rights of Iranians. A mandate which was flawed could hardly produce a plausible outcome. The report was just an updated version of a yearly ritual designed to stigmatize the Iranian nation. The report was inherently flawed because it was based on an innately prejudiced mandate and an overly politicized agenda. It was far from a reflection of Iran’s continuing progress in human rights performance. The report patched together sporadic cases of alleged violations with the help of biased sources. Human rights were a common cause, and all countries needed to act together to ensure their promotion and protection. Iran believed in engagement and interaction. Iran had actively supported the Universal Periodic Review mechanism through all of its cycles, and it was actively communicating with the Special Procedures. Country specific resolutions establishing monitoring mandates were harmful and counterproductive to human rights, and as such Iran called for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to be discontinued.

Source: UN Human Rights Council