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Seventieth Session,
31st & 32nd Meetings (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4145

Continuing Third Committee Rights Debate, Experts Present Country Reports as Speakers Question Findings on Water, Minority Issues, Displacement

As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights, special rapporteurs presented findings on water, sanitation, internal displacement, minority issues and on the situation in Eritrea, Iran and Myanmar.

During interactive dialogues during the segment on reports of the human rights situation in those three States, views were mixed.  Speakers debated the usefulness of country-specific reports in regulating violations, with some calling for their abolishment and others highlighting their merits.

Some delegates said the targeting of States politicized the process of rectifying human rights violations.  Several speakers said a more productive approach would be to use the universal periodic review mechanism to ensure that States complied with their obligations to international rights instruments.  Expressing a different view, some speakers said the reports were justified in their quest to ensure that States were in compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.

Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the recent nuclear programme deal had provided an opportunity and diplomatic space for the Government to improve the country’s “dire human rights records”.  Welcoming recent developments in the area of criminal procedure law and women’s rights, he urged the Iranian officials to engage more meaningfully with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

Despite developments, he regretted that the Government’s efforts had not been translated into necessary changes.  “The right to life, perhaps the most fundamental human right, is under unprecedented assault in Iran today,” he continued.  Despite repeated calls on the Government to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, he said, Iran continued to execute more individuals per capita than any other country.  Executions, he stressed, had been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014 at a shocking 753.

Iran’s representative said a new chapter was opening in Iran’s relations with the world.  Since President Hassan Rouhani had assumed office, a series of human rights measures had been advanced and implemented, and the Government was open to engaging in a genuine human rights dialogue.  Describing the report as a product of a politically motivated exercise, she said that appointing a special rapporteur was unjustifiable, insincere and unproductive.

Recognizing the gains made by Myanmar in reforming its political, economic, and social and human rights landscape in the past four years, Anghee Lee, Special Rapporteur on that country, noted that the upcoming elections would be an important milestone in the democratic transition process.  She, however, expressed concern over continuing arrests, the excessive use of force against protestors and increasing reports of intimidation and harassment of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society actors.  On the longstanding development challenges in Rakhine State, she underscored the importance of education as a force for change.

The representative of Myanmar appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s observations in commending his country’s transition and reforms.  Myanmar needed to be judged by how far it had come and the direction in which it was going, he said, adding that the report did not reflect the recent changes taken place in the country with regards to freedoms in politics, the media and civil society, as well as the freedom of assembly and association.  Instead, it had dwelled on minor challenges, overlooking the overall progress in the country.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, said the violations in that country had been compelling thousands of Eritreans to cross borders in search of refuge.  Calling on the Government to discontinue such practices, she suggested an immediate end to forced evictions and housing demolition, an expansion of low-cost housing and professional training for members of the military and police.

Eritrea’s representative said the report was unprofessional, biased and based on false facts.  Further, it had been drafted without a country visit, he said, noting that the Special Rapporteur’s approach was contrary to the principles of sovereignty and cooperation among States.  He underlined numerous measures undertaken by the Government to protect human rights and enforce its international and regional commitments.

Other special rapporteurs shared reports on their areas of expertise.  Léo Heller, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, said States must ensure people’s access to basic services.  It was unfortunate that improvements in services were largely provided to those who already enjoyed them, while the immediate needs of those lacking even basic amenities were neglected.

Chaloka Beyani, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, expressed concern over a rapidly growing number of internal displacement crises.  He then called on States to establish effective mechanisms to respond to the needs of displaced persons and urged donors to step up their funding to meet the unprecedented humanitarian needs in those countries.

Rita Izsák, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, underscored the importance of preventing violations against minorities in the criminal justice system.  Drawing attention to police practices affecting minorities, she said such acts had excessively reinforced the sentiment that the members of those groups were not an integral part of society, but rather marginal populations.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m., on Thursday, 29 October, to continue its discussion on the protection and promotion of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued today discussions under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4139.

Interactive Dialogues

CHALOKA BEYANI, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said national authorities had the primary responsibility to respond to such issues.  However, internal displacement crises were challenging for authorities at all levels.  Such crises could quickly become overwhelming when numbers were growing rapidly and governance capacity and experience was lacking.  The most important step that States could take was to act to prevent internal displacement in the first place.  Yet, even in cases where displacement could be predicted, prevention steps were often inadequate.

Once displacement had taken place, he said, States needed to ensure that adequate and effective crisis management and institutional arrangements were in place to respond to the needs of displaced persons.  Appropriate early responses required elements such as rapid provision of humanitarian assistance, registration and documentation, protection measures to ensure safe transit to secure locations and mobilization of personnel.  Leadership, to that end, was essential at the most senior level.

Further, the establishment of a specialist institutional focal point — for example, a dedicated ministry, department or agency — was needed to give the appropriate level of attention and priority to responses.  As displacement became protracted, the responses of national authorities must focus on addressing long‑term needs and issues of resilience and recovery.  While doing so, national authorities should establish effective mechanisms, such as a working group or task force, to oversee and support durable solutions, he stressed.

Since his previous report, he had conducted visits to the Central African Republic, Iraq, Philippines, South Sudan, Syria and Ukraine, among other conflict- and disaster-afflicted countries.  In some cases, he said, there was a deficit in good governance in relation to pressing challenges that must be urgently addressed.  Without adequate governance and continuing humanitarian support from the international community, internal displacement was a staging post for refugee status.

The report demonstrated that much more needed to be done by States to respond appropriately to internal displacement crises.  The international community, however, must continue to play its role to support States where necessary.  In recent missions to Iraq and Syria, he had been deeply concerned by the shortfall in funding that was hampering the essential work of humanitarian actors.  Accordingly, he urged donors to remain consistent partners and to step up their funding to meet the unprecedented humanitarian needs in those countries.

When the floor opened, delegates posed questions on such topics as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, best practices and the role of regional organizations.  Speakers also asked about access to Syria, data harmonization, the involvement of local governments and the role of United Nations initiatives and institutions vis-à-vis durable solutions.

Mr. BEYANI, referring to his recent report to the Human Rights Council, said the situation of internally displaced persons should be taken into account in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals.  There should also be a surge of support with regard to internally displaced persons in Iraq.

Precautionary measures, including risk assessments and the coordination of a multisectoral response, were recommended for States putting precautionary measures into place.  Examples of best practices had been seen in Côte d’Ivoire, Haiti and Sri Lanka, where durable structures had been put into place at the ministerial and prime ministerial levels.

Regional organizations provided opportunities for more concerted actions, such as the promotion of regional frameworks.  Access had always been a problem in Syria, in areas controlled by the Government and by armed terrorist groups.

Data harmonization was an important goal to work towards, as different agencies and Governments used different systems.  National human rights commissions were promoted by the Special Rapporteur as effective monitoring mechanisms of the rights of internally displaced persons.  Examples of local authorities working with national government and international agencies had been seen in such places as Afghanistan, Colombia and Kenya.

With more than 38 million internally displaced persons around the world, a voluntary mandate was clearly inadequate and, therefore, considerations should be made regarding restricting the international human rights architecture.  Only yesterday, he had met with the World Bank to discuss the integration of development into humanitarian activities and the response so far had been positive.  More encouragement was needed to get the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and humanitarian organizations “to get their act together”.

Questions and statements were made by representatives of Morocco, Georgia, Iraq, Austria, Liechtenstein, Philippines, United States, Norway, Ukraine (for the GUAM (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) Organization for Democracy and Economic Development), Azerbaijan, Armenia, Nigeria, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union and the International Organization for Migration.

RITA IZSÁK, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, presented her report on the human rights of persons belonging to ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities in the various stages of the criminal justice process, from before arrest through to sentencing.  She regretted the lack of disaggregated data shared or collected by Member States, which precluded Governments from accurately assessing and countering violations against minorities in the criminal justice system.  Recognizing the diversity of criminal justice systems, she noted that national specificities could never justify discrimination practices against minorities.

Because the wide discretion of police forces in performing their duties had led to risks of arbitrary or discriminatory practices, she underlined the importance of independent oversight mechanisms.  Police practices affecting certain minority groups had excessively reinforced the sentiment among the members of those groups that they were not an integral part of society, but rather marginal populations.

Governments must take proactive steps to prevent racial profiling, for example, through the deployment of ethnically mixed patrols and targeted training for police officers.  Other extremely serious issues were the subjection of minorities to the excessive and sometimes lethal use of force, torture and other ill treatment by police — often compounded by the lack of proper investigation — as well as the over-representation of minorities in pre-trial detention, lack of access to a lawyer, discriminatory attitudes by law enforcement personnel, poverty and lack of knowledge.

In relation to the actual judicial procedures, minorities could experience unequal access to legal aid, linguistic barriers and bias against them.  They could also face discrimination in post-conviction imprisonment.  That could include poorer treatment and worse detention conditions than other groups and restrictions on their religious or cultural rights, relations with family members and access to an interpreter.  Noting that minorities were under-represented in law enforcement agencies, judiciaries, prosecution services and legal professions, she called for specially targeted measures, such as quota systems, to foster their recruitment, and affirmative action policies to improve access to law education.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and comments regarding the discrimination and sexual violence against minorities, disaggregated data collection and the universal periodic review.  Speakers also asked about the establishment of national mechanisms for prevention of all forms of violence, the promotion of rule of law and non-discriminatory policies, effective participation of minorities in decision-making and police officer training.

Ms. IZSAK said collecting data was extremely challenging.  It was unfortunate that States did not collect disaggregated data regarding minorities in the criminal justice system.  To that end, she encouraged States to engage in systematic data gathering within all stages of criminal justice processes.

Turning to the effective participation of minorities in decision-making, she stressed that States needed to establish non-discriminatory laws and policies, which would ensure their involvement.  Further, she said, it was important to create inter-ethnic and inter-religious dialogue to promote their active participation in society.

On police violence, she acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the United States to eliminate such practices.  She also had conducted a study focusing on minority issues in the first cycle of the universal periodic review process, available for all on her website.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Iraq, Russian Federation, Mexico, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Hungary, Brazil and the United States, as well as the European Union.

LÉO HELLER, Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, presented his first annual report to the Committee.  The report addressed the extent to which different types of services complied with the human right to water and sanitation when considered in conjunction with different management models, such as utilities, small-scale service providers and self‑supply.

There was no one-size-fits-all solution that met human rights criteria under all circumstances, he said.  For example, a well-managed and regulated city system was more likely to meet human rights standards than unregulated communal facilities.  However, when piped systems were not citywide and excluded significant parts of the population, serious concerns about discrimination and inequality emerged.

Sometimes, States faced competing requirements for reaching more people and achieving a level of service that met human rights standards, Mr. HELLER said.  In setting out priorities, the human rights framework provided important parameters.  All too often, improvements in services were provided to those who already enjoyed them, while the immediate needs of those lacking even basic amenities were neglected.  In addition, investments to improve services only reached the relatively well-off.

The human rights framework demanded that States reversed such trends.  Greater emphasis should be put on achieving essential levels for everyone as a minimum.  Although some States might lack resources to build the infrastructure needed for universal access, the extension of citywide piped systems could be achieved over time with appropriate legislation, planning and financing, he said.

Delegates then raised a range of issues, from general inquiries about the 2030 Agenda, climate change and natural disasters to more specific questions on shortages of sanitation facilities, best practices for ensuring equitable access and multilateral sharing of experiences.  Speakers also asked about the role of multinational corporations, the regulation of for-profit and not-for-profit water providers and the participation of women and girls in decision-making with regard to water and sanitation.  Questions were also raised about the water crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Responding, Mr. HELLER said the 2030 Agenda represented an important and welcomed advance on the Millennium Development Goals, with regards to water, sanitation and hygiene.  It required States to be heavily involved, with strong policies, plans and institutions devoted to those areas.  International cooperation would be required to help developing countries to meet their targets.  Progress on water, sanitation and hygiene would have a positive impact on poverty, health and ending inequality.  A stringent monitoring framework, however, would be required to determine whether gaps in services between the most and least advantaged members of society were narrowing.

Climate change was another challenge that needed to be addressed, Mr. HELLER said.  Information was coming in as to how the right to water and sanitation could be compromised by climate change.  There was a need for contingency plans to anticipate the effects of climate change.  He intended to pay a visit next year to Mexico, where discussions on a national water law had been taking place.  The profile of the right to sanitation needed to be increased, perhaps by making it a distinct right.  With regard to Israel and the State of Palestine, he did not feel comfortable with making a conclusion, but was open to dialogue with both sides and to visiting the region.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Indonesia, China, Fiji, Morocco, Mexico, Iran, Brazil, Germany, Maldives, Switzerland, Qatar, Nigeria, Norway, Spain and Israel, as well as the European Union and the State of Palestine.

Prior to the interactive dialogues with Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Iran and Myanmar, the representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, delivered a statement.  He recalled the Movement’s recognition of the Human Rights Council as the United Nations organ responsible for considering the human rights situation in all countries.  The use of human rights as an instrument for political purposes was contrary to the founding principles of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Charter of the United Nations and should be prohibited.  The universal periodic review was the main inter-governmental mechanism to review human rights issues in all countries without distinction.  Universality, transparency, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity should be the guiding principles of the Human Rights Council and the code of conduct for special procedures mandate holders must be strictly observed.

SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, raised a number of concerns about the right to adequate housing, smuggling and trafficking and an increasing number of unaccompanied minors who were among the more than 5,000 people fleeing the country every month.  As she had been unable to visit the country, with a request dated 24 August 2015 remaining unanswered, information had to be obtained from academic institutions in Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom and from Eritreans living abroad, including refugees and asylum seekers.

Persisting human rights violations in Eritrea were compelling thousands of Eritreans to cross borders in search of refuge, Ms. KEETHARUTH said.  Many of those people were very young.  National service, which amounted to forced labour and other severe violations, was the main reason for fleeing.  Of the 137,000 people who had crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe in the first six months of 2015, Eritrea was the third most common country of origin.  It would seem that those leaving were getting younger and included unaccompanied minors who risked falling prey to sexual, economic and criminal abuse.

Proposing a list of recommendations, she suggested an immediate end to forced evictions and housing demolition, an expansion of low-cost housing and professional training for members of the military and police.  Questions about the root causes of human rights violations should meanwhile continue to be asked by the international community, which should also assist Eritrea in meeting its social housing needs, promote legitimate channels of migration to reduce clandestine channels and encourage inter-State cooperation against human trafficking.

The representative of Eritrea rejected the politically motivated mandate of the Special Rapporteur and her report, which was unprofessional, biased, based on false facts and drafted without a country visit.  Such an approach ran contrary to the principles of sovereignty and cooperation among States.

Providing an overview, he said Eritrea had adopted measures to protect human rights and enforced its international and regional commitments.  Education was free and inclusive and respected ethnic minorities.  Eritrea had also achieved many of the Millennium Development Goals, including in the field of combatting HIV/AIDS and polio.  Corporal punishment had been banned and all children’s rights were being protected.  With regard to the protection of women, programmes had been implemented to advance their rights and protect girls from violence.  Eritrea had criminalized child marriage and all types of sexual violence.

Further, the Government had taken measures — some in collaboration with European States — to combat smuggling and human trafficking.  Equal access to land and employment had also been guaranteed.  Illegal occupation by Ethiopia and politically motivated international sanctions constituted collective punishment and challenged the protection of the rights of the vulnerable sections of society.  In a spirit of transparency, the Special Rapporteur should tell how and from whom she obtained her information, he said.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed concerns regarding systematic human rights violations in Eritrea that constituted crimes against humanity, including allegations of torture and ill treatment, the demolition of houses, forced military service, arbitrary detention and the resulting migration, and human smuggling and trafficking.

Expressing a difference view, some delegates said they regretted the politicization of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and her impartiality, and emphasized that the universal periodic review mechanism should address country situations.  Delegates raised concerns about the situation of migrants and Eritrea’s cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.  Questions were also asked about the Special Rapporteur’s cooperation with other mandate holders and agencies, particularly with regard to economic, social and cultural rights and the rights of migrant women and children.  Speakers requested information on the methodology used by the Special Rapporteur in the absence of access to the country.

Ms. KEETHARUTH said her report had been shared with Eritrean authorities prior to publication, but they had not provided her with any feedback or comments.  In response to comments made by the representative of Eritrea, she said that the fear of reprisals had made it impossible for her to communicate information on her sources.  Demolitions had continued, she said, but no clear data was available to fully assess the scale of that practice.  Moving to the issue of migrants, she stressed that she would cooperate with other United Nations bodies to address the situation of unaccompanied children.  She also urged the authorities to grant her access to the country.

The representative of Eritrea, taking the floor again, referred to a report by the European Union contradicting facts put forward by the Special Rapporteur.  He categorically rejected allegations of reprisals or arbitrary detention in his country.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of the United States, Belarus, Russian Federation, Djibouti, United Kingdom, Norway, China, Nicaragua (also speaking for Bolivia), Cuba, Ecuador, Sudan, Switzerland and Iran, as well as the European Union.

YANGHEE LEE, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, began her statement by expressing her deepest sympathies to those affected by floods and landslides in recent months and paying tribute to the Government’s quick response and its population’s show of solidarity and strength.  Since her last report to the General Assembly, she had visited Myanmar twice, in January and August 2015, on the Government’s invitation.  She welcomed the cooperative spirit shown by the authorities, but regretted that she had not been granted access to Rakhine state and that some planned meetings had had last-minute cancellation.

Four years of reforms had undeniably improved the human rights situation in the country.  Elections to be held in November 2015 would be an important milestone in the democratic transition process, she said, underlining the importance of measures to ensure transparency.  In that regard, she expressed concern about the disqualification of a reported 61 candidates — a majority of whom were Muslims — on grounds related to citizenship, and about the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of individuals from across society, including Rohingyas and individuals of Chinese and Indian descent.

Recalling that genuine elections could not be achieved if the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association were curtailed, she was also concerned about continuing arrests and convictions of persons attempting to exercise those rights, the excessive use of force against protestors and increasing reports of intimidation, harassment, monitoring and surveillance of journalists, human rights defenders and civil society actors.  Such trends undermined democratic space and risked excluding some independent voices from public debate ahead of the elections.  She was also concerned by the increasing influence of extreme religious nationalist movements in the political process, including through recent statements by the Ma Ba Tha (Patriotic Association of Myanmar), the intimidation or harassment of candidates and the incitement of hatred against minorities.

The need to address the longstanding development challenges in Rakhine state was urgent, she said, underlining the power of education as a force for change.  There had been no significant improvements to addressing the institutionalized discrimination against the Rohingya community, which had continued to face severe restrictions on its basic rights.  Those violations had acted as catalysts that had driven irregular migration flows to other countries and the Government should address that issue by revising discriminatory laws and policies and resolving questions regarding their legal status and access to citizenship.

She welcomed the signature on 15 October 2015 of a national ceasefire agreement, but regretted that only 8 of 15 armed groups were signatories.  In order to build long-term and sustainable peace, it was essential for human rights to be placed at the heart of any political dialogue.  As for accountability, the participation of women and civil society must be ensured.  She expressed concerns about continuing reports of land grabbing, land confiscations and forced evictions for large-scale development projects, mining and other extractive industries, and about the continued intimidation, harassment and arrests of farmers and land rights activists.

The representative of Myanmar, reiterating his delegation’s opposition to country-specific mandates, said his Government had extended full cooperation to the Special Rapporteur.  Her positive comments were appreciated, but her report was not balanced.  The situation had changed over a period of four years, with greater freedoms in politics, the media and civil society, as well as in the freedom of assembly and association.  Economic policies had been liberalized and the first‑ever inclusive democratic elections in Myanmar, in two weeks’ time, should not be prejudged by citing some minor challenges.  The main reason for the ineligibility of “white card” holders to vote was due to the fact that their citizenship had not yet been verified.

Inaccurate and misleading complaints appeared in the report, including references to arrests, he said.  A massive media campaign had wrongfully suggested that violence was taking place in Rakhine state on a daily basis.  Development projects had been initiated, citizenship was open to anyone who applied and there was no restriction on movement.  By focusing too much on trivial details, overall progress in Myanmar had been overlooked.  A country had to be judged by how far it had come and the direction in which it was going.  A more cooperative approach was needed and country-specific reports and the resolutions based on their recommendations were no longer justifiable.

Representatives of other delegations then raised a range of questions concerning freedom of expression, hate speech, racial and religious discrimination, political prisoners and ways that the Government could address nationalism.  In addition, they posed questions on the role that the international community could play in responding to human rights concerns.  Several delegates also reiterated objections to country-specific special procedures.

Ms. LEE said the reform process in Myanmar had to be accompanied by a change of mindset.  A multipronged approach was required on the part of the Government.  There had been progress, but it was important to remove discriminatory laws and policies.  A committee to deal with prisoners of conscience had been established, but it had not yet convened and the international community could lend it assistance.  The United Nations had to remain constructively and critically engaged on human rights issues, raise concerns in a coordinated and consistent manner and provide technical assistance to the Government.  It was important that the Government be held accountable for its commitments and obligations as it signed more human rights treaties.

Questions and statements were made by representatives of the United Kingdom, Belarus, China, Russian Federation, United States, Singapore, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Switzerland, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Czech Republic, as well as the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, said that, on 14 July 2015, the international community and Iran had reached a historic agreement to peacefully resolve its longstanding dispute over Tehran’s nuclear programme.  That policy of engagement was an indicator of Iran’s willingness to work with the international community in order to gain its trust.  For the people of Iran, the deal meant both a relief from the financial sanctions that had crippled the country’s economy and a hope for a better future.

Since the election of President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, the Government’s approach to the Special Rapporteur’s mandate had been noticeably changed, with the most comprehensive responses to date.  Such efforts were a strong starting point to address human rights violations in the country.  Despite the Government’s ambitions to advance gender equality and improve certain rights for ethnic minorities, such efforts had not been translated into necessary changes.

“The right to life, perhaps the most fundamental human rights, is under unprecedented assault in Iran today,” he continued.  Despite repeated calls on the Government by the United Nations and the international community to implement a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, Iran continued to execute more individuals per capita than any other country.  Executions, he stressed, had been rising at an exponential rate since 2005 and peaked in 2014 at a shocking 753.  In response to his report, the Government had highlighted recent amendments to the new criminal procedure law, which had become effective 22 June 2015.  The amendments, he continued, provided increased access to legal counsel during the investigative phases of the trial for those who had been accused of criminal offenses.  However, they imposed significant due process restrictions for certain categories of crimes.

Turning to women’s rights, he welcomed the recent efforts to address violence against women and inequities in education and economic participation.  It was a positive development that the Government had drafted a bill aiming at increasing penalties for perpetrators of attacks on women.  However, the laws, policies and practices that had discriminated against Iranian women and girls continued to institutionalize their “second class” status.  Such laws, he underlined, were incompatible with women’s empowerment.

Although the nuclear agreement did not directly address human rights violations in Iran, he believed that it provided an opportunity and diplomatic space for the Government to focus its efforts on improving the country’s “dire human rights records”.  In conclusion, he urged the Iranian officials to use the momentum of the nuclear agreement and build on the positive steps taken by the Government to engage more meaningfully with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

The representative of Iran noted the ongoing humanitarian disasters unfolding in her region in the wake of actions taken by countries that were self‑proclaimed advocates of human rights.  The Special Rapporteur’s report was not constructive, particularly at a time when a new chapter was opening in Iran’s relations with the world.  It ignored the realities in Iran, where the Government had been fulfilling its obligations under the universal periodic review process.

Appointing a Special Rapporteur was a purely political move that was unjustifiable, insincere and unproductive, she continued.  For some countries, the abuse of United Nations mechanisms for political objectives had become routine.  The report was the product of a politically motivated exercise and did not reflect the situation in Iran.

Providing an overview of the current situation, she said that the death penalty was reserved for the most serious crimes and that there remained no global consensus on the abolition of the practice, which was part of the law in other countries.  Significant steps had been undertaken by Iran to combat drug trafficking, at the cost of the lives of several thousand police officers over the years.  With regard to women’s rights, a blind eye had been turned to such developments as improvements in their status before the law and in education and health.  Efforts had been made to combat violence against them and to tackle trafficking in women and girls.  A series of human rights measures had been advanced and implemented by the Government since it had assumed office and it was open to engaging in a genuine human rights dialogue.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised a variety of points and concerns about widespread human rights violations, including torture and corporal punishment, and the use of the death penalty, including against juvenile offenders and for drug-related crimes.  Additional questions were asked about a crackdown against journalists and human rights defenders, the harassment of religious minorities and the lack of due process.  Other queries were made on the absence of Iran’s implementation of recommendations made during its universal periodic review and its refusal to grant access to the Special Rapporteur.

Other speakers were concerned about the politicization and double standards of the mandate, which discredited the work of the entire United Nations human rights machinery.  Speakers also inquired about the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the human rights situation in Iran and the country’s progress in the field of economic, social and cultural rights.  Several delegates asked questions about the methodology of the Special Rapporteur, his cooperation with other mandate holders and ways the international community could engage with Iran in the field of human rights.

Responding, Mr. SHAHEED regretted Iran’s lack of cooperation with international human rights mechanisms and rejected allegations of bias.  Even without access to the country, he explained that he could access reliable information, including from public Iranian documentation and other sources.  Although the situation of minorities had not worsened during the reporting period, their situation remained dire nonetheless, he concluded.

Iran’s representative, taking the floor again, said comments made by some delegations had not reflected reality in her country.

Speaking were representatives of Canada, Syria, United States, Russian Federation, Norway, Maldives, Nicaragua (on behalf of Bolivia), Switzerland, China, Ecuador, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Australia, Belarus, Cuba, Germany, United Kingdom, Egypt, Eritrea, Myanmar and Chile, as well as the European Union.

For information media. Not an official record.