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Sixty-ninth session,
33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4113

United Nations Expert Relays ‘Loud and Clear’ Message from Palestinians: End Impunity, Blockade, Occupation, Third Committee Hears

Speakers Also Discuss Myanmar, Deliver National, Regional Updates on Human Rights Efforts, Highlighting Concerns

With thousands of unexploded ordnances still littering neighbourhoods and winter fast approaching, accelerated efforts were needed to swiftly deliver humanitarian relief and reconstruction materials to Gaza, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today during interactive dialogues with experts, as it continued its debate on human rights.

“I am shocked by the devastating impact of the 50-day war in Gaza on Palestinian civilians, but particularly on children, who continued to live with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of family, friends and neighbours,” said Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.  More than 500 Palestinian children were killed, and over 200 schools had been damaged, he told the delegates.

The war in Gaza lasting from July through August had ravaged civilian life, he added, while in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces and settlement construction continued to cause serious concerns.  Aware of Israel’s concerns relating to the one-sided wording and open-ended nature of the mandate, he said it was in Israel’s own interest to grant his mandate full and unhindered access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

For his part, he told delegates that he was responsible for giving a voice to the victims of human rights violations, offering an objective assessment and making recommendations that might improve the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  “Voices from across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] were loud and clear on three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation,” he said.

Echoing that sentiment were several delegates who took the floor in the ensuing interactive dialogue.  They called for an immediate end to the occupation and a resumption of peace talks based on a two-State solution.  Other speakers urged Israel to allow the Special Rapporteur’s country visits, while acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine called on the Special Rapporteur not to use flexibility while dealing with the occupying Power, especially in light of its aggression against the people of Gaza during the summer.  He then called on the Special Rapporteur to be vigilant and strong in dealing with Israel and its aggressive and illegal behaviour.  He also asked the international community to address Israel’s violation of related laws.

A representative of Israel underlined his country’s efforts to end the fighting, as well as to minimize casualties, underscoring that the Israeli Defense Forces had done their “utmost”, unlike other military forces, to prevent civilian casualties.  The reason why the fighting did not end and casualties persisted was that rocket launchers were placed in schools and hospitals were used as headquarters by Hamas.  He regretted every loss of life, both Palestinian and Israeli.

Also addressing the Committee was Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar.  Part of his mandate was to assist the country’s transition to democracy and its national reconciliation process and to help further the situation of human rights.  The 2015 elections would be a crucial future test of the reform process.  “Public attention, both inside the country and outside, is focused on how far the election bodies will go to ensure a smooth and successful electoral process,” he said.

Also speaking today were representatives from Myanmar, United Kingdom, Norway, Suriname (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Tonga (national capacity and on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States), Malaysia (on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), United States, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Russian Federation, Iran, Maldives, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Syria, Brazil, South Africa, Cuba, Australia, India, Japan, Switzerland, Mexico, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Peru, China, Singapore, Liechtenstein, United Arab Emirates, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Norway, Colombia, Egypt, Iraq, Serbia, Ethiopia and Qatar, as well as the Holy See and the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Thailand, Israel, Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 30 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee met this morning to continue its consideration of the protection and promotion of human rights, with two experts expected to present reports and engage in interactive dialogues.  For background, see Press Releases GA/SHC/4108 of 22 October.

Also before the Committee were letters to the Secretary-General from representatives of Iran (document A/C.3/69/2), Myanmar (document A/C.3/69/4) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/C.3/69/5).

Interactive Debate

VIJAY NAMBIAR, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Myanmar, said his mandate was to assist the country’s transition to democracy, as well as in its national reconciliation process and to help further the situation of human rights.  The democratic reforms affecting the political process, he continued, had moved smoothly with an actively functioning Parliament, enactment of new laws guaranteeing human rights and political freedoms, the release of political prisoners and incremental steps to establish a free and robust media environment.  However, the reform and opening-up had unleashed negative forces, encouraged narrowed prejudices and caused communal polarization across the country.

Turning to economic reforms, he noted that measures had been initiated to strengthen region-based planning and management to provide for more inclusive growth.  Technical assistance was also being sought to address issues regarding the graduation of Myanmar from its least developed country status.  A crucial future test of the reform process would be the 2015 election, he added, and there were strong expectations for a credible, inclusive and transparent process.  “Public attention, both inside the country and outside, is focused on how far the election bodies will go to ensure a smooth and successful electoral process,” he said.  It would be critical for authorities to uphold equal rights for all citizens, without discrimination, to be able to participate in and run for any political office, including the highest in the land.

He said his report provided details of key developments in the spheres of political reforms, human rights, national reconciliation, socio-economic development and the evolving situation in Rakhine State.  Meanwhile, authorities were undertaking a verification exercise in Rakhine to process the granting of citizenship to persons who had so far been denied that status.  While the question of citizenship would take time to be resolved, he called on the international community to continue its effective advocacy on humanitarian issues while also helping authorities tackle the abysmal poverty in Rakhine.  Myanmar must engage more constructively with the international community, he said, and foster greater confidence in the political and developmental measures.

In the interactive debate that followed, delegates asked about progress in political and economic reforms, the constitutional review process, the peace process, communal violence, cooperation with the United Nations, prospects for a nationwide ceasefire and Myanmar’s transition strategy.

A representative of Myanmar said, in dealing with human rights issues, his country had always opted for engagement, dialogue and cooperation rather than confrontation.  Despite his country’s strong opposition to country-specific resolutions, Myanmar had consistently cooperated with the United Nations Secretary-General and his good offices.

Responding to a volley of questions, Mr. NAMBIAR said that transformation was taking place in Myanmar, contributing to inclusive, transparent and sustainable changes.  Diverse communities needed to meet for national harmony and to discuss problems.  While polarization and emotions were still sharp, the Government’s policies should be supported as they contributed to harmony between communities.  On the transition strategy, he said, there were many promising signs across the country.

A crucial future test of the reform process would be the upcoming election in 2015, for which there were strong expectations for a credible, inclusive and transparent process.  Accordingly, it would be for the authorities to uphold equal rights for all citizens of the country to participate in and run for any political office.  The campaigning process must be hassle-free, open and transparent, he continued, noting that the international donor community, Member States and the United Nations country team were ready to help.

On the peace process, he said efforts for a nationwide ceasefire and a political dialogue between the Government and armed groups continued to gain momentum.  While there was an inadequate amount of assurance, it was important to continue high-level informal dialogues.

Participating in the interactive debate were the representatives of Myanmar, United Kingdom, and Norway, as well as the European Union.

Statements

HENRY LEONARD MAC-DONALD (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community, said the enjoyment of human rights was under severe pressure, hampered by pervasive poverty, increased inequalities, infectious diseases, armed conflicts, intolerance, terrorism, environmental degradation and natural disasters.  It was, therefore, crucial that everyone was entitled to a social and international order in which all human rights and fundamental freedoms could be realized.  At the regional level, leaders adopted a specific plan to devise strategies to secure sustained economic growth and a better quality of life for the people of the region, and to achieve sustainable development.

Sustainable development would not be achieved, he said, without adequate attention to ensuring the right to education and the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health and the right to an adequate standard of living, including the right to food.  Political leaders of the region, conscious of the critical role of health in the economic development of their people, had committed themselves to pursuing initiatives in order to improve the health status of their population, as “the health of the region is the wealth of the region”.  In addition, he noted that vulnerability, climate change, together with food security and nutrition were priority areas for the region.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga), speaking on behalf of the 12 Pacific Small Island Developing States, said that a decent standard of living and protection against calamities were not simply development goals, but also human rights.  All members of his group had sent submissions to the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review process.  Noting recent gains in gender equality within the education sector, he added that some trends had persisted, including a low political participation of women and high levels of violence.

Labour migration, he added, had a long history in his region.  His group supported appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks to protect migrant workers and their families from exploitation.  Environmentally forced migration was one facet of the problem of climate change, which was the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.  Climate change was a human rights issue for his group and he called on those with historical responsibility for climate change to make more ambitious targets to guarantee a sustainable future.

HUSSEIN HANIFF (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reaffirmed the group’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.  Welcoming ongoing efforts to fulfil its commitments, he said that the group was implementing the 2013 Priority Programmes and Activities of the Intergovernmental Commission.  In 2009, ASEAN had established the Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights to promote human rights in the 10 ASEAN countries, which unanimously adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012.  Accordingly, the Commission was a commitment to strengthen regional cooperation on human rights and peace, which were referenced in the ASEAN charter.  The group had also been conducting capacity-building activities and workshops to share experiences and best practices with Governments and civil society.

CAROL HAMILTON (United States) said the global situation of the promotion and protection of human rights was worsening.  In Syria, the atrocities that were being committed demanded a response.  Regarding Iran, she called for allowing the Special Rapporteur for that country to visit.  She voiced her concerns about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, notably the imprisonment of political opponents.  Turning to the expanded aerial bombardment in the area of the Blue Nile and limited humanitarian access in Sudan, she called on the Government to respect the universal human rights of its citizens, including freedom of speech.  She noted forced disappearances in China.  Regarding violent and arbitrary detention in Cuba, she called for the immediate release of Alan Gross, who was detained in that country for facilitating access to the Internet.  She also expressed concerns over the human rights situation in Crimea, Egypt and Venezuela, among others.

MARITZA CHAN (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said that the human rights of migrants was of particular concern.  States of origin, transit and destination must work together to find solutions to the challenges posed by migration.  Migrant children and adolescents were being exposed to grave abuses along the way due, in part, to a lack of human rights safeguards when migration was viewed as a threat to national security.

Deploring the current tendency of exploiting of migrants, she added that measures must be taken to protect migrants from activities of criminal groups.  CELAC members were committed to intensifying measures to prevent trafficking in all its forms.  The group also recognized the importance of the right of migrants to a safe, voluntary return to their countries of origin and the need to create opportunities for them.  Countries of origin must implement national policies and strategies that would discourage unsafe migration.

ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation) said the protection and promotion of human rights was a priority for his country, which was fully committed to fostering human rights and dignity.  Real progress in improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms could be made through constructive dialogue and cooperation.  However, he continued, some States thought human rights problems existed only in other countries and ignored their own problems, which were harmful to their societies.  Accordingly, human rights should not be seen as an instrument of foreign policy, he concluded.

MAKARIM WIBISONO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said he approached his mandate with independence, integrity and impartiality, and noted that all Member States should cooperate with human rights mechanisms.  Engagement was a manifestation of the responsibility of Member States to respect and protect human rights.  While he was aware of Israel’s concerns relating to the one-sided wording and open-ended nature of the mandate, he said it was in Israel’s own interest to grant his mandate full and unhindered access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  However, he was denied access to that Territory during his first official mission to the region last month.

The current report had been drafted prior to that mission, he said, before he had been able to directly question Palestinian victims and various witnesses.  He would present his first substantive report to the Human Rights Council in March 2015.  Sharing some key preliminary impressions from his first mission, he said he was shocked by the devastating impact of the 50-day war in Gaza on Palestinian civilians, but particularly on children, who continued to live with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of family, friends and neighbours.  During that war, more than 500 Palestinian children were killed.  He had been informed that over 200 schools were damaged and thousands of unexploded ordnances continued to litter neighbourhoods in Gaza.

He stressed the importance of accelerating humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts in Gaza with the imminent approach of winter and urged Israel to implement in good faith the Gaza reconstruction mechanism brokered by the United Nations.  In the West Bank and Jerusalem, there were areas of serious concern, including the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians, including during demonstrations and search operations within refugee camps, the detention and ill-treatment of children, the thousands of Bedouin and herder communities at risk of forcible transfer, continuing settlement construction and expansion and repeated provocations at holy sites in Jerusalem.  “Voices from across the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territory] were loud and clear on three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade and an end to the occupation,” he said.

Following the presentation, delegates took the floor to make comments and ask questions.  Some delegates said the international community had witnessed Israeli bombardments in Gaza during the summer, urging Israel to respect human rights law.  The recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people was necessary to begin peace talks, a number of delegates said, calling for an immediate end to the occupation and a resumption of peace talks based on a two-State solution.

Some delegates applauded Israel’s resumption of talks with the Special Rapporteur and condemned the bombardment done by Hamas and their use of civilians as human shields.  Acknowledging Israel’s right to defend itself, some speakers urged Israel to allow the Special Rapporteur’s country visits.

The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine called on the Special Rapporteur not to use flexibility while dealing with the occupying Power, especially in light of its aggression against the people of Gaza during the summer.  He then called on the Special Rapporteur to be vigilant and strong in dealing with Israel and its aggressive and illegal behaviour.  He also asked the international community to address Israel’s violation of related laws.

A representative of Israel noted that the same delegates that were against the use of country-specific mandates had supported that measure when it related to his country.  He then underlined his country’s efforts to end the fighting, as well as to minimize casualties, underscoring that the Israeli Defense Forces had done their “utmost”, unlike other military forces, to prevent civil casualties.  The reason why the fighting did not end and casualties persisted was that rocket launchers were placed in schools and hospitals were used as headquarters by Hamas.  He regretted every loss of life, both Palestinian and Israeli.

Questions posed to the Special Rapporteur related to his future plans on country visits, his vision for the implementation of the mandate, his plan of action to deal with obstacles to visiting Israel and his contact with the Commission of Inquiry and their division of labour.  Other questions related to the treatment of Palestinian children in Israeli prisons and the use of force by the Israeli Defense Forces in the West Bank.

Responding to a range of questions, Mr. WIBISONO said he would like to visit the region before he completed his report, which would be submitted during the first week of January 2015.  Human beings were born equally without any distinction.  Accordingly, all United Nations Member States should cooperate with human rights mechanisms, whether with the Human Rights Committee, Commissions of Inquiry or independent mandate holders of the Human Rights Council.  For his part, he was responsible for giving a voice to the victims of human rights violations, offering an objective assessment and making recommendations that might improve the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  With regard to the situation in the region, he noted that combatants and civilians needed to be separated.  Concluding, he was worried that Palestinian civilians, and particularly women, elderly people and children, were living with injuries and the trauma of witnessing the deaths of their families.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives from Iran, Maldives, Indonesia, Egypt, Germany, Cuba, Venezuela, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, Syria, Brazil, South Africa and Norway, as well as the European Union Delegation.

JAIRO RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said the Government of the United States should act responsibly and respect his country’s desires, specifically with regard to Cuban citizens imprisoned in the United States.  Reaffirming Cuba’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, he said the international community should focus on human beings.  Accordingly, the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review was an appropriate instrument to address human rights problems.  Concluding, he said that respect for diversity and the right to self-determination should be a cornerstone of human rights values and major obstacles and challenges needed to be addressed with transparent dialogues.

MOHAMMAD GHAEBI (Iran) said that ensuring cultural diversity was only possible when cultural rights were protected and guaranteed for everyone.  Dangerous trends emanating from cultural superiority and religious sanctions had in recent years harmed conceptual aspects of human rights.  Certain States imposing unilateralism would ultimately lead to the erosion of the noble goals and principles of the United Nations Charter, international law and international human rights law.  His Government welcomed the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

TANISHA HEWANPOLA (Australia) said respect for human rights was a cornerstone of Australian values.  Her country had a proud history of promoting and protecting human rights as inherent, universal and indivisible.  In its region, Australia remained deeply concerned by the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Accordingly, her country urged the Government of that country to heed the Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations and to take immediate steps to provide its people with the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments.  Every human being was born free and equal and in dignity, she said, adding that preserving and protecting human rights was essential not only to defend the individual but also to safeguard societies and economies.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) said that the social dimension of sustainable development needed to be strengthened in an inclusive manner.  The post-2015 development strategy must continue to prioritize the eradication of poverty as its central objective.  India’s developmental strategy over the last two decades had produced positive results; policies and programmes envisaged the engendering of development planning and giving priority to women and children from the poorest and weakest communities.  The Government had also launched initiatives to extend the reach of banking to those outside the formal financial system.  The Right to Education Act of 2009 had led to education in India becoming “more or less” universalized, with most children in school, he concluded.

YOSHIFUMI OKAMURA (Japan) said his country attached great importance to human rights, democracy and the rule of law as universal values.  The special procedures for country-specific mandates and Commission of Inquiry were indispensable tools for tackling human rights violations around the world in a strong and timely manner.  He was concerned about the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The report of the Commission on that country revealed numerous human rights violations, including political prison camps and abductions.  Accordingly, Japan and the European Union had co-tabled a draft resolution on the issue.  His country hoped that the draft text would be adopted and would gain broad support from Member States.  Also criticizing the human rights violations in Syria, Iran, Myanmar and Cambodia, he said all Governments should make continuous efforts for the realization of human rights for all.

CHRISTINE ELISABETH LOEW (Switzerland) said that human rights defenders faced many obstacles in carrying out their work, and these abuses constituted serious violations of the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.  Opposing the use of the death penalty anywhere and in any circumstances, her Government had in 2013 submitted a resolution to the Human Rights Council asking, among other things, for the Secretary-General to present a report on human rights violations arising from the imposition of the death penalty.  Sustainable development and economic growth could only be achieved if women and girls enjoyed the same rights as men and boys, so the economic and political empowerment of women, as well as several specific problems suffered by women, had to be explicitly included as goals in the post-2015 agenda.

ELISA DIAZ GRAS (Mexico) said that her country attached great importance to the international human rights system.  Mexico maintained close relations with the United Nations system, including its entities, which provided invaluable technical assistance and recommendations.  The Government had introduced constitutional reforms in the area of human rights.  In that regard, programmes had been developed to eliminate discrimination against women and people with disabilities.  For its part, Mexico would continue to work to address human rights challenges and to ensure that the rights were enjoyed by all citizens in her country.

CHAYAPAN BAMRUNGPHONG (Thailand) said, as a nation was judged on the basis of how it treated its weakest members, welfare-oriented measures were being implemented through comprehensive plans and mechanisms to protect the rights of vulnerable groups, namely children, women, persons with disabilities and the elderly.  The social security system, he continued, provided free education for all children, as well as universal health coverage.  Recognizing that human rights required a supportive environment cushioned by the rule of law, good governance and sustainable development, the Government had adopted a comprehensive reform initiative that aimed at strengthening democratic governance to ensure the realization of human rights and the well-being of all its citizens.

RANIA TALAL ABDULBAQI (Saudi Arabia) said that the United Nations fact-finding mission should be given entry to investigate violations and crimes that Israel had committed on Palestinian land.  She urged swift action to end the Syrian people’s suffering.  Muslims around the world were experiencing persecution, she said, and the development of a legally binding instrument to prevent intolerance, discrimination and hatred based on religion should be accelerated.  Her Government reaffirmed its rejection of use of the principle of “universality of human rights” as a pretext to intervene in matters that belonged to the internal jurisdiction of States.  Nationally, her Government was keen to establish a fair and effective justice system based on solid foundations derived from Islamic Sharia, as the rule of law was crucial to the maintenance of peace and security and the promotion and protection of human rights.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) said his country was dedicated to pursuing the promotion and protection of human rights, all fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law.  All its citizens had equal rights.  To guarantee the upholding of human rights, Peru had ensured that national legislation was consistent with international standards.  However, extreme poverty continued to be a major challenge in the country.  Accordingly, he said, States had a responsibility to implement social protection measures to combat extreme poverty.  Concluding, he said, more work needed to be done, especially to protect the rights of the most vulnerable, including women and children.

WANG MIN (China) said that as the right to life was the basis of all other rights, world peace had to be safeguarded.  International cooperation against terrorism had to be strengthened and interfaith dialogue and exchanges must be improved to achieve harmonious coexistence.  As civil and political rights, and economic and development rights were two sides of the same coin, both must be promoted.  Autonomous choice must be respected and peoples of various countries must choose their own priorities in the field of human rights.  Constructive dialogue represented the future direction of human rights.  On a basis of mutual respect, countries should learn from each other.  The international community should oppose the politicization of human rights.  Strongly opposing attacks against China made by the United States delegate in her statement, he said his delegation rejected those fabrications.  The United States had unsolvable human rights problems, but wanted only to criticize others, which was, indeed, ridiculous, he concluded.

YASMIN ALI (Singapore) said her country was committed to promoting and protecting the rights of each individual.  However, since individuals lived in societies and communities, their rights and freedoms could not be unbridled.  As a small, young city-State with a multiracial and multireligious population, she said Singapore sought to balance the exercise of individual rights with the shouldering of responsibilities of societal rights.  That “formula” was not imposed on anyone else, underscoring the belief that no country or grouping had the right to impose their views on human rights, as it could result in polarized societies, with damaging consequences.

STEFAN BARRIGA (Liechtenstein) said human rights had been under attack on many different fronts, including violent conflicts and extremism, authoritarian regimes, discrimination and xenophobia, poverty and exclusion, disease and climate change.  However, his country was concerned particularly about the rise of religious intolerance, including the persecution of religious groups and rise of anti-Semitism.  In addition, violence committed in the name of religion had taken on new proportions, mostly due to the ill-named “Islamic State” [also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS)], which was “neither Islamic, nor a State”.  The state of human rights worldwide today did not require “alternative approaches” to the effective enjoyment of human rights.  What it required was an application of the core values of past commitments, as exemplified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, especially since human rights challenges were growing ever more complex.

SUOOD RASHED ALI ALWALI ALMAZROUEI (United Arab Emirates) said his Government had made significant progress in the area of human rights, including signing a number of international conventions such as the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  On gender equality, his Government had promoted initiatives for girls in education.  Legislative reform in all areas had also been undertaken, he said.  His Government was considering withdrawing its reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was in the process of acceding to the Optional Protocol.  He underscored his Government’s commitment to guaranteeing human rights and fundamental freedoms.

CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) said there must be a strict respect for “sovereignty”, which was the lifeline for every nation.  However, the United States and other western countries had engaged in interference in other countries’ internal affairs.  With regards to the politicization of double standards in human rights, he said western countries behaved as human rights judges in developing countries, trying to impose collective action on others.  Despite economic sanctions imposed by hostile forces, his country had been implementing measures to ensure that human rights were fully enjoyed.  Concluding, he said western countries needed to mind their own business rather than singling out his country.

MOHAMAD ZAMRI (Malaysia) said that human rights were interdependent and interrelated.  The promotion of human rights had to be undertaken by all countries and every State had an inalienable right to choose its own system without any other State’s interference.  As the international community moved towards a globalized world, there was an obligation to ensure the promotion and protection of social, political and economic rights.  His Government was convinced that a mutually beneficial relationship with the Human Rights Council promoted the advancement of human rights in Malaysia.  Dialogue with Member States during the universal periodic review was appreciated, as that had afforded an opportunity to take stock of challenges in ensuring human rights for the whole population.  The right to development was another significant aspect of human rights.  He reaffirmed the importance his Government attached to the promotion and protection of human rights at national, regional and international levels.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) said Governments had the primary responsibility to promote and protect human rights.  However, many States had failed to meet their obligation to build inclusive and open societies.  The prevention of grave human rights violations and emergencies must be an immediate and urgent priority for the international community.  In that regard, the United Nations had a key role to play, she stressed.  Despite efforts to protect and promote human rights, Norway was deeply concerned that journalists were being harassed, rape was being used as a weapon of war, religious minorities were facing discrimination and people were being politically oppressed.  Concluding, she called upon the United Nations system, Member States and civil society to support protection of human rights.

MARÍA PAULINA DÁVILA (Colombia) said that progress made and initiatives undertaken by her country regarding its human rights and international humanitarian law policy had been explained during the country’s universal periodic review in Geneva.  A number of normative and institutional changes had focused on ensuring the universal enjoyment of human rights.  The main progress made by Colombia had occurred in two main areas: guaranteeing the human rights of the entire population and of victims.  In that way, her Government aimed to lay the foundation for putting an end to conflict in her country.  A total of 6.6 million victims had been identified to whom compensation, care, assistance and reparations were being provided.  The Government had created a national protective unit, which was the result of its ongoing dialogue with human rights organizations.

OSAMA ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that countries must refrain from all forms of discrimination and racism.  They must also eliminate double standards, which triggered violence and extremism.  On the promotion and protection of human rights, his country had made significant progress, and was moving steadily.  However, the statement delivered by the representative of the United States was totally inappropriate, and there was no will to understand the overall situation, he continued.  In that regard, he said, his country did not need to be lectured by the delegation of United States.

YAHYA AL-OBAIDI (Iraq) said that by the end of April 2013, the Iraqi people had completed parliamentary elections despite the poor security conditions.  Many parts of Iraq had been subjected to terrorist attacks by the entity known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant/Sham (ISIL/ISIS).  Numerous human rights violations had been committed, including mass executions of Iraqi prisoners, forced migration, indiscriminate killing and sexual violations, as well as the imposition of practices that had nothing to do with Islam.  Shrines and temples had been demolished.  Collectively, the terrorist attacks against Iraq, in regions under ISIL control and in other regions, all aimed to deprive citizens of their right to live in dignity.  An alliance had been formed to fight ISIL and his Government extended its thanks to all that had supported his country.  He called upon the international community to continue to support his country in its war against terrorism and to provide humanitarian assistance to those affected by terrorists.

BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer of the Holy See, said the right to life as enshrined in natural law and protected by international human rights laws was at the foundation of all human rights, reaffirming that all life must be fully protected in all its stages from conception until natural death.  Welcoming the reduction in the last two years of the recourse to the death penalty, he recommended the abolition of life imprisonment, which could be defined as a “hidden death penalty”, as it also excluded all possibilities of redemption and recuperation.  Recognizing that the right of thought, conscience and religion continued to face serious challenges around the world, he called for the strengthening of the international human rights system.

MILAN MILANOVIĆ (Serbia) said, as a multi-ethnic country, it attached special attention to the rights of minorities, especially the right to language and script.  On the Roma minorities, he noted efforts being made to improve housing conditions, increase employment in public administration and to give special attention to families in flood-affected areas.  Turning to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) population, he said awareness-raising efforts targeting security and public administration officials were being made.  In addition, social workers were being trained in matters related to LGBT persons and their families.

HUDA MOHAMED (Ethiopia) said her country’s development strategy fully recognized the human rights of all citizens, allowing them to take part in decision-making.  Ethiopia had worked with the United Nations human rights entities on a number of initiatives that aimed at further strengthening the human rights system in her country.  In that regard, the Government had taken concrete steps in the areas of freedom of religion and arbitrary arrest and detention.  Despite notable progress made in the last years, Ethiopia needed financial and technical support to implement its human rights obligations.

AL-ANOUD AL-TEMIMI (Qatar) said that her Government’s commitment was demonstrated in the fact that its day of human rights was an important national occasion.  Many institutions had been established, including a department of human rights in the Foreign Ministry, a national committee and a centre for religious dialogue in Doha, which played a major role in the promotion of rights.  She hailed the creation of the United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia and the Arab Region, and noted that the Secretary-General had attached great importance to its work.  Qatar’s election for the third time to the Human Rights Council also showed her Government’s commitment to promoting and protecting human rights throughout the world.

Right of Reply

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Thailand addressed the issue of intervention, saying that it was necessary to take steps to prevent further violence in her country.  After that intervention, Thailand returned to stability, strengthening its democratic governance with respect to the rule of law, she said.

A representative of Israel, in exercise of the right of reply, said that Gaza was being controlled by Hamas, which was very close to ISIL.  With regards to the excessive use of force by Israeli security forces against Palestinians, he said his country had a right to self-defence like others did.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, a representative of Japan said despite claims by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country had maintained the recognition of its history.

In response, a representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said Japan had committed crimes against humanity, including genocidal killings and the issue of sexual slaves.  However, he said, Japan was reluctant to address such crimes.

Japan’s representative, taking the floor for a second time, said the claims that the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea had mentioned were groundless.

Also taking the floor for a second time, the representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea said the claims were historically well documented, including by United Nations special rapporteurs.  Accordingly, he called upon Japan to take immediate action to address those claims.

For information media. Not an official record.