UN human rights chief urges collective voice for global peace

Geneva, Switzerland (PANA) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Monday appealed to members of the Human Rights Council to do more, to speak louder and work harder for the common purpose and for universal human rights law, to better chances for a global peace.

Making his last global update to the Council in a regular session, Mr. Al Hussein warned that as the attack on the multilateral system and its rules, including most especially international human rights law, intensifies, so too will the risk increase of further mischief on a grander scale.

“The UN’s collective voice must therefore be principled and strong; not weak and whining, obsessed with endless wrangling over process, the small things, as it is the case today,” he said.

As this is my last global update to the Human Rights Council in a regular session – and before I turn, once again, to the important matter of access and cooperation – I wish to draw on some final reflections.

He pointed out that over the last few years his office realized that only fearlessness was adequate approach to the task.

“Not ducking for cover, or using excuses or resorting to euphemisms, but a fearlessness approaching that shown by human rights defenders around the world – for only by speaking out can we begin to combat the growing menace of chauvinistic nationalism that stalks our future,” Mr. Al Hussein emphasized.

The Council session will consider numerous essential issues. Among them, the reports of the Human Rights Office on Kashmir and on Venezuela;. It will also be informed of the findings of the Team of Experts on the Kasai regions of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Mr. Al Hussein said that as he transitions out of his position, the Office will continue its work on the database of business enterprises engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements, as called for by the Council, with an update possibly before September.

On Burundi, he reported that despite the country’s agreement to cooperate with the Team of Experts mandated by the Council last year, the Team was expelled from Burundi last month and has not been able to return.

He said that access was also denied to the International Commission of Inquiry set up in 2016, and Burundi authorities have refused to finalize discussions on the renewal of the MOU with the UN Human Rights Office.

“Meanwhile, the human rights situation continues to deteriorate throughout the country. The Government’s continuing restrictions on civic space, and its decision to revise the Constitution through a referendum last month, have generated a host of human rights concerns – including at least 44 alleged cases of arbitrary arrest and detention – and may further deepen grievances,” said the UN Human Rights High Commissioner.

Regarding South Sudan, the High Commissioner welcomed the Government's cooperation with the Council's Commission on Human Rights in South Sudan.

However, he noted that in violation of the Status of Forces Agreement, human rights officers working with UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) have been regularly denied access to locations where serious human rights violations and abuses are allegedly committed, impeding UNMISS's mandated task of monitoring the human rights situation.

“These include facilities run by the National Security Service, where hundreds of people are believed to be arbitrarily detained in conditions that could amount to torture,” he said, expressing deep concern about the intensification of indiscriminate attacks against civilians, particularly a pattern of rapes and killings perpetrated by Government forces and their proxies in Unity State since April 2018.

“Human rights officers have documented the rape of children as young as four years old, and numerous cases of women, elderly people and others being hanged or burned alive in what appears to be a deliberate scorched-earth policy,” he said.

Mr. Al Hussein welcomed Security Council resolution 2414 (2018) on Western Sahara, which strongly encourages enhancing cooperation with OHCHR. He reiterate the readiness of his Office to undertake as soon as possible a follow-up technical mission to Western Sahara.

Furthermore, the High Commissioner stated that he was concerned by the suspension of a visit to Rwanda by the Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture late last year, due to serious obstruction regarding access to some places of detention; the confidentiality of interviews; and concerns about potential reprisals.

The SPT decided to resume the visit in 2018, but there has been no positive engagement with the authorities. He said calling on them to provide full cooperation so that the Sub-Committee can fulfil its important mandate.

Regarding  Cameroon, he expressed hope that recent promising discussions with the authorities would swiftly lead to approval for a mission by the Office to all parts of the country. To date this access has been refused, despite the growing crisis in the Anglophone regions, with fighting between up to a dozen armed groups and the security forces.

“We have received reports of abuses and violations by all sides, including burning of schools and private property; mass arrests and arbitrary detentions; and the use of torture and excessive force by security personnel, leading to the displacement of 150,000 people within the country and over 20,000 to neighbouring Nigeria,” he said.

Mr. Al Hussein reported that during his second mission to Ethiopia, in April, he was impressed and encouraged by the commitment of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali to undertake reforms that could well advance the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights and principles, including a broad space for expression, peaceful assembly and civil society participation.

“Following a long period of reluctance to engage with international human rights bodies, the recent conclusion of a much-awaited MOU will facilitate an extensive role for the Office in the country, and I encourage the authorities to also accept visits by and guidance from Special Procedures experts in the context of the ongoing reforms.

“I applaud the lifting of the state of emergency earlier this month, as well as the release of a number of political detainees. While recognising challenges, I look forward to assisting the authorities in furthering respect for the human rights of all in Ethiopia,” he remarked.

The High Commissioner commended Tunisia for its extensive cooperation with the Office and Special Procedures, and its establishment of a national monitoring and reporting framework to strengthen engagement with the Treaty Bodies.

He said OHCHR has unconditional access to all areas of the country, including to prisons, and the official visit of 12 mandate-holders has been fully facilitated by the Government since it extended a standing invitation to the Special Procedures in 2011.

Following his visit to Tripoli in October,  he said that Libya accepted its first ever mission from a mandate holder, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, and other mandate-holder visits are planned, should the security situation allow.

Mr. Al Hussein informed tha Council that Libya has also co-sponsored the Council’s Resolution 37/45, which encourages monitoring and reporting by United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) on human rights violations and abuses in the country and calls for cooperation with human rights mechanisms.

“The recent decision to redeploy UN staff to Tripoli should also open the door for greater access across the country,” he added.
-0- PANA AR 18June2018

18 juin 2018 17:05:34




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