Posted by: lauraannwilson | March 3, 2015

Key highlights from the High Level Session of Day 1 (2 March 2015) of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council

UN Office Geneva in Snow

The purpose of this blog is to provide a summary of highlights from the High Level Session of Day 1 (2 March 2015) of the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council. For background on the Human Rights Council, please read my blog: United Nations Human Rights Council: Demystified.

H.E. Mr. John F. Kerry, Secretary of State, United States of America

Mr Kerry stated that Mr Obama believed deeply in the importance of HRC and is committed to re-engagement with HRC. Mr Kerry reiterated that the US was working towards upholding its human rights ideals and recognised that the US journey ‘has not been without challenges or contradiction’.
Mr Kerry raised concerns with the situation in several countries. He stated that it is of extreme concern that many people are having their rights violated in Syria through the ‘intolerable issues emerging of chemical weapons use, conditions of prisoners, torture’.

Mr Kerry criticised the DPRK for its starvation, torture and incarceration of its citizens. Having regard to the Ukraine, Mr Kerry stated ‘I urge the Council to look at the facts’. Mr Kerry stated that the facts are that men and women and children are being raped and tortured, and ‘it is up to the HRC to shed light on it’.

Mr Kerry lamented that ‘too many people in too many places’ are experiencing human rights violations on an imaginable level. He highlighted that the US is working with other states to respond to human rights abuses and promote human rights such as freedom of religion and expression. Mr Kerry stated that ‘the wheels of justice may not turn as fast as we may wish…’ but steps are being taken. Mr Kerry stated: ‘We have to get serious about addressing roadblocks to our progress…no one in this room can deny that there is an imbalance’.

Mr Kerry concluded by reiterating that the US will run for re-election in HRC. He commented that the HRC must ‘live up to standards under which it was created’.

H.E. Ms. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Botswana

The Minister expressed thanks for re-election of Botswana to HRC and reiterated her country’s belief in HRC, and the promotion and protection of human rights. She stated that the HRC is the ‘best platform’ for international dialogue on human rights. Having regard to the current state of global affairs, the global community ‘still needs to do more’. She highlighted the situation in the DPRK and Syria as of particular concern. She stated that Botswana ‘strongly condemns’ the killings and displacement of persons in Syria. Furthermore, that Botswana urged the DPRK to open up the country to allow monitors into the country.

H.E. Mr. M. Javad Zarif, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Iran (Islamic Republic of)
His Excellency reflected on the origins of the UN Charter. He reiterated that there is a duty to co-operate and taking joint measures to address human rights. However, he also argued that there is now a ‘propensity to politicise’, which had left an ‘indelible mark’ and an ‘imbalance’ in the implementation in the protection and promotion of human rights

Mr Zarif also commented that the high rates of terrorism recruitment from Europe and other Western democracies is a crucial issue. His Excellency questioned how this has occurred, and reflected that this is the result of discrimination and alienation. He also stated that the Islamic State ‘is neither Islamic or a State’.

H.E. Mr. Sergey V. Lavrov, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation

Mr Lavrov raised concerns that globally the right to life is violated frequently. He raised particular concerns with the situation faced by Christian minorities in the current global context. He reiterated that human rights protection and promotion must remain fundamental to the UN mandate. He also raised concerns with the situation in the Middle East. Mr Lavrov called on Member States to cease politicising human rights issues: ‘We must prevent any politicisation of the Human Rights Agenda’. He argued that it is unacceptable to use unilateral measures and force to intervene in States. The Minister highlighted that human rights concerns must be guided by dialogue.

HE Mr Gjorge Ivanov, President, Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia

Mr Ivanov reflected on the 70th Anniversary of the UN and commented that ‘people persist in their struggle for human rights’. He criticised the developed world in continuing to ignore human rights violations. He called on Member States to ‘never be an indifferent or passive observer’. He stressed that the ‘UN cannot allow itself to be indifferent to violations of human rights and human dignity’.

H.E. Mr. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, Prime Minister, Fiji
Mr Bainimarama commented that Fiji is experiencing a period of momentous change. He stated that Fiji guaranteed economic, education, housing, health, sanitation, and social security and disability rights. Mr Bainimarama stated ‘never before have the Fijian people had their rights as protected as now under the Fijian Constitution’. He stated that Fijian indigenous peoples enjoy protections under the constitution ‘and experience no threats’ to their language and land rights.

Reflecting on the recent coup, Mr Bainimarama stated that many people lost faith in Fiji, and ‘we were locked in a mindset of prejudice and mistrust’. However, the military takeover ‘drew a line’ and allowed the promotion of human rights. He stated that ‘we can now put the past behind us…and guarantee the human rights of every Fijian’. Mr Bainimarama publically invited the Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Education and Water to visit Fiji.
Mr Bainimarama highlighted that Fiji recently passed a bill to remove the death penalty. It is currently reviewing CAT and considering ratification. Mr Bainimarama called on all industrialised nations to act regarding climate change. Mr Bainimarama reiterated that the refugee crisis required a united response from the global and regional community.

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