Ginevra: 6a sessione ordinaria del Consiglio dei Diritti dell’Uomo dell’ONU (10-28 settembre 2007)
Human Rights Council – 6th session : Geneva, 10-28 September 2007
Documents adopted, concerning freedom of religion and prohibition of discrimination:
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Asma Jahangir, “Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development”.
– Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on the manifestation of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights (Mr. Doudou Diène)
– General Debate with High Commissioner for Human Rights
“HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL STARTS DIALOGUE WITH SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RACISM AND RACIAL DISCRIMINATION ON DEFAMATION OF RELIGIONS”
(14 September 2007, Morning)
The Human Rights Council this morning started an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance on his report on the defamation of religions. It also concluded its general debate with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour.
Doudou Diene, Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presenting his report on defamation of religions, said it analysed the increasing trend in defamation of religions and the factors that explained it, particularly in the context of human rights violations in the combat against terrorism, and to protect national security and preserve national identity. The report also analysed specific forms of religion-based discrimination, including Islamophobia and its manifestations. There should be equal treatment in combating all forms of defamation of religions, thus avoiding the establishment of any hierarchy of forms of discrimination.
In the interactive dialogue on the report on the defamation of religions, delegates said, among other things, that the best response to manifestations of xenophobia was the constructive promotion of integration. While there was a resurgence of racism and xenophobia, these were universal scourges. In a democratic system, there should be room for expression of ideas inspired by religious values alongside other ideas. Individual acts of discrimination, far from being trivial, aggravated hatred and were against the spirit of multiculturalism. The remedy lay in closer interaction among religions, national action to stop the political use and misuse of racial discrimination and xenophobia, and promotion of dialogue.
Speaking on the report were Switzerland, Chile, Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Cuba, Portugal on behalf of the European Union, and China.
During the interactive debate with the High Commissioner, delegations raised a range of issues, including the Universal Periodic Review and the functioning thereof, saying that it should be objective, impartial and fair, and enjoy cooperation from the concerned States. Time should be given to States to prepare their reports in a consultative manner. Availability of financial resources through the establishment of trust funds was a critical requirement for the effective participation of Least Developed Countries. The Universal Periodic Review was the expression of a dynamic partnership, it was the jewel in the crown of the Council, and thus it should be cherished and its integrity should be preserved. Speakers also said the Special Procedures should be reinforced in the context of a process of rationalisation, revision and improvement of the mandates. The independence of mandate holders was also important.
Responding to these questions and comments, as well as those that had been asked following her statement on Thursday afternoon, Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she looked forward to future occasions to discuss all the questions that interested members of the Council individually or collectively. She fully supported the Universal Periodic Review and hoped that all required resources would be made available. She also welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly yesterday of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Speaking in the general debate were the representatives of Thailand, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Algeria, Myanmar, Morocco, Belgium, Argentina, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, African Union, Sudan, New Zealand, Burundi and Turkey.
Also speaking were Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (speaking on behalf of Pax Romana, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, and Asian Legal Resource Centre); Amnesty International; International Movement ATD Fourth World; Colombian Commission of Jurists; Association for World Education (speaking on behalf of World Union for Progressive Judaism, Association of World Citizens, and International Humanist and Ethical Union); International Commission of Jurists; Human Rights Watch; and International Educational Development.
Speaking in right of reply were the representatives of Iran, China, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Colombia.
Report on Defamation of Religions
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Doudou Diène, on the manifestations of defamation of religions and in particular on the serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights (A/HRC/6/6), which provides an analysis of the increasing trend in defamation of religions and the factors that explain it, particularly in the context where human rights violations are justified as measures to combat terrorism, to protect national security and preserve national identity. It also analyses specific forms of religion-based discrimination, including Islamophobia and its manifestations – in particular following the events of 11 September 2001 – Anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and discrimination against other religions and spiritual traditions and practices. The adoption of approaches to promote dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions are recommended. Equal treatment to the combat of all forms of defamation of religions, thus avoiding the establishment of any hierarchy of forms of discrimination, should be provided. Legal strategies should be complemented with an intellectual and ethical strategy taking into account the processes, mechanisms and representations which constitute the root causes of these forms of discrimination over time. Also, the fundamental link between the spiritual, historical and cultural singularity of each form of defamation of religions and the universality of their underlying causes is underscored. Conditions facilitating the encounter, dialogue and joint action for social harmony, peace, human rights, development and combat against all forms of racism, discrimination and xenophobia of all religions and spiritual traditions should be created.
Presentation of Report
DOUDOU DIÈNE, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, presenting his report on the manifestation of defamation of religions and in particular on serious implications of Islamophobia on the enjoyment of all rights, noted that these trends were notably manifested through the emergence of racist political platforms in the form of extreme-right parties and movements, in programmes of democratic political parties and more particularly through a dominant ideological environment, marked by two contradictory tendencies: the use of religion for political purposes and the suspicion of the religious factor. This context, strongly influenced by the ideologies of the Cold War, was also marked by a dogmatic interpretation of human rights, illustrated by the deliberate contrast between freedom of expression and freedom of religion. A recent example of this was found in the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad published in a Swedish newspaper.
Mr. Diène said that the combining of a defamatory political discourse in a favourable political, intellectual and media context with policies and practices of political exclusions of religious minorities was resulting in a mechanism favouring racial and religious hate. Islamophobia was, in its actual context, the gravest form of religious defamation, notably the equating of Islam to violence and terrorism, the suspicion of its religious teachings as well as the interdictions to build mosques. Recent examples of trends of use of racism and xenophobia and intolerance as a political instrument had also been shown in his previous reports, like the recent xenophobic nature posters of a Swiss political party. Freedom of expression should not be taken as an aim to incite racial and religious hate.
Mr. Diène noted that anti-Semitism was still present, notably in the new parts of Europe but was now also reaching new parts of the world. The other world religions were also becoming victims of the modern refusal of diversity. The combat of discrimination against religions was a fundamental and complex challenge. Multicultural societies must face up to the political challenges by conceiving political programmes based on two principles, namely the reconnaissance of and the respect of religious, cultural and ethnic specificities of each group or community; and by promoting mutual understanding and interactions between communities.
Interactive Dialogue on Report on Defamation of Religions
BLAISE GODET (Switzerland) said the report gave a good overview of the activities of the Special Rapporteur. Regarding a People’s Initiative in Switzerland against the construction of minarets, this had indeed been started, and the Special Rapporteur took note of the reply of the Swiss Government to a letter of the Special Rapporteur with regards to some of the posters put up by the UDC political party. The Swiss Government took note in the letter that all modern societies today were faced by accelerating diversity in all fields, and dynamics relating to globalisation could lead to a climate of identity tension, which could be exploited for political purposes.
Swiss democracy was a vibrant democracy, and direct democracy made it possible for a referendum to be launched by citizens, even on controversial subjects, and with great transparency. Switzerland had amended its Criminal Code subsequent to its accession to the Convention against Racism in 1994, and this had been accepted by the people of Switzerland. The Swiss Government had repeatedly stated its commitment to the fight against racism, and would continue to take a clear stance against all forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. Switzerland remained convinced that the best response to manifestations of xenophobia was constructive promotion of integration.
JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said the issue of Islamophobia was particularly relevant. But the report should be seen alongside previous reports, and should not suggest a hierarchy in discrimination against religions. While there was a resurgence of racism and xenophobia, these were universal scourges, as the report pointed out.
Abuse of freedom of expression was a concern, but religions must be able to accept respectful criticism. Dogmatic secularism was also an important point, although secularism was not in itself dogmatic. In a democratic system, there should be room for expression of ideas inspired by religious values alongside other ideas. Chile supported the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the promotion of intercultural dialogue.
OMAR SHALABY (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said racism constituted the biggest threat to peace and stability at the national and international levels. The intellectual legitimisation and banalization of racism and xenophobia was rejected. The African Group supported the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur. The respect of human rights was a strong pillar affecting national security and democracy. Could the Rapporteur revisit this matter in a future report and give recommendations addressing these issues. The prohibition of racism was consistent with the freedom of expression. The African Group thanked the Special Rapporteur for his call for the removal of the Swiss poster. In conclusion, the African Group wished to know the Special Rapporteur’s view on the defamatory caricature against Islam in a Swedish newspaper.
MASOOD KHAN (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said the report identified disturbing trends: exploitation of political platforms by extreme right parties, ideological violence, Islamophobia, the curtailment of civil and political rights under false pretence of national security, rising hostility against Muslims and a tendency for the media to reinforce stereotypes. The Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned terrorism in all its forms. The international community should address its root causes. Freedom of expression was being exercised selectively. Defamation of religions was on the rise, as demonstrated in recent cartoons and posters in Sweden and Switzerland. Individual acts of discrimination, far from being trivial, aggravated hatred and were against the spirit of multiculturalism. The remedy lay in closer interaction among religions, national action to stop the political use and misuse of racial discrimination and xenophobia, and promotion of dialogue. There was a need to fill the juridical vacuum surrounding religious intolerance.
YURI ARIEL GALA LOPEZ (Cuba) said this theme was growing in importance, and was highly topical. The analysis of the upswing in defamation of religions could not be dissociated from in-depth thought. For several countries, there had been an enshrinement of intolerance and acts of violence based on religion or belief, which endangered the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms. There was an escalation of this in several areas of the world. The Special Rapporteur dealt with this complex reality in his recent report, including an analysis of discrimination based on religion.
There was concern for this tendency, which had been increasing and taking on new forms following the September 11 2001 attack. Muslims were suffering from many forms of discrimination, including institutionalised discrimination. A particularly disturbing form of this discrimination was hostility towards religious symbols. Those who promoted equating Islam and terrorism sought to enhance this perception. Measures were being taken which penalised national minorities of the Muslim faith, and there was an alarming permanent effect of these measures in many countries, in particular the United States, where the so-called war on terror caused countless violations of human rights and humanitarian law, mainly affecting people of Arab origins and of the Muslim faith.
GONCALVO SILVESTRE (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union found it problematic to reconcile the notion of defamation with the concept of discrimination. Discrimination clearly fell within the scope of human rights. The concept of defamations of religions was not seen as a valid one in a human rights discourse. International human rights law protected primarily individuals in their exercise of their freedom of religion or belief and not the religions as such. The hierarchy of victims of discrimination was rejected. As the current report focused on Islamophobia, how would the Special Rapporteur’s work reconcile the trend to give attention to a particular manifestation of discrimination.
ZHAO XING (China) said Special Rapporteur Doudou Diène had spoken about Islamophobia and anti-Semitism and Christianophobia, and it was true that in a diversified world, the promotion of peaceful coexistence among people of different races, faiths and cultures was a major challenge. Mr. Diène had said that additional legal, ethical and intellectual efforts were needed in combatting intolerance. How did he hope to complement legal requirements with intellectual and ethical ones? The Council was currently preparing for the Durban Review Conference and assessment of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. What would the Special Rapporteur’s comments be on implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action so far? What areas needed greater development?
SIHASAK PHUANGKET KEOW (Thailand) said Thailand looked forward to the Universal Periodic Review process and hoped it would be objective, impartial and fair, and that it would enjoy cooperation from concerned States. There should be sufficient time for countries to prepare for their submission to the process. Thailand welcomed the High Commissioner’s comments about the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) regional human rights mechanism and charter. Thailand recognized the value of regional and sub-regional bodies and mechanisms. There had been positive developments in Sri Lanka and the Government had taken steps there, and Thailand hoped cooperation would continue with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
CHOE MYONG NAM Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea said that more than a year after the inception of the Human Rights Council, much progress had been made in the institution-building process as a result of which the Council was now nearing its full-fledged operation. However there was still a long and complicated way to go until the politicisation of the former Commission was removed. This tendency still in existence was a source of great concern. The practice of the former Commission where countries were selected not on actual human rights situations but rather on political background and lobbies had not yet been terminated. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a major victim. In protest against such injustices, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not participated in the decision-making process of the fifth session and it would not tolerate this injustice in the future.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said it was advisable to set up two voluntary funds for the Universal Periodic Review. The availability of alternative or ad-hoc funds, including from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, would not be an appropriate path to follow. Time should be given to States to prepare their reports in a consultative manner, and this was why most States believed that the Review should take place after the main session of the Council, and not in February 2008. The Special Procedures should be reinforced in the context of a process of rationalisation, revision and improvement of the mandates.
On the organisational session of the Preparatory Committee, it was hoped that the spirit of openness would continue to prevail, in order to ensure success of the work of the Durban Review Conference. Algeria welcomed the fact that the High Commissioner was beginning to accept the idea of “exploring the appropriate ways and means of responding to the request” of continuing the dialogue on the relationship between the Office and the Council. This should not exclude greater transparency in management, and greater consultation with the Council on strategic matters.
U NYUNT SWE (Myanmar) said there had been a successful conclusion of the National Convention in Myanmar and the transition to democracy. The final session of the Convention had resumed in July and the remaining chapters of the Constitution were now ready. There was to be a referendum to present the Constitution to the people. However, a few people wanted to disrupt this process and tarnish the image of the Government. Fuel prices were still cheaper than in some Asian countries despite the Government’s price increases. The Government subsidized fuel for the people. Protests in Rangoon caused civil and political unrest across the country. Myanmar was striving to achieve its goals – peace and tranquility and enforcement of the rule of law – and was cooperating with international human rights mechanisms.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI (Morocco) took note with satisfaction of the High Commissioner’s commitment to the Council’s institution-building process. Morocco hoped that the special fund would be established as soon as possible. The Universal Periodic Review was the expression of a dynamic partnership. It was the jewel in the crown and thus it should be cherished and its integrity should be preserved. All Council members were called upon to promote the Universal Periodic Review’s success. Morocco intended to put forward an initiative with Switzerland for the adoption of a decision to create a project entitled “Declaration on Education”.
ALEX VAN MEEUWEN (Belgium) said the positive developments presented by the High Commissioner for Human Rights showed that the increasing activities of the Office of the High Commissioner in the field were bearing fruit. This determined action by the High Commissioner also encouraged the integration of human rights into the heart of the United Nations’ activities. Some situations described by the High Commissioner were encouraging, in particular in Colombia.
The attention paid by the High Commissioner to the situation in the Great Lakes region was also important. The persistence of human rights violations there was of concern and merited the attention of the Council. These situations required concerted action by the international community and its different mechanisms in order to encourage the Governments of the region to continue their efforts. The situation of human rights in Iraq was also of concern. During the session, Belgium intended to propose a resolution which would aim to reinforce the dialogue with the different regional mechanisms.
SEBASTIAN ROSALES (Argentina) said the Council’s agreement on human rights protection issues should be fully respected in order for the Universal Periodic Review to be effective and efficient. The importance of a wide variety of sources, notably civil society input, in the information-gathering process was stressed. Argentina welcomed the High Commissioner’s offer of assistance to States, especially developing countries, in respect of preparation for Universal Periodic Review. Argentina also supported the Special Procedures system, emphasizing the independence of mandate holders. Argentina actively committed itself to pursuing the Durban Review Conference process.
SEBASTIEN MUTOMB MUJING (Democratic Republic of the Congo) thanked the High Commissioner for Human Rights for having visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to see the reality on the ground. She had been able to visit freely different places. The Democratic Republic of the Congo had always refused amnesty against war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The judiciary system remained perfectible and the necessary reforms were being conducted. No cases had been found confirming allegations saying that the current military and political authorities were interfering in the administration of justice. The international community was invited to take all necessary measures to help resolve the situation in the Great Lakes region.
ALLEHONE MULUGETA ABEBE (Ethiopia) said the readiness of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to support the Universal Periodic Review process, in particular the participation of least developed countries, was welcomed. Availability of financial resources through the establishment of the trust funds was a critical requirement for the effective participation of those countries. At a time when resource-constrained countries found it difficult to meet their reporting obligations under the various treaty bodies, it was incumbent on the Human Rights Council that the review process was neither too taxing nor burdensome.
Ethiopia was of the view that it was primarily up to the Council to first establish the trust funds. If ad hoc arrangements for financial assistance were found desirable, then the Council should take a decision on ways and means in which these were to be operationalised. It was only after the Council took action, even in the context of these alternative and ad-hoc arrangements, that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ involvement would be meaningful and meet the expectations of States it wished to support.
KHADIJA RACHIDA MASRI (African Union) said there were several issues that needed underlining. Among them, it was stressed that the Universal Periodic Review should be minutely calibrated in order to be effective during its implementation phase. It was a new process and would demand a certain infrastructure for information gathering and reporting. The process should also therefore take place after March 2008. There was already a voluntary review mechanism among African States, and a regular reporting procedure on human rights and liberties. The Universal Periodic Review should be flexible and allow States to fulfill their duties effectively and without restrictions. Some time would be required for countries to understand the institution-building process at the national level and among civil society and the media. The Council should expedite a voluntary fund for States requiring assistance in fulfilling their responsibilities under the process. The next meeting of the Durban PrepCom should lead to an agreement on basic Durban Conference matters. The African Union noted the High Commissioner’s remarks on the Great Lakes region and it was important to note that reconciliation was a complicated process and traditional reconciliation practices needed time. The African Union supported cooperation between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the High Commissioner’s Office in examining areas of special concern.
ABDEL HAMEED ABDEEN MOHAMED (Sudan) reasserted Sudan’s support to strengthen the Council on a new foundation, moving it away from the previous body, thanks to collaboration between all countries. The Universal Periodic Review was supported and it would help resolve difficulties. On the concerned special measures, the requirement of submitting reports could prove to be an enormous burden to countries. It was necessary to support and assist developing countries to fulfil their obligations.
AMY LAURENSON (New Zealand) said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had provided invaluable support to the Council in what had been an unpredictable period of development of the new body. Now that the Council had a comprehensive framework for its institutions in place, New Zealand looked forward to its effective implementation.
The Universal Periodic Review had the potential to positively influence and enhance the respect for and implementation of human rights on the ground. It was hoped that the cooperative and constructive Universal Periodic Review framework would create space to engage in an inclusive dialogue with real and meaningful results, with equal treatment of all States. The support that the Office provided to the Special Procedures in the current cycle of the Council would be crucial to maintaining an effective and enhanced system that had the capacity to respond as the Council evolved and mandates were reviewed and renewed.
NESTOR NKUNDWANBAKE (Burundi) said there had been fruitful exchanges between the High Commissioner and the Burundian authorities during her visit to the Great Lakes region. The High Commissioner had observed progress in the peace process, and Burundi thanked the international community for its support in national reconstruction and economic recovery. Burundi urged moving ahead from humanitarian systems to development systems.
AHMET UZUMCU (Turkey) said that the Council needed to fill out the remaining gaps within the institution-building process while dealing with the issues related to current human rights challenges. The institution-building process should be finalized in the most efficient manner. As the Universal Periodic Review was a completely new mechanism, its first rounds would have additional significance in terms of setting the tone. Proper preparation time should be given due consideration. The Universal Periodic Review guidelines should be truly general. The guidelines could also serve as a guiding tool for civil society inputs. The idea of reviewing former Commission Working Groups was supported. The review of mandates constituted an important pillar of the implementation phase of the institutional building.
DULANI KULASINGHE, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, speaking on behalf of Pax Romana, International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism, and Asian Legal Resource Centre,, said the lack of a regional human rights mechanism in Asia was serious, and the support of the High Commissioner for an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) human rights mechanism was appreciated. The High Commissioner should take critical action in Myanmar, and the Human Rights Council should set up a study group to address the human rights situation there as a first set. The review of mandates should be a way of filling gaps in the protection system. Victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders had high expectations of the High Commissioner’s visit to Sri Lanka. The Council should explore ways of facilitating the ability of the High Commissioner to report back to the Council in a timely manner.
PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said there was still a human rights crisis in Colombia, with killings and kidnappings, high numbers of internally displaced persons, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial executions by security forces, and kidnappings by guerilla groups. Human rights defenders, trade unionists and other groups were at serious risk. There were repeated breaches of international law on both sides of the conflict. Amnesty International requested greater support for the monitoring of the security situation, and support for investigations of attacks against trade unionists.
XAVIER VERZAT, of International Movement ATD Fourth World, said that the poorest needed support, and without help their efforts would not succeed. The poor did not want to be assisted but to be recognized as partners. The Council was encouraged to examine the project on the principles of extreme poverty and human rights.
GUSTAVO GALLON, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said non-governmental organizations for human rights in Colombia wished to congratulate and thank the High Commissioner on the three-year extension of the mandate of her Office in Colombia, as well as the support it gave to human rights defenders. There was a need to dismantle the paramilitary groups which continued to target more than 800 people a year. Some politicians involved in paramilitary organizations had been deprived of liberty, but all retained considerable power. There was a need to guarantee the right of victims to truth, justice, and reconciliation.
DAVID G. LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, speaking on behalf of World Union for Progressive Judaism, Association of World Citizens, and International Humanist and Ethical Union,, said he hoped the High Commissioner had raised concerns with the Government of Iran over women’s rights and violations sanctioned under Iranian law such as stoning of women and marriage of young girls. The Association for World Education urged the United Nations and Organization of the Islamic Conference to condemn all calls to kill in the name of God and appealed for this phrase to be included in the Council’s resolution.
LUCAS MACHONE, of International Commission of Jurists, said the Human Rights Council had now entered its second cycle, following the establishment of its institutional architecture. The International Commission of Jurists welcomed that the Council sessions included an enhanced dialogue with the Special Procedures and mandate holders, engagement with non-governmental organizations and other actors in interactive dialogue, and a new way of interaction between thematic and country Special Procedures. Now was the time to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights through new procedures and mechanisms, in dialogue between all States regardless of regional or other groupings. It was essential to close the protection gap between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.
JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, shared concerns over military offensives against ethnic minorities, and increased commodity prices and ensuing demonstrations in Burma. The Council should act decisively. Human Rights Watch had documented serious breaches of international humanitarian law by all warring parties in Somalia. An independent expert panel was needed to investigate these abuses, and the Council should condemn them. Internally displaced populations in Sri Lanka were a cause for concern and the rising tally of “disappearances” was disturbing. Human Rights Watch urged the Council to help in the planning of a human rights monitoring mission on the ground.
KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, applauded progress in terms of visits to Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. International Educational Development hoped the Council would address post-tsunami aid progress in Sri Lanka. Government authorities had blocked aid for those in areas of armed conflict and there were extreme food shortages. Tamil areas had been off limits to humanitarian agencies. What steps would the High Commissioner take to ensure she could visit all areas?
Concluding Remarks by High Commissioner for Human Rights
LOUISE ARBOUR, High Commissioner for Human Rights, responding to the statements made during the general debate, said she looked forward to future occasions to discuss all the questions that interested members of the Council individually or collectively. She fully supported the Universal Periodic Review and hoped that all required resources would be made available. She also welcomed the adoption by the General Assembly yesterday of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Right of Reply
A. ESHRAGH JAHROMI (Iran), speaking in a right of reply, said with regards to the statements made by Canada as well as a non-governmental organization (NGO), Iran rejected the totality of the statement made by Canada. Such unfounded allegations clearly demonstrated the continuation of the old habits of politicisation, selectivity and double standards which discredited the Commission and were once again being exercised by the Human Rights Council. It was the human rights situation of Canada and the inability of its Government which needed to be brought to the attention of the Council: there were numerous human rights violations there. The Canadian Government, instead of making allegations against other countries, should fulfil its human rights obligations and responsibilities towards its own communities and comply with its international commitments. With regards to the statement of an NGO, the Council was informed that all Iranians, including Baha’is, enjoyed their full constitutional rights. In Iran, all were equal before the law.
ZHAO XING (China), speaking in a right of reply, said China wished to reply to a joint statement made by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) yesterday, to say that there had been extensive consultation and respect paid towards the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism in the living Buddha’s reincarnation issue. The measures taken by the Chinese Government were fully compatible with Tibetan Buddhist religious traditions. The statement by the NGOs was completely based on its ignorance of Tibetan Buddhism and China’s history. It was a malicious distortion of China’s religious affairs and China was completely opposed to these kinds of irresponsible accusations.
SHIRANI GOONETILLEKA (Sri Lanka), speaking in a right of reply on the issue of alleged attacks on religious leaders and places of worship, said that the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion and belief had visited Sri Lanka in May 2005. Her visit had been very constructive and had contributed immensely to the inter-religious dialogue. Sri Lanka had remained for centuries a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. Sri Lanka had serious concerns about the statement by a small number of non-governmental organizations which had been desperately attempting to portray Sri Lanka as a country where there was no freedom of religion and where religious leaders and places of worship had been under constant attack. Law enforcement authorities were continuing investigations in the cited cases. Any isolated incidents of any violations of the right to freedom of religion and belief would be dealt with by the Government.
FRANCIS T. MUNHUNDIRIPO (Zimbabwe), speaking in a right of reply, said with regards to allegations made by Portugal on behalf of the European Union, the Human Rights Council was supposed to be a major departure from the practices of politicisation, double standards, and naming and shaming of the previous Commission. Zimbabwe was disappointed that the European Union’s statement was replete with inaccuracies and half-truths. It was ironic that the European Union had the gall to speak of the suffering of the people of Zimbabwe, when this was due to their strategy of illegal economic sanctions, a policy forced on the European Union by the United Kingdom. Zimbabwe had the right to protect its nationals and its sovereignty, and to punish those who violated its laws. Zimbabwe would resist any attempts to highjack the Office of the High Commissioner by those who wished to manipulate the discussion and had hidden agendas. There was no automatism for a host government to accept a request for the deployment of a senior human rights advisor on its land. Many national considerations had to be considered first.
CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS (Colombia) speaking in a right of reply, said Colombia did not understand the “alleged” demobilisation described by Amnesty International. Large numbers of arms had been handed over and violence had diminished as a result. There had been targeted killings, some attributable to organised crime. There had been many convictions in relation to the persecution of trade unionists. Investigations had been carried out and the Government was committed to truth, justice and protection of victims. Cases were now being looked at by the military and civil courts. The Government had stated its readiness to oppose the actions of those responsible for attacks against human rights defenders.
(Source: ONU press release – For use of the information media; not an official record)
Main page of the 6th session of the Human Rights Council
Ginevra: Intervento di mons. Tomasi, Osservatore permanente della Santa Sede presso l’ONU: la libertà religiosa, sintesi e “ponte” tra i diritti umani (14 settembre 2007) leggi
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