Delegates in General Assembly Support Human Rights Council’s Monitoring of Crises Worldwide, Yet Some Say Double Standards Ignore Impact on Developing Countries
Delegates voiced sharp differences today about the work of the Human Rights Council as the General Assembly took up the intergovernmental body’s annual report. While some praised its efforts over the past year to curb human rights violations through the creation of special mechanisms and emergency sessions, other delegates said the Geneva-based intergovernmental body applies double standards that ignore their impact on developing countries.
Presenting the report of the Council’s activities from 1 October 2021 to 7 October 2022, its President, Federico Villegas (Argentina) said that amid an increasingly complex geopolitical context “the Council has continued to come together to address a multitude of recurrent as well as emerging human rights issues and respond to urgent situations, and I must say that I am proud what we have achieved collectively,” he said. Over the course of its three regular sessions, the Council adopted 100 resolutions, President’s statements and decisions and 67 of these were adopted without a vote.
The Council also held three special sessions and two urgent debates to address human rights situations needing urgent attention, he said, including a session in November 2021 on Sudan and another in December 2021 on Ethiopia. In March of this year, following an urgent debate on the human rights situation in Ukraine stemming from the Russian Federation aggression, the Council decided to establish the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. It also appointed a new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation to monitor information from all relevant stakeholders, including Russian civil society both inside and outside the country. Detailing other action, he said the Council established a group of three human rights experts mandated to conduct thorough, independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since April 2018.
General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi (Hungary) said the world’s contemporary crises make the Council’s work even more urgent to meet the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet events on the ground have significantly eroded public trust that the body’s actions will lead to better outcomes for the people and the planet. “It is high time for us to change this experience,” he said, prodding it to take swift action to promote the protection of human rights.
Speakers voiced concern about a myriad of human rights situations from the Chinese Government's campaign against the Uyghurs in Xinjiang and abuses by the military in Myanmar to the war in the Ukraine and Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. Some called for action to address Islamophobia, with Pakistan’s representative stressing it has been mainstreamed in the political discourse of certain political parties and Governments.
Venezuela’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, expressed concern about the proliferation of mechanisms and procedures which pretend to make “impartial” assessments of the human rights situations in certain States. Most lack the due consent and participation of the State in question and base their reports on secondary, tertiary and other sources, which are partial or lack credibility, he said.
Echoing that concern, Gerardo Peñalver Portal, Cuba’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, said selectivity, punitive practices and double standards contribute to the manipulation of human rights against the South, which leads to distrust in the Council. The protection of all human rights should be based on universality, objectivity and non-discrimination, he said, stressing that there are human rights violations in developed countries.
On that point, the speaker for the Russian Federation said that under pressure from Western States, the Council adopted a whole host of flagrantly politicized resolutions over the last year including one on the human rights situation in his country. It is increasingly clear that the West wants to transform the Council into a “so-called closed club of supposed real democracies”, who establish rules for the rest of the world, violations of which will be harshly punished.
Countering that view, the United States delegate said such resolutions are intended to protect human rights globally. She said the devastating impact of the Russian Federation’s unjust war against Ukraine led her Government to work with Ukraine and other cross-border groups to set up the Commission on Inquiry on Ukraine.
The speaker for Ukraine, stressing the critical importance of investigating abuses in order to prevent impunity, said the Commission of Inquiry has found reasonable grounds to believe there have been many violations of humanitarian law, including war crimes. Accountability is needed and she called on all partners to bring all perpetrators to justice.
The European Union’s delegate, in its capacity as observer, was among delegates voicing support for the many resolutions that had created various special mechanisms. He said success must be measured not only by ending, but by preventing, human rights violations and holding perpetrators accountable, stressing the need to help the persecuted in Iran and the persecuted Uyghurs and to improve the situation of Afghan women and girls.
While supportive of the Council’s ability to respond swiftly to several emerging human rights challenges, such as in Ukraine and Afghanistan, the representative of Switzerland said he regretted the Council did not hold a debate on the situation in Xinjiang in China, which constitutes crimes against humanity. He endorsed the creation of a new mechanism to address the situation in Yemen.
Speaking on behalf of a Group of States, Yemen’s delegate said ongoing international support for the national mechanism in his country, including through substantive capacity-building and technical assistance, helps the Yemeni people. It ensures human rights monitoring, investigation and accountability. He condemned the Houthi movement’s decision to deny the National Commission of Inquiry formal access to the areas they control.
Also speaking today were representative of Finland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Maldives, Argentina, Honduras, Qatar, Namibia, Georgia, Liechtenstein, China, Croatia, Kuwait, Portugal, Egypt, Malaysia, Poland, Algeria, Mexico, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, India, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Ethiopia, Syria, Chile, South Africa, Morocco, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Romania.
The representative of China spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Assembly will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 2 November, to discuss the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States against Cuba.
CSABA KŐRÖSI (Hungary), President of the General Assembly, reiterated the words enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Today's crises make it even more urgent to meet the goals of the Declaration. “The Human Rights Council is the living example of our progress,” he said. The presentation of Council’s report allows us the international community to gauge how well it is living up to its ideas. The Council's main responsibility to promote universal protection of all human rights underpins “all the work we do in this organization and all that we dare to dream”, he said. However, the reality on the ground has significantly eroded trust that our actions will lead to better outcomes for the people and the planet. “It is high time for us to change this experience,” he said. It is incumbent on the Council to take swift action to promote the protection of human rights. The Human Rights Council is duty bound to do so. He further commended the Council’s willingness to show ingenuity and explore new areas of human rights related to the environment and climate change.
Introduction of Report by Human Rights Council
FEDERICO VILLEGAS (Argentina), President of the Human Rights Council, introducing the body’s annual report (document A/77/53), said the document consolidates the Council’s work from 1 October 2021 to 7 October 2022. Amid an increasingly complex geopolitical context, “the Council has continued to come together to address a multitude of recurrent as well as emerging human rights issues and respond to urgent situations, and I must say that I am proud what we have achieved collectively,” he said. Over the course of its three regular sessions, the Council adopted 100 resolutions, President’s statements and decisions and 67 of these were adopted without a vote. Where emerging issues arose that justified substantive human rights considerations, the Council contributed to the progressive development of two new norms on important issues such as climate and technology.
The Council held three special sessions and two urgent debates to address human rights situations needing urgent attention, he said, citing a session in November 2021 on Sudan and another in December 2021 on Ethiopia. In March of this year, following an urgent debate on the situation of human rights in Ukraine stemming from the Russian Federation aggression, the Council decided to establish the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. Its mandate is to, inter alia, investigate all alleged violations and abuses of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law and related crimes in the context of the aggression, and to establish the facts, circumstances and root causes of any such violations and abuses. Urgently addressing the situation again in May, the Council reiterated its demand for an immediate cessation of military hostilities against Ukraine and for all parties to the conflict to respect the fundamental principles and rules of international humanitarian law. The Council requested the Commission address the events that took place in late February and in March 2022 in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy regions, and asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to present an oral update on the grave human rights and humanitarian situation in Mariupol at its fiftieth session in June.
An urgent debate was held on the human rights of women and girls in Afghanistan in July, he continued. The Council established a group of three human rights experts on Nicaragua mandated to conduct thorough and independent investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses committed in Nicaragua since April 2018. It appointed a new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation to monitor as well as collect, examine and assess relevant information from all relevant stakeholders, including Russian civil society both inside and outside the country. The Council also extended existing country-specific mandates of investigative mechanisms and special procedures on South Sudan, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Iran, Belarus, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burundi, Venezuela, Central African Republic, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Council continues to contribute to the progressive development of international human rights law through its work, he said, and it held a high-level commemorative event on the opening of its fiftieth session to reflect on the achievements and lessons learned since its creation. He then turned to the Universal Periodic Review, which will begin its fourth cycle on 7 November and continues to celebrate 100 per cent participation. With each cycle, Member States accept the Review’s recommendations and commit themselves to a human rights-centred development roadmap, he said, adding that to help States implement the recommendations, the Council adopted a resolution on strengthening the voluntary funds of the Review mechanism.
Noting that the high level of civil society participation is one of the most important elements of the Council’s work, Mr. Villegas said that in 2022, the Council heard over 2,400 oral interventions from non-governmental organizations during Council sessions. Despite the challenges caused by the COVID‑19 pandemic and related restrictions, the Council has remained inclusive to civil society. Noting the gap between the Council’s increasing volume of work and the resources allocated to supporting departments and offices, he said the forty-ninth session in March was the longest in the Council’s history — five full weeks. At its fifty-first session, the Council adopted decision 51/101 entitled “Appropriate support for the Human Rights Council,” which asks the Secretary-General to provide the Council with the support necessary to meet no less than 14 weeks to fulfil its annual programme of work.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, emphasized the ethical and political duty to preserve and strengthen human rights. In rejecting double standards to human rights, he expressed concern over the proliferation of mechanisms and procedures which pretend to make “impartial” assessments of the human rights situations in certain States. Most, he pointed out, lack the due consent and participation of the State in question and base their reports on secondary, tertiary and other sources which are partial or lack credibility. He then condemned the sustained and increased use of unilateral coercive measures to advance interventionist and destabilization agendas of a political and economic nature. These cruel and inhumane aggressions prevent the full enjoyment of human rights, hinder access to essential services and basic goods and negatively impact the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he said.
Dialogue, cooperation, engagement and national ownership must strengthen human rights at the national and international levels, he said. For its part, the Human Rights Council must be strengthened to preserve, promote and defend the prevalence and validity of the Charter, he urged. The continued politicization of human rights will condemn the Council to the same fate as its predecessor, he cautioned. Only measures which foster mutual and genuine trust will advance the promotion, protection and full guarantee of all human rights and a more just, democratic and inclusive society.
SILVIO GONZATO, a representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the bloc has strongly supported the Human Rights Council since its establishment, and continues to do so, greatly contributing to strengthening the United Nations human rights pillar and supporting many resolutions that had created various special mechanisms. In many parts of the world the situation of human rights is becoming ever more dire, exacerbated further by the COVID‑19 pandemic. To work to ensure a world where human rights and human dignity are upheld, success must be measured not only by ending but by preventing human rights violations and holding perpetrators accountable. He stressed the need to help the persecuted in Iran and the persecuted Uyghurs, and to improve the situation of Afghan women and girls and many others.
The European Union continues to promote human rights around the world, he said, stressing that it could not and would not ignore the widespread human rights violations that continue in too many places. The bloc is also committed to working with partners around the globe to advance the protection and promotion of human rights. The Council is of critical importance to the situations in many areas of the world, including Syria and the Russian Federation, he said. All Governments must remember their primary responsibility under international law to fully protect and promote human rights in their respective countries and to cooperate with the mechanisms of the Council in this regard.
ABDULLAH ALI FADHEL AL-SAADI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of a Group of States, reiterated the Group’s adherence to international humanitarian law and international human rights law and its unwavering commitment to address all alleged violations, and ensure that perpetrators are held accountable, in accordance with applicable international and domestic laws. The only sustainable solution to the crisis in Yemen is a political solution under the auspices of the United Nations, based on the agreed references and in accordance with the relevant Security Council resolutions. He welcomed the adoption of resolution A/HRC/RES/51/39, titled “Technical assistance and capacity-building for Yemen in the field of human rights”, particularly its recognition of the international community’s strong commitment to respect Yemen’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity. Ongoing support for the national mechanism in Yemen, including through substantive capacity-building and technical assistance, is in the interests of the people of Yemen by ensuring human rights monitoring, investigation and accountability.
He condemned the Houthi movement’s decision to continue to deny the National Commission of Inquiry formal access to the areas they control or to respond to its correspondence and called on them to cooperate immediately. “We express our deep disappointment at the failure of extending the truce in Yemen, and stress that the Houthis’ maximalist demands in the final days of negotiations had hindered the United Nations efforts,” he said. The past six months of the truce have brought greater calm and security, including a sharp reduction in civilian casualties, he said, warning that “without the truce, the plight of Yemeni civilians will deteriorate”.
Mr. AL-SAADI (Yemen), speaking in his national capacity, said the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry is the nationally and internationally agreed upon mechanism to investigate all alleged human rights violations. As such, Yemen has provided the necessary facilities and support and all authorities have been fully cooperating with the Commission, he noted. He then condemned the Houthi movement for their heinous practices of torture, forced disappearances, disruption of humanitarian operations and child recruitment, amongst others. The international community must condemn their terrorist attacks which exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and prevent international and regional efforts to extend the truce. The Houthi movement must implement international law including Security Council resolution 2216 (2015), stop their violations and crimes against the Yemeni people and positively contribute to a comprehensive and sustainable peace and settlement of the conflict, he urged.
KAARINA AIRAS (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic countries, said the Human Rights Council is the key human rights body of the multilateral system, addressing human rights violations and abuses no matter where they occur. Council members have a special duty to ensure that the body stands up for everyone’s enjoyment of human rights. The Council’s determination to address the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the deeply concerning human rights situation in the Russian Federation and other situations of utmost concern, such as the plight of the people of Afghanistan and Syria, is an important sign of leadership.
However, the Council can and could do even more, she said. People across the globe need the determination of the Human Rights Council more than ever. It is regrettable that a majority in the Council rejected to follow up the report on Xinjiang with a debate and that the Council has not been able to ensure independent and impartial monitoring and reporting on the situation in Yemen. As OHCHR and the Council-mandated Special Procedures and investigations play important roles in providing independent, credible and professional analysis, the Council should listen carefully to the assessments and recommendations of these experts. The Nordic countries place special emphasis on the key role of civil society and human rights defenders, she said. The Council cannot fulfil its mandate without hearing the voices of those who defend human rights.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said the Human Rights Council has shown great strength to promote and protect fundamental rights, universal values and international law. The Maldives is committed to the international human rights mechanism including among others, the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies. The Maldives has a long history of advocating for the issue of climate change. “We have also long advocated to consider the impacts of climate change, from a human rights perspective,” she added, reiterating calls on Member States to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the increase in global temperature during the current century to below 1.5°Celsius. She also called on developed countries to provide aid for small island States in order for them to reduce their vulnerability. While the Council has continued with its traditional set of resolutions on the human rights violations and atrocities committed by Israel against the Palestinian people, Palestinian homes continue to be demolished. “Like any other, the people of Palestine deserve to live in freedom in their independent state,” she added.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) said her delegation is committed to strengthen its commitment in all Council procedures. The Universal Periodic Review is an objective tool that encourages dialogue between peers. She said she is proud that Argentina is holding the office of Council President for the first time in history, which is a recognition of the Argentine Government’s efforts to protect human rights around the world. The Presidency of the Council carries with it great responsibility and commitment, she added. The essential role of the Council is to advance the gradual development of international human rights. She pointed to the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Forced Disappearance, which Argentina supports with France, as an example of this advancement. It is an outcome of the human rights movements over several decades and is a tool to combat impunity, she said. It gives priority to dialogue and cooperation.
NOEMÍ RUTH ESPINOZA MADRID (Honduras) said the election of Honduras for the first time as a member of the Human Rights Council in 2021 was cause for celebration in her country. The Government of Honduras is actively supporting initiatives that promote non-discrimination, the rights of women, and the protection of persons with disabilities and older persons. The Honduran Constitution enshrines rights based on dignity. “Honduras is currently building a culture of peace and respect for human rights that gives priority to access to justice, non-discrimination, and prevention of stigma,” she said. Honduras is committed to the prevention of gender-based violence and access to sexual and reproductive education. Honduras recognizes the universality, interdependence and interrelation of economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights and the right to development. The Government of the first woman President of Honduras is working to repair and restore a state where respect for human rights is fundamental in order to restore history.
ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar) noted that her country, as a member of the Human Rights Council for 2022-2024, will actively participate and work hand-in-hand with others. She spotlighted her country’s harmonization of its national legislation with international human rights law; legal and humanitarian contributions to ending regional crises; open-door policy for special mandate holders; and international development programmes which promote respect for human rights while addressing education and the effects of climate change amongst other areas. Turning to the human rights violations of Palestinians and the continued persistence of impunity, she called for an objective, transparent and comprehensive investigation into the murder of two journalists. Palestinians must be able to enjoy their inalienable rights in line with international law, international humanitarian law and international human rights law. As the host of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar attaches particular importance to the role of sports in promoting peace, human rights and sustainable development, she said.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) expressed concern over the rising number of conflicts in the world, increasing violence against women and girls and escalating cases of racism, racial discrimination and intolerance. As a member of the Human Rights Council whose term is ending in December 2022, Namibia welcomes the Council’s recent adoption of the resolution entitled “From rhetoric to reality: a global call for concrete action against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”. However, there still remains opposition on the Council to the topic and the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. He then acknowledged OHCHR for its technical assistance in enhancing the implementing and monitoring of human rights recommendations from treaty bodies and the Universal Periodic Review process. All States must improve individual and cooperative efforts towards human rights implementation, he stressed.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) said the human rights situation has been tested the world over in 2022. Nevertheless, that the Human Rights Council has been able to decisively and swiftly respond to a number of these challenges is positive. It has responded promptly to the invasion of Ukraine and other human rights violations, and also took up the situation of the worrying rollback of human rights in the Russian Federation. He commended how the Council has dealt with the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, but also regretted that it decided not to hold a debate on the situation in Xinjiang in China, a situation which could constitute crimes against humanity. He endorsed the creation of a new mechanism for Yemen. Building United Nations capacity for prevention is an important issue, and Switzerland continues to call for indicators to be better taken into account in peace and security measures. Switzerland will strive to bring the various United Nations pillars closer together as a member of the Council. Human rights defenders and civil society are vital for the Council’s work and for the United Nations as a whole, highlighting human rights violations that are likely to have a negative impact on peace and security in some countries, and any intimidation and reprisals targeting them are unacceptable, he said.
GVARAM KHANDAMISHVILI (Georgia) said at a time of unprecedented challenges, with an ever-growing number of human rights violations and abuses in different parts of the world, the Human Rights Council remains a vital mechanism for addressing and preventing them. Unfortunately, wars and conflicts deny the human rights of millions of people worldwide. Georgia commends the Council for its continuous engagement in the human rights crises across the world and for its prompt response to these challenges, as demonstrated by the establishment of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, with the mandate to investigate all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law resulting from the Russian Federation’s premeditated, unjustified and unprovoked full-scale military aggression against Ukraine. Georgia, being elected to the Council for the term 2023-2025, intends to focus efforts on the protection and promotion of the rights of the most vulnerable groups, with special emphasis on women and girls, children and persons with disabilities, he said. In this regard, the resolution on “Cooperation with Georgia” should not be overlooked, as the list of specific human rights violations in both regions of Georgia is long and includes, but is not limited to, deprivation of life, torture and ill-treatment, kidnappings and arbitrary detentions. The Council’s engagement on this matter for preventing the situation on the ground from further deteriorating is important.
MYRIAM OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said the Human Rights Council is the United Nations’ central human rights body, and as such, it plays a crucial role in ensuring that States respect their obligations under international human rights law and in preventing and responding to violations thereof. The holding of special sessions on Sudan and Ethiopia late last year proved that the Council continues to be in a position to address human rights situations of concern in a timely manner. It also lived up to expectations when it condemned the human rights violations resulting from the unjustified and illegal war of aggression waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. She noted that the Independent International Commission of Inquiry released its first report in which it concluded that an array of war crimes and violations of international human rights and humanitarian law have been committed in Ukraine. Liechtenstein therefore welcomes the decision in October to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation. The same, unfortunately, does not hold true for the follow-up to the report on the human rights situation in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region prepared by OHCHR. The Council missed a crucial opportunity to uphold its mandate, its credibility and its support for the High Commissioner in carrying out its mandate. She added that the Council must address the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iran in response to the violent suppression of peaceful protests.
NATALIIA MUDRENKO (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, supported the Human Rights Council’s role in protecting human rights and considered Ukraine’s membership a great responsibility. Her delegation intends to work with all interested actors and strengthen the Council’s role as the Organization’s main body to protect human rights. The Council should address timely emergency situations to prevent crimes against humanity, she said, adding that the persistence of human rights violations around the world demonstrates more preventive action is necessary. Her delegation appreciated the Council’s consideration of the human rights crisis in Ukraine, stemming from the Russian Federation’s full-scale aggression. Stressing that the special inquiry to investigate human rights violations in her country is critically important to prevent impunity, she said the Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine has found reasonable grounds to believe there have been many violations of humanitarian law, including war crimes. Accountability in needed and she called on all partners to bring all perpetrators to justice. The Universal Periodic Review as a unique mechanism to monitor countries’ work on human rights is of great value, she said. It is crucial to maintain an independent monitoring mechanism on Ukraine.
LI XIAOMEI (China) said that the politicization of human rights issues has intensified. “A few countries are obsessed with spreading rumours and lies,” she said, and instrumentalize human rights issues to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries. Without the consent of the countries concerned, there has been a proliferation of country-specific human rights resolutions and mechanisms, which interfere in the internal affairs of Member States. Meanwhile, there has been limited discussion on the negative impact of unilateral and coercive measures on human rights. “We firmly oppose politicizing human rights issues and interfering in other countries internal affairs under the pretext of human rights issues,” she said. China notes that the European Union, United States, Finland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein, in total disregard of facts, have fabricated lies and made baseless accusations against China, which China firmly rejects. These countries “attempt to hinder China's development, but their actions are futile,” she added. Chinese people of all ethnicities, brimming with pride and confidence, are embarking on a new journey to build China into a modern socialist country.
MOHAMMAD AAMIR KHAN (Pakistan) said that the forcible occupation of territories and the accompanying oppression of peoples are the primary cause of gross, systematic and widespread human rights violations. All countries must take decisive action to prevent and redress the violations of human rights universally, particularly in situations of foreign occupation and alien domination. Occupying Powers invariably resort to draconian laws to create impunity for their oppression and crimes. “One standard colonial ploy is to portray legitimate struggles for self-determination and liberation as terrorism,” he continued. The Council should “refrain from targeting only their adversaries, or weaker States, while ignoring the crimes and atrocities of their large strategic partners”. Islamophobia has been mainstreamed in the political discourse of certain political parties and Governments. It is manifested in calls for expulsion of Muslims, restrictions on the hijab and other provocations. The Human Rights Council must promote specific action to combat Islamophobia, he stressed.
IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ (Croatia), aligning himself with the European Union, condemned the Russian Federation’s military aggression against Ukraine. Although the United Nations prevention and protection capacity need to be improved, “we have shown we are capable of taking action”, he said, adding: “When we are blocked in the Security Council, we act in the Human Rights Council and in the Assembly. Members of the Council should be at the forefront as the strongest advocates of human rights and lead by example both at home and abroad. The Council, he continued, must address the growing impunity for violations of human rights across the world by establishing mechanisms, facilitating oversight and putting these issues on its agenda. He then spotlighted his country’s contributions as part of the core groups for two resolutions. Since civil society and human rights defenders provide early warnings of grave human rights violations and abuses, States must provide a safe environment, free of reprisals and intimidation. For their part, the Assembly and Economic and Social Council should follow the Human Rights Council’s practices of civil society participation, he urged.
Mr. ALHAJERI (Kuwait), in describing human rights as the yardstick to evaluate both people and States, emphasized the role of the Charter of the United Nations in promoting and reinforcing human rights. As this can be seen through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, countries must work hand in hand to achieve peaceful societies and access to justice in particular. He then spotlighted his country’s efforts in achieving justice and equality, delivering on the 2030 Agenda and empowering women. Turning to the ongoing and flagrant violations of human rights, he condemned the expansion of illegal colonies on Palestinian territory. Such breaches ignore international humanitarian law, international human rights law and all relevant Security Council resolutions, he pointed out. The international community must demonstrate courage by giving the Palestinian people their rights back and ending their suffering. It must also shed light on the plight of the Rohingya and immediately end the violence and threats which affect them, he added.
ANA PAULA BAPTISTA GRADE ZACARIAS (Portugal) noted that next year the international community will celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which both stated that human beings are born free and equal in rights. The Human Rights Council had held timely debates on Afghanistan, Ukraine, Sudan and Ethiopia, and established the Independent Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine. The international community must work within the multilateral framework of institutions, with the United Nations at its heart, collaborating with OHCHR and rendering concrete the Secretary General’s call to action on human rights. Portugal is committed to the Human Rights Council’s work and defends parity between all three of the United Nations pillars, both in institutional and financial terms. Allocating less than 7 per cent of the overall budget to the human rights budget is insufficient. Mainstreaming human rights in all United Nations pillars, strengthening the synergies between the Human Rights Council and the Security Council and including a human rights perspective in every single peace and reconstruction process must be a priority.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) expressed concern for the “polarization that is marring the work and functioning of the Council”. The international community is facing a series of consecutive and longstanding global crises and challenges. These, without a doubt, have adverse impacts on human rights. Egypt regrets the long overdue operationalization of the right to development as an overarching comprehensive individual and collective universal and inalienable fundamental right. It is timely to address the lack of progress in this regard, while the Council continues to engage in the creation of new controversial mandates in a manner that leads to exclusion, hierarchy and fragmentation of human rights contrary to the commitments made in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. He further expressed alarm at the noticeable rise in manifestations of xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, racial discrimination, and related intolerance. Egypt reiterates commitment to the Palestinian people achieving their right to self-determination and calls upon the international community to uphold its responsibility in this regard, he said.
AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia) reiterated his country’s continued activism within the Human Rights Council, its sustained and strengthened engagement with the Council’s mechanisms and its support for OHCHR. All human rights violations must be addressed with the same degree of urgency and vigour, he said, while noting that the systemic oppression of the Palestinian people and the Rohingya has persisted. This is in part due to the refusal of some members of the Security Council who are also members of the Human Rights Council, he explained. There must be affirmative action which brings these violations to a swift end. He then expressed regret over the attempts to introduce human rights concepts which are inconsistent with existing instruments and insensitive towards the domestic situation of States. When deliberating human rights issues, the Council must factor in views from all regional groups to increase acceptance and improve compliance. It must also avoid the politicization of its work, he urged.
GERARDO PEÑALVER PORTAL, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, aligning himself with the Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, said no country is free of human rights challenges and no country should impose their paradigm on other countries. The protection of all human rights should be based on universality, objectivity and non-discrimination. There should be respect for dialogue and international cooperation. Yet selectivity, punitive practices and double standards contribute to the manipulation of human rights against the South. This only causes distrust. There are violations of human rights in developed countries, he pointed out. The Council should fulfil its role and avoid double standards and strengthen its role as a subsidiary body of the United Nations and should more actively denounce the impact of coercive unilateral measures on human rights. He opposed the manipulation and use of double standards in measuring human rights and the sanctions imposed by the United States against his country for more than six decades.
JOANNA SYLWIA SKOCZEK (Poland), aligning herself with the European Union, commended the efforts to minimize the politicization and polarization of the Human Rights Council and foster cooperation with all its mechanisms and partners. Such efforts are vital in improving the Council’s role in conflict prevention and post-conflict reconstruction, which delivers a tangible impact for individuals on the ground. She then spotlighted her country’s efforts as a current Council member in upholding the rights of persons in vulnerable situations, advocating for the full realization of the freedom of religion or belief, and enhancing protection through good governance. Turning to the human rights situations in Eastern Europe, she condemned the Russian Federation’s illegal and unprovoked war of aggression and called for accountability for the perpetrators of human rights violations. She then expressed her concern over the deteriorating human rights situation in Belarus and the Russian Federation. The authorities of the latter must fully cooperate with the newly created mandate of the Special Rapporteur, she urged.
AHMED SAHRAOUI (Algeria) called for a rejection of all politicization of human rights and reiterated the importance of the principles of impartiality, independence, non-selectivity and cooperation. Algeria remains committed to further cooperation with the Council as a specialized United Nations body tasked with monitoring human rights from a humanitarian vantage point. The Universal Periodic Review is the best possible mechanism for assessing a human rights issue from a national standpoint and free of politicization, he said. It is also worth underscoring the importance of technical assistance provided to various States. It is equally vital to ensure complementarity between the various national and international mechanisms in this area. Algeria will remain committed to participating in the work of the Council and stands ready to work hand in hand with all stakeholders to make human rights a reality, he affirmed.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico) said now more than ever the work of the Human Rights Council is essential to overcome the multi-dimensional crisis that has arisen from the socioeconomic crisis, the COVID‑19 pandemic and other situations. These require a reaffirmation of the centrality of human rights in all responses, she said, adding that the Council’s work is essential for the development of higher protection of human rights and to promote candid and constructive cooperation between Member States. The growing polarization in its work is worrying, undermining the gradual progress made in international human rights law that people around the world should enjoy without exception. The Council must continue to give special attention to the promotion of the rights of all persons in special situations of vulnerability, including women and girls, internally displaced persons, migrants, and persons of ethnic and religious minorities. Noting the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda have a symbiotic relationship, she said human rights are essential for prosperity. The bodies created by the human rights treaties must be strengthened. Ensuring the best conditions for experts to carry out their work independently is fundamental. Mexico is committed to the Council and will continue supporting its work and strengthening the universal human rights situation, being in favour of higher human rights standards and more effective international cooperation, she said.
KYAW MOE TUN (Myanmar) expressed his desire for the draft resolution on Myanmar to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Issues) to reflect the situation on the ground, namely the illegal military coup and its crimes against his country’s people. As the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar has already received overwhelming evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity, he called on the Security Council to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. Despite the pressure and various calls of the international community, the junta continues to enjoy impunity as if none of what the Human Rights Council has detailed in its resolutions has happened, as if none of the innocent lives matter. The Human Rights Council must explore additional ways — including the submission of evidence received by the Mechanism to the Security Council — to save the people of Myanmar. It must also listen attentively to their voices and allow their participation in its meetings, he urged.
NASEER AHMED FAIQ (Afghanistan) said in the face of the current social, political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the Council’s role in promoting and protecting human rights as well as addressing human rights violations is more crucial than ever. The human rights situation in his country is of extreme concern, as has been repeatedly reflected in the Secretary-General’s quarterly reports and the recent report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan. These include continued human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, committed by the Taliban involving summary or extrajudicial executions; arbitrary detentions; collective punishment; violence against peaceful protesters, journalists, and former defence and security personnel; reprisals; raids on offices of non-governmental organizations and civil society groups; and violations and abuses of women, children and members of ethnic and minority communities. To effectively address impunity and prevent the widespread gross violations of human rights in Afghanistan, monitoring and reporting mechanisms must be strengthened, including through the United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) and the Special Rapporteur. Only through an inclusive and accountable Government based on the rule of law, justice and the will of people and with full, equal and meaningful inclusion of women in all segments of Afghan society can justice, peace and security be ensured.
AKAN RAKHMETULLIN (Kazakhstan) said the Council is a key mechanism for the promotion of fundamental human rights and it has shown it can respond swiftly to human rights situations around the world. The Council’s work should be guided by principles of universality and dialogue, and constructive partnerships are crucial to help it achieve its goals and protect people. The Council’s work on country situations should focus on issues, such as technical capacities, rather than increased monitoring. Regarding other Council mechanisms, he welcomed the fourth cycle of the Universal Periodic Review this year. Kazakhstan is an impartial member of the Council for 2022-2024 and engages with all Member States, he affirmed. His delegation backs such issues as gender equality and universal abolition of the death penalty and will continue its work to promote human rights at the national and international levels.
ASHISH SHARMA (India), in encouraging the Human Rights Council to continue its inclusive and constructive approach, noted the importance of the right to development as well as that body’s role on frontier issues such as cyberspace, artificial intelligence and genetics. The Council must take an unequivocal and resolute position against terrorism, he added. Any selective focus on certain issues and situations is counterproductive, he cautioned while expressing concerns over the politicization of human rights, perceived intrusiveness of activities beyond mandates and constraints of national capacities to implement obligations. To promote objectivity and improve effectiveness, there must be more balanced geographical representation on all Council bodies and mechanisms, he urged. As a Council member, India will continue to facilitate a pluralistic, moderate and balanced perspective, he pledged.
IGOR PILIPENKO (Belarus) asked Member States to consider whether the Council was carrying out its work without any distinction and on equal footing. “Would it be fair to maintain that the Council contributes to the promotion and protection of all human rights equally?” he asked. “In our view, we cannot reply yes with certainty,” he said, adding that the continued politicization of the Council undermines the authority of the body. Human rights must not be used by States as a tool to exert pressure on sovereign States. Unfortunately, the Council is increasingly becoming the conduit for such policies of pressure rather than being a platform for dialogue and seeking consensus. Sanctions lead to a worsening human rights conditions in the States against whom they are imposed, but also in the countries by whom the sanctions have been imposed. He warned against the senseless waste of resources, which could be used in other areas of the United Nations. The “Council’s report on its work in 2022 is unacceptable for my country”, he added.
SULAFA HAMID I. MOUSA (Saudi Arabia), aligning herself with Yemen’s statement on behalf of a Group of States, reiterated the need for OHCHR to bolster its capacity-building, technical support and logistical assistance to the Yemeni National Commission of Inquiry. She condemned the Houthi movement for violating human rights, recruiting children, imposing hunger and establishing blockades. For its part, the international community must ensure that the movement respects international law and contributes to a political solution to facilitate security and stability for the Yemeni people. Turning to the Palestinian people, she called for the recovery of their legitimate rights, including the creation of an independent State with East Jerusalem as its capital. She then highlighted the suffering endured by the Rohingya people and welcomed the international efforts of the Council, the Third Committee and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
CAROL LESLIE HAMILTON (United States) said her delegation has engaged robustly with the Council and supported resolutions to protect human rights globally. For example, the devastating impact of the unjust war by the Russian Federation against Ukraine led the United States to work with Ukraine and other cross-border groups to set up the Commission on Inquiry on Ukraine. In April, her delegation voted to suspend the Russian Federation’s membership in the Human Rights Council and in October voted to create a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Russian Federation to report independently. The suppression of journalists and other groups has repressed dissent in that country. The United States also joined with 47 countries on a statement that voiced concern over the human rights situation in China, including various region such as Tibet and Hong Kong. She opposed the Council’s biased work against Israel, including inquiries into the West Bank and Gaza. The United States aims to amplify the voices of civil society groups around the world, she said.
GENNADY V. KUZMIN (Russian Federation) said that over the last year under pressure of Western States, the Council adopted a whole host of flagrantly politicized resolutions. In October, for example, the Council on the initiative of 26 European Union member States approved a draft resolution on the human rights situation in the Russian Federation. The text of the document is largely based on the well-known fiction of the West and the purported persecution in his country of civil society representatives, activists and human rights defenders, as well as sexual minorities. It is increasingly clear that the West is ongoing in its efforts to dominate the human rights work of the United Nations. The aim is to transform the Council into a “so-called closed club of supposed real democracies”, who establish rules for the rest of the world, violations of which will be harshly punished. It is telling that out of 47 Member States of the Council, only 13 countries supported the European Union document. “We will ignore the establishment of the Council special mechanism and we will refuse to cooperate with it in the forms set out by the Council,” he said. The Russian Federation remains convinced that the main goal of the Council is to ensure commitment to the universal values that underpin the United Nations Charter, rather than the momentary interests of a narrow group of the Western political elite.
FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran), associating herself with the Group of Friends, condemned unilateral coercive measures for undermining multilateralism and violating human rights. Such measures hinder the well-being of populations and hamper efforts to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic. The United States must account for the massive and systematic human rights violations resulting from its sanctions, she said. For its part, the Council must safeguard human rights from political vices which compromise the principles of universality, impartiality, objectivity, and non-selectivity. In spotlighting her country’s consistent and voluntary cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, she expressed regret over the politicization and manipulation of the Council’s work. As such, Iran rejects country-specific resolutions which only serve to increase confrontation and dissociates itself from that portion of the report. The Council should be more balanced in terms of its legal and cultural systems and with respect to geography, she noted. She then expressed concern over the human rights violations perpetuated by the United States, Israel, Canada, United Kingdom and the European Union against Muslims and indigenous peoples.
Mr. CANDIDO (Ethiopia) lamented the unnecessary political pressure and actions taken against his country and without its consent. His Government, he spotlighted, has supported the joint OHCHR and Ethiopian Human Rights Commission investigation; created a task force to implement its recommendations; and ensured accountability with respect to the ongoing conflict. Despite this, the Council established an international commission of human rights experts. The allegation referenced in the Council’s report lacks objectivity, impartiality and professionalism, he noted before voicing Ethiopia’s rejection. Such unproductive and politically motivated actions do not support ongoing efforts to ensure accountability and justice; they instead undermine international cooperation, duplicate efforts and waste resources, he said. In pointing out that the task force will soon publish some of its findings, he reiterated his Government’s commitment to resolve the conflict peacefully.
ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria), associating himself with the Group of the Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations, rejected the politicization of the Council and its use to serve the interests of certain countries. He further rejected the work of the so-called International Inquiry Commission on Syria, “which was created without the consent of my country”. Its conclusions and recommendations are politicized and lack objectivity. The last report touched on terrorist groups that are on the Security Council's list and armed separatist groups supported by occupied United States forces, he said, expressing deep concern that the report tried to put those groups on equal footing with Syria’s government when it comes to protecting of human rights. The Human Rights Council is dealing with issues that go beyond its mandate, he said. Further, he expressed support for the rights of the Palestinian people to create an independent country with Jerusalem as a capital and reiterated Syria’s request that Palestine becomes a member of the United Nations.
PAULA NARVÁEZ OJEDA (Chile), in noting her country will be a member of the Human Rights Council from 2023-2025, emphasized the preventive role of that body and its special procedures. The Council must be energetic in condemning potential violations and assist countries in bolstering and rebuilding their national capacities to guarantee and protect human rights, she urged. It must react promptly, firmly and unambiguously to flagrant systematic abuses and violations of human rights and humanitarian law. Turning to the perception of a growing polarization in the Council’s work, she called for constructive dialogue and consensus on country-specific situations and thematic areas. The Council and the international community must defend and protect the human rights of all without any distinction. Specific national conditions or cultural differences cannot prevent States from promoting or respecting the rights of all persons in an inclusive manner, she emphasized.
XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) said the Council is an important multilateral forum in which countries can work together in a meaningful way to protect human rights. His delegation is committed to making human rights realizable for all people and it intends to be an advocate for a balanced Council. Human rights include the right to development and the right to the elimination of racism and xenophobia. He stood against the politization of human rights that has an agenda to undermine the Council’s work, stressing that the Council must be free of double standards. When addressing human rights, the Council must look at the full dimension of each problem. Council members should not ignore the fight against racism and must reflect on the injustices that have come before the present. South Africa is committed to ensure a Council that retains a fair balance between thematic debates and specific country issues, he said.
OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said the Council is a key component of the global human rights architecture. The right balance must continue to be struck between civil and political rights on one side and economic, social and cultural rights on the other within the Human Rights Council. “We fully believe in the importance of more active and inclusive multilateralism to meet the environmental challenges linked to human rights,” he said. The election of Morocco to the Council for the 2023-2025 period is a consecration of its institutional legislative reforms, he said. Morocco will continue to work tirelessly for the promotion and protection of human rights. “We will also continue our fruitful cooperation with all of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, particularly the special procedures of the Council and the treaty bodies,” he said. Morocco will continue its constructive action to boast the Council’s work.
KIM NAM HYOK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), aligning himself with the Group of Friends, rejected the Human Rights Council’s resolution against his country. As human rights issues must not be abused for political purposes, the resolution lies and distorts the real human rights situation on the ground, he said. His Government will not accept nor recognize the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in his country. The United Nations, he continued, must treat all Member States equally in line with the principles of impartiality, objectivity and neutrality and prevent the recurrence of acts which suppress justice and truth. For its part, the Council must promote and protect human rights by ensuring impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity in its activities. Turning to the European Union’s accusation, he rejected its claims and urged them to address their human rights violations.
RUXANDRA STANCIU (Romania), aligning herself with the European Union, emphasized the need to enhance the efficiency, proactive role and global outreach of the Human Rights Council. As a member for the 2023-2025 term, Romania will advance the tolerance and inclusion agenda and will share its national experiences, she said. It will also focus on achieving institutional gender parity; ensuring respect for the rights and freedoms of all women and defending a free, independent and pluralistic media space. Ensuring the full exercise of religious freedom, she continued, is essential to combatting intolerance and radicalization in all its forms. Turning to the Russian Federation’s assault on democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, she condemned its war of aggression against Ukraine as well as the indiscriminate and deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure. As the first European Union country with a medium- and long-term vision for the protection Ukrainian refugees, Romania will continue to work for a stronger, more cohesive, inclusive and efficient Council.
Right of Reply
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the United States has once again misused the Assembly to fabricate information that attacks China. The United States has used the Third Committee to repeatedly attack China’s human rights situation. She firmly rejected these allegations. The United States cares more about human rights in China than in its own country. It makes up endless lies as it attempts to maintain its hegemony. She pointed to the United States’ genocide against the American Indians and the country’s prevalent racial discrimination, including police brutality against African-Americans and the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, including in New York City. She hoped the United States would own up to its own failings.