High Commissioner for Human Rights Presents Oral Updates on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and on Venezuela, Council Starts General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention
The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. It heard the High Commissioner for Human Rights present oral updates on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and then started its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.
Yanghee Lee, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, speaking via video conference, presented her last report to the Council. She noted the serious nature of the conflict in Myanmar, the violence experienced by people in Rakhine state, and the recent Internet blackout extended to nine townships affecting more than 1 million people, mostly in Rakhine state. She noted the number of students arrested, as well as a crackdown on journalists. People in rural areas were being imprisoned for resisting the confiscation of their lands. Those who challenged environmental destruction were also risking their freedom. An end to impunity was the lynchpin for Myanmar to succeed in its transition to democracy.
Myanmar, speaking as the concerned country, noted that sustainable peace and development were two sides of the same coin that was an inevitable part of the path towards democracy and the realization of human rights in Myanmar. The democratically elected Government of Myanmar had faced numerous challenges in numerous sectors since taking office in 2016. Progress had been made on national reconciliation and the peace process with the signing of a nationwide cease-fire agreement in January 2020. Repatriation was the first priority of the Government and it had been working with regional partners to facilitate the repatriation process.
In the discussion on Myanmar, speakers called on the Government to facilitate the safe return of Rohingya refugees, to address pervasive hate speech that targeted minorities in the country, and to end the Internet shutdown in parts of Rakhine and Chin states. They also called for the Government to ensure that the 2020 elections were free and fair. States asked Myanmar to lift restrictions on political activists, and to cooperate with the work of the future Special Rapporteur. There were calls for the international community to support accountability efforts, including the International Criminal Court investigation, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, and the International Court of Justice’s preliminary ruling on provisional measures. Some States recognized the complex nature of the situation in Rakhine state, noting it should be approached objectively and comprehensively. These regretted that the Special Rapporteur had consistently assailed the credibility of the Independent Commission of Enquiry since its inception, rather than encourage domestic accountability efforts.
Speaking in the discussion on Myanmar were Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), the European Union, Viet Nam (on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations), Czech Republic, Canada, Bangladesh, Estonia, Australia, Afghanistan, Liechtenstein, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, France, Philippines, Luxembourg, Sierra Leone, Costa Rica, Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark, Croatia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Greece, Republic of Korea, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Thailand, Sweden, Indonesia, Albania, Maldives, China, Nepal, Belgium, United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway, Malaysia, Cambodia, Marshall Islands, Ireland, Viet Nam, Switzerland, Spain and Belarus.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organization: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Physicians for Human Rights, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, International Commission of Jurists, Save the Children International, International Educational Development Inc, Association for Progressive Communications, Amnesty International, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, and CIVICUS – World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
The Council then concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic. The first part of the dialogue was held at the previous meeting, and a summary can be found here.
In the discussion, Speakers regretted the increase in human loss and the destruction of infrastructure in Syria, noting that the main cause for the Syrian crisis was foreign interference without respect for Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Five foreign armies were present in Syria. Some speakers condemned Turkey’s invasion of Afrin and north-eastern Syria where mass human rights violations had taken place. Those speakers expressed grave concern about reports of social and demographic engineering throughout Syria, including in the northeast. There was no military solution to the conflict in Syria, speakers emphasized, opposing any attempt to use the conflict in Syria to destabilize the entire region. Some speakers said that the report of the Commission of Inquiry was unbalanced and its methodology doubtful because of distance and selective interviews, and it was impossible to guarantee the objectivity and reliability of the information presented in the report.
Speaking on Syria were Iraq, Belarus, Bahrain, Cuba, Japan, Luxembourg, Kuwait, Netherlands, Chile, New Zealand, United Arab Emirates, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Egypt, Greece, Russia, Uruguay, Iran, Turkey, Democratic People’s Republic of Korean, Venezuela, Indonesia, Albania, Maldives, Malta, China, Georgia, Belgium, United Kingdom, Marshall Islands, Romania, Australia, Ecuador, Italy, France, Armenia and Spain.
Also taking the floor were the following civil society organization: Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Physicians for Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders International, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Union of Arab Jurists, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, Amnesty International, The Palestinian Return Centre Ltd, World Evangelical Alliance, and Khiam Rehabilitation Centre for Victims of Torture.
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, then provided oral updates on the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. She said that in line with resolutions 34/24 and 40/20, the Office of the High Commissioner had strengthened its monitoring of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This work indicated that systematic human rights violations, including sexual violence against women and girls, was taking place. This occurred under the direct authority of two ministries, and could constitute crimes against humanity.
On the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, the High Commissioner noted that the security forces had blocked opposition politicians from accessing the legislature, and her office had documented aggression towards journalists and opposition political activists, as well as seizures of the property of non-governmental organizations. Human rights organizations funded from abroad had been sanctioned, and trade union leaders harassed. New economic sanctions were affecting the population, and specific sanctions targeting the oil industry hampered the importation of food, medication and humanitarian aid.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not take the floor as a concerned country.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, speaking as a concerned country, regretted that the presentation of the High Commissioner’s oral update was lacking in terms of objectivity and methodology. Council resolution 45/25 was a politically motivated resolution aimed at drafting a report that was riddled with lies. Ultimately, it was wasting the limited resources at the disposal of the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Venezuela stressed the negative effect of unilateral coercive measures on the human rights of its citizens.
In the general debate on human rights situations that require the attention of the Council, speakers called for an end to politicization and double standards in the work of the Human Rights Council, noting that all human rights should be treated equally, including the right to development. Some speakers denounced the rise in hate speech and Islamophobia, and opposed discussions which violated the principles of universality and non-selectivity in the promotion and protection of human rights. They highlighted the importance of the Universal Periodic Review in addressing human rights situations based on cooperation and dialogue.
Speaking in the general debate were: Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Venezuela (on behalf of a group of countries), Peru (on behalf of a group of countries), and Croatia (on behalf of the European Union).
The meetings of the forty-third regular session of the Human Rights Council can be followed on the webcast of UN Web TV
The Council will next meet today at 3 p.m. in the Assembly Hall to continue its general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.
Source: UN HRC