Council: debate on some new situations as DRC fails to follow-up killing of Floribert Chebeya
Monday, 27 September 2010 11:23


On 17 and 20 September, the Human Rights Council (the Council) held a general debate on 'human rights situations that require the Council's attention' under agenda Item 4. As on previous occasions, the debate was clearly polarised. Around 30 States and more than 40 NGOs took part in the general debate. While some States denounced human rights violations in specific countries, other speakers said the practice of 'naming and shaming' was counterproductive and reflected the continued double standards in dealing with human rights (Russian Federation, Myanmar).


A number of systemic human rights violations were raised, including Iran, Myanmar and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which have been raised by States since the Council's inception. However, some new situations and aspects were highlighted. Norway mentioned the deteriorating situation of political opponents and trade unionists in Swaziland, which has not previously been discussed by the Council.


In response to a debate they called 'marked by selectivity and attacks', some States including China, Cuba, and Iran expressed concerns about human rights abuses in some European Union States. They claimed in particular that ethnic groups, such as the Roma, and religious minorities, such as Muslims, face serious discrimination. They urged States to address such discrimination. Interestingly, Switzerland also expressed concern about the discrimination against Roma and travellers in Europe. 


The situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was addressed by several States (the EU, the US, Japan, Switzerland, and Australia). They condemned the latest reports of systematic sexual violence perpetrated by armed groups in the eastern part of the country and called on the Government to enhance its efforts to fight impunity, strengthen security and implement effective measures for investigation to bring perpetrators to justice. France, the UK and Ireland asked the Government for updated information on the investigation into the killing of Floribert Chebeya, a prominent human rights defender murdered in June 2010. Unfortunately, the Government missed the opportunity to provide follow-up information on this case.


Continued human rights violations in Iran were condemned by the EU, the US and Israel. They condemned the prosecution of political opponents, the persecution of members of the Baha'i faith, the continued application of the death penalty and restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly and religion, as well as the use of violence, intimidation and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and political activists. These States also called on Iran to respect its international commitments, and urged it to terminate the barbaric practice of stoning.


Many States (the EU, the US, Japan, Switzerland and Australia) condemned the gross and systematic violations of human rights in Myanmar and expressed concern about the legitimacy of the upcoming election in November. In this regard, the Czech Republic suggested a commission of inquiry should be set up, with a specific fact finding mandate to address the question of international crimes. The Czech Republic recalled that the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Mr Tomàs Ojea Quintana, has made this recommendation to the Council in March 2010. It joined the Special Rapporteur in arguing the human rights violations in Myanmar may amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes under the terms of the Rome Statute.


The lack of any improvement in the human rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the disrespect of many human rights was of concern for a number of States (the EU, the US, Japan, Israel). Denmark deplored the severe malnutrition and health problems for the population in the DPRK.


The EU was concerned at the intensification of armed violence in Somalia, which illustrated the urgent need to pursue national reconciliation and to build up a functioning security sector. In light of the internal conflict, continued fighting and the worsened humanitarian situation, Austria referred to the plea by the Independent Expert on Somalia to improve the protection of civilians. In addition, Denmark urged the UN to assist the Government in meeting the needs for humanitarian assistance and addressing human rights abuses.


The situation in the Sudan remained of serious concern for several States, which called upon the Government to ensure the protection of all human rights in the run-up to and following the referendum next January. In this regard, Norway reiterated that respect for fundamental human rights of all was one of the key principles in the Sudan's Comprehensive Peace Agreement. In view of this, the EU and the US hoped the mandate of the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Sudan would be extended.


Other situations raised included Bahrain, Belarus, Cuba, Swaziland, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Zimbabwe, Fiji, Cambodia, Eritrea, and the violations of human rights occurring in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 14:09
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