Human Rights Council holds debate on situations of human rights violations
Friday, 11 June 2010 16:35

The Human Rights Council (the Council) held a generate debate on item 4, ‘Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention’ on 8 and 9 June 2010. The debate was clearly polarised. In addition to a broad survey of human rights violations across many regions, the debate also witnessed a significant number of comments on alleged ‘politicisation’ of the Council. The situations raised were largely similar to those brought to the Council’s attention at previous sessions.


As at previous sessions, around 30 States and more than 60 NGOs took part in the debate. Unfortunately, the President did not uphold the speaking time limits in an equal manner. While the time for NGOs was reduced to two minutes prior to the start of the debate, the clock for some States was not running. This led to several States speaking for up to eight minutes, instead of the allowed three.


The recent killing of prominent human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) drew widespread condemnation and concern, with a large number of States including Spain, France, Japan, the UK, Slovenia, Slovakia, USA, Belgium, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Luxembourg calling for additional information surrounding his death, and an independent, impartial and transparent investigation. In exercising its right of reply, the DRC noted that the director of the police has been suspended, and that four forensic experts from the Netherlands would be joining the chief prosecutor in conducting an autopsy.


Prior to starting the general debate on item 4, the Council decided to postpone consideration of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. The Special Rapporteur was unable to present his report for medical reasons. Because the Special Rapporteur’s mandate would have expired in June 2010 without a decision to renew it, the Special Rapporteur was authorised to continue carrying out his mandate until a decision on this could be taken at the September session. 


A handful of States received the greatest deal of attention. The situation in Iran was raised by nineteen States,Spain, France, Norway, Japan, UK, Slovenia, Slovakia, USA, Netherlands, New Zealand, Denmark, Austria, Australia, Sweden, Ireland, Israel, Canada, Czech Republic, Luxembourg  on issues primarily surrounding post-election violence in 2009, the subsequent crackdown, and the lack of impartial, transparent, and independent investigations. Concerns were also raised over rape and torture in prisons, persecution of minorities (specifically the Baha’i), lack of freedom of the media, and execution of juvenile offenders. A number of States raised the situation in the Sudan.Spain, France, Norway, UK, Slovakia, Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Czech Republic  This was brought up particularly in regards to irregularities in recent elections, violations of women’s rights, freedom of the press, arbitrary arrest and torture, and calls for the Council to extend the mandate of the Independent Expert on the Sudan. Regarding Sri Lanka, many StatesSpain, Norway, Japan, Slovenia, Slovakia, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Czech Republic  expressed concern over the situation of journalists and human rights defenders, specifically abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions, and the lack of an independent mechanism to investigate human rights violations committed during the final phase of the armed conflict there. Additionally, there were calls for Myanmar to free prisoners of conscience, and ensure free, fair, and transparent elections; and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korean (DPRK) was criticised for its human rights situation in general, including widespread hunger, and abuses in labour camps.


In a relatively novel approach, Germany focused on the situation of torture in various countries. Although concerns over China and Iran were raised specifically, Germany also highlighted positive developments including visits by special procedures to Georgia, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Denmark, as well as recently published guidelines that disallow the use of evidence obtained from torture in the Chinese legal system.


European and North American States were also subject to criticism for specific human rights violations. Pakistan in particular accused the European Union (EU) of hypocrisy, and raised issues of discrimination on racial and religious grounds in France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Germany among others. China highlighted high rates of unemployment in the EU, and noted continuing discrimination against Roma and Muslim minorities. China along with Iran also raised issues of racial discrimination and unequal access to employment, housing, education, and justice in the United States of America (USA). Iran took the opportunity to raise concerns over Canada’s treatment of indigenous communities. Cuba, however, neglected to use its time to note specific human rights concerns, and instead lectured the Council on ‘double standards’, the ‘hegemonic vision’ of the West, and the status of the Council as a ‘courtroom for countries of the South’. Non-constructive accusations of politicisation can only further shift attention away from serious and ongoing human rights violations in countries in all regions of the world.


Other States that were mentioned during the general debate included China (persecution of minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet, administrative or financial controls on civil society organisations and NGOs); Pakistan (recent attacks against a group of Ahmadis); Syria (calls for release of political prisoners); Thailand (concern over recent political protests and violence in Bangkok); Afghanistan (high numbers of civilian deaths); Kyrgyzstan (calls for restoration of all democratic institutions); Belarus (concern over the continued use of the death penalty); Cuba (harassment of civil society activists); Venezuela (harassment of the media); Vietnam (arrests of political activist, lawyers, and journalists); Zimbabwe (land seizures, restrictions on press freedom); Malawi (decriminalisation of homosexual activity between consenting adults); Burundi (freedom of expression of NGOs); Guatemala (transparency of the judiciary); Fiji (calls for return to democratic rule); and the occupied Palestinian territories (evictions and demolition of homes).


A number of other issues were raised by NGOs that had not been touched upon by States, including the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender persons in Nigeria.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:03
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