Posted by: lauraannwilson | March 4, 2015

Highlights from the High Level Session 3 March 2015: 28th Session of the Human Rights Council


The purpose of this blog is to provide a summary of highlights from the High Level Session of Day 2 (3 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. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Germany

Germany raised particular concern regarding the torture, human trafficking and sexual servitude and sexual abuse of women. Germany was concerned by recent attacks on human rights defenders and civil society members. Mr Steinmeier stated that the HRC must work towards recognition, protection and promotion of human rights and these efforts must be entwined with efforts towards ensuring peace. He stated that human rights and peace and stability are mutually re-enforceable. He stated that ‘stability at the cost of human rights not acceptable’. Mr Steinmeier stated that the HRC does not operate in a vacuum and that the issues discussed by HRC are also of important to UNSC. Mr Steinmeier raised grave concerns with the rise of religious intolerance and extremism. He reiterated the R2P principle and commented that the world had an obligation to act to respond to and prevent ‘barbarous attacks’.

H.E. Mr. Ramtane Lamamra, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Algeria
Mr Lamamra commented that Algeria had ‘regular interaction in good faith’ with the HRC. He reiterated that since the last HRC and UPR, Algeria had made ‘good progress’ on human rights issues. Recently Algeria enacted laws that criminalised violence against women and children. He raised concerns with the current situation in Mali and highlighted that many civilians are targeted by armed violence committed by Boko Haram. Mr Lamamra commented that Algeria is concerned by the ongoing conflict in Western Sahara. He stated that there must be an ‘increased commitment’ to address that conflict, particularly regarding the refugee exodus from the country, which directly impacted on Algeria.
H.E. Mr. Sebastian Kurz, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Austria
Mr Kurz reflected on a recent visit to Iraq, where he met with Kurds and Christians. He stated that the visit caused him to reflect on the importance of protecting and defending open societies. He raised concern with the current status of minorities across the globe. He expressed deep concern for citizens of Ukraine, particularly Tartars and human rights defenders. Mr Kurz stated that the crisis in Syria required a clear international response. He stated that the recent events in Paris and Copenhagen reiterated the need for independent media. He raised deep concern with the recent resumption of the death penalty in certain countries. He renewed Austria’s commitment to abolishing the death penalty and corporeal punishment and torture.
H.E. Mr. Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Cameroon
The Minister stated that Cameroon faced imminent threats from Boko Haram. He stated that Boko Haram’s attacks had increased in power and sophistication. He raised deep concern with Boko Haram’s mobilisation of young people. He stated that Cameroon is now a ‘primary target’, rather than a ‘collateral target’ of Boko Haram. He reiterated that Boko Haram had an adverse impact on Cameroon which has led to a drastic slowing of economy and tourism and the emergence of a significant refugee and IDP issue. In response, Cameroon had legislated recently to criminalise terrorism. It had also contributed to a multi-national task force to address the threat posed by Boko Haram.
H.E. Mr. Mohammed Bello Adoke, Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Nigeria
The Minister noted the rise in global threat to peace and freedom. He stated that solutions to conflicts can only arise from working as a united front. The Minister highlighted the threat posed by Boko Haram. He raised concern regarding Boko Haram’s use of child soldiers. The Minister announced that he had issued a statement to Boko Haram regarding the rights of the child and expressed concern of the use of child soldiers. He stated that Chad, Nigeria and Cameroon are experiencing a crisis as a result of the Boko Haram threat. These countries are fighting the threat, supported by the African Union. He reiterated the need for funding to support these efforts. He stated that Nigeria is also pursuing human rights at the domestic level. It is working towards strengthening of NHIs in Nigeria. He reiterated the country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals. He stated that the 2015 election had been delayed in order to ensure that all citizens can participate and be able to obtain their voting cards and attend polling booths.
H.E. Mr. Lubomír Zaorálek, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic
The Minister commented that that the conflict in Ukraine is of extreme concern. Of particular concern are the incidents of sexual assault and rape. He stated that the international community must ensure that perpetrators of HR violations are brought to justice. The Minister highlighted the status of minorities and stated that ‘they belong in our society just as much as the majority’. The ‘duty to respect rights of others’ must prevail. We must be tolerant of others and accept difference. This tolerance extended to accepting minorities. He also stressed that protecting women’s rights and the rights of human rights defenders are imperative.
H.E. Ms. Aichetou Mint M’Haiham, Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Action, Mauritania
The Minister stated that human rights are a ‘top priority’ for her country. She reiterated that the rights of women, children and youth and people with disabilities are being addressed in the country. She stated that the country enjoyed greater press freedom, evident in the liberalisation of satellite TV. The Minister reiterated that the country had experienced greater political stability in recent years and it recently ratified the Optional Protocol of CAT.
H.E. Mr. Edward Nalbandian, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Armenia
The Minister noted that 2015 commemorated the Armenian Genocide. He announced that Armenia had initiated a resolution on genocide in this HRC. He stated that ‘all members in the international community should stand together to address genocide’. The Minster reiterated that the protection of religious and ethnic minorities required urgent attention.
H.E. Mr. Hugo Roger Martínez Bonilla, Minister for Foreign Affairs, El Salvador
The Minister focused his address on the issue of children’s rights. He stated that the development of the Convention of the Rights of the Child was a major step towards protecting children’s rights. Furthermore, the Millennium Development Goals pertaining to children’s rights are a further step towards recognising these rights. However, children’s rights needed to be upheld in the areas of disability, gender and rural communities. Furthermore, the rights of migrant children must also be addressed. He reiterated that migrant children are a vulnerable group with particular needs. He reiterated that the world had a responsibility to protect children and particularly those who are vulnerable as a result of displacement and movement.
H.E. Ms. Henryka Mościcka-Dendys, Undersecretary of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Poland
The Minister raised extreme concern with the Syrian crisis. He reiterated that HRC must work to address this crisis. He called on Russia to respect Crimean integrity and to respect the Minsk Agreement. However, he stated that his country was troubled by the deterioration of the situation in Crimea, particularly regarding the erosion and violation of the rights of the Tartar people. He stated that Poland is also disturbed by the Paris attacks and attacks against Christians. He stated that the international community must work towards guaranteeing religious freedoms.
H.E. Ms. Mbarka Bouaida, Minister Delegate to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Morocco
Morocco was working towards addressing issues on immigration. It is pursuing ‘constructive dialogue’ with its partners in addressing the ‘real problems facing human beings around the world’. Morocco was also working towards operationalising civil and political rights into domestic laws. It is also focused on improving education and religious tolerance. Morocco played a key regional role in promoting human rights by hosting workshops aimed at the African regional group. It is committed to continuing co-operation with technical issues within the African region and was also focussed on continuing efforts to achieve regional security. Morocco believed that the Palestinian people should enjoy all their human rights. Morocco is assisting with finding peace in the Middle East with regard to the Palestinian issue.
H.E. Mr. Peter Stenlund, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Finland
The Minister stated that the globe is in crisis. Of particular concern is the Ukraine crisis, particularly regarding IDPs, the crisis in Crimea and the plight of the Tartar people. He called for the immediate withdrawal of foreign fighters in Ukraine. He also raised the recent death of the Russian Opposition Leader. He stated: ‘The murder of the Russian Opposition leader is a loss to democracy…those responsible must be held accountable’. The Minister raised the issue of gender equality and stated that men and women must enjoy equal rights. He stated ‘gender equality is smarter politics’. He reminded the HRC that Finland must continue in its efforts to promote gender equality, equal pay for equal work and ending sexualised violence and reproductive health rights. Furthermore, that the HRC must be a strong advocate for women’s rights in political life.
H.E. Ms. Roksanda Ninčić, State Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Serbia
The Minister stated that the world faced ongoing challenges, particularly the rise of terrorism, hate speech, increase IDPs and climate change. She stated that Serbia is committed to working with HRC to address these issues. Serbia had adopted an action plan to address human rights, particularly regarding vulnerable groups. Serbia had initiated a high level body on establishing gender equality. The Minister reiterated that direct elections for National Minority Council were held in November 2014. Furthermore, Belgrade hosted a Gay Pride Parade in September 2014. She reiterated that missing persons is an ongoing issue in the Serbian region. Serbia had hosted a working group on missing persons to address this issue. She reiterated that ‘families of missing persons have the right to know about their fate… and perpetrators must be prosecuted’.
H.E. Mr. Nguyen Quoc Cuong, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Viet Nam
The Minister stated that the HRC is most important body dealing with human rights at the international level. Furthermore, that the HRC played a key role in raising international community awareness to human rights. He congratulated the HRC in providing timely responses to key human rights concerns. He noted that the UPR sessions provided effective mechanisms to review and engage in human rights dialogue. He highlighted that his country had contributed to HRC discussions. The Minister stated that Viet Nam expected that the HRC continued its support of developing countries in pursing the promotion of human rights and the rights of vulnerable groups. He stated that human rights are inherently linked with peace and security and development. He stated that the post 2015 development agenda should be comprehensive, focussing on sustainable development. He reiterated that much needs to be done in his country to ensure that human rights are fully recognised, particularly the full implementation of the amended Constitution. He noted that fiscal constraints had hampered efforts to implement the above initiatives. However, he reiterated that Viet Nam is committed to these goals and continuing to work with the HRC.
H.E. Mr. Aleksandar Andrija Pejović, State Secretary for European Integration, Montenegro
The Minister condemned the terrorist acts committed by ISIL. He raised concern with the ‘alarming’ situations in Belarus, Syria and DPRK. He stated that his country was ‘satisfied’ with the Minsk Agreement cease fire. He stated that Montenegro is committed to the role of civil rights actors. He strongly condemned recent attacks on human rights defenders. Having regard to the death penalty, the Minister commented that the UPR can play a strong role in condemning the death penalty.
H.E. Mr. Iyad Ameen Madani, Secretary General, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation
His Excellency stated that violent extremism threatens multicultural society. He stated that the world must confront this scourge and to do so must understand the root causes of the terrorism. He stated that the root cause of terrorism may lie in the crises of the previous century, including world wars and defeats of liberation movements in parts of the colonized world, weakening and dismantling of the Iraq State, sense of defeat and hopelessness and an ‘intellectual malaise of the Muslim world’. He stated that in the post 9/11 world, Islam and other religions were brought to the forefront of world’s attention. However, ‘religion should not be accused as the source of terrorism’. He stated that the world must work toward combating hate speech and religious intolerances, as a priority. He stated that the OIC was continually concerned by the suffering of the Palestinian people. The OIC called for peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute and the Minister called on the Indian HRC colleagues to engage on this front. Furthermore, the OIC called on Myanmar to bring to justice those responsible for inciting violence against Rohingya Muslims.

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