Seventy-eighth Session,
24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)

Third Committee Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Conflicts, Stressing Need to End Terrorist Attacks, Genocide, Illegal Hostage-Taking, Enforced Displacement

Delegates called on each other to address recent and long-standing conflicts, condemning human rights abuses and violations, including civilian population transfer, ethnic cleansing, and incitement to hatred, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its discussion of the promotion and protection of human rights today.

Expressing grave concern over renewed tensions in Israel and Palestine, the representative of Malaysia noted that the Israeli apartheid regime has violated the rights of Palestinians for seven decades.  The representative of Lebanon condemned the killing of the journalist Issam Abdallah along the south Lebanon border as an attack on free press.  Syria’s delegate criticized Western support for ethnic cleansing and genocide, decrying the blindness of those countries to such crimes. “We also have the legitimate right to retrieve the occupied Syrian Golan and stand in the way of Israeli racism and to end Israeli crimes and massacres,” he said. 

The representative of Qatar called on all parties to stop fighting, while warning against collective punishment and the forced displacement of civilians in the north of the Gaza Strip, which will prolong the conflict and exacerbate the suffering of Palestinians. She urged the international community to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid and evacuation of injured civilians. 

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States highlighted the brutality of the Hamas terrorist attacks, stressing that Israel has the right to defend itself following the slaughter of 1,300 civilians and taking of numerous hostages, including American citizens. Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people’s right to dignity and self-determination, he said. 

Along similar lines, the representative of the United Kingdom condemned the Hamas terrorist attacks, expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself proportionally, according to international law.  He called for the Rafah Crossing to be opened for evacuation of foreign nationals and delivery of humanitarian aid.  The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself in line with international law, adding that his bloc calls for an immediate release of all hostages, he said.

Addressing another front, the representative of France voiced stark concern over Azerbaijan’s attacks in the Nagorno-Karabakh region in September, noting that the exodus of Armenians could constitute ethnic cleansing.  His Armenian colleague recalled that the lack of clear-cut condemnation by the international community emboldened Azerbaijan to carry out its policy of forced displacement. The UN human rights machinery has a responsibility to ensure the rights of displaced people, he stressed. 

In response, the Representative of Azerbaijan said her country is unwavering in its commitment to human rights, calling her Armenian colleague’s statement a fabricated narrative that undermines peaceful coexistence. 

In a like vein, the representative of Pakistan expressed concern that the Indian volunteer group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s ideology replicates the last century’s fascism in Europe. Spotlighting massive violations of human rights in the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, he warned that such “Hindu-fascism” could lead to ethnic cleansing. 

Slovakia’s representative highlighted the civilian death toll of the Russian Federation’s full-scale attack on Ukraine, which has caused the widespread destruction of infrastructure, resulting in immeasurable harm for the civilian population, with long-term effects on the enjoyment of their human rights.  The delegate of Ukraine condemned the destruction of hospitals and schools in her country, as well as the torture and killing of prisoners of war and abduction of children, which are war crimes and crimes against humanity. 

In rebuttal, the representative of the Russian Federation condemned the recent campaign of Western nations to discriminate against Russia, stressing that violating the rights of Russians have becomes the norm, blocking its citizens from education and banking services as well as seizing private poverty, which all run counter to fundamental human rights agreements, he said.  Through its actions, the West encourages hate based on national identity, he said. 


OLIVIER MAES (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the LGBTI Core Group and other countries, said that the Group’s goal is to ensure human rights regardless of real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, focusing on protection from violence and discrimination.  The Group understands that implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is only possible with full decriminalization of all sexual orientations and gender identities globally.  Today, 63 countries still criminalize same-sex relations, and 30 others criminalize trans persons through other laws, he stressed, underscoring the Group’s commitment to action until full decriminalization is achieved.  

Voicing support for the mandate of the Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity, he cited the expert:  Decriminalization of same-sex sexual activity for countries is the duty of States as part of their obligations to address discriminatory violence, he said. Further, social inclusion requires dismantling all legislation that criminalizes sexual identity and gender expression.  “Everyone should live free and equal independently of who they are and who they love,” he said.  Recalling the Secretary-General’s support for the dismantling of restrictive legislation, he said that to leave no one behind in the decade of action, the international community must decriminalize sexual orientation and gender identity by 2030. 

FERGAL MYTHEN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said civil society actors and human rights defenders are crucial to the work of the United Nations.  Without their cooperation, Member States cannot make informed decisions, and without their safe engagement, UN entities cannot effectively carry out their mandates.  When individuals or groups face intimidation, threats or harm for cooperating or seeking to cooperate with the UN, collective efforts to achieve sustainable peace, development and justice suffer.  “We therefore condemn in the strongest possible terms any act of intimidation and reprisal against those cooperating, seeking to cooperate, or who have cooperated with the United Nations.” 

He noted that, in many countries across many regions, civic space has increasingly come under attack, both online and offline.  He noted that rights defenders have been subjected to serious human rights violations, including arbitrary arrest, torture and rape, due to their cooperation. Human rights defenders, activists, lawyers and journalists, as well as victims of human rights violations, witnesses and their relatives are particularly at risk, he said.  He expressed concern over reports that women and representatives of Indigenous Peoples have been disproportionately targeted for their engagement with the UN.  He underscored the importance of taking measures to prevent and raise awareness about the issues, investigate reports of reprisals, fully comply with international law obligations and ensure accountability and remedy.  It is also necessary to support and protect victims and witnesses, he said, as well as civil society and human rights defenders from threats and violence.  Best practices include enacting laws and policies for the recognition and protection of defenders, establishing protection regimes for victims and those at risk, offering shelter to those in need, providing emergency safety grounds and promoting a safe environment, including online.  Finally, he said the UN has a central responsibility in addressing reprisals, calling on it to ensure that systems are in place to  follow up on cases of reprisals, and that focal points are mandated and adequately resourced. 

NOAH OEHRI (Liechtenstein) said that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a landmark document which undergirds the pursuit of equality and justice throughout the world. Its seventy-fifth anniversary calls for reflection and critical scrutiny, he said, adding that it is also a reminder that much work needs to be done.  Human rights and the rule of law are mutually reinforcing, and upholding fundamental rights and freedoms requires access to justice and the promotion of effective and accountable institutions.  The number of civilian causalities in conflict remains staggeringly high, and acts of aggression are a violation of the right to life, he said, adding that the rule of law is critical for achieving sustainable peace and development.

LUIS GERARDO ELIZONDO BELDEN (Mexico) said the world is living in a time of great changes that require close collaboration with the universal system of human rights.  Stressing the need to stay open to international scrutiny and to sustain dialogue with human rights bodies, he said that human rights are complementary and mutually reinforcing.  He recognized the transformative power of sustainable development, the central nature of the rule of law for the full enjoyment of human rights and the important work undertaken by the judicial bodies as well as the national human rights institutions.  Ensuring inclusive civil space that allows for the participation of all people is equally crucial.  The Third Committee’s work is vital for making progress and developing an international agenda for human rights, he said, emphasizing the need to focus on people in vulnerable situations, including women, children, indigenous peoples, refugees and human rights defenders. 

VALÉRIE CHIARA WAGNER (Switzerland), voicing concern about rising authoritarianism, said that the rule of law and democracy depends on the protection of human rights.  Highlighting a rise in intimidation of human rights defenders and dissidents, she added that Switzerland supports initiatives for the safety of journalists and women and girls as well as protecting the human rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Condemning acts of discrimination, she said that the rights of the individual must be placed at the centre.  Rights violations can be early indicators of further violence, she added, underscoring the importance of human rights in conflict prevention.  On this thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community must reassert its support for human rights institutions whose efficacity is essential to resolving human rights issues, she said.

BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, condemned the multiple and indiscriminate attacks and loss of lives across Israel by Hamas.  He reiterated Israel's right to defend itself in line with international law.  His bloc calls for an immediate release of all hostages,  condemns all attacks against civilians and underscores the importance of protecting civilians, he said, underscoring the need for humanitarian access to affected areas.  The Russian Federation's decision to suspend the Black Sea Grain Initiative and its deliberate attacks on Ukrainian ports and grain storage further exacerbates the global food security crisis.  “Food should not be used as a weapon and we urge Russia to rejoin the Black Sea Initiative,” he said.  He reaffirmed a strong commitment to freedom of religion or belief for all individuals around the world as well as freedom of expression, condemning discrimination, intolerance, violence and persecution based on grounds of religion or belief. The European Union condemns atrocities committed in the context of Russia's illegal war of aggression against Ukraine, he said, including the unlawful transfer of Ukrainian children. The bloc also condemns the Taliban's “blatant violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms” in Afghanistan, particularly against women and girls as well as LGBTI persons.  He called on Iran to limit discrimination and violence against women and girls, refrain from further executions and cease arbitrary detentions.  The human rights situation in China raises serious concerns, he said, noting that Uyghurs, Tibetans and persons belonging to ethnic religious and linguistic minorities continue to be subjected to human rights violations.  The European Union urges China to abide by its domestic and international legal obligations.  The Union is also following with great concern the mass exodus of Karabakh Armenians following Azerbaijan's recent military operation.

KATHERINE ANAS AHMAD AL-HALIQUE (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Group of Arab States, said that when the international community adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing political and other rights, Palestinians were not exempt.  These laws and treatises also stipulate minimum rights during times of conflict and war, and they do not exclude Palestinians either, she added. Israel is waging a terrible war on the Gaza Strip, which has resulted in more than 3,000 civilian deaths, including more than 1,000 children, and more than 9,000 injured people in only 10 days of aggression against Palestine, she said.  She added that this is a flagrant violation of humanitarian principles on Israel’s part, especially international humanitarian and human rights law, she said. The Israeli occupation is also destroying civilian infrastructure through the targeting of homes and destruction of roads.  It is also preventing humanitarian and medical assistance as well as targeting hospital and medical personnel, she said. 

Noting that more than 1 million Palestinians are being forcibly displaced, she expressed solidarity with Palestinians, whose rights are constantly being violated, emphasizing the importance for Israel to immediately cease the war in Gaza.  She called for self-restraint, warning about catastrophic results that will come from the continued escalation of hostilities.  She also called for the immediate allowance of food, fuel and medical assistance to reach Gaza via UN entities, especially the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).  Concluding, she called on Israel to stop preventing food and electricity from reaching Gaza and refrain from forcibly displacing Palestinians from the region. 

JULISSA MACCHIAVELLO (Peru), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, highlighted the Fund’s indispensable role in assisting individuals subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment by supporting organizations that provide immediate and sustainable remedies.  It ensures that survivors and their families receive adequate compensation and appropriate social, psychological and medical rehabilitation.  However, the needs of torture survivors continue to outweigh the Fund’s capacity for response, she said, adding that its work was hindered in 2022 by a decrease in donations.  The Fund plays an essential role in securing torture victims’ access to direct assistance by upholding a survivor-centred approach.  “Assisting victims of torture is not charity but a legal obligation,” she added.

BRIAN WALLACE (Jamaica), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), recalled the visit of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Haiti earlier this year, bringing attention to the country’s needs.  He said that the thirtieth anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action is an occasion to reaffirm that the human rights machinery should meet people where they are.  To that end, he welcomed the High Commissioner’s support for the establishment of a regional human rights office for the Caribbean, made even more urgent given the region’s vulnerability to climate change.  The intensification of negative impacts due to climate change has undermined institutional functioning and threatened infrastructure in the region. 

Worse, climate change threatens the rights to life, food and housing, impeding the achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), he said, calling for increased cooperation in meeting the challenges of increasing natural disasters, as well as closing the widening poverty gap.  He further called for international financial institutions and development partners to ensure that funds for climate change mitigation and adaptation are provided to small island developing States.  He underscored the importance of progress on the Multidimensional Vulnerability Index and the Bridgetown Initiative, as well as the outcomes of the Summit for a New Global Financing Pact in this regard. The Group will continue to support measures enhancing bilateral, regional and international cooperation that address the adverse impacts of global crises — financial and food insecurity — which undermine the full enjoyment of human rights, he said. 

AHMAD FAISAL MUHAMAD (Malaysia), speaking on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, said his bloc has developed relevant human rights mechanisms in line with aspirations espoused in the ASEAN Charter.  He said the bloc recognizes that all human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and that there must be impartiality, objectivity, non-selectivity, non-discrimination and avoidance of double standards and politicization in their promotion and protection.  Further, the realization of human rights entails a balancing of competing rights and interests and must be considered in regional and national contexts, bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds.  This approach is premised on the sovereign equality of all States and the principle of non-interference with domestic jurisdiction, both of which are cardinal principles enshrined in the UN Charter.  He said ASEAN believes that dialogue and cooperation are important and necessary to bolster efforts to advance the promotion and protection of human rights.  A testament in this regard is the Declaration on the ASEAN Human Rights Dialogue adopted by ASEAN leaders during the forty-third ASEAN Summit.  The Dialogue enables ASEAN member states to share achievements, best practices and challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights, with a view to enhancing cooperation.  Another notable development is the inaugural ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)-UN Human Rights Dialogue convened last month in Geneva.  The Dialogue included meetings with ASEAN representatives, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and UN officials representing various thematic sections within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, roundtable discussions with UN Special Procedures mandate holders, and substantive discussions with members of relevant UN human rights treaty bodies. Concluding, he said ASEAN will continue to promote constructive dialogue and engagement.  The promotion and protection of human rights will be pursued through the sharing of best practices and capacity-building.

FRANCISCO JOSE DA CRUZ (Angola), speaking on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, said States have an obligation to promote and protect human rights as well as to meet the needs and aspirations of young people, especially those in vulnerable situations.  He urged Member States to help identify solutions to the problems faced by young people, particularly in areas such as education, employment, entrepreneurship, social integration and civic and democratic participation.  He reaffirmed the commitment of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries to the defense and promotion of human rights as pillars of human dignity and the well-being of its people.  He recommitted to implementing the 2030 Agenda in its three dimensions — social, economic and environmental — in a balanced, integrated way. 

ZHANG JUN (China), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said the world faces interlocking global challenges, with developing countries disproportionately affected.  “A true, effective and functional multilateral system based on international solidarity, unity and cooperation is urgently needed,” he said.  Yet, developing countries continue to fall victim to unilateral coercive measures, which run counter to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and basic norms of international relations.  He reaffirmed the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and the duty of States to cooperate with one another as well as the 2030 Agenda, which strongly urges States to refrain from promulgating and applying unilateral financial or trade measures.  Regrettably, despite the global call to lift unilateral coercive measures, such sanctions continue to exacerbate existing economic and humanitarian challenges, he said. 

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of a group of countries, emphasized that respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of States and non-interference in internal affairs represent basic norms of international relations.  Issues related to Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet represent China’s internal affairs, he stressed, opposing double standards or interference in States’ internal affairs under the pretext of human rights.  States must adhere to the principles of impartiality and non-selectivity, and all human rights must be treated with the same emphasis, especially the right to development.  Today, human beings are faced with multiple challenges, to which they must respond jointly, he added. 

MAYRA LISSETH SORTO ROSALES (El Salvador) speaking on behalf of the Central American Integration System, said that international migration is of great relevance for the development of counties of origin and transit and destination.  To that end, she underscored the importance of regional and international cooperation to respect the human rights and dignity of migrants in all situations.  Reaffirming the importance of migrants to achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), she underscored the respect of their rights regardless of their migratory status, warning about discrimination against women and girls as well as Indigenous Peoples.  Migration should be addressed through international cooperation, dialogue, regional and bilateral levels, while avoiding false narratives which worsen vulnerabilities, she said, recognizing that responding to challenges posed by migration is not simple.  However, migrants contribute by filling gaps in the workforce and can be a boon to economic development of receiving countries, she said. 

She voiced concern over unaccompanied minors in migration, reminding countries of their obligations under international law.  The higher interest of the child must be centred in all policies addressing them, she stressed, adding that multilateral cooperation is key in this respect.  Her group rejects criminalization based on migratory status as well as discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiment that promote violence against them.  Climate change produces greater migration, she said, appealing to Member States to demonstrate solidarity in situations of emergency, enhance cooperation for voluntary return, and advocate for the effective and sustainable reintegration of migrants in the labour market.  She further called for programmes on migration to have gender perspectives to ensure the protection of women and girls. 

JOAQUIN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, said the promotion and protection of human rights is based on dialogue and cooperation, respecting the principles of impartiality, objectivity, transparency, non-selectivity, non-politicization and non-confrontation.  He stressed the importance of constructive dialogue and sustained cooperation.  In this regard, he emphasized that political, economic, social and cultural diversity in the world today need to be preserved and respected by enforcing multilateralism, promoting intercultural and interreligious dialogue and combating hate speech and disinformation.  All these tools are necessary to implement values that are contained in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

He condemned and rejected systemic racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and any related form of intolerance, while reasserting the human rights of all equally without any distinction. He called on States to give absolute priority to protecting the rights of women, girls and boys, people with disabilities, the elderly, indigenous people, and national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities.  He voiced strong condemnation of the use of coercive unilateral measures, which dramatically affect full enjoyment of human rights for more than a third of humanity, making it difficult to access food, medicines and medical treatment, financial services, education, technological progress and sources of energy.  He emphasized that there is no other option but dialogue, cooperation, commitment and national ownership in all processes, with the aim of enhancing and enforcing human rights, both at the national and at international levels. 

RICHARD CROKER (United Kingdom) condemned terrorist acts committed by Hamas against Israeli and international citizens, expressing support for Israel’s right to defend itself proportionately.  “Hamas is the enemy, not the Palestinian people and we support Israel in taking action against terrorism,” he said, adding that any action must be in accordance with international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.  He called for the opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt for the exit of foreign nationals and entrance of humanitarian aid.  In Ukraine, the Russian Federation continues to demonstrate a total disregard for human rights, human life and the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter, he said, adding that Russian authorities have committed willful killings, attacks on civilians, unlawful confinement, torture, rape and unlawful transfers and deportations of protected persons in areas under their control.  Many of these may amount to war crimes, he said.

JAKUB KULHÁNEK (Czech Republic), aligning himself with the European Union, reaffirmed his country’s commitment to international human rights mechanisms and voiced concern about human rights situations in several countries.  He condemned the Russian Federation’s unjustified war against Ukraine, noting that the former country’s leadership must be held accountable for all related crimes.  He urged the Taliban to protect the right of women to education and ensure their participation in society.  He called on Syrian authorities to ensure the protection of civilians.  Turning to the situation in Sudan — the epicentre of a new humanitarian crisis — he called on all parties to declare a ceasefire and respect international humanitarian law.  He also expressed concern over the progressively deteriorating human rights situation in Cuba, including arbitrary arrests.

HADI HACHEM (Lebanon), said the current situation in the Middle East reflects the absence of humanity and violation of international law.  Israel deliberately targeted journalists wearing press vests at the southern border of Lebanon last Friday, he said.  Issam Abdallah was killed and five other journalists were wounded.  This direct attack by Israel is a flagrant attack on the press, running counter to international humanitarian law, he stressed.  It is unacceptable to continue to violate international human rights law with impunity.  Questioning why Palestinians are deprived of their rights, he recalled their right to determination and establishment of a State along 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital.  Expressing grave concern and condemnation over events in Gaza, he called on the international community act to end brutal attacks and prevent violence from broadening. “Everyone will pay the price,” he said. 

ZHANG JUN (China) said the latest round of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has sparked widespread concern.  The imperative now is to put in place an immediate ceasefire, protect civilians and prevent a more serious humanitarian disaster.  The fundamental way out is the two-State solution, he said.  Highlighting the path of economic development in China, he said the Chinese people live in peace, harmony, unity and happiness.  The human rights situation in China is at the highest level in its history.  He said the United States and United Kingdom make groundless accusations against developing countries, noting that any attempt to hinder China's development under the pretext of human rights issues will not succeed.  China's rejuvenation is the trend of the times, which will be stopped by no one, he said.

Ms. VMULISA (Rwanda) underscored that respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States should be the norm that governs international relations, adding that she opposes the politicization of human rights and double standards.  Rwanda is concerned with the proliferation of mechanisms targeting certain States, she said. “While no State arguably has a perfect human rights record, the singling out of some States over others due to geopolitical considerations sets a dangerous precedent,” she said, calling on Member States to uphold multilateralism in an even-handed manner and promote human rights through constructive dialogue and cooperation. Rwanda’s Constitution is built on the principle of equal rights and treatment for all citizens and persons without any distinction, she said, noting that its Constitution incorporates human rights stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 

STEFAN PRETTERHOFER (Austria), aligning himself with the European Union, the LGBTI Core Group and other countries, the Group of Friends of the UN Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture and Ireland, on behalf of a Group of Countries, said the world is witnessing an era of complex paradoxes.  It is more interconnected than even before, yet the world is experiencing unprecedented human rights crises due to conflicts, mass displacement and insecurity. Stressing the need to recognize that the protection of human rights is not a burden, he said human rights issues require urgent action.  Wars remain the most troubling cause of human rights violations, with innocent civilians bearing the biggest brunt.  States must adhere to international humanitarian law, and perpetrators must be held accountable.  “We cannot accept impunity, including for the crime of aggression,” he added.  He further stressed that women continue to be targets of sexual violence and are increasingly deprived of their most basic rights.

MARÍA FLORENCIA GONZÁLEZ(Argentina), aligning with the LGBTI Core Group and Ireland, speaking on behalf of a group of countries and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, said her country has embraced UN frameworks and principles in its national legislative policies.  Those who fought against the dictatorship inspire the Government to continue fighting against impunity in the spirit of memory, truth and justice, she said.  Some 40 years later, investigations are still carried out through both normal courts and special tribunals.  She underscored the importance of early warning and prevention in crimes against humanity and genocide, highlighting her country’s work with France in promoting the Convention on the Protection of All People Against Forced Disappearances. So far, 72 countries have ratified the Convention, she said, calling on Member States to join as signatories.

MARIA ROSENY BALTAZAR FANGCO (Philippines), aligning with ASEAN, emphasized that, with genuine cooperation and dialogue as well as capacity-building, rather than through selectivity and politicization, States can advance human rights and make a positive difference on the ground.  She noted that her country has refocused its anti-illegal drugs campaign towards poverty eradication.  She said the Philippines is following a human-rights based approach to justice reform. Its Human Rights Office is dedicated to fostering a more humane justice system.  She expressed concern over reported violations of the human rights of migrants, who face violence, abuse, exploitation, discrimination, xenophobia and wage theft.  She urged States to provide migrants with pathways for safe and regular migration in line with the Global Compact for Migration. 

TOMÁŠ GRÜNWALD (Slovakia), aligning himself with the European Union,œ and Ireland, on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the discussion of human rights.  No justification can be used for their violation, he said.  The full-scale armed attack the Russian Federation took against Ukraine continues to have a devastating impact across the country. Thousands of civilians have lost their lives and many thousands more have been injured, he said.  Missile strikes and airstrikes, most of them launched by the Russian Federation, have caused the widespread destruction of infrastructure, resulting in immeasurable harm for the civilian population, with long-term effects on their enjoyment of their human rights.  He urged Russia to immediately stop its violent military aggression in Ukraine.  He also expressed deep concern over the systematic breakdown of civil society and repressions of critical voices throughout the Russian Federation. 

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said human rights are being trampled with impunity in many places.  Turning to the situation in Gaza, he called for an unconditional ceasefire and immediate assistance to the people of Palestine.  “The most egregious violations of human rights are being committed against people under foreign occupation,” he said, pointing to the situation in Palestine and in Jammu and Kashmir.  These violations of human rights are accompanied by the rise of racism, fascism, hate speech, ethnic and religious discrimination and rising islamophobia.  The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s ideology replicates the last century’s fascism in Europe, he said, spotlighting massive violations of human rights in the illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir.  Between 2014 and 2018, a 786 per cent increase in hate speech against minorities, especially Muslims, was recorded in India.  Muslims are lynched almost daily and their homes bulldozed as collective punishment, he said, adding that “Hindu-fascism could lead to widespread ethnic and religious cleansing”.

ARAM HAKOBYAN (Armenia) said that, while world leaders discussed sustainable development at the start of this year’s General Assembly, Azerbaijan shelled Nagorno-Karabakh, killing and wounding hundreds, including women and children.  This led to the forced displacement of the entire population of ethnic Armenians, leaving behind millennia of culture and history.  Last week, over 30 countries signed a joint-statement recognizing that the mass displacement was a result of Azerbaijan's shelling on 19 September and the country's nine-month long blockade of the Lachin Corridor.  The decades-long dehumanization of the Armenian people and incitement to hatred lie at the centre of Azerbaijan’s policy of ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.  The lack of clear-cut condemnation by the international community has emboldened Azerbaijan to finalize its policy, he said, recalling that Azerbaijan blocked UN access to the region until it was too late.  The human rights machinery of the UN has a responsibility to ensure that the rights of displaced people are respected, he said.

BURHAN GAFOOR (Singapore) said that no one size fits all countries and that the temptation to remake others in one’s own image should be resisted. It is naive to divide the world into democracies and autocracies, a binary divide that doesn’t help build trust, he said, adding that Singapore is committed to improving the lives of people by focusing on outcomes, rather than ideology, and the balancing of individual freedoms with societal needs.  The country’s laws take a strong stand against hate speech, with no allowance for the burning of holy books in the name of freedom of speech, he said. Social cohesion for one another is valued, he said, adding that there is no perfect model for the protection and promotion of human rights.  He concluded by saying that if diversity is to become a source of strength, there must be a conscious effort to respect a variety of views.

Mr. KRYVALTSEVIAH (Belarus), aligning with the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter and the Non-Aligned Group, said the balance between individual interests and freedoms and the public and societal good is something that each society and State determines on their own.  In that sense, the issue of human rights should be returned to the format of cooperation for the purposes of exchanging experiences.  He said Belarus has consistently spoken out against using human rights as a tool for foreign policy to justify things that are not in line with international law ‑ namely unilateral coercive measures ‑ which bring catastrophic consequences to citizens in the States under sanctions.  He said Belarus will advocate for equal attention by human rights entities to all States and, to rectify an obvious imbalance, will continue to publish yearly reports of high-profile cases of human rights violations in individual countries of the world. 

MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), aligning herself with the LGBTI Core Group, said that human rights are universal and indivisible, stressing that the international community should treat all human rights in an equal and fair manner with the same emphasis.  This requires a fundamental recognition of equality before the law and among nations, she said, adding that South Africa is committed to the promotion, protection and fulfilment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, not only in her country but in Africa as a whole and globally.  She highlighted the twin anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, which underpin our understanding of international human rights.  She emphasized the equality of the two rubrics of rights — Economic, social and cultural rights as well as civil and political rights — and called on the General Assembly to recognize that all human rights are intrinsically linked.

GABRIELLA MICHAELIDOU (Cyprus), aligning herself with the European Union, drew attention to Türkiye’s illegal invasion and ongoing occupation of 37 per cent of her country.  Türkiye’s armed forced have forcibly expelled 170,000 Greek Cypriots from their ancestorial homes since 1974, she said, warning against the deliberate plan “to Turkify Cyprus” and human rights violations. Enclaved Greek Cypriots face oppression and discriminatory treatment, and their rights to religion and education are being violated.  Further, the destruction and vandalization of cultural heritage in Cyprus since 1974 constitutes a violation of international humanitarian law.  She called on Türkiye to ensure unhindered access to the occupied parts of Cyprus.

NIZHAN FARAZ RIZAL (Malaysia), aligning himself with ASEAN, highlighted the anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  It is imperative to reaffirm and uphold all the principles in these instruments and reflect on what needs to be done, he said, adding that Islamophobic acts, which infringe on the right to religion, are allowed to occur under the pretext of freedom of expression.  The impunity enjoyed by an apartheid regime that has egregiously violated the human rights of Palestinians for more than seven decades is appalling, he said. Closer to home, he said, human rights violations and the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar as well as the plight of the Rohingya remain of grave concern.  While the international community has responded to the crisis, much more needs to be done, he said.

ANDREAS LØVOLD (Norway) said that a lack of democracy and respect for individual rights are at the centre of current crises unfolding, noting that consequences are seen daily, as millions flee to escape from conflict.  Rising extremism and shrinking civil space must be addressed by the international community, he urged, calling for redoubled efforts to progress on human rights, specifically investing in conflict prevention.  All human rights must be implemented to achieve the SDGs, including economic, social, civil and political, he said, underscoring that the work of civil society, artists, lawyers, academics, doctors and teachers must be included and supported, at home and in the United Nations.  Norway will remain supportive of human rights for all peoples, including women and girls, along with their bodily autonomy. Safeguarding human rights is essential to achieving just and lasting peace in times of conflict, he said. 

DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam), aligning with ASEAN, said conflict, violence, poverty, inequality and climate disasters continue to cast a shadow on the enjoyment of human right worldwide.  In this context, he urged States to commit to realizing a universal vision of dignity, equality, and security for all.  He stressed the need to advocate for multilateralism, strengthening solidarity and collaborative efforts to address common challenges, thereby advancing peace, development and human rights.  He said Viet Nam is a regional and global leader in women's political participation and stands high in the Human Development Index.  These achievements not only underscore the country's commitment to human rights, but create a strong basis to realize its vision of becoming a modern industrialized nation by 2045.

ALMAHA MUBARAK F. J. AL-THANI (Qatar) expressed deep concern over developments in Gaza, calling on all parties to stop the fighting and exercise the utmost self-restraint, which will also protect the region from slipping into a broader cycle of violence.  She warned against collective punishment, including all calls to vacate the northern area of the Gaza Strip.  Forcing the displacement of civilians is a violation of international law, which might prolong the conflict going on in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and exacerbate the suffering of Palestinians, she added.  She urged the international community to act urgently to open passages that will allow for the humanitarian delivery of food and medical supplies and the evacuation of injured civilians.  She also pointed to Qatar’s development and strengthening of human rights through the passage of laws and acts. 

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, noting that the Palestinian people are deprived of their enjoyment of human rights, condemned Israel’s brutal aggression against them, which has resulted in 3,000 killings, including 1,000 children, and the destruction of thousands of houses and civilian infrastructure.  Denying the civilian population in Gaza their basic human rights, including the right to life, while blocking humanitarian access, represents a human disaster of the gravest magnitude.  Accordingly, he categorically rejected Israel’s calls to forcibly displace Palestinians from their homeland.

He also warned against the attempt to transfer the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, which is due to the illegal Israeli occupation and blockade, to neighbouring countries in the region.  He called on Israel to immediately stop the ongoing aggression and collective punishment in the Gaza strip and ensure immediate opening of humanitarian corridors.  It is essential to hold Israel fully accountable for acts of aggression under international law.  Voicing grave concern over incidents of hate speech and violence based on religion, he categorically condemned any act of religious hatred, including the recent stabbing and killing of a six-year-old Muslim boy in Illinois.

JESSICA BEATRIZ ORDUZ DURAN(Colombia) said that, to make human rights a reality, Colombia has followed a road map based on its international commitments, addressing four areas ‑ women, transition of the economy, ensuring social justice and openness to a culture of peace.  To that end, the President has held the Third Global Conference on Human Rights.  It is fundamental to accelerate action to achieve the SDGs, she said, underscoring the importance of safeguarding peasants and those working in rural areas.  Moreover, the country is preparing for a meeting with Indigenous Peoples on deforestation in line with its commitments to human rights.  Colombia will continue to work towards effective multilateralism, social justice, an acceptable environment , and peace and to overcome the deficit of social, cultural and environmental rights, she said, highlighting the importance of ending armed violence in the country, which is sociopolitical in origin, she said.  The country is implementing a national development programme to that end. 

PHILIPPE KRIDELKA (Belgium) condemned unequivocally terrorist acts committed by Hamas and the Islamic Palestinian Jihad. He urged each party to allow creation of humanitarian corridors, de-escalate the conflict and launch a political dialogue to satisfy the aspirations of both the Israeli and the Palestinian peoples.  He said the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the basis of the international order today.  He drew attention to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, noting that 45 years after its adoption, the rights of women and girls are far from being respected in many places in the world, and some are in reverse.  In this regard, he gave particular importance to the effective functioning of the treaty bodies and reasserted his support for strengthening them.  He highlighted the role played by civil society in protecting and promoting human rights.  However, in many places throughout the world, this role is under pressure. 

EVANGELOS SEKERIS (Greece) said his country is implementing a coherent legal and institutional framework to enhance the equal enjoyment of human rights by all, irrespective of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual characteristics.  Furthermore, Greece abides by its international obligations as a host country for those fleeing war, persecution and violence.  Exploring more legal pathways to migration, while combating smuggling and the inhumane instrumentalization of migration, remains a priority.  The deplorable situation in Cyprus has yet to be addressed by Turkiye, he said.  The massive illegal usurpation of Greek Cypriot properties is in fact expected to increase with the gradual implementation of Turkiye’s “cynical plan” to unilaterally “open up” the fenced area of Varosha to Turkish settlement and economic exploitation under conditions of military occupation.  Turkiye’s unilateral actions to this effect are in direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions and have been condemned by the body, he said. 

STEPAN Y. KUZMENKOV (Russian Federation) drew attention to the anniversaries of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  The former was adopted after one of the worst periods in human history, World War II, and still has relevance as the human rights guide for the global community, he said, noting the recent campaign among Western nations to discriminate against Russia.  Violating the rights of Russians has become a norm, he said, citing the refusal of education and banking services, sanctions against businesses and the seizure of private property.  In sports and cultural events, Russia has been banned from participating, he said, adding that the discrimination of disabled Russian sportsmen is particularly cynical.  These threats, attacks and deliberate harm to property go against the fundamental human rights agreements, he said, adding that through its actions, the West encourages hate and enmity based on national identity. 

NARMIN AHANGARI (Azerbaijan) said her country is unwavering in its commitment to human rights, detailing ongoing reforms covering a wide range of activities, including empowerment of women and youth. She noted that her Government is actively engaging in constructive dialogue with UN human rights bodies. Respect for territorial integrity is a fundamental principle enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, she said, opposing politicization of human rights and double standards.  She further warned against fabricated narratives that destabilize society and undermine peaceful coexistence, referring to Armenia’s statement.  She rejected “the same groundless allegations against her country” and noted that human rights must be treated equally, with the same emphasis.

NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon) said that when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted in 1948, Cameroon was still under the yoke of colonialism and had been bled dry by the slave trade.  The dignity of all human beings did not apply to them, she said, noting that, even today, the notion of human dignity might seem far off for millions of people living in poverty or in migrant detention centres.  Expressing concern that human rights are no longer a common understanding, she underscored that civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights are human rights — not “orientations”, whatever they may be. The right to life, outside the dogmatic opposition to the death penalty, must protect human life from conception to natural death, she added.  Calling on the international community to return to a common understanding, she said human rights must not become a religion, with treaty bodies as priests and human rights defenders and civil society organizations spreading the good word.

KAUSHAL KISHOR RAY (Nepal) said that Nepal’s commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights remains total and unequivocal.  The Constitution incorporates the basic principles of universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The principles of inclusion and participation constitute the core tenets of Nepal’s governance system.  Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity is punishable by law. Laws related to human trafficking and domestic violence have been implemented strictly to end gender-based violence and discrimination.  The Constitution also guarantees freedom of religion as a fundamental right.  Nepal is committed to eliminating all forms of child labour and child marriage, as well as to upholding the rights of persons with disabilities.  Protection of rights of migrant workers, including women migrant workers, has always remained a top priority.  In Nepal, human rights education constitutes part of curriculums of education institutions and training of the public officials, he added. 

AMIRBEK ISLAMULY (Kazakhstan) said States must ensure that the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights are guiding the world towards a more peaceful, prosperous future grounded in respect for human dignity.  He said Kazakhstan is now focused on implementation of large-scale political democratic reforms, following a meaningful process of listening to people and taking on board their aspirations.  He said the country ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Further, among reforms in hand is a follow-up plan for human rights and the rule of law.  It includes concrete actions designed to promote equal rights and opportunities for all, focusing on disadvantaged groups, protecting the rights of freedom of association, prevention of torture and other cruel and inhumane treatment, promoting the rights of ethnic groups, and protecting victims of human trafficking, migrants, and stateless persons, as well as improving mechanisms for interaction with UN bodies. 

Ms. FERNÁNDEZ (Chile) thanked all Special Procedures mandate holders and said Chile has made significant efforts to promote human rights by co-sponsoring many resolutions.  She said that it’s important to systemize debates about human rights, especially given financial constraints.  She also said the role of national independent bodies is vital, calling for Member States to study what role the United Nations can fulfil to establish or strengthen national mechanisms for the protection of human rights. She welcomed the existence of the universal human rights index, which systematizes recommendations on a country-by-country basis, but said that better follow-up mechanisms are needed. She appealed to Member States to engage in dialogues on human rights, which should involve the adoption of radical measures, especially for those countries under international scrutiny.

NATALIIA MUDRENKO (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, in its capacity as Observer, and Ireland, on behalf of a group of countries, expressed support for United Nations human rights activities.  Russia engages in unprovoked and unjustified aggression against Ukraine, committing severe abuses with no regard for human life, she said, adding that their attacks result in loss of innocent lives and extensive damage, violating the right to life, liberty and security.  Russia's intentional destruction of medical and educational facilities violates the right to health and education, she said, adding that the torture and killing of prisoners of war, arbitrary detention of civilians and abduction of children constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity.  She pointed to a recent report from OHCHR on Russia's deliberate murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the Olenivka detention facility.

SONG KIM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said that, due to factors threatening fundamental human rights, the promotion and protection of human rights has become crucial.  He noted that the United States and some Western countries are “attempting to impose their values, political system and lifestyle upon other countries”, and where there is a refusal to accept, they abuse sacred human rights to defame the international image of these countries.  They persistently upbraid human rights situations in other countries, while “turning a blind eye” to all sorts of human rights violations in their own countries.  This hypocrisy and double standard cannot be tolerated, he stressed. He said that, for the United Nations human rights mechanisms to be truly faithful to ambitions for a level promotion of human rights, the principle of respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference must be observed.

Mr. LEBÉDEL (France) reiterated his country’s solidarity with Israel, underscoring the country’s right to defend itself against Hamas.  He called on Israel to respect international law in its response in Gaza to protect civilian lives.  Turning to Ukraine, he said the Russian Federation has broken with its obligations under the UN Charter in its war of aggression there, calling on Moscow to stop its massive human rights violations and cease the occupation of Ukrainian territories.  Following an Azerbaijani military operation, the Nagorno-Karabakh region is empty, he noted, which resembles ethnic cleansing.  He called on Azerbaijan to respect the rights of Armenians of the region, including the right of voluntary return.  Expressing serious concerns over violence in the Sahel region, he said attacks on democracy have increased in recent years, highlighting violence in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso. 

JONATHAN SHRIER (United States) spoke of the brutality of Hamas terrorists, condemning the slaughter of more than 1,300 civilians in Israel and taking of scores of hostages, including American citizens.  Israel has the right to defend its country and its people, he said, adding that Hamas bears responsibility for sparking the current war.  He said President Joe Biden will demonstrate steadfast support for Israel in a visit tomorrow.  Then in Jordan, he will reiterate that Hamas does not stand for the Palestinian people's right to dignity and self-determination and discuss the humanitarian needs of civilians in Gaza.  He said China’s Government continues to perpetrate genocide in Xinjiang, severely repress Tibetans and undermine fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong.  In Syria, the regime continues to carry out arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, unfair trials, torture, sexual violence and extrajudicial killings.  He expressed concern at backsliding on women's rights, particularly in Afghanistan.

SAMUEL ISA SAMUEL ISA CHALA (Ethiopia), aligning himself with the African Group, said the promotion and safeguarding of human rights are imperatives.  He underscored Ethiopia’s pursuit of a reform agenda since 2018, encompassing political, socioeconomic and institutional reform.  Ethiopia has devised transitional justice and national dialogue mechanisms to resolve discord, noting that, despite numerous challenges, the Government has maintained its course on reform and conflict resolution.  Measures are aimed at enhancing the overall human rights situation in the country and have produced commendable outcomes, he said, adding that he appreciated the Secretary-General’s report on the engagement of OHCHR with the Government and the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

ELIE ALTARSHA (Syria), aligning himself with China, on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan, on behalf of a Group of Countries, the Group of Arab States and the Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations Charter, condemned Israel’s occupation and stressed that the country has been committing genocide and crimes against humanity.  Through a new cycle of aggression, human rights violations, murder of children and displacement of millions, the atrocities committed by Israel are unimaginable ‑ one hour ago, they bombed a hospital, killing 500 people.  “What is the threat that a hospital can pose to an Israeli occupation?” he asked. “Who said that some are allowed to defend their people while it is allowed to leave the Palestinian people to be slaughtered through ethnic cleansings and genocide?” he continued. He also criticized collective Western support, noting the blindness of those countries to Israel’s crimes.  “We also have the legitimate right to retrieve the occupied Syrian Golan and stand in the way of Israeli racism and to end Israeli crimes and massacres,” he said.

BOLA ASAJU (Nigeria), said that the country’s promotion of human rights can be seen in its peacebuilding and all the international instruments it has ratified.  She underscored the importance of the principles of objectivity, impartiality and non-politicization in the enjoyment of human rights, as well as of respecting ideological differences between Member States.  Nigeria considers the Universal Periodic Review to be a potent instrument for change, she added, highlighting the link between economic, social and cultural rights and civil and political rights.  She underscored the importance of the Treaty Body system, whose recommendations contributed positively to Nigeria’s legislative framework, he said, and stressed the importance of the international community coming together to combat human rights abuses through cooperation and dialogue. Urging the international community to refrain from politicizing human rights, he reaffirmed the importance of multilateralism in the protection of them.

IBRAHIM ZUHUREE (Maldives) condemned Israeli aggression on the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and reiterated calls on the international community to use all measures to put an end to these deliberate acts of aggression.  Throughout its democratic journey, Maldives has paid attention to upholding its international human rights obligations in line with international human rights law and the UN Charter.  It has worked to ensure quality healthcare for its people by launching various programmes which provide accessible and affordable healthcare, including mental health services.  “Our commitment to the protection of children remains unwavering,” he further stressed, noting initiatives that empower and inspire youth to become socially aware citizens as well as to upscale their skills.  For Maldives, China has been a reliable development partner, he said, reiterating firm commitment to the “long-standing One-China policy”. 

REEM MOHAMED SALEH YESLAM ALAMERI (United Arab Emirates) said being a member of the Human Rights Council for 2022–2024, her country works with partners “in order to strengthen efforts and international initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting human rights”.  She highlighted her country’s work with the United Kingdom in October on the right of every girl to education, as well as in June on tolerance, speech and security.  She further stated that the United Arab Emirates has adopted laws, policies and strategies in this regard, namely the gender balance strategy for 2026, national family-protection policy and the youth national strategy.  It has also made amendments to its laws against discrimination, hatred and crime, and has made progress in promoting women’s right. She noted that her country came first globally for 30 indicators of global competitiveness on women for 2022 and 2023, and remains also committed to the rights of children, people living with disabilities, and workers.

Ms. ALHAMMADI (Bahrain) said that the country has improved the living conditions of its people, empowering women and girls, as well as people with disabilities.  Further, a national plan for human rights was adopted.  The Parliament allows citizens to express themselves, she added, citing an authority that addresses grievances.  Bahrain protects media freedom and trade unions, she said, noting that over 600 existed.  Moreover, a law was recent passed to convert prison sentences to rehabilitation, affecting over 5,500 people sentenced since 2018.  Also, there is a specific court system for trying children. Recently, Bahrain signed a bilateral agreement with the United Kingdom on the promotion of sustainable development. Promoting respect for religions and civilizations is a fundamental human right, she said, calling for an end to violence threatening the stability of the Middle East, the opening of a humanitarian corridor into Gaza and for de-scalation of the situation. 

JOANA ALMEIDA MARINHO (Portugal), aligning herself with the statement by Angola on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, said the Universal Declaration enshrines the rights of all human beings and is a global blueprint for international, national and local laws and policies.  She called for investing in dialogue towards reaching different viewpoints and positions together.  Portugal welcomes the Secretary-General’s Call to Action for Human Rights and reiterates its support for the work and independence of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  “The voices of civil society and youth must be heard,” she said.  She called on States to fight discrimination relentlessly and respect everyone's human rights.

YUSNIER ROMERO PUENTES (Cuba) said selective approaches and double standards against developing countries contribute to politicization and confrontation.  Stressing the need to avoid these practices becoming a common practice, including in the Human Rights Council, he said the current international order must be replaced with a more democratic one.  Highlighting the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, he said the blockade imposed on his country by the United States is a crime aimed at suffocating and pressurizing Cuba.  Further, the sanctions negatively affect the quality of life of Cubans.

SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), associating himself with ASEAN, said that his Government is constantly reviewing and improving its laws and policies to be in line with international human rights obligations and commitments.  A milestone development for Thailand is the enactment of the Act on Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance, which supports better alignment with the Convention against Torture.  The Government has been working to build the capacity and understanding of law enforcement and relevant agencies to ensure effective application of the Act.  “We must respect and protect the human rights of those left furthest behind and foster their human security,” he said.  In that regard, international cooperation is essential to assist States in building the capacity needed to effectively implement their human rights obligations on the ground. 

KARLITO NUNES (Timor-Leste) expressed concern over dramatic human rights violations in Ukraine, Myanmar, Israel and Palestine. Particularly concerning in Myanmar are the military junta’s killings, torture and sexual violence, he added. Timor-Leste offers condolences to all innocent people killed in the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel, he said, condemning kidnappings and killings of non-combatant civilians. There is no justification — political or religious — for the indiscriminate killing of civilians, he stressed.  To ensure human rights within his country, Timor-Leste has established its own independent bodies, such as the Ombudsman’s office and its National Anti-Corruption Commission, he said.  While the Government does not yet have a national plan for human rights, it has endorsed plans, including on gender-based violence, zero hunger and security.  Further, the country has introduced alternative approaches improving the enjoyment of human rights, including education and awareness and strengthening accountability mechanisms. 

IOANA-CRISTINA MIHAIL (Romania) associating herself with the European Union, said the promotion and protection of human rights are at the core of her country’s foreign policy, especially during its mandate as a member of the Human Rights Council from 2023 to 2025.  She said her delegation, which has spoken against the war in Ukraine — to whom it is a neighbor — practically reflects “our stance against gross violation of human rights”.  With the arrival of another winter, her country is concerned about the severe impact on civilians' right to an adequate standard of living, including access to food and housing, particularly for most vulnerable groups and children.  Therefore, Romania believes that no effort should be spared towards ensuring accountability for those responsible for the atrocities and towards reparations to the victims.  It is also committed to a proactive approach to the fight against gender-based violence to ensure the empowerment of women and girls. 

GHEORGHE LEUCĂ (Republic of Moldova) said fundamental human rights continue to be violated by the separatist administration in his country, including through illegal checkpoints established in the security zone.  He reiterated a call for the more active involvement of international partners to ensure respect for international law and human rights in the “transition region” of his country.  Turning to Ukraine, he said the unjustified aggression by the Russian Federation continues to cause numerous violations of human rights as well as the destruction of infrastructure.  In March, Moldova introduced a temporary protection mechanism offering Ukrainians refugees the possibility of obtaining the legal status to work, study and benefit from social and medical care in Moldova.  His country also works continuously to prevent and combat the abuse and exploitation of children. 

MICHAEL IMRAN KANU (Sierra Leone), associating himself with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that his Government has continually taken steps to uphold its commitment to guarantee the protection and promotion of the rights, welfare and social development of all, particularly women and children.  Sierra Leone continues to demonstrate its sustained commitment to eliminate all threats to democratic freedoms and human rights.  More specifically, the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Act of 2022 ensures equal employment opportunities, guarantees equal pay for equal work and lengthens maternity leave.  As Sierra Leone remains committed to its international obligations and to pursuing liberal democratic reforms, it calls for the non-politicization of human rights issues.  He also underscored the negative impacts of unilateral coercive measures. 

XAYFHONG SENGDARA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic), aligning himself with ASEAN, stressed his Government’s priority to guarantee the full enjoyment of legitimate rights by all its citizens. Apart from adopting new laws to that end, it established a national committee for people with disabilities and elderly persons.  Further, progress has been made towards promoting the right to education and advancing the right to development.  He underscored his country’s commitment to the principle of transparency, objectivity, non-selectivity and cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights.

FATEMEH ARAB BAFRANI (Iran) said her country firmly believes in safeguarding the multilateral system from any threats of unilateralism and politicization, and that to ensure global sustainability and prosperity, the system must protect the interests of all countries while resisting “any attempts by certain countries to instrumentalize its platform to advance their own political agenda”.  She said the illegal and inhuman unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United State and the European Union negatively impact all areas of life in affected countries.  The so-called fact-finding mission on her country is entirely politically motivated and unacceptable.  Those “self-appointed human rights guardians” should be held accountable for human rights violations within their borders, especially on racial discrimination, domestic violence and trafficking.  Iran condemns Israel’s crime against humanity and continued occupation of Palestinian territory.  This Committee and the United Nations should pay attention to the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Gaza.

AMINATA OUATTARA CISSE (Burkina Faso) said her country has been the object of terrorist attacks since 2016, leading to the displacement of populations and violations of human rights.  The Action Plan for Stabilisation and Development 2023-2025 was recently adopted, focusing on combatting terrorism, re-establishing territorial integratory, national reconciliation and social cohesion, she said.  Legislation has been adopted to combat terrorism and the military justice code has been modified to that end.  A UN country office has also been established to prevent  human rights abuses in the combat against terrorism.  To date, efforts to reconquer territory have ensured the return of 191,000 people to their homes and 287,000 pupils to re-opened schools by 2023.  Some 1,000 jobs will be established for internally displaced women.  Combatting impunity is a priority during the transition, she added, stressing that combatting terrorism is at the heart of the country’s priorities. 

MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) said the Palestinian people have been denied their fundamental human rights, including the right to self-determination, with the current aggression by Israel aimed at the obliteration of the Palestinian people. He called for immediate de-escalation, protection of all civilians, unhindered humanitarian access to the population in Gaza and full respect for international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict.  Turning to the situation of 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, he highlighted their long-standing suffering and extreme vulnerabilities caused by systematic discrimination and persecution in Myanmar.  He called for an intensification of efforts to create a conducive environment in Myanmar, with the view of ensuring a voluntary, safe, sustainable and dignified return.

GIANLUCA GRECO (Italy), aligning himself with the European Union, highlighted the anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, which represents a cornerstone in history and a reminder of the need to address alarming threats and challenges ahead.  He said human rights and fundamental freedoms are under unprecedented pressure due to conflicts, rising inequalities and climate change.  Ending poverty and hunger and upholding the right to food are a priority, he said, adding that food and water must not become an instrument of war.  The fight against all forms of discrimination, violence and abuse, including sexual and gender-based violence and sexual violence in conflicts, represents horizontal concerns, he said, adding that access to justice and accountability must be pursued with determination.  He also reaffirmed an unconditional opposition to the death penalty — a cruel and degrading punishment that denies human dignity.

JAMES MARTIN LARSEN (Australia) said on the anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, long-standing human rights norms and principles are being challenged and eroded.  He condemned the abuses and violations of human rights in Myanmar, Ukraine, Syria, parts of Africa, Iran and Xinjiang and unequivocally condemned Hamas’ attacks on Israel and the crisis it has precipitated.  He called for adherence to international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians.  He went on to say that the death penalty is an inhumane form of punishment which disproportionately affects those facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, and he reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to its global abolition. He also said that Australia doesn’t shy away from its own human rights challenges and acknowledged there was work to be done, expressing commitment to doing so, including in relation to First Nations people.

Right of Reply

Responding to what he called unfounded comments by the United States and the Czech Republic, the representative of Cuba rejected the accusations of these two countries, which are meant to distort reality and change the country’s constitutional order.  He pointed to the United States’ use of the death penalty and the Czech Republic’s prohibition against marriage for people of the same gender.  Moreover, both countries are guilty of systemic racism, he said.

Responding to what he referred to as the groundless remarks of the United States and European Union, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea condemned reckless accusations of both countries as political provocations and manifestations of their deep-rooted hostility to his country.  The so-called human rights issue is a political trick and hostile act to infringe upon the system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The representative of India, responding to the statement made earlier by Pakistan, said that country misuses this forum to spread malicious propaganda against India, diverting the attention of the international community from serious violations against women, girls and minorities in Pakistan.  Thousands of women and girls from minority communities have been subjected to forced marriages and forced conversions in Pakistan.  Furthermore, minorities in Pakistan live in constant fear of State-sponsored suppression of their rights, he said, pointing to frequent attacks on places of worship.  Pakistan has been engaged in systematic persecution, forced conversions and discrimination against its religious minorities.  He further emphasized that Jammu and Kashmir remain an integral part of India, calling on Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism.

The representative of China categorically rejected fabricated lies of the United States, the European Union, the Czech Republic, France and Australia to smear his country.  People of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang live in harmony, the economy and society in Tibet continues to prosper and all people in Hong Kong enjoy their rights and freedom in accordance with law.  Under the veneer of concern for human rights is the effort to destabilize China and obstruct its development, he said, adding that Western countries are in no position to lecture others on human rights.  He then detailed their crimes, including the wars in Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan, and asked:  “When will justice be done to the countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America?”

The representative of Syria said the European Union, with its unfounded accusations, has made a “recyclable statement” from three years back.  Therefore, whatever reply was given at that time should suffice.  As for the United States’ comments, Syria’s delegate said that, assuming all crimes and violations of human rights committed by that country throughout history were magically erased, what it has done in the past couple of days in assisting Israel in its war of genocide against the Palestinians is enough to “leave them in shame for the next 200 years”.  On France’s comment against his country, his delegation believes the French are living in an illusion, “in a deep sleep mode, and we will not wake them up with our right of reply”.

Israel’s representative said Syria’s representative’s blatant comments that the State of Israel should cease to exist should not be tolerated “in these halls”.  She said Syria’s “ceaseless and cruel abuse of human rights against its own population”, including the use of chemical weapons on women and children have deemed its regime’s standing ground as illegitimate. As for the hospital incident in Palestine, she said the Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror organization fired a missile salvo towards Israel, one of which misfired and landed on the al-Ahli hospital in Gaza, resulting in many casualties and severe damage.  “The barbaric terrorists in Gaza are the ones who attacked the Gaza hospital, not the IDF.  Those who cruelly murder our children, murder their children as well,” she said.  She further admonished the Syrian representative to condemn terror unequivocally and condemn Hamas, adding that “Israel is at the forefront of the war on terror.  Stand with us.”

Responding to unfounded comments by Armenia, the representative for Azerbaijan called out what she said was its “imaginary narratives” about events in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of her country. She said her country’s military operation sought to end Armenia’s 30-year-long illegal occupation and restore its territorial integrity, which she noted is a legitimate right of Azerbaijan, as established under international law.  She called the allegation of ethnic cleansing or forced displacement “groundless and false”.  During the occupation, she said Azerbaijani civilians were executed in acts of mass murder.  Taking issue with France, she said her country has not heard any concerns expressed by its delegation over these “gross violations of human rights”. 

Responding to false references to his country by the Czech Republic and the United States, the delegate for Venezuela said no foreign Government has the right or capacity to interfere in its domestic affairs.  He said the countries’ delegates are seeking to impose an interventionist agenda, whose only aim is to obtain the natural resources of Venezuela.  They have not achieved their goal of putting an end to the democratic governance of Venezuela.  He said Venezuela is free, independent and sovereign, which should be understood by the representatives of the Czech Republic and the United States and their Governments.

Pakistan’s delegate described India as a nightmare for its minorities.  They will not care if millions of lives and rights are trampled upon, she said. Today, in India, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Dalits face persecution and exclusion.  The international community must dismantle this edifice of fascism before it is too late, she said, adding that India is the epicentre of terrorism and perpetrates State-sponsored terrorism against its own minorities. 

The representative of Türkiye said historical atrocities against Turkish Cypriots are well-documented in United Nations archives. The international community portrays the Cyprus problem as one of invasion and occupation when referring to the legitimate and justified Turkish intervention, he said, adding that the only occupation on the island is the 60-year-old occupation of the seat of government in Cyprus, carried out by the Cypriot Administration.

The representative of Syria said the occupying authority of Israel mentioned Syria and his delegation has a rule that it replies to some Member States that try to target it.  But he will not reply to the occupying authority.  It is a murderous and racist regime.

Responding to the delegate of Azerbaijan’s response, the delegate of Armenia said he deplored Azerbaijan’s attempts to justify its use of force or to whitewash the ethnic cleansing of Armenians under the guise of terrorism or counterterrorism.

For information media. Not an official record.