Home » Posts tagged "DigitalContent"

Country-specific, Thematic Issues Dominate Meeting, as Third Committee Takes Up Five Texts on Children’s Rights, Other Aspects of Social Development

Experts on the human rights situations in Myanmar and Iran, as well as on thematic topics such as trafficking in persons, were among those presenting reports to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates began general debate on those reports and introduced five draft resolutions on other aspects of social development.

Vijay Nambiar, Special Adviser on Myanmar, presented the Secretary-General’s report on the human rights situation in that country in the context of its ongoing peace process and democratization.  He described “significant” political changes that had taken place following the historic November 2015 elections, including the presence of Daw Aung Sun Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session.  While there was “cautious optimism” about Government efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine State, recent violence there had created cause for concern.

In the ensuing dialogue, Myanmar’s representative underscored the serious efforts underway to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  The Government was also cooperating with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Given its progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition, based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures, a point later echoed by Mr. Nambiar, who encouraged States to consider other options of engagement to support the transition.

Delegates welcomed the positive direction the new Government had taken to achieve peace.  Several expressed concern about recent attacks in Rakhine and rights violations against minorities, among them, Egypt’s representative, who, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, drew attention to the deteriorating situation of the Rohingya community and restrictions on their rights.

In an interactive dialogue Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, delegates reiterated concern about rights violations in those territories and the ongoing occupation.  In response, Mr. Lynk said that the occupation was only becoming more entrenched, mainly due to Israel’s settlement expansion.  Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, which should be a concern to the international community.

Rita Izsak-Ndiaye, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, described rights violations faced by minorities during humanitarian crises, such as displacement and discrimination. Delegates shared those concerns, with representatives of Hungary and Norway requesting more support for minorities and more data on their situations. In her response, Ms. Izsak-Ndiaye stressed the need to ensure the full inclusion of minorities in all sectors of society.

Elisabeth da Costa, presented the final report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, noting that, while Iran’s engagement had improved over the past five years, he had never been granted access to the country.  Children were at risk of early and forced marriage, while ethnic and religious minorities were subject to arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  The rights to freedom of expression and association were severely restricted.  Iran was still the country with the highest number of executions per capita.

Iran’s delegate responded that recent legal reforms had been ignored and, along with other delegates, decried the politicized, duplicative and partial nature of the mandate.  Other delegates called on Iran to meet its international human rights obligations and expressed concern about the detention of individuals with dual citizenship.

Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, also presented their reports.

In other business, the representatives of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, Mongolia and Canada, introduced five draft resolutions on issues related to social development and the protection of the rights of children.

Speaking in the general debate were representatives of the Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Indonesia (on behalf of the Association of South-East Asian Nations), Finland (also on behalf of Sweden), Argentina and Switzerland.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 31 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued discussions today under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4172.

Dialogue on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories

The Third Committee opened with a continuation of its discussion of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which had begun the previous day with a statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.  Several delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate, commending him on including the issue of the right to development in his report.  Many sought his opinion on measures the international community could take to ensure that Israel was held accountable for its rights violations.  Israel’s delegate objected that the mandate was biased.  The Human Rights Council, under which the Special Rapporteur’s mandate rested, had been taken over by some of the world’s worst human right violators and had fixated on “the only democracy in the Middle East” while ignoring other violations around the world.

Mr. LYNK replied that the occupation was not lessening; to the contrary, it was becoming more entrenched.  The Palestinians were not on path to self-determination, and that reality should be of concern to the international community.  The occupation existed because of Israel’s settlement project, without which there would be no need for it.  It was a tribute to the international community that it had devoted so much attention to the Palestine question.  However, the occupation was almost 50 years old and the occupying Power had faced virtually no consequences.  Thus, to questions about measures that could help end the occupation, he answered, in turn, with a question:  “Does the occupying Power need to realize that its status in the international community depends on allowing Palestinians to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and on ending the occupation?”  Further, he raised the question of whether there should be a resolution at the United Nations or an advisory opinion at the International Court of Justice on whether the occupation was illegal.

Also participating in the discussion were representative of Jordan, Senegal, Indonesia, Cuba, Qatar, Norway, South Africa, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Maldives and Turkey, as well as the State of Palestine and the European Union.

Dialogue on Human Rights in Myanmar

VIJAY NAMBIAR, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, introduced the Secretary-General’s report (document A/71/308), which provided an overview on the peace process, democratization and development in that country. The report considered the significant political changes that had taken place after the historic November 2015 elections, he said, stressing that the presence of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi at the General Assembly’s seventy-first session had garnered great interest.  The process of democratization, reform and reconciliation in Myanmar started with the 2010 general election which, he said, despite its flawed character, had replaced the military junta with a putative civilian Government. 

Dialogue and cooperation had flourished since then, he said.  Daw Suu’s decision to contest the April 2012 by-elections and her subsequent victory had changed the political paradigm and path of the country.  Despite such progress, democratic governance must be consolidated further, he said, noting that the coordinated engagement of the United Nations’ good offices had been a key factor in the positive changes achieved in recent years.  On the situation in Rakhine, he said the Government had taken steps towards a peaceful settlement, notably by establishing a Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development in Rakhine state, and an Advisory Commission.  While there was cautious optimism that the Government was working to improve the situation, recent violence had created cause for concern.  More must be done to protect minorities in the country, in close collaboration with civil society.  Steps taken to promote reconciliation included the strengthening of women’s participation in the peace process and the signing of a joint action plan with the United Nations to end the use of child soldiers.

The representative of Myanmar, noting that the Government had prioritized peace and national reconciliation, expressed appreciation for the international support in that regard.  The inclusive Union Peace Conference in August had marked a vital step towards lasting peace.  The Government was making serious efforts to find a fair and durable solution to the situation in Rakhine.  In response to attacks on police posts there, it had taken all its actions within the law and provided food and basic supplies to affected communities.  Myanmar also had cooperated with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, held annual human rights dialogues and was a member of the Human Rights Mechanism of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).  Given such progress, it was time for the United Nations to assist Myanmar in its democratic transition based on regular modes of engagement without any special human rights procedures.

Delegates welcomed the progress made in Myanmar, and at the same time, expressed concern about recent attacks, asking what could be done to better protect minorities, and more broadly, support peace and democratization.

Mr. NAMBIAR replied that humanitarian access to Rakhine state would be granted next week and that the situation was being closely monitored.  He encouraged the international community to monitor the security situation and remind the Government to address any concerns about its security presence in country’s north, stressing that the effects of security operations on local communities must be monitored to prevent human rights violations.  Noting that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations country team had supported the transition, he said hate speech and incitement to violence must be tackled, while minorities must be protected.  The Organization should continue its high level of engagement with Myanmar, including through a local presence for OHCHR.  It was also important for the Special Rapporteur on the situation to continue her work.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Singapore, Norway, Egypt (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), China and the United Kingdom, as well as the European Union.  

Dialogue on Freedom of Religion or Belief

HEINER BIELEFELDT, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, dedicated his last thematic report (A/71/269) to an overview of violations of that right, which could originate from States, non-State actors or a combination of both.  Some infringements remained largely under-reported, including criminal legal provisions which, on the surface, did not touch on religion or belief — such as anti-extremism laws — but which imposed unreasonable burdens on certain religious communities.  Education was another area warranting systematic monitoring.  Religious intolerance did not originate from religions themselves; there was scope for interpretation in all of them.  Human beings were ultimately responsible for open-minded or narrow-minded interpretations.  “Theocratic” regimes typically stifled any serious intellectual debate on religious issues.  Hence, it was no coincidence that opposition against those regimes always included critical believers of the very same religion the Government pretended to protect.

Some Governments violated freedom of religion or belief in the interest of exercising political control over society as a whole, he said.  Massive violations of that right were currently taking place in countries characterized by systemic political mismanagement, such as corruption, cronyism and ethnocentrism.  While States remained the duty-bearers for the implementation of human rights within their jurisdiction, the international community must live up to its obligations, too, and it had largely failed to protect the rights of refugees and internally displaced persons.  While some States had opened their borders and shown solidarity, others had indicated they would merely be willing to accommodate refugees from religious backgrounds close to their own predominant religious traditions.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates expressed support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and asked for recommendations on ways to promote diversity, accountability, and to address the root causes of violations of religion and belief.

Mr. BIELEFELDT began by addressing the treatment of minorities, which was indicative of the climate in a society.  While the representatives of the United States and Yemen had raised the issue of the Bahá’ís, he said nonbelievers and followers of non-traditional beliefs were also vulnerable.  While extra attention to minorities was well justified, one should not take freedom of religion and belief to be in the interest of minorities alone.  Majority religions should be more involved in issues of freedom of religion and take responsibility for protecting minorities, not simply because it was the right thing to do but because it was in their own interest. 

He called for greater dialogue between members of the same faith groups, noting that there were many examples of good practices in his report.  Further, religiously colorized hatred was not a natural law.  There were situations in which Shiites and Sunnis lived together peacefully, despite some peoples’ beliefs that conflict between the two faiths was inevitable due to age-old animosities.  To the contrary, conflict between the two stemmed from an artificial attempt to poison relations.  Finally, he emphasized that it was impossible to work on freedom of religion without addressing gender.

Also participating in the discussion were representatives of Poland, Denmark, Iran, Germany, Norway, United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada, as well as the European Union.

Dialogue on Trafficking in Persons

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, presented her report (document A/71/303) and highlighted that trafficking was a systemic outcome of conflict.  Welcoming increased international interest in that linkage, she noted that trafficking victims were entitled to the same rights, due diligence, protection and prevention against such abuse during times of conflict as otherwise.  Her report highlighted conflict-related trafficking from three perspectives, the first of which was trafficking of persons fleeing conflict.  For example, unaccompanied children from Afghanistan and Sudan in refugee camps in Calais and Dunkirk, both in France, had been illegally traded for sexual exploitation by people who had promised them passage to the United Kingdom.

On her second point, trafficking during conflict, she underlined that trafficking of migrant workers into conflict zones was a hidden issue, which often resulted in women and girls being subjected to both labour and sexual abuse.  On her last point, trafficking in post-conflict situations, she emphasized that peacekeeping operations continued to be the occasion for “shameful incidents” of sexual violence, abuse and exploitation.  A large, militarized and predominantly male international presence fuelled the demand for goods and services produced through trafficking for labour or sexual exploitation.  Recommendations from her report included six measures, among them that appropriate procedures should be established at reception centres for migrants and implemented by trained personnel in cooperation with civil society organizations. 

When the floor opened for questions, several delegates asked about best practices on how to address trafficking and protect victims.  Germany’s representative wanted to know how States could sensitize the media without infringing on press freedom, while the delegates of the European Union and Switzerland asked for recommendations on integrating human trafficking into the Global Compact on Migrants and Refugees, which States would soon negotiate.

Ms. GIAMMARINARO highlighted that trafficking was a systematic outcome of conflict and must be addressed within that context.  Anti-trafficking should be fully integrated into the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Global Compact.  In places with large movements of migrants, it was important to establish anti-trafficking procedures in cooperation with non-Governmental organizations and others capable of interviewing migrants and identifying indications of exploitation and trafficking. Member States should also help at-risk people find employment.  Those measures must be integrated across actions.  The International Labour Organization Alliance, as part of Sustainable Development Goal 8.7, was an example of good practice; it engaged businesses to ensure that self-regulatory tools were implemented, especially in the supply chain.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of the United States, United Kingdom, Lichtenstein, South Africa, Morocco and Eritrea.

Introduction of draft resolutions

Under the agenda item on social development, the representative of Thailand, on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, introduced drafts on “Implementation of the outcome of the World Summit for Social Development and of the twenty-fourth special session of the General Assembly” (document A/C.3/71/L.5); “Follow-up to the Twentieth Anniversary of the International Year of the Family and Beyond” (document A/C.3/71/L.6); and “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/71/L.7).

The representative of Mongolia introduced a draft on “Literacy for life: shaping future agendas” (document A/C.3/71/L.9).

Under the Committee’s agenda item on promotion and protection of the rights of children, Canada’s representative, also speaking on behalf of Zambia, introduced a draft on “Child, early and forced marriage” (document A/C.3/71/L.13).

Dialogue on Human Rights of Minorities

RITA IZSÁK-NDIAYE, Special Rapporteur on minority issues, focused on the human rights of minorities in humanitarian crises, stressing that those populations were particularly vulnerable and often targeted because of their identity.  There was a correlation between crises and minority status.  In humanitarian crises, for example, minorities were more likely to be displaced and subjected to discrimination.  Further, a lack of accurate and disaggregated data made a much-needed analysis of their situations more difficult, she said, underscoring the need to gather more detailed information.

She went on to say that minorities often lived in fear and therefore were more hesitant to share information about their situations.  They faced numerous challenges in humanitarian crises, including attacks and threats to their lives, marginalization, a lack of access to basic services and issues related to land rights and security of tenure. She recommended that Member States build resilient minority communities and provide timely and adequate assistance to minorities during humanitarian crises.  In addition, the Secretary-General should develop a comprehensive United Nations strategy to ensure the systematic integration of minority rights into all programming.

When the floor opened, Austria’s representative asked whether the Special Rapporteur saw synergies between her mandate and the work of other treaty bodies or special procedures.  The European Union’s representative shared the concern that minorities faced greater problems during crises, and asked how the international community could better address that issue.  Several delegations queried the Special Rapporteur about disaggregated statistical data.

Ms. IZSÁK-NDIAYE emphasized that people who collected data must understand why they were doing it, and that they must be members of the minority groups’ own communities.  Guarantees also should be in the system to ensure that the information was not abused.  To the question about synergies, she said the participation of non-governmental organizations should be encouraged, reminding delegations that there was a voluntary fund to enable minorities to travel and participate in the deliberations of the Forum on Minority Issues.  Regarding other aspects of her work, she said she had done research on Universal Periodic Review recommendations and was currently looking into research on the second cycle.

As she was nearing the end of her mandate, she then provided a few general observations on its six years.  It was difficult to look at past and current conflicts and not see ethnic and minority identity dimensions, she said, adding that identity was emotive and important to all.  It involved everything in people’s lives and limitations on how they lived, making it a symbol of not having dignity or having one’s rights respected.  Dignity had to be equally guaranteed for everyone, and that lay at the heart of protection of minorities.  She urged the United Nations to recognize that every part of the system should promote minority rights. 

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Hungary, United States, Russian Federation, and Norway. 

Dialogue on Human Rights in Iran

ELISABETH DA COSTA, presenting the final report of AHMED SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, highlighted progress and challenges in that country.  The Government’s engagement with United Nations rights bodies had improved over the past five years.  However, the Special Rapporteur had not been granted access to the country throughout his mandate, which was now coming to an end.  While Iran had made positive legal reforms to strengthen the rights of the accused, those changes had not contributed to sufficient progress in the human rights situation, in part because there was a gap between the law and State-sanctioned practices that violated fundamental rights.  Further, national laws and practices restricted the rights to freedom of expression and association and peaceful assembly, and journalists and human rights defenders had been persecuted by Government agencies.  Iran executed more individuals per capita than any other country, she pointed out.

In addition, laws, policies and practices continued to institutionalize the “second class status” of women and girls, she said, noting that the age of majority was 9 for girls and 15 for boys, effectively depriving children above those ages of protections under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Moreover, the minimum age for marriage was 13 for girls and 15 for boys, placing girls at risk of early and forced marriage.  Ethnic and religious minorities were also subject to abuses, such as arbitrary arrest, detention and prosecution.  She encouraged the international community to continue to engage Iran on human rights, as such efforts had shown positive potential thus far.

When the floor was opened, several delegates expressed concern about use of the death penalty in Iran, the targeting of dual citizens, and the rights of women, children and minorities.  Delegates of the United Kingdom and European Union expressed concern about the severity of punishment for drug-related offences in Iran, asking how the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights could engage the Government on alternative punishments for such crimes.  Some asked the Rapporteur for his opinion on the role that the international community could play in bringing about tangible improvements in those areas.

Several delegates voiced opposition to the Rapporteur’s mandate, saying it violated the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity, and argued that the Universal Periodic Review was a more appropriate instrument for investigating human rights violations in specific countries.

Mr. SHAHEED responded that the whole idea of the country mandate had come about in the 1950s and 1960s, when the United Nations felt the need for a protection mechanism.  The Iran mandate had shown the efficacy of those mechanisms.  In most cases, the Government had responded positively to issues he had raised.  To those who believed country-specific mandates were a form of political pressure, he clarified that his mandate was not an instrument for condemning Iran, but rather for engaging the Government constructively. 

Once his mandate had begun, he said Iran’s response rate to United Nations communications had increased to about 40 to 50 per cent.  Domestic discourse on human rights had also improved, thanks, perhaps, to the efforts of the Third Committee.  Moreover, revision of the country’s capital punishment law could result in a decline in the number of death penalty cases.  He saw Hassan Rouhani’s election to the Presidency as a sign of a new approach and a healthier discourse on rights issues.

On the issue of drug trafficking, he suggested the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime be invited to consult Iran on human rights issues.  He called for greater engagement with Iran, including greater investment, though he emphasized that investors must avoid accentuating discrimination in the country.

In response, Iran’s representative expressed strong disagreement with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment of the impact of his mandate.  Rather than encouraging progress in the human rights sphere, the mandate had been destructive.  Iranian society was vibrant and progressive, yet sensitive to foreign interventions. 

Also speaking during the interactive dialogue were representatives of Venezuela (also speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement), United States, Syria, Germany, Switzerland, Zimbabwe, Norway, Canada, Russian Federation, Belarus, Czech Republic, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, China, Eritrea and Pakistan.

Statements

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said historic and contemporary migratory flows had created the region.  There should be greater international understanding of migration patterns.  Migratory flows within a region should be safe and well-regulated, and the dignity of migrants and their families should be protected.  She urged States in transit and destination areas to work together in seeking solutions.  International migration required an integrated approach, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of children needed to be protected. 

She went on to stress that irregular migration should be approached from a human rights perspective in line with international agreements.  Rejecting the criminalization of irregular migration, as well as xenophobia against migrants, she urged the international community to protect migrants from criminal groups.  In addition, migrant workers must be protected, she said, stressing that the right of migrants to a voluntary return to their countries of origin was also important.  Countries implementing selective policies toward migrants must end them.  The United Nations was the best forum to discuss the issue of migration.

DIAN TRIANSYAH DJANI (Indonesia), on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), reiterated the bloc’s strong commitment to human rights and the Committee’s work.  Human rights should be treated in a balanced, impartial manner, he said, stressing that ASEAN continued to strengthen its collaboration with the United Nations in a number of areas, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

He went on to share achievements in advancing human rights, noting that States continued to mainstream human rights, raise awareness among young people and strengthen women’s and children’s rights.  They also had increased civil society’s participation in relevant human rights bodies, as well as developed regional action plans on human rights protection and on supportive legal frameworks.  Efforts were also underway to promote the rights of persons with disabilities and to end violence against children.

KAI SAUER (Finland), also speaking on behalf of Sweden, said access to information was one explanation for the success of those countries in creating prosperity and welfare for their citizens.  But around the world, the space for civil society had shrunk and new threats to freedom of expression and media had undermined the foundations of democracy.  Together with their Nordic and Baltic neighbouring countries, Finland and Sweden were training journalists to support free and independent media in areas affected by disinformation and propaganda.  He reviewed the history of national legislation protecting freedom of the press Sweden and Finland, noting that the Swedish Parliament had passed the world’s first Freedom of the Press Act 250 years ago.  However, developments in the wider world had shown the need for more work to advance freedom of expression globally. 

He went on to say that female journalists and researchers were regularly subjected to online harassment, including rape threats, cyberstalking, and blackmail, citing the “Gamergate” events in which several women in the global video game industry had been targeted.  The 2030 Agenda’s Target 16.10, which called on States to “ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms,” was relevant to achieving all the other Goals.  Everyone needed equal access to an open, free, secure and equal Internet where individuals could exercise their right to freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly.  Human rights, he underlined, applied online as well as offline.  All States must respect and protect the right to privacy in digital communication, and international cooperation was crucial to ensuring those objectives.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) associating himself with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said development and human rights were mutually reinforcing.  Violations of the rights of older persons had increased, and an international agreement was needed in that context.  Reiterating his call to protect people regardless of their sexual orientation, he rejected the execution of and discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender, stressing that all people must be protected.  He called on the international community to protect migrants and refugees from discrimination and attacks.

Ms. LAISSUE (Switzerland) expressed concern over persistent human rights violations in a number of countries, often under the pretext of security concerns, as well as over restrictions imposed on civil society and reprisals and violence against human rights defenders.  She called for increased international efforts to protect civil society actors, stressing that rights violations often preceded violence and therefore must be addressed.  She also encouraged States that had not done so to abolish the death penalty, as it violated the right to life, and called on all States to cooperate with all international human rights mechanisms, as special procedures must be able to access areas under their mandate.

Read More

Child Migrants, Refugees Especially Vulnerable to Violence during Humanitarian Crises, Speakers Tell Third Committee, as Debate on Children Concludes

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its general discussion on the rights of children today, with delegates describing progress and challenges on a range of issues pertaining to child health, education and protection.

While several delegates shared progress their Governments had made in improving legislative and social mechanisms to prevent violence against children, many were concerned by the growing threat posed by humanitarian emergencies, and in particular, the migrant and refugee crisis.

The representative of Bulgaria, which was both a transit and host country for thousands of refugees and migrants, reminded Member States that “a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant”.  As such, they had rights that must be protected by all.  Guatemala’s delegate was particularly concerned by the vulnerability of unaccompanied children migrating across the Americas.  Her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to help protect those youth, but she also urged States to stop detaining minors.  Similarly, El Salvador’s speaker called for a human rights-based approach to dealing with the situation of child migrants.  Echoing those concerns, the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation and to avoid detaining children.

A number of delegates addressed the situation of children living under occupation, with Ukraine’s delegate stressing that despite his country’s efforts to improve opportunities for children, many Ukrainian children living under Russian occupation had been denied their rights.  Similarly in Georgia, the Russian occupation was denying children the right to education in their native language and freedom of movement, said that country’s delegate.

In the Middle East, Palestinian children had been deliberately targeted by the Israeli army, said the State of Palestine’s observer.  She asked when the international community would react to those rights violations.  Iran’s delegate expressed dismay that political pressure had compromised the independence of the Secretary-General’s 2016 report on children and armed conflict.  He proposed the United Nations at least impose an arms embargo on Governments engaged in mass killing of children.

The Russian Federation’s delegate, exercising his right of reply, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he said the politicized statement was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

In other business today, the Committee approved a decision to invite the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, to present an oral update.  She would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.

Also speaking were representatives of Algeria, Angola, Bahrain, Kuwait, Bangladesh, Botswana, Cameroon, Monaco, Central African Republic, China, Eritrea, Burkina Faso, Dominican Republic, Fiji, Guinea, Congo, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Lebanon, Panama, Madagascar, Morocco, Haiti, Mozambique, Armenia, Myanmar, Palau, Malaysia, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Rwanda, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sudan, Kyrgyzstan, Timor-Leste, Togo, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Ukraine, United Republic of Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and the observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Officials of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) also addressed the Committee.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Israel, the State of Palestine and Ukraine.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 17 October, to begin consideration of the rights of indigenous peoples.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to conclude its debate on the promotion and protection of the rights of children.  For information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4169.

Statements

CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA (Cameroon) expressed concern about the conditions for children around the world, especially in Africa, due to armed conflicts and humanitarian crises.  Cameroon had made education a pillar of its social policies.  Protection of children’s rights was as essential.  Children recruited by terrorist groups, such as Boko Haram, were of great concern.  She welcomed collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other United Nations agencies, stressing that with such assistance, Cameroon had implemented programmes to combat child mortality, focusing on systematic vaccination programmes. 

VALÉRIE S BRUELL-MELCHIOR (Monaco) said that while UNICEF aimed to help all children, after 70 years of action, numerous obstacles had yet to be overcome.  Two conditions were essential to ensure children had a good start to life:  health and education.  She observed that 250 million children lacked good nutrition, adding that children’s access to health care must include nutrition goals.  Quality education without distinction was the way to break the vicious cycle of poverty.  Children should be taught to reflect in a manner that would allow them to reject extremism.

MARÍA JOSÉ DEL ÁGUILA CASTILLO (Guatemala), endorsing the statement of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said investing in childhood was crucial to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.  Her country had been affected by El Niño and El Niña, and appreciated the United Nations’ support in responding to their devastating effects.  The situation of migrant children was of great concern and her Government had established consular services in Mexico and the United States to support unaccompanied migrant children.  States must stop detaining minors.  Finally, she welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on the protection of children from bullying.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia), addressing the vulnerability of children in armed conflict and the need for more efforts to protect their rights, said the Russian Federation’s occupation of Georgian territory had deprived Georgian children of their rights to education in their native language and freedom of movement.  Those violations were particularly concerning given the absence of international monitoring mechanisms inside those territories.  Committed to increasing opportunities for its children, Georgia had improved its education system, health and social services and ensuring children’s protection from violence.  Its Parliament had adopted a new amendment to the Civil Code requiring parental consent for marriage under age 16 and other measures to prevent human trafficking.

MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) said her country had ratified all children’s rights instruments, demonstrating the country’s commitment to combating rights violations.  Various measures had strengthened Morocco’s legal framework, such as a law ensuring that the best interests of all children were considered.  A ministerial unit responsible for family, childhood, and disabled persons had set out a public policy to protect children against abuse over the Internet and from trafficking.  As new forms of crime required that reliable data systems be created for monitoring, and Morocco had partnerships with internet service providers to protect children against sexual exploitation, as well as an awareness-raising campaign for parents for their children’s safe use of the internet.

NICOLE ROMULUS (Haiti), associating herself with CELAC and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the States had major work to do to promote and protect children’s rights.  The number of children not in school had increased since 2011, while 250 million children lived in countries affected by armed conflict.  Governments were obliged to ensure that all children could live up to their potential.  She spoke about Haiti’s policies towards schools, noting that the President had urged all to work for a full, successful school year, and to join together to bring about a more unified Haitian society through quality education.  Haiti had ensured that children’s rights were a priority and had taken various measures to protect children’s rights. 

MANSOUR T J ALMUTAIRI (Saudi Arabia) said children’s rights were a priority for the Government, which recognized the right to life for children even during pregnancy.  The Government’s concern for children ran so deep that it required parents to choose proper names for them.  Saudi Arabia also ensured children’s protection from difficult or forced labour, while child abuse was punished in accordance with Sharia law.  Reiterating the Government’s commitment to the Convention and other international instruments, he said it would strengthen cooperation with international organizations.  Finally, he expressed concern about the plight of Syrian children and the need to end the war in that country.

MAYANK JOSHI (India) noted that, despite progress made, more than 47 per cent of the world’s children still lived in poverty and they were particularly vulnerable during times of conflict and natural disasters.  Political will, resource mobilization and investments were needed to protect and promote children’s rights.  For its part, India had adopted a rights-based approach through its National Policy for Children, which promoted children’s literacy, education and health care.  The Integrated Child Development Scheme, a universal programme, provided health care, food, immunization and pre-school education, he said, stressing that India would continue its efforts to protect children against violence and exploitation, in particular, the girl child.

RWAYDA IZZELDIN HAMID ELHASSAN (Sudan) associated herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and with the African Group, stressing that the protection of children’s rights was a top priority.  Sudan had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols, among other international instruments.  Expressing support for the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign, she said that the recruitment of children under the age of 18 was prohibited.  Special units in the ministry of the interior protected children, and a special investigator had been set up to investigate crimes against children in Darfur.  Further, Sudan had signed an action plan with the United Nations regarding children in conflict zones.  The root causes of children’s recruitment - including unilateral economic sanctions against countries - must be addressed.

MADINA KARABAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said her country stood firmly on the path to becoming a State where children’s protection was a key value.  A programme to develop justice for children aimed to create a legal system which would protect children in conflict with the law, as well as children who were witnesses.  The Government was protecting children’s rights and reacting to each individual child’s needs, she said, adding that about 60 centres offered help for families in difficult living situations.  Policies for children included the protection of childhood and motherhood.  Extreme poverty had decreased in the country, as had infant mortality.

STEPHANIE GEBREMEDHIN (Eritrea) said the country’s culture and laws guaranteed children’s rights, noting that new penal and civil codes referenced corporal punishment and other forms of abuse.  The justice system did not allow children under 12 to be treated as criminals, while those between the ages of 12 and 18 were treated as juvenile offenders.  There were also efforts with civil society to raise awareness about violence against children and child trafficking.  The country’s efforts to provide more equitable health care had allowed it to achieve Millennium Development Goal 5 on child mortality.  The number of births attended to by a skilled health worker had also increased, she said, adding that girls’ elementary school enrolment had reached 99 per cent, with pre-primary enrolment also increasing.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), associating with the African Group, described measures taken at the legislative, education, and social levels to improve children’s rights.  Education policies had led to an increase in girls’ school enrolment.  To address child abuse, the Government had set up a support hotline for victims.  Maternal and neonatal mortality had declined, thanks to the provision of free health care for children under age five and pregnant women.  The incidence of female genital mutilation also had steadily decreased.

MILDRED GUZMÁN MADERA (Dominican Republic), stressing that countering violence against children was a priority, said the Government had enhanced its social policies and systems for the protection of children, families and communities.  It also had established a comprehensive care centre for children with disabilities and a new centre for early childhood care.  A national council for children and adolescents provided temporary protection for children under threat.  In addition, a national roadmap for the prevention of violence against children had been developed with guidance from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General.  The Dominican Republic was striving to improve parenting through awareness-raising and training for parents, teachers and community leaders.

ELLEN AZARIA MADUHU (United Republic of Tanzania) associated herself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). The Government issued a new National Action Plan on addressing violence against women and children for the period 2016 – 2021. Additional measures were undertaken to protect children, including the translation and dissemination of the 2009 National Child Act and the establishment of a Child Helpline for reporting acts of violence and abuse. The Government also attached great importance to the child’s right to education and ending child marriage. Public schools were directed to ensure that all primary and secondary education is free for all children. Furthermore, a campaign against early marriages was launched in 2014. The “Kigali Declaration” provided the framework for action to end early and forced marriages.

MASNI ERIZA (Indonesia) said efforts to promote children’s rights had been underpinned by the national action plan to eliminate violence.  The President had convened the education commission, which financed education.  Indonesia was a “pathfinder country” in the newly-launched partnership to end violence against children.  The most basic unit of society was the family, which had the responsibility for nurturing children, he said, pressing Governments to enact family-friendly policies.  Indonesia had allocated a sizable share of its budget for children, providing them with free education and health care, which had led to lower illiteracy rates.  Stressing the imperative to end violence against children, he expressed Indonesia’s commitment to engage internationally to protect and promote their rights.

HELGA VALBORG STEINARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) said her country was committed to the protection and promotion of children’s rights at home and abroad and had recently codified a new framework agreement with UNICEF.  Iceland had incorporated the Convention into national law, she said, and urging States seek the treaty’s integration into policymaking.  Protecting the rights of girls would require eliminating all forms of discrimination, violence and harmful practices.  It was a stain on the global community that every day, almost 40,000 girls were subjected to early and forced marriage.  Girls must be provided with the sexual and reproductive health care they needed, including comprehensive sexual education.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said her country’s “Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth” focused particularly on providing education for girls.  For instance, Japan had assisted in building girls’ middle schools in the United Republic of Tanzania, where early marriage and pregnancy prevented them from completing their education.  Japan also had funded a programme through UNICEF that supported the release and reintegration of children from armed groups in African countries.  It had contributed $6 million for the reintegration of child soldiers and the protection and empowerment of children in armed conflict.  Locally, the Government provided administrative services to every family in need, in particular for families in difficult situations, such as single-parent households.

MAYA DAGHER (Lebanon) said between the seventieth and seventy-first sessions of the General Assembly, millions of children had become victims of armed violence and terrorism, noting that many had been “swallowed” by the Mediterranean Sea.  Lebanon had supported many initiatives last year, including resolutions in the Assembly and the Security Council which all aimed to create a world fit for children.  Lebanon paid attention to education, particularly as a means through which to combat extremism.  Education for all was at the heart of its policies, she said, noting that the country was hosting over one million refugees.

DAYANARA EDITH SALAZAR MEDINA (Panama), associating herself with CELAC, said her country had faced waves of child migrants, underscoring that, through an interdisciplinary team, the Government was present in communities where shelters for migrants had been established.  The goal was to respect migrants’ rights, she said, adding that boys and girls should not be criminalized for being migrants.  All should have the same opportunities.  Investing in quality education and reducing neonatal mortality were crucial towards ensuring each boy and girl’s future.  She noted that the region continued to face challenges, adding that Panama sought to address the challenges of indigenous children and children with disabilities. 

YIN PO MYAT (Myanmar), noting that peace and reconciliation were prerequisites for the success of development policies, said the Government had strengthened its education programs to better protect children from exploitation and violence.  She welcomed the “Children, Not Soldiers” initiative, stressing that Myanmar had signed a Joint Action Plan with the United Nations Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting on the use of children in the military in 2012. As a result, the recruitment process was centralized and children had been released from the military, if found.  She said 810 children had been released from the military since signature of the related Action Plan, noting that support had been provided to assist with their reintegration and education.  Also, 81 military officers and 321 officers of other ranks had been penalized by military and civil laws. Given such progress, it was time that Myanmar was delisted from the Secretary-General’s report on children and armed conflict.

HAMIDEH HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran), noting that the 2030 Agenda included numerous references to children, said millions of children still lived in poverty without adequate nutrition, sanitation, or vaccinations against disease.  He expressed dismay that children’s interests had been compromised under unjustified political pressure in the Secretary-General’s report on Children and Armed Conflict.  “An arms embargo on Governments that engage in mass killing of children is the least that the United Nations can advocate for,” he said, stressing the importance of the family as the fundamental group of society.  In Iran, 460,000 children attended school free of charge, an enormous burden on the education system, and donors had failed to meet their commitments.

MARIA HELENA LOPES DE JESUS PIRES (Timor-Leste) encouraging support for the office on violence against children, expressed particular concern about cyberbullying and bullying in schools.  There was a collective responsibility to protect children in conflict and attacks on schools and hospitals could not be tolerated.  She urged parties to conflict to respect children’s rights and refrain from recruiting child soldiers, calling for adequate assistance for reintegrating those who had been recruited.  Timor-Leste was committed to ensuring access to education to all its children, with special attention given to those with disabilities.  To improve retention of girls in schools, legislation had been passed to support integration of teenage mothers in the educational system.  Health campaigns had resulted in a sharp decline in child mortality, while immunization campaigns had been greatly expanded, she added.

PARK JEE WON (Republic of Korea) underlined the importance of a comprehensive and coordinated approach in promoting children’s rights, welcoming the Organization’s efforts to expand partnerships with civil societies.  Education should be further expanded to include the most vulnerable and marginalized, she said, noting the some 58 million children lacked access to education.  Education was a building block of a sustainable, inclusive society based on human rights, equality, rule of law and respect for diversity.  Girls were more susceptible to violence and discrimination.  Last year, the Republic of Korea had launched a “Better Life for Girls” initiative to support girls’ health, education and vocational development in developing countries, to which it would provide $200 million over five years.

MS. AL JAWDAR (Bahrain) said Government programmes had improved children’s lives in recent years.  The country had adhered to its commitments under international conventions and had ratified the Convention in 1992.  In June, Bahrain’s representative had been re-elected to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Its human development indicators were high, thanks to its focus on children and youth.  Further, health care reforms had led to lower child and maternal mortality, she said, citing the provision of health care for newborns, vaccines for children under five and social and psychological service for children.

FAHAD M E H A MOHAMMAD (Kuwait) shared the concerns about threats children faced on the internet, including exposure to violent ideologies and sexual abuse.  Recalling that more than one billion children had been exposed to some form of violence over the past year, he urged all countries to implement the provision concerning violence against children under the 2030 Agenda.  Kuwait’s constitution recognized the family as the basis of society.  Based on that principle and its international commitments, Kuwait had enacted national laws to protect the family and the child, including a family court and several articles dealing with the family and children.  The State recognized the child’s right to live in a family environment.  It was impossible to address the issue of children without referring to the suffering of Palestinian children who lived under Israeli occupation.

IRENE SUSAN BARREIRO NATIVIDAD (Philippines), associating herself with ASEAN, said the Government recognized its duty to provide a safe and enabling environment for children.  A child’s right to education was of paramount importance and 20.9 per cent of the country’s 2017 national budget would go to education.  Further, the Government had passed an Anti-Bullying Act, as well as adopted a comprehensive approach to protecting children from sale, prostitution and child pornography and developed mechanisms to respond to child abuse.  Ending conflict was essential to creating the proper environment for children, she said, stressing the Government’s commitment to dialogue, and ultimately, forging peace with various armed groups.

EMMANUEL NIBISHAKA (Rwanda), while noting the progress in the reports, observed that child neglect, trafficking, abuse, exploitation, genital mutilation and child marriage persisted.  Rwanda believed in the primary role of Governments, supported by partners, including the United Nations, in promoting and providing protection to children.  The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had left many negative repercussions, along with post-conflict issues, that had affected Rwanda’s children, who represented a high percentage of the population.  The Government had made primary and secondary education free and compulsory, prohibited corporal punishment and opened rehabilitation centres for street children.  Further, Rwandan law condemned child prostitution, slavery and abduction, he said, urging the international community to continue establishing frameworks to protect children in armed conflicts.

NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said her country had achieved all objectives on education of the Millennium Development Goals before the deadline.  Moreover, the education budget had increased tenfold over 15 years and provided free education to more than eight million students in nearly 23,000 schools, including refugee children in the Tindouf camps.  Significant results had been achieved in the quality of education and the fundamental rights of children.  The new law on child protection focused on protecting at-risk children; rules relating to child offenders; and specialized child protection centres, among other things.

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica), associating himself with CELAC and CARICOM, said his country had taken a comprehensive approach to realizing children’s rights.  For instance, the Government had guaranteed tuition-free education as a way to improve access.  It also had signed on to the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children and been designated a “pathfinder country”.  Moreover, the Ministry of Education had created and provided a safety and security manual to schools as a way to address bullying.

MAHE’ULI’ULI SANDHURST TUPOUNIUA (Tonga) said that, in recognition that children were his country’s most important assets, Tonga had acceded to the Convention on their rights and was amending its laws appropriately, ensuring protection against violence, as well as access to education, free health care and other necessities.  National consultations were underway under Tonga’s strategic development framework, and awareness events were being held in conjunction with UNICEF, focusing on children’s growth, the implications of digital media on children and other areas of social protection.  There was no social welfare scheme for children as yet.

HANTASOA FIDA CYRILLE KLEIN (Madagascar), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, and with SADC, noted that the population of her country was young.  The Government was pursuing numerous policies to ensure respect for children’s rights, and the goals had been laid out in a regional and communal framework plan.  Public establishments and teaching personnel had received training on protecting children in school environments, she said, stressing that combating sexual tourism was extremely important.  Climate change impacted Malagasy children, and the effects of El Niño and drought had been severe.

GENE BAI (Fiji) said his country was strongly committed to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Constitution protected a child’s right to nutrition, clothing, shelter and health care, and provided protection against abuse, neglect, violence, inhumane treatment, punishment and exploitative labour.  It also prohibited all forms of corporal punishment.  Access to quality education was paramount, and in 2015, for the first time, primary and secondary school education had become free.  Fiji was also committed to supporting gender equality and sought to limit the marginalization and exclusion of children with disabilities.

GEORGI VELIKOV PANAYOTOV (Bulgaria), associating himself with the European Union, said that the Government had established a set of measures for promoting the rights and well-being of all children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized.  Ending violence against children was a top priority.  The current humanitarian crisis was of an unprecedented scale, requiring immediate action.  Calling it a “children’s crisis”, he advocated a child-based approach to address it.  “We should remember that a child is first a child, and after that, a refugee or migrant,” he said.  As a transit and host country for thousands of migrants and refugees, Bulgaria was doing its utmost, in cooperation with the European Union, UNICEF and other partners, to protect the human rights of those fleeing war, in particular migrant and refugee children.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) reaffirmed his commitment to advance children’s rights, including in the areas of education and child labour.  Further, a new Child Marriage Restraint Act had been drafted which contained pragmatic guidelines to prevent child marriage.  A national, toll-free helpline had been set up to support efforts to report and prevent child marriage, and to report sexual harassment.  Bangladesh also had adopted a five-year action plan to reduce child labour.

IBRAHIMA KOMARA (Guinea) associated himself with the African Group and with the Group of 77 and China, adding that it would be a success for the United Nations to see the Convention reach universal ratification.  Guinea was among the countries that had unreservedly ratified the Convention almost 30 years ago, as well as its relevant optional protocols.  But results for children around the world remained discouraging, and many remained marginalized, such as disabled children.  Awareness that children were the future was manifested in legal codes, he said, noting that Guinea’s free education system and its improved vaccine programme were other actions that underscored the Government’s commitment to realizing children’s rights.

LAURIA NGUELE MAKOUELET (Congo) said various challenges hindered children’s full enjoyment of their rights.  Congo had a new Constitution which had strengthened a strategic framework for children, and the country also had set up a children’s parliament with offices in Congo’s 12 administrative departments.  The Government had invested resources to respond to children’s needs, providing hundreds of technical aids to disabled children.  It also had cooperated with the World Food Programme (WFP) to ensure that all children received quality nutrition.  No effort would be spared to ensure the full implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child.

NKOLOI NKOLOI (Botswana) associated himself with the Group of 77 and China, the African Group and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He expressed concern about ongoing armed conflicts, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan, drawing attention to their severe effects on children.  Urging Governments and parties to armed conflict to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, he welcomed new initiatives, including the Charter on Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in Humanitarian Action, the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and related action plans.

The Committee Chair said she and the Bureau had held consultations since 4 October on the pending organizational issue.  She proposed that the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, be invited to present an oral update to the Third Committee.  Ms. Keetharuth would be orally introduced as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea.  If needed, additional time would be allocated for her to make her presentation.

The Committee then approved that decision without a vote.

The representative of Eritrea said the proposal had been accepted in the interests of moving forward.  Eritrea maintained its readiness to engage with any delegation, and the matter had been resolved within the African Group.  But Eritrea’s goodwill had been faced with a “flip-flop” position of the other side. Discussion over the past two weeks had shown the politicization of the human rights situation.  Countries with contempt for international law had presented themselves as champions of Third Committee Rules of Procedures; countries which had massacred people and were using light ammunition against peaceful protesters had spoken on the matter.  Eritrea’s position was that human rights could only be promoted through dialogue.

IGOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), aligning himself with the European Union, reiterated Ukraine’s commitment to children’s rights, as evidenced by its adherence to numerous international conventions and protocols.  Priorities covered health, recreation, disabilities, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, drug abuse, child abandonment, support to families and protection for orphans.  Despite its efforts, the country faced great challenges as a result of Russian aggression.  Since the start of the conflict, 68 children had been killed and 186 had been wounded in eastern Ukraine.  The number of internally displaced people had reached 1.8 million, including more the 200,000 children.  The situation of children in the Donbas region had not received enough attention in the Secretary-General’s reports, he said, urging that that omission be rectified.  Greater international assistance was also needed to overcome the negative effects of the Chernobyl disaster, which had affected children most of all.

SAHAR ABUSHAWESH, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestinian children had been deprived all their rights, as killing and maiming continued with impunity.  Those actions had evolved into a deliberate Israeli strategy and she asked when the international community would react to those human rights violations.  The Israeli blockade had stifled any life or development in the occupied territory, with devastating impacts on children.

RUBEN IGNACIO ZAMORA RIVAS (El Salvador), associating himself with CELAC, shared achievements in his country, pointing out that the normative framework had advanced, and the comprehensive protection of children had improved.  Councils had been established to protect children at the local level.  Children’s health care had improved, and efforts had been made to ensure health care access for all children.  The growing numbers of unaccompanied child migrants must be addressed from a human-rights perspective, bearing in mind the best interests of children and their families.  Family reunification must remain a priority.

CALEB OTTO (Palau) quoted extensively from the 2030 Agenda’s paragraphs concerning children, before quoting from the Convention on the Rights of the Child’s articles concerning the child’s social, spiritual and moral well-being.  Those provisions, he said, highlighted two issues of great importance.  The first was the right of children to be reared by their parents.  Children in focus group discussions in Palau had said they would like their parents to spend more time with them, rather than try to appease them with gifts and food.  The second, he said, was that children should be provided an environment that addressed mental health and well-being and was free from bullying, shaming and demeaning treatment, at home and in school.

NEOW CHOO SEONG (Malaysia), associating himself with ASEAN and with the Group of 77 and China, said his country had made significant progress since acceding to the Convention in 1995, including by creating the Child Act of 2001.  That Act formed part of the protective legal architecture for children in Malaysia.  Efforts must be made to put in place accountability mechanisms, in order to break the cycle of impunity for violations of children’s rights.  Malaysia, as Chair of the Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict, reaffirmed its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of children. 

ADDO MAMAN TCHALARE (Togo) shared his country’s experience in advancing the protection of children, noting that a decree had been drafted for the national Commission of the Child to prepare guidelines for those working in the area of children’s protection.  Health care, education and training initiatives all had improved children’s situations.  At the regional level, a program had been launched to protect child migrants and trafficking victims, while education for children with disabilities had improved.

YASHAR ALIYEV (Azerbaijan) said child protection efforts must be stepped up. While progress had been made in the protection of children affected by armed conflict, including with the release of children from armed forces, the issue of children and armed conflict must receive adequate attention in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

ANTÓNIO GUMENDE (Mozambique), associating himself with the African Group and with SADC, said Government efforts to address children’s needs at the legislative, institutional and community levels aimed to ensure that all Mozambicans could help resolve the issues hampering children’s ability to realize their potential.  Mozambique’s national action programme on children, among other results, had increased access to water and sanitation.  Challenges remained, however, notably caused by climate change and communicable diseases.  Creating a world fit for children demanded that States redouble their commitments and implement existing international instruments.

LILIT GRIGORYAN (Armenia) said that through the national strategic programme on child protection, and cooperation with development partners such as UNICEF, her country had reached vulnerable children and made reforms.  As a nation which suffered from aggression by Azerbaijan, Armenia condemned attacks on civilians including children.  From the beginning of Azerbaijani aggression, she said, attacks on children and the elderly had been indiscriminate.  Such barbaric acts constituted violations of core international instruments including the Convention against Torture and Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

MÉLANIE CORINE NINA GOLIATHA (Central African Republic) reiterated her commitment to the relevant Conventions, expressing her strong disapproval that an increasing number of children had been victims of armed violence, natural disasters and human rights violations.  She noted with concern the increasing number of killed and maimed children, as well as children displaced by conflicts and attacks by armed groups.  A concerted effort must be made to reunite children with their families, she said, emphasizing that a comprehensive response required governance and security sector reforms.

CHU GUANG (China) said his country had the world’s largest population of children – 280 million - and the Government worked to implement the Convention and its relevant Protocols.  Great progress had been made in pre-school education, with some provinces having established a 15-year free education system by including pre-school and high school in public funding.  Countries must implement the 2030 Agenda, which required developed countries to honour their commitments by increasing financial and technological assistance to developing countries in order to protect children’s rights and interests.  Developing countries, meanwhile, must share their experiences with one another.

FREDERICK MUSIIWA MAKAMURE SHAVA (Zimbabwe), associating himself with the African Group and SADC, said the promotion of children’s rights could not be viewed in isolation from broader development goals.  Children thrived when raised in a strong and secure family environment, and his country continued to implement interventions designed to assist families in coping with harsh economic conditions.  All international conventions to which Zimbabwe was party had been incorporated into domestic law under the new Constitution.  Zimbabwe had several laws to protect children, and had established a victim-friendly system to support survivors of sexual violence and abuse.  The Government was committed to ending child marriages and had set the legal marriage age at 18 years.

NDEYE OUMY GUEYE (Senegal), associating herself with the African Group, supported the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict.  The campaign had led to the release of children from armed groups in Senegal. The Government had redoubled efforts to eliminate female genital mutilation, she said, noting that children’s rights had been taken into account in the development of health care and education policies.  Senegal also had seen increases in school enrolment and drafted a national declaration to advance children’s rights.

Mr. VON HAFT (Angola) recalled that at the General Assembly Special Session on children in 2002, Member States had committed to time-bound goals for children and young people.  Those goals had been followed by the 2030 Agenda and it was essential to maintain focus on children when budgeting for sustainable development.  He listed several international instruments to which Angola was party, noting that his country had also adopted child protection legislation consistent with international standards.  Successful programmes included one that had established free birth registration, and an SOS call centre for children facing violence.  He urged States to review ways in which the new Agenda could reduce inequality among children.

MIRIAMA HERENUI BETHAM-MALIELEGAOI (Samoa) said children’s rights were the utmost priority for her country, as reflected in national policies.  Underscoring the importance of children’s nutrition and education, as well as safety from violence, exploitation, and abuse, she said Samoa had ratified the Convention’s three Optional Protocols and called on other States to do likewise.  The family and community were at the forefront of child rearing practices.  Children were a priority focus of Samoa’s health sector plan 2008-2018, and children under five years of age received free primary health care, including immunizations.  The 2009 Education Act stipulated compulsory education, and the Government had taken initial steps towards implementing free education.  Further, Samoa had passed legislation outlawing corporal punishment, and proposed amendments to prohibit the sale of children and restrict the use of children to sell goods on the street.

ANN DEER, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said daily events in the Mediterranean, Southeast Asia, the Americas, the Gulf of Aden and elsewhere had shown the ongoing suffering of migrants and their families, and too often their needs had gone unmet by the international community.  Migrant children were particularly vulnerable, and for those whose age was uncertain, the individual must be presumed to be, and treated as, a child.  She reminded authorities of their obligations under international law to prevent family separation, underscoring that States’ assessment of the protection and assistance to be offered should be based on vulnerabilities and needs, rather than the location of family members.  ICRC engaged in confidential dialogue with States to ensure they fulfilled their obligations to protect migrant children, and reminded States that detention of any children should be avoided.

MICHAEL ESPIRITU, Permanent Observer of the Sovereign Order of Malta, affirmed the Order’s commitment to mothers and babies, as evidenced by its maternity centres in the West Bank, Madagascar, Togo, Uganda and United Republic of Tanzania, and its efforts to fight malnutrition around the globe.  With the number of displaced persons on the rise, the Order had greatly bolstered its humanitarian aid and medical assistance.  In joint operations with the Italian Coast Guard, its doctors had delivered three babies at sea last week.  It had provided care to 170,000 Syrian refugees in the Middle East and 44,000 in Europe, among its medical services to refugees worldwide.  He pledged the Order’s continued commitment to work with the United Nations and Member States to ensure that children everywhere were cared for, educated, nurtured and protected.

FLORENCIA GIORDANO, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, expressed concern about the mass migration of children, stressing that it had led to increased numbers of unaccompanied children who were at much higher risk of violence and child marriage.  Describing gaps in the implementation of child protection programmes, she cited a lack of age- and gender-disaggregated data for children and said a more comprehensive analysis of needs and vulnerabilities was necessary.  Further, support for the family, family tracing and alternative care arrangements must be stepped up, with children’s best interests always the primary consideration in actions affecting them.

VINICIUS PINHEIRO, Special Representative and Director of the International Labour Office (ILO) for the United Nations, said that his Office was committed to the protection of children through the eradication of child labour.  ILO provided expertise and contributed to the growing knowledge base that helped inform policy formulation.  Several ILO conventions provided essential protections for children worldwide, including conventions on minimum age of entry into employment and prohibition of forced labour.  Additionally, ILO’s new recommendation on the transition from the informal to the formal economy tackled an area where not only child labour but also most violations of labour, human and child rights occurred.

Right of Reply

The representative of Israel, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that instead of advancing the Committee’s agenda, the Palestinian representative had made baseless accusations against Israel, sending a message of hate and incitement.  Those accusations would not bring the international community closer to resolving the core challenges facing the region.

The representative of Russian Federation, responding to statements by the delegations of Georgia and Ukraine, called on Georgian authorities to discuss issues including children’s rights in a dialogue directly with the powers of the sovereign nations of Abkhazia and Ossetia.  To his Ukrainian counterpart, he recalled that the annexation of Ukraine to the Russian Federation had been in accordance with international law.  Those events were of a historical nature and adhered to the will of the people of Crimea.  The Russian Federation had done quite a bit to improve the lives of those living in Crimea.  The politicized statement by the Ukrainian representative was an attempt to deflect attention from human rights violations in Ukraine itself.

The representative of Azerbaijan rejected the false allegations of his Armenian counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s statement had focused on children, while that of Armenia had focused on Azerbaijan.  The Armenian delegation could have chosen another agenda item to speak about killing of elderly people.  The reality was that Azerbaijani territories were under occupation, and both Assembly and Council resolutions had been ignored by Armenia.  That Government had resettled Armenians from Syria in the occupied territories.  He asked Armenia about recent military exercises, and what Armenian officers were doing in a certain region.  If Armenia was interested in peace, withdrawing forces from occupied areas of Azerbaijan would suffice.  Armenia should end its provocations, as the conflict could only be solved through the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Azerbaijan.

The representative of Armenia, exercising her right of reply, rejected the accusations made by her Azerbaijani counterpart, noting that Azerbaijan’s goal was the extermination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan’s aggression had shown the unsustainability of a military solution.  A peaceful solution must be found, she said, in line with existing agreements.

The observer of the State of Palestine noted the “distorted” reality presented by Israel’s representative, stressing that ignoring war crimes committed by Israel constituted a complete denial of human rights and self-determination.  There was a long list of human rights violations committed by Israel.  The views expressed by that Government were dehumanizing and had shown the true nature of the occupying power.  She condemned human rights violations against all children, stressing that all attacks must stop.

The representative of the Ukraine provided an overview of the history and situation of Crimea, drawing attention to early plans by the Russian President to attack Crimea, which had been documented.  The Russian representative had made contradictory statements regarding the status of Crimea.

The representative of Georgia said children in the occupied territories of Georgia were deprived of their right to receive their education in their native Georgian language, and that there was discrimination and harassment of the Georgian population living in the occupied territories.  The absence of international monitoring meant the Russian Federation had no credibility whatsoever.  The conflict had two parties, Georgia defending itself and Russian Federation’s aggression.

The representative of Azerbaijan said barbarism had been committed by Armenian forces in occupied territories of Azerbaijan, and high-ranking officials of Armenia had admitted their responsibility for that carnage.  The President of Armenia had said he had no regrets for Azerbaijani civilian casualties. 

The representative of Armenia said that as far as the right to self-determination was concerned, Azerbaijan had recognized that self-determination should be part of the solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.  Armenia was not surprised Azerbaijan put forward false allegations on cease-fires related to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Read More

Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions of 2016 – B8-2016-0063

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto,

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively; and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and of the Millennium Development Goals (2000); whereas these anniversaries coincide with the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by an ever-increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of climate change, persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence;

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, class, caste, sex, sexual orientation or colour is an obligation on all states, and reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are political, civil, economic, social or cultural – which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others;

C.  whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level, and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

D.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity; whereas the human rights situation in its Member States directly impacts on the credibility of the EU’s human rights policy abroad;

E.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and enshrines the obligation for the EU to respect human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and those of the United Nations Charter and international law in its action on the international scene;

F.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, migration, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

G.  whereas the regular sessions of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, the Special Procedure addressing either specific country situations or thematic issues, all contribute to the international effort to promote and respect human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

H.  whereas some of the members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a poor record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected among states which uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges EU Member States to promote human rights performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about widespread and systematic human rights abuses in several member states of the UNHRC, including Russia, China and Saudi Arabia; calls on the EU Member States not to vote in support of the membership of states committing such large-scale human rights violations and to publicise their votes;

2.  Expresses its full support for the independence and integrity of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (‘the Office’) and stresses that it is important to defend this independence, so as to ensure that the Office can continue to exercise its task in an effective and impartial manner; reiterates that the Office needs to be adequately funded and needs to be given full support;

3.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders to enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality; deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states such as Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by the countries concerned, including Israel; calls on all states to fully cooperate with these procedures;

4.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review; calls again for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

5.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process, and expresses its deep concern that severe limitations and ever growing restrictions and intimidation have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

6.  Calls on the European External Action Service and the Commission to follow up on the Universal Periodic Review recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

7.  Calls, on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the HRC, for an assessment of the Council’s impact, and the extent to which it is fulfilling its mandate and the need for greater attention to be paid to the implementation of its resolutions and other decisions; expresses concern at the practice of states responsible for human rights violations drafting their own resolutions, noting that they often do so not with the intention of actually addressing the situation, but with the aim of shielding their own acts and omissions from international scrutiny; highlights the need to address all country situations on their merits without selectivity; emphasises the importance of integrating civil society participation in all aspects of the Council’s work, and fostering concerted action to prevent and address reprisals;

8.  Welcomes the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to protect and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

EU Member States at the Human Rights Council

9.  Deplores the division and lack of unity among the EU Member States in relation to a number of country situations over the past year, including on Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen where several EU Member States refused to co-sign the EU joint statement or even actively undermined initiatives by other EU Member States;

10.  Regrets the passivity of some EU Member States at the HRC; regrets that Belarus is the only new country resolution that the EU has decided to lead as a group since the creation of the HRC; calls on all EU Member States at the HRC to show stronger leadership on country situations and to mobilise action on situations that have not yet been addressed by the Council;

11.  Deplores the voting behaviour of EU Member States on a number of issues of critical importance for the Global South and where EU Member States abstained or for the most part voted down resolutions, which were ultimately adopted, such as on the repatriation of funds of illicit origin, private military and security companies, armed drones, foreign debt, the right to education, human rights and international solidarity, unilateral coercive measures, mercenaries, the right to peace, human rights of peasants, racism, people of African descent, the right to development and the promotion of a democratic and equitable world order; regrets also the continued division of the EU Member States at the UN HRC on a number of landmark thematic resolutions including on armed drones, on the right to peace, on the fight against racism and on the right to development;

12.  Considers that the voting record of EU Member States in the HRC sharply contrasts with the EU’s stated commitment to the indivisibility of rights and notably, to economic, social and cultural (ESC) rights, and reflects the EU’s collective failure in successfully contributing to the development of global standards in these areas; calls on the European External Action Service (EEAS) to report back to Parliament on this situation and to encourage an in-depth review of the EU and Member State approach to ESC rights and so-called ‘new generation rights’ at the HRC; calls for a more principled and non-selective engagement of the EU Member States at the HRC; calls on the EU and its Member States to mainstream human rights in all their activities and positions within the broader UN system;

Civil and political rights

13.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR);

14.  Reaffirms that the existence of freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites to promote respect for human rights;

15.  Is of the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression online throughout the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

16.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity;

17.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls upon those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing death penalty moratorium not to reintroduce it and for those still retaining the death penalty, to adopt a moratorium as a first step towards abolition;

18.  Calls on all Member States to implement all necessary measures to ensure that they do not directly or indirectly contribute to the imposition or execution of the death sentence in retentionist states through any means, including the provision of law enforcement support or assistance to the prosecuting authorities that could contribute to a death sentence;

Social and Economic Rights

19.  Regrets that more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality and indivisibility as well as the interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, that the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated by the EU and its Member States on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as demonstrated by EU voting behaviour in the UNHRC; recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and with the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders related to economic, social and cultural rights; insists that particular efforts should be made, including by the EU Member States, to secure wide ratification of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR establishing complaint and inquiry mechanisms;

20.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardises the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes in this regard the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

21.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and a lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

22.  Emphasises that minority communities in third countries have specific needs and that their full equality should be promoted in all areas of economic, social, political and cultural life;

Indigenous Peoples

23.  Calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to actively support the full and effective participation of indigenous peoples in all HRC sessions; calls on the EEAS, the Commission and the Member States to take into consideration that indigenous peoples are particularly vulnerable to climate change, and to actively support their participation in the application of the Paris Agreement; urges the EU Member States to request that all Special Procedure mandate holders give special attention to issues affecting indigenous women, youth and persons with disabilities, and systematically report such issues to the UNHRC; urges the EEAS and the Member States to actively support the development of the system-wide action plan on indigenous peoples, as requested by the UN General Assembly in its September 2014 resolution, especially as regards the organisation of regular consultation of indigenous peoples as part of that process;

Human rights defenders

24.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

25.  Calls on all governments to allow civil society organisations and human rights defenders, to cooperate with the UNHRC in the UPR mechanism and to ensure that countries responsible for reprisals against human rights activists are held accountable;

26.  Considers that the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by a number of UNHRC members undermines the credibility of the UNHRC; urges the EU and its Member States to promote an initiative at UN level to outline a coherent and comprehensive response to the major challenges that human rights defenders working on women’s rights, the defence of environmental, land and indigenous peoples’ rights, on corruption and impunity, journalists and other human rights defenders using media, including online and social media, face worldwide and to systematically denounce their assassination;

Business and human rights

27.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU and urges EU Member States to adopt and implement national action plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

28.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries, notably in relation to investments or activities of multinational and European companies; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU to consistently address the issue of land grabbing as well as land rights defenders as a matter of priority;

29.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project in order to contribute to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges to access remedies at national and international levels, with regard to human rights violations linked to business;

30.  Deplores the negative vote and obstructive behaviour by EU Member States in relation to the establishment of the Open-ended Inter-Governmental Working Group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; welcomes the work so far of the IGWG and calls on the EU and its Member States to constructively engage in the negotiations;

Migration and Refugees

31.  Calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay utmost attention to the human rights implications of the high numbers of refugees and migrants around the world and to make recommendations in this regard; underscores with dismay that the European external border has become the deadliest border in the world; calls on human rights to be mainstreamed into all border management policies and activities carried out by FRONTEX including the establishment of a complaint mechanism;

32.  Calls on the EU and its Member States to support the work of the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, together with the implementation of his recommendations, including the demand to step up work on new ways to provide legal avenues of migration for those in humanitarian situations and to quickly implement reform and to provide and follow up on more resettlement opportunities;

33.  Expresses concern about continued and widespread discrimination against, and violations of the rights of, migrants, including asylum seekers and refugees; calls on all countries to adopt a human rights-based approach to migration, which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

34.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out in full respect of the migrants’ rights, based upon free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants, and to strictly uphold the prohibition of refoulement; reiterates its call on the EU to ensure that all migration cooperation and readmission agreements with non-EU states comply with international law;

Climate change and human rights

35.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all states parties which are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas; insists that all policies and actions on UNFCCC should be human rights based;

36.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels, and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, displacement of populations, and food and water shortages;

37.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

38.  Stresses the importance of not undermining the ‘acquis’ of the Beijing Platform for Action regarding access to education and health as a basic human right, and the protection of sexual and reproductive rights; emphasises the fact that universal respect for sexual and reproductive health and rights and access to the relevant services contribute to reducing infant and maternal mortality; points out that family planning, maternal health, easy access to contraception and safe abortion are important elements in saving women’s lives and helping them rebuild their lives if they have been victims of rape; highlights the need to place these policies at the core of development cooperation and humanitarian action with third countries;

39.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges, including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

40.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq or Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women and notably sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and has placed a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment in combating these abominable crimes and to restore women’s dignity so that they receive justice, reparation and adequate support measures;

41.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable during times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

42.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligation; calls on the USA, as the only remaining country in the world not to have ratified this Convention, to accede to the latter as a matter of priority;

43.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

44.  Notes with concern that a number of persons have been sentenced to death for crimes committed while under the age of 18 and have been put to death in countries around the world in 2015 despite the prohibition on the use of the death penalty for juveniles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;

Rights of LGBTI persons

45.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity, including the use of the death penalty in some countries; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

46.  Supports the continuing work of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to combat these discriminatory laws, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign, as well as the work of other UN bodies; is concerned at restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of LGBTI human rights defenders, and calls for the EU to step up its support for them; notes that the fundamental rights of LGBTI people are more likely to be respected if they have access to legal institutions, possibly through registered partnerships or marriage; calls for the HRC to create a Special Procedure or another mechanism to ensure systematic attention to these issues;

Counter-terrorism and human rights

47.  Recalls that the respect for fundamental rights and freedoms is the foundation of successful counter-terrorism policies, including the use of digital surveillance technologies and urges that human rights and the rule of law be upheld in all counter-terrorism activities, which is also at the heart of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy;

Sports and human rights

48.  Denounces the increasing practice by authoritarian states of hosting mega sports or cultural events in order to boost their international legitimacy whilst further restricting domestic dissent; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively raise this issue, including at the UNHRC, and to engage with national sports federations, corporate actors and civil society organisations on the practicalities of their participation in such events, including with regard to the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018 and in Qatar in 2022, and the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2022; calls for the development of an EU and UN policy framework on sports and human rights;

Fight against impunity/ICC

49.  Reaffirms its strong commitment to ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community and to providing justice for the victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, including those related to sexual violence, and reiterates its strong support for the International Criminal Court (ICC); remains vigilant regarding any attempts to undermine the Court’s legitimacy or independence; expresses serious concern that several arrest warrants have still not been executed; urges the EU and its Member States to cooperate with the Court and provide it with strong diplomatic, political and financial support, including in the UN; calls for efforts to be increased in promoting the universality of the Rome Statute through its ratification, including of the Kampala amendments, and effective implementation;

Drones and autonomous weapons

50.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU once again to ban the production, development, and use of fully autonomous weapons which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism; deplores the negative vote of France and the UK on the latest HRC resolution on armed drones in counter-terrorism and military operations in accordance with international law;

Human rights and drug policy

51.  Welcomes the joint statement made on October 7 2015 by the UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions that ‘Executions for drug crimes amount to a violation of international law and are unlawful killings’ and that ‘International agencies, as well as States providing bilateral technical assistance to combat drug crime, must ensure that the programmes to which they contribute do not ultimately result in violations of the right to life’;

52.  Calls for the EU and its Member States to make the abolition of the death penalty for drug offences a priority issue in UNGASS negotiations, and reiterates that the abolition of the death penalty for drug-related offences should be made a precondition for financial assistance, technical assistance, capacity-building and other support for drug enforcement policy;

53.  Expresses its support for the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on human rights and drug policy;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Azerbaijan

54.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to follow closely the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists, and bloggers that have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, to fully investigate allegations of torture in detention, and repeal legislations that unduly restrict freedoms of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan; calls on the EU Member States to seek the creation of a Special Rapporteur mandate on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan;

55.  Welcomes the provisional release on humanitarian grounds of Leyla and Arif Yunus, but calls for the immediate lifting of all charges against them; deeply regrets that none of the Azerbaijani prisoners of conscience were freed on the occasion of the latest Presidential pardon;

Belarus

56.  Notes the release of the six remaining prisoners as a welcome step; expresses its profound concern at the continued restrictions on the freedom of expression and freedoms of association and peaceful assembly; condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty;

57.  Calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and commit to engage in long overdue reforms to promote and protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Georgia

58.  Takes note of the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements in the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, as well as the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs);

59.  Notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia where human rights violations remain widespread; calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Russia

60.  Strongly condemns the government’s continued crackdown on dissent by targeting independent NGOs through the so-called ‘foreign agents law’ and the law on ‘undesirable foreign organisations’ that allows authorities to bar international NGOs seen as threatening Russia’s defence capabilities or constitutional foundations and the persistent and multiform repression of activists, political opponents and critics of the regime;

Ukraine

61.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve registration procedures and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislations that may negatively impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to deter the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups, from government-controlled territory to rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member;

62.  Calls for EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia-backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Uzbekistan

63.  Urges EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan ensuring UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debate about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large number of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and continued use of forced and child labour;

Bahrain

64.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain in addressing concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain;

65.  Calls on the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow-up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

Israel/Palestine

66.  Calls on the EU to reiterate its position on accountability as mentioned in the July 2015 FAC conclusions, by stating that compliance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law by states and non-state actors, including accountability, is a cornerstone for peace and security in the region;

67.  In light of this commitment in the July 2015 FAC, and the call on third states in the EU-backed July 2015 HRC resolution to promote respect for human rights and international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, urges the EU to call on all parties to conduct credible investigations into alleged violations of international law; to actively monitor and assess compliance of ongoing investigations with international standards on the duty to investigate, including by regularly seeking clarification on the closure of cases; to press for an appropriate follow-up mechanism to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the 2015 UN Commission of Inquiry report and those of previous UN reports; and to call on Israel to cooperate with the ICC’s preliminary examination including by providing access and cooperating with requests for information;

68.  Deplores the refusal of the Israeli authorities to cooperate with the UN Special Rapporteur on OPT, which led to his resignation due to the failure of Israel to grant him access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory;

Syria

69.  Expresses its deep concern at the continued deterioration of the security and humanitarian situation in Syria; strongly condemns the abuses, massacres, torture, killings and sexual violence being perpetrated on the Syrian population by the Assad regime, the so-called Islamic State and other extremist and terrorist groups; reiterates its call for a sustainable solution to the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led political process leading to a genuine political transition that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Syrian people and enables them independently and democratically to determine their own future; expresses its full support to the ongoing UN-led efforts to reach a political solution to the conflict;

70.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Saudi Arabia

71.  Reiterates that UNHRC members should be elected from among states which uphold human rights, the rule of law and democracy; strongly disagrees with the decision taken by the United Nations, with EU Member State support, to hand over a key human rights role to Saudi Arabia’s ambassador at the UN in Geneva, who was elected as chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council;

72.  Remains gravely concerned about the systematic and widespread human rights violations in Saudi Arabia; calls on the Saudi authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, including the 2015 Sakharov Laureate, Raif Badawi;

73.  Expresses serious concern about the mass execution of 47 prisoners in Saudi Arabia on 2 January 2016, following an alarming increase in the rate of executions in 2015;

74.  Notes with concern reports that among those executed were juveniles, mentally ill persons, and prisoners sentenced to death for non-lethal crimes particularly those relating to the exercise of the right to freedom of assembly, freedom of association and freedom of expression;

75.  Calls on the Saudi authorities to co-operate fully with the UNHRC Special Procedures and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights; calls on Saudi Arabia to impose a moratorium on the death penalty;

Western Sahara

76.  Calls for the fundamental rights of the people of Western Sahara, including freedom of association, freedom of expression and the right to assembly, to be respected; demands the release of all Sahrawi political prisoners; demands access to the territories of Western Sahara for members of parliament, independent observers, NGOs and the press; urges the United Nations to provide MINURSO with a human rights mandate, in line with all other UN peacekeeping missions around the world; supports a fair and lasting settlement of the Western Sahara conflict, on the basis of the right to self-determination of the Sahrawi people, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions;

Yemen

77.  Expresses grave concern about the dramatic and violet conflict and the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the country; denounces the serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses committed by the warring parties, notably the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition that have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous civilian objects; condemns the expulsion of the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by the Yemeni authorities; calls on the EU to support the establishment of an international inquiry at the Human Rights Council to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Burundi

78.  Expresses deep concern about the targeted attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and their family members; strongly condemns the political violence, summary executions, human rights violations and abuses and incitement to violence on political, ethnic or other grounds in Burundi, as well as the ongoing impunity enjoyed by perpetrators, including police and security forces, youth groups affiliated with political parties, and officials;

79.  Urges the Burundian authorities to end these violations and abuses as a matter of critical and urgent priority, including by immediately halting killings and attacks on human rights defenders, journalists and real or suspected opponents and critics, and by conducting thorough, impartial and independent investigations with a view to bringing those responsible to justice and providing victims with redress;

80.  Welcomes the holding of a Special Session of the Human Rights Council on preventing further deterioration of the human rights situation in Burundi on 17 December 2015 but regret the delays in holding it; calls for the expeditious deployment of the mission by independent experts, and urges the Burundian authorities to fully cooperate with the mission;

Mauritania

81.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in taking legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation is contributing to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

82.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

South Sudan

83.  Welcomes the Peace Agreement signed by the warring parties on 28 August 2015 to end the civil war, which includes transitional power-sharing, security arrangements and the establishment of a hybrid court to try all crimes committed since the conflict started; recalls that the conflict has claimed thousands of lives and caused the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and refugees;

84.  Calls on all parties to refrain from committing human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law, including those amounting to international crimes, such as extrajudicial killings, ethnically targeted violence, conflict-related sexual violence, including rape, as well as gender-based violence, recruitment and use of children, enforced disappearances and arbitrary arrests and detention;   

85.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Venezuela

86.  Welcomes Venezuela’s holding of free and fair elections on 6 December 2015; welcomes the acceptance of the results by the government and opposition forces alike; recalls the importance of upholding the constitution and respecting human rights, and of carrying out the will of the Venezuelan people;

87.  Recalls that the new government will have to tackle a wide range of human rights issues, ranging from impunity and accountability for extrajudicial killings, including by security forces, to arbitrary arrest and detention, political prisoners’ right to a fair trial and the independence of the judiciary, freedom of assembly and association and media freedom;

DPRK

88.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly that condemns the ‘long-standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and encourages the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including by considering the referral of the situation in the DPRK to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including by those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state decades ago;

China

89.  Expresses its deep concern at the ongoing sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and human rights lawyers; points out that more than 200 attorneys and legal staff were summoned or taken away since July 2015 for questioning in the fiercest attempt in decades to silence critics of the regime; is alarmed by the news that the Chinese authorities have formally arrested over the last days on ‘subversion’ charges at least seven human rights lawyers and colleagues held in secret for six months;

Myanmar

90.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, under which 25 % of the seats in the parliament are reserved for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

91.  Condemns the severe and widespread discrimination and repression against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status, and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015, aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’, include discriminatory aspects as regards gender; deplores the fact that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has still not been permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability and human rights impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU-Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

92.  Welcomes the entry into force of the Nepal’s new constitution on 20 September 2015 which should lay the foundation for Nepal’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future;

93.  Regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty-related impasse;

°

°  °

94.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Read More

Motion for a resolution on the EU’s priorities for the UN Human Rights Council sessions in 2016 – B8-2016-0064

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to the UN human rights conventions and optional protocols thereto, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW),

–  having regard to United Nations General Assembly Resolution 60/251 establishing the Human Rights Council (UNHRC),

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights,

–  having regard to the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the United Nations Human Rights Council,

–  having regard to its previous resolutions on the violation of human rights, including its urgency resolutions on the issues,

–  having regard to its resolution of 17 December 2015 on the Annual Report on Human Rights and Democracy in the World 2014 and the European Union’s policy on the matter(1),

–  having regard to Articles 2, 3(5), 18, 21, 27 and 47 of the Treaty on European Union,

–  having regard to the 2015 annual report of the UNHRC to the UN General Assembly,

–  having regard to Rule 123(2) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.  whereas 2015 and 2016 are years of major anniversaries as regards the enjoyment of human rights, peace and security: the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, the 50th anniversary of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the 40th and 20th anniversaries of the UN Declaration on the Right to Development (1986) and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) respectively, and the 15th anniversary of the landmark UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security (2000) and the Millennium Development Goals (2000);

B.  whereas upholding respect for human rights irrespective of race, origin, sex, or colour is an obligation on all states; reiterating its attachment to the indivisibility of human rights – whether they are civic, economic, social or cultural –, which are interrelated and interdependent, and considering that the deprivation of any one of these rights has a direct and adverse impact on the others; whereas all states have an obligation to respect the basic rights of their respective populations and a duty to take concrete action to facilitate respect for those rights at national level and to cooperate at international level with a view to eliminating obstacles to the realisation of human rights in all areas;

C.  whereas respect for, and the promotion and safeguarding of, the universality of human rights is part of the European Union’s ethical and legal acquis and one of the cornerstones of European unity and integrity;

D.  whereas the Union’s action in its relations with third countries is guided by Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty, which reaffirms the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms and provides for respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law;

E.  whereas respect for human rights should be mainstreamed in all policy areas involving peace and security, development cooperation, trade and investment, humanitarian action, climate change and the fight against terrorism, as these cannot be addressed in isolation from respect for human rights;

F.  whereas the regular sessions of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the appointment of Special Rapporteurs, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism, and the Special Procedures addressing either the situation in specific countries or thematic issues all contribute to the promotion of and respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law;

G.  whereas, regrettably, some of the current members of the Human Rights Council are acknowledged as being among the worst human rights offenders and have a dubious record in terms of cooperation with the UN Special Procedures and compliance with their reporting requirements vis-à-vis the UN human rights treaty bodies;

UN Human Rights Council

1.  Welcomes the appointment of Ambassador Choi Kyong-lim as President of the UNHRC for 2016;

2.  Welcomes the UNHRC annual report to the UN General Assembly covering its 28th, 29th and 30th sessions;

3.  Reiterates its position that UNHRC members should be elected from among states that uphold respect for human rights, the rule of law and democracy, and urges UN member states to promote human-rights-performance-based criteria for any state to be elected as a member of the UNHRC; expresses its concerns about human rights abuses in some newly elected members of the UNHRC and stresses that it is important to defend the independence of the UNHRC so as to ensure that it can continue to exercise its mandate in an effective and impartial manner;

4.  Reiterates its support for the Special Procedures and the independent status of the mandate holders, which enable them to fulfil their function in all impartiality, deeply regrets the lack of cooperation demonstrated by some member states, such as Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia, and observer states, such as Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, with thematic special procedures, as well as the lack of cooperation with country-specific special procedures by countries concerned, and calls upon all states to cooperate fully with these procedures;

5.  Reaffirms the importance of the universality of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), with a view to reaching a full understanding of the human rights situation in all UN member states, and reiterates its support for the second cycle of the review, which focuses on the implementation of the recommendations accepted during the first cycle; calls again, however, for the recommendations that were not accepted by states during the first cycle to be reconsidered in the continuation of the UPR process;

6.  Stresses the need to ensure that a wide range of stakeholders, notably civil society, participate fully in the UPR process, and expresses its concern that severe limitations and ever-growing restrictions have hampered civil society’s participation in the UPR process;

7.  Calls for the EU and the Commission to follow up on the UPR recommendations in all EU policy dialogues with the countries concerned in order to explore ways and means of implementing the recommendations through country and regional strategies;

8.  Welcomes the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Initiative for Change, intended to improve and reinforce the global presence of UN human rights offices with the creation of eight regional hubs to monitor and promote respect for human rights by working directly with partners in order to transform the recommendations of the human rights mechanisms into real changes on the ground;

Civil and political rights

9.  Expresses its concern about the constitutional revisions undertaken in some countries, aimed at changing the limit set on presidential terms of office, an issue which has generated election-related violence in some cases; reaffirms that respect for civil and political rights, including individual and collective freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly and association, are the sole indicators of a democratic, tolerant and pluralistic society;

10.  Reiterates that freely electing political leaders, in periodically held genuine elections on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, is a fundamental right that all citizens should enjoy in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 21(3)) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Article 25); and reaffirms that freedom of expression and a vibrant and conducive environment for an independent and pluralistic civil society are prerequisites for promoting respect for human rights;

11.  Condemns the continued harassment and detention of human rights defenders and opposition figures by government forces in a number of third countries; expresses its concern about unfair and restrictive legislation, including restrictions on foreign funding, which is resulting in a shrinking space for civil society activities; calls on all governments to promote and support freedom of the media, civil society organisations and the activities of human rights defenders and to allow them to operate without fear, repression or intimidation;

12.  Takes the view that contemporary digital technologies offer advantages and challenges for the protection of the right to privacy and for the exercise of freedom of expression on- line across the world; welcomes, in this context, the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy in the Digital Age, whose mandate includes surveillance and privacy issues that affect people online or offline;

13.  Reiterates its long-standing opposition to the death penalty, torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment in all cases and under all circumstances; emphasises once again that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity, and reaffirms its attachment to the right to life and human dignity of every individual;

14.  Commends the substantial progress made so far, whereby many countries have suspended capital punishment while others have taken legislative measures towards abolishing the death penalty; expresses, nevertheless, its regret concerning the reinstatement of executions in some countries over the past few years; calls on those states which have abolished the death penalty or have a long-standing moratorium on the death penalty not to reintroduce it;

Social and Economic Rights

15.  Regrets that, more than 20 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration on the universality, indivisibility, interdependence and interrelated nature of all human rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) is not treated on the same footing and with the same emphasis as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR); recognises the UNHRC’s efforts to put all human rights on an equal footing and give them the same emphasis, through the establishment of Special Procedure mandate holders relating to economic, social and cultural rights;

16.  Expresses its profound concern about the rise of extreme poverty, which jeopardizes the full enjoyment of all human rights; welcomes, in this connection, the UNHRC Special Rapporteur’s report on extreme poverty and human rights (A/HRC/29/31) and supports his proposals for the elimination of extreme poverty, which include: giving economic, social and cultural rights the same prominence and priority as are given to civil and political rights; recognising the right to social protection; implementing fiscal policies specifically aimed at reducing inequality; revitalising and giving substance to the right to equality; and putting questions of resource redistribution at the centre of debates on human rights;

17.  Is of the opinion that corruption, tax evasion, mismanagement of public goods and lack of accountability contribute to the violation of citizens’ human rights as they divert funds from state budgets that should be dedicated to the advancement of human rights in much needed public services such as education, basic health services and other social infrastructure; considers that action to ensure respect for human rights, in particular the rights to information, to freedom of expression and assembly, to an independent judiciary and to democratic participation in public affairs, is instrumental in fighting corruption;

Business and human rights

18.  Strongly supports the effective and comprehensive implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within and outside the EU, including through the development of National Action Plans; emphasises the need to take all the necessary measures to address gaps in the effective implementation of the UN Guiding Principles, including access to justice and remedies;

19.  Calls on the UN and the EU to address the question of land rights defenders, who are victims of reprisals including by threats, harassment, arbitrary arrest, assault and murder, for criticising large-scale land acquisition at the expense of the land and food rights of rural populations in third countries; calls for the UN mechanisms and the EU Action Plan on human rights and democracy to systematically include land rights defenders in their human rights projects;

20.  Welcomes the initiative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to enhance the Accountability and Remedy Project with a view to contributing to a fair and more effective system of domestic law remedies, in particular in cases of gross human rights abuses in the business sector; calls on all governments to fulfil their duties in securing respect for human rights, access to justice for victims who face both practical and legal challenges in gaining access to remedies at national and international levels, with regard to business-related human rights violations;

21.  Notes that an open-ended intergovernmental working group (IGWG) on the elaboration of an international legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, established by a Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution of 26 June 2014, held its first session in July 2015; calls on the EU and its Member States to actively engage in the negotiations on the abovementioned legally binding international instrument;

Migration

22.  Is concerned by the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, created by the increasing number of individuals forced to leave their homes as a result of persecution, armed conflict and generalised violence, and in search of protection and a better life, and who are risking their lives by taking dangerous journeys; calls on the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to pay the necessary attention to the human rights implications of this crisis and to make recommendations in this regard;

23.  Calls on all countries to adopt a human-rights-based approach to migration which places the rights of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees at the centre of migration policies and management, paying particular attention to the situation of marginalised and disadvantaged groups of migrants, such as women and children; calls on all states to address gender-related violence against women and girls, and stresses the importance of designing migration policy from a gender perspective in order to respond to their particular needs;

24.  Recalls that all states have an obligation to respect and protect the human rights of all individuals under their jurisdiction, regardless of their nationality or origin and regardless of their immigration status; recalls that the return of migrants should only be carried out with full respect for the migrants’ rights, based on free and informed decisions and only when the protection of their rights is guaranteed in their country; calls on governments to put an end to the arbitrary arrest and detention of migrants;

Climate change and human rights

25.  Welcomes the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which covers adaptation, mitigation, technology development and transfer, and capacity building; insists that the issue of climate change should be mainstreamed in all economic policy areas; urges all States Parties who are signatories to the Agreement to adopt urgent and ambitious mitigation and adaptation measures by mainstreaming climate change in all policy areas;

26.  Recalls that the adverse impact of climate change represents an immediate and potentially irreversible global threat to the full enjoyment of human rights, and that its impact on vulnerable groups whose rights situation is already precarious is considerable; notes with concern that climate-related incidents such as the rise of sea levels and extreme weather changes provoking droughts and floods are expected to lead to even more loss of life, population displacement, and food and water shortages;

27.  Calls on the international community to address the legal shortfalls in the term ‘climate refugee’, including its possible definition in international law or in any legally binding international agreement;

Women’s rights

28.  Welcomes the UN Security Council’s recent resolution 2242 on women, peace and security, which makes women the central component in all efforts to address global challenges including rising violent extremism, climate change, migration, sustainable development, peace and security; commends the UN Global Study findings on the implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security, which stressed the importance of women’s leadership and participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding and that their involvement has improved humanitarian assistance, strengthened peacekeepers’ efforts, fostered the conclusion of peace talks and helped to counter violent extremism;

29.  Expresses its dismay at the fact that, since the emergence of violent extremist groups such as Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram in West Africa, violence against women has taken on a new dimension which is more terrifying than ever, as sexual violence has become an integral part of the objectives, ideology and source of revenue of these extremist groups, and which places a critical new challenge before the international community; calls on all governments and the UN institutions to step up their commitment to combating these abominable crimes and to restoring the dignity of women so that they obtain justice, reparation and support;

30.  Considers that guaranteeing women’s autonomy, by addressing the underlying inequalities between women and men which render women and girls vulnerable in times of conflict, is one way of countering extremism; and calls on the UN and all its member states to take concrete steps to ensure women’s autonomy, their meaningful inclusion in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and in the peace negotiation and peacebuilding process by increasing their representation at all decision-making levels, including in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms;

Children’s rights

31.  Recalls that the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1989 and is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty, sets out a number of children’s rights, including the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence and discrimination and to have their views heard; calls on all signatories to this treaty to honour their obligations;

32.  Welcomes the planned global study to be launched by the UN to map out, through monitoring and evaluation analysis, how existing international laws and standards are being implemented on the ground and to assess the concrete possibilities for states to improve their policies and responses; urges all states to support and participate actively in the study;

Rights of LGBTI people

33.  Expresses its concern regarding the persistence of discriminatory laws and practices and of acts of violence against individuals in various countries, on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity; encourages close monitoring of the situation of LGBTI people in countries where recently introduced anti-LGBTI laws threaten the lives of sexual minorities; expresses its strong concern regarding the so-called ‘anti-propaganda’ laws limiting freedom of expression and assembly, including in countries on the European continent;

34.  Reaffirms its support for the continuing work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in promoting and protecting the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI people, in particular through statements, reports and the Free & Equal campaign; encourages the High Commissioner to continue fighting discriminatory laws and practices;

Drones and autonomous weapons

35.  Reiterates its call on the EU Council to develop an EU common position on the use of armed drones, giving the utmost importance to respect for human rights and international humanitarian law and addressing issues such as the legal framework, proportionality, accountability, the protection of civilians and transparency; urges the EU, once again, to ban the production, development and use of fully autonomous weapons, which enable strikes to be carried out without human intervention; insists that human rights should be part of all dialogues with third countries on counter-terrorism;

EU human rights mainstreaming

36.  Calls upon the EU to promote the universality and indivisibility of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, in accordance with Article 21 of the Lisbon Treaty and the General Provisions on the Union’s External Action;

37.  Reiterates its call for the EU to adopt a rights-based approach and to integrate respect for human rights into trade, investment policies, public services, development cooperation, and its common security and defence policy; stresses also that the EU’s human rights policy should ensure that its internal and external policies are coherent, in line with the EU Treaty obligation;

EU priorities on country-related issues

Belarus

38.  Expresses its profound concern at the continuing restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of association and peaceful assembly, condemns the harassment of independent and opposition journalists and the harassment and detention of human rights activists and critics on spurious charges; condemns the continued use of the death penalty; calls for the renewal of the UN Special Rapporteur’s mandate on the human rights situation in Belarus at the 32nd session of the Council, and calls on the government to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur and to commit to engaging in long-overdue reforms to protect human rights, including by implementing the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur and other human rights mechanisms;

Ukraine

39.  Expresses its grave concern at the continued indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas, targeted attacks on schools and use of schools for military purposes by both parties; condemns continued human rights violations in the conflict and fully supports the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine; calls for the Government of Ukraine to take steps to allow delivery of certain types of medicines, including opioid substitution therapy (OST) medicines, to improve the registration procedure and means of accessing employment and state benefits for those displaced by the conflict, to repeal legislation that may have a negative impact on freedom of expression and association, to take concrete measures to prevent the use of schools by armed forces and armed groups in both government-controlled territory and rebel-held areas, and to ratify the Rome Statute and join the International Criminal Court as a full member; calls on the EU Member States to support all possible efforts at UN level to fight impunity and to conduct impartial investigations into the violent events and human rights violations linked to the crackdown against the Maidan demonstrations, and into the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia‑backed rebels during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and to address the human rights situation in Crimea and other violations related to the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine;

Azerbaijan

40.  Welcomes the joint statement on the human rights situation in Azerbaijan delivered during the 29th session of the UN Human Rights Council, but regrets that a number of EU Member States did not support this joint statement; calls on the EU Member States and other members of the Council to closely monitor the human rights situation in Azerbaijan and work towards the adoption of a resolution calling for the immediate release of human rights defenders, political and civil activists, journalists and bloggers who have been arrested or imprisoned on politically motivated charges, full investigation of allegations of torture in detention, and the repeal of laws that unduly restrict freedom of expression, assembly and association in Azerbaijan;

Uzbekistan

41.  Urge the EU Member States to work towards a UN Human Rights Council resolution establishing a dedicated UN mechanism for Uzbekistan to ensure UN monitoring, public reporting and Human Rights Council debates on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan, and to address Uzbekistan’s record of lack of cooperation with UN human rights mechanisms, the continued detention of large numbers of political opponents, including human rights defenders, continued restrictions on freedom of association, freedom of expression and the media, and the continued use of child labour;

Syria

42.  Urges the Human Rights Council to call on the UN Security Council (UNSC) to take appropriate action in order to ensure that those responsible for human rights violations, including violations that may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, are held to account, including through referral of the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court;

Yemen

43.  Expresses great concern about the grave crisis that has been affecting the country since September 2014, when serious violations of the laws of war and human rights abuses were committed by the Houthis and other Yemeni armed groups, and since March 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition did the same; in particular, condemns the indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes conducted by the latter coalition, which have killed and wounded scores of civilians and destroyed numerous items of civilian property; whereas the High Commissioner for Human Rights is expected to report to the Council on the situation in Yemen at its next session, in March 2016; calls on the EU to support the establishment at the Human Rights Council of an international inquiry to document violations by all sides since September 2014;

Bahrain

44.  Regrets that no progress has been made by the Government of Bahrain to address concerns related to the continued detention of many, including human rights defenders, political activists and journalists, for exercising rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the lack of accountability for human rights violations including torture and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary in Bahrain; Calls upon the EU Member States to address the human rights situation in Bahrain at the Human Rights Council through individual statements, a follow up joint statement or a resolution urging Bahrain to immediately and unconditionally release of all human rights defenders, political activists and other individuals detained and charged with alleged violations related to the rights of expression, peaceful assembly and association enact and to ensure impartial investigations into all allegations of torture and ill-treatment and to swiftly facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other UN human rights mechanisms; reiterates its call for the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy on how the Union and its Member States can actively push for the release of the imprisoned activists and prisoners of conscience;

South Sudan

45.  Calls on the Human Rights Council to support the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on South Sudan, with a mandate to monitor and publicly report on violations, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and on military use of schools, and make recommendations for achieving effective accountability;

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

46.  Welcomes the resolution adopted by the General Assembly condemning the ‘long‑standing and ongoing systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights’ in the DPRK and encouraging the UN Security Council to take appropriate action to ensure accountability, including through consideration of referral of the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, and calls on the Human Rights Council to reiterate its call for accountability, including of those responsible for crimes against humanity pursuant to policies established at the highest level of the state for decades;

Countries under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Georgia

47.  Welcomes Georgia’s membership of the UNHRC and the recent UPR on Georgia; notes the meaningful legislative reforms that have resulted in some progress and improvements with regard to the justice and law enforcement sector, the Prosecutor’s Office, the fight against ill-treatment, children’s rights, the protection of privacy and personal data and internally displaced persons (IDPs); notes, however, that further efforts are needed with regard to ill-treatment, especially regarding pre-trial detention and rehabilitation of victims, to accountability for abuses by law enforcement agencies, to investigations into past abuses by government officials and to minorities and women’s rights; remains concerned about freedom of expression and the media and the lack of access by monitors to the occupied regions of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, where human rights violations remain widespread; and calls on the Georgian Government to take appropriate measures with a view to ensuring a follow-up to the recommendations made in the UPR process;

Lebanon

48.  Commends Lebanon for the open border and reception policy which it has had for years regarding refugees from Palestine, Iraq and Syria, and calls on the European Union to allocate more resources and to work closely with the Lebanese authorities to help the country uphold the protection of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers; is concerned, in this context, about the reportedly significant number of cases of child and/or forced marriages among Syrian refugees; encourages the Lebanese Government to consider a reform of the law regulating entry into, residence in and exit from Lebanon, which does not distinguish between asylum seekers and refugees on the one hand and migrants on the other; supports the recommendations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in calling for measures to raise awareness among women migrant domestic workers of their human rights under the CEDAW Convention, to which Lebanon is a state party; emphasises, in particular, the need to abolish the ‘Kafala system’ and ensure effective access to justice for women migrant domestic workers, including by guaranteeing their safety and residence during legal and administrative procedures relating to their status;

Mauritania

49.  Stresses that, while progress has been made by the Mauritanian Government in legislative measures aimed at fighting all forms of slavery and slavery-like practices, the lack of effective implementation contributes to the persistence of such practices; calls on the authorities to enact an anti-slavery law, to initiate nationwide, systematic and regular collection of disaggregated data on all forms of slavery and to conduct a thorough evidence-based study on the history and nature of slavery in order to eradicate the practice;

50.  Urges the Mauritanian authorities to allow freedom of speech and assembly, in accordance with international conventions and Mauritania’s own domestic law; calls also for the release of Biram Dah Abeid, Bilal Ramdane and Djiby Sow so that they may continue their non-violent campaign against the continuation of slavery without fear of harassment or intimidation;

Myanmar

51.  Welcomes the holding of competitive elections on 8 November 2015, an important milestone in the country’s democratic transition; remains concerned, however, by the constitutional framework for these elections, which reserves 25 % of the seats in the Parliament for the military; recognises the progress made so far as regards human rights, while identifying a number of remaining areas of major concern, including the rights of minorities and freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

52.  Condemns the discrimination against the Rohingya, which is exacerbated by the fact that this community lacks legal status and by the rise of hate speech against non-Buddhists; calls for full, transparent and independent investigations into all reports of human rights violations against the Rohingya and considers that the four laws adopted by the parliament in 2015 aimed at ‘protecting race and religion’ have discriminatory aspects as regards gender; repeats its request that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) be permitted to establish an office in the country; insists on the need for a full sustainability impact assessment to be carried out before negotiations on the EU – Myanmar investment agreement are finalised;

Nepal

53.  Welcomes the entry into force on 20 September 2015 of Nepal’s new constitution, which should lay the foundations for the country’s future political stability and economic development; hopes that the remaining concerns around the political representation of minorities, including the Dalits, and citizenship laws will be addressed in the near future; regrets the widespread lack of accountability for human rights abuses committed by both sides during the civil war despite the adoption in May 2014 of the Truth, Reconciliation and Disappearance Act; urges the Government of Nepal to accede to the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; condemns the limitations placed on the fundamental freedoms of Tibetan refugees; urges India to lift its unofficial blockade on Nepal’s economy which, coupled with the devastating earthquake of April 2015, is causing a humanitarian crisis and pushing almost one million more Nepalis into a poverty impasse;

Oman

54.  Commends Oman for the setting-up of the governmental National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the invitation which allowed the ground-breaking visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Peaceful Assembly in September 2014; expresses the hope that these constructive steps will lead to a more intensive engagement by Oman with UN human rights representatives and independent human rights organisations; encourages Oman to take the necessary steps to alleviate what the UN Special Rapporteur described as a pervasive climate of fear and intimidation in the country, stating that individuals were ‘afraid to speak their minds, afraid to speak on the telephone, afraid to meet’; remains concerned about, and calls on the government to reconsider, in this context, the ban on all political parties and the new nationality law adopted in August 2014, which stipulates that citizens joining groups deemed harmful to national interests could have their citizenship revoked; calls on the EU Institutions and the Member States to offer technical and legal assistance to help Oman create a safe and enabling environment for civil society organisations;

Rwanda

55.  Expresses its concern about the human rights situation in Rwanda, including the restrictions on freedom of expression and association, the shrinking of the democratic space for opposition political parties and independent civil society activities, and the absence of a conducive environment for the independence of the judiciary; calls on the Rwandan Government to open up a democratic space in which all segments of society may operate freely;

56.  Is concerned by the proposed constitutional change aimed at allowing the incumbent President to run for a third term; calls on the Government of Rwanda to uphold the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, Article 5 of which lays down that states parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure constitutional rule, particularly constitutional transfer of power, and Article 23 of which states that any amendment of the constitution which infringes on the principles of democratic change of government is illegal;

°

°  °

57.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the UN Security Council, the UN Secretary-General, the President of the 69th UN General Assembly, the President of the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.

Read More

Archives