Human Rights Council
25 March 2009
Hears Presentation by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia and Holds Interactive Debate with Him
The Human Rights Council this morning heard a presentation by the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights of country reports on technical cooperation and assistance to Guatemala, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Colombia, Sierra Leone and Nepal, and a report on Cyprus, and then held a general debate on them. It also held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, after he presented his report under the agenda item on technical assistance and capacity-building.
Kyung-wha Kang, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report on Guatemala provided an overview of the work carried out by the Office in Guatemala, and also commented on the human rights situation in the country, the Government's policies regarding human rights and the follow-up to the recommendations made in the previous reports of the High Commissioner. The report on Bolivia presented the activities of the Office in Bolivia where the Government had taken some positive steps in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. In the report on Afghanistan, the High Commissioner expressed her concern regarding the deteriorating conditions in that country. With regards to the High Commissioner's report on the situation of human rights in Colombia, during her visit there she had the opportunity to discuss the efforts of the Government to strengthen the rule of law, and had observed first hand the persistence of entrenched challenges.
Ms. Kang said this year's report on the question of human rights in Cyprus provided an update in relation to a number of human rights issues resulting from the persisting division of the island, including freedom of movement, property rights, human rights pertaining to the question of missing persons, and economic rights. Regarding the High Commissioner's report on assistance to Sierra Leone in the field of human rights, the document covered both the human rights situation in the country as well as the activities of United Nations peace missions in Sierra Leone, where progress was slow on transitional justice, violence against women was widespread, and harmful traditional practices persisted. With regards to the report on the human rights situation and activities of the Office in Nepal, the Government and the people of Nepal were congratulated on the successful steps they had taken over the past year in the transition to peace and democracy.
Guatemala, Bolivia, Afghanistan, Colombia, Cyprus and Nepal spoke as concerned countries.
Afghanistan said it had made substantial progress in different areas of human rights. Afghanistan now had a new Constitution, an elected President, Parliament and an Independent Commission for Human Rights. Participation of all citizens, especially women, in the political, social and economic life, and reform of the legal and judicial systems were all examples of the ongoing improvements in the field of human rights in Afghanistan.
Bolivia said it was deeply committed to the promotion, respect and implementation of all human rights, and the Government demonstrated this commitment with the adoption of a new Constitution. Additional measures included the inclusion of the rights of indigenous peoples as contained in the United Nations Declaration of 2007, the mainstreaming of women's rights in all sectors, the recognition of access to water and food as human rights, and the right to intercultural education and the right to live in a healthy environment.
Colombia said it recognised the challenges that still existed, and accepted the recommendations in the report. Colombia was in the throes of a situation of violence due to the activities of armed groups who were linked to drug trafficking, and yet had been consistent in living up to its commitments. Colombia had had an Office for eleven years, and was convinced that the recent visit of the High Commissioner took note of the excellent cooperation between the Government and the Office.
Cyprus said that the issue of the ongoing massive human rights violations caused by the 1974 Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus was first placed on the agenda of the Commission on Human Rights in 1975 and had remained since. The outcome of the relevant deliberations of the Commission was several resolutions which established a legal basis of the mandate to the United Nations Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the specific provisions of those resolutions. Regrettably, Cyprus could not inform the Council of any significant progress as regards the implementation of the provisions of these resolutions.
Guatemala said it appreciated the recommendations presented in the report which reiterated the need to redouble efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights and which was spelled out in specific areas such as security, justice and combating impunity, among others. Guatemala said that the State could share with the Office the support and advice given to support quantitative and qualitative results in the efforts in the realization of human rights.
Nepal said that despite several challenges and difficulties, the Government stood fully committed to protect and promote the human rights of its people under all circumstances, and honour its obligations to international human rights instruments to which it was a party. As Nepal worked for a better tomorrow, it remained determined to address the issue of transitional justice. Nepal was totally committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Speaking in the general debate were the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Greece, Turkey, Ireland, Spain, Denmark and Algeria. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Colombian Commission of Jurists, Amnesty International, and Indian Council of South America, in a joint statement with International Human Rights Association of American Minorities.
Speaking in right of reply were Cyprus, Turkey, Nepal and Greece.
Shamsul Bari, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said the situation in Somalia was one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. For close to two decades the people of Somalia had been the victim of the most terrible human rights and humanitarian law abuses. Unfortunately, however, the international community had not been able to make a meaningful impact to bring the crisis to an end. The international community provided humanitarian assistance, mainly through the United Nations, since the beginning of the conflict close to two decades ago, but its impact had been limited by the on-going conflicts. The Transitional Federal Government was hardly in a position to provide the people with basic services and protection.
Somalia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the situation in Somalia was well-known. After the Djibouti peace process and having a new Government, it was now most important to get the pledged support of the international community. At this point, Somalia did not want to make any concrete comment on the points raised by the Special Rapporteur. A robust development and capacity building as part of a sustainable roadmap would be the only way to prevent gross human rights violations. The technical cooperation should be carried out within the framework determined by the Somali Government. Somalia was willing to continue its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.
Speaking in the general debate was Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Algeria, Norway, Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, Italy, Ethiopia, Sweden, Yemen on behalf of the Arab Group, Djibouti, United Kingdom, Yemen in its national capacity, Canada, Palestine, Bahrain and Bangladesh. Human Rights Watch, and Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine also took the floor.
When the Council meets at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon, it will appoint a Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, conduct the election of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, and then start taking action on draft resolutions and decisions.
The report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights (A/HRC/10/23), says the escalation of the armed conflict in Afghanistan has had a significant impact on civilians in conflict-affected areas, in particular on those who are already vulnerable. The intensifying conflict has also resulted in a disturbing rise in civilian casualties and has contracted the space for humanitarian action. Long-standing discrimination against women and minority groups is manifest in their lack of access to justice and other basic services. Important gains made recently by women in the public sphere are in danger of receding. Mounting attacks on the freedom to express views that challenge existing power structures as well as social and religious norms that usually marginalize women cast doubts on the Government’s ability to ensure a free and democratic space where human rights are fully respected. While important initiatives to reform the justice sector and improve the administration of justice were launched in 2008, the judicial system remains weak, corrupt and dysfunctional, and at times does not comply with international human rights obligations. Compounded by a surge in criminal violence and decline of public law enforcement authorities control over parts of the country, a culture of impunity prevails as demonstrated by the failure to prosecute perpetrators for past and contemporary human rights violations and abuses.
The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her Office in Guatemala in 2008 (A/HRC/10/31/Add.1) addresses human rights issues of particular concern, such as violations of the right to life and security, violence against women, attacks against human rights defenders, the rule of law and impunity, combating racism and discrimination, transitional justice, and economic social and cultural rights. The report also provides an overview of the activities of the Office in 2008 and of the follow-up to the recommendations formulated in previous reports of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in Guatemala. The High Commissioner urges Guatemala to fully implement the recommendations put forward in 2007, and presents 15 recommendations relating to the legislative framework for the protection of human rights, the right to life and security, the rule of law and impunity, indigenous peoples, women’s rights, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as to technical cooperation and advisory services provided by the OHCHR Office in Guatemala.
The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the activities of her Office in Bolivia (A/HRC/10/31/Add.2) welcomes positive steps taken by the Government in the field of economic, social and cultural rights, including the “dignity pension” - a new non-contributory benefit for persons over the age of 60 - and Bono Juancito Pinto social programmes as well as “Yes I can” initiative which enabled the Government to declare the country free of illiteracy. However, many challenges remain. A highly controversial Constituent Assembly process that took place in 2007 created political tensions in 2008. At the height of tensions was the Pando massacre on 11 September, where at least 11 persons were killed and which led the Government to declare a state of emergency in the department. During 2008 there was also an increase of reported acts and practices of racism and discrimination against indigenous persons; attacks against human rights defenders; undermining of freedom of expression and the press; in some cases, the excessive use of force by security forces, the weakening of the administration of justice and interference in due process.
The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Colombia (A/HRC/10/32), which covers the period between January and December 2008, says violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by the guerrilla groups and the Colombian Armed Forces, as well as the activities of illegal armed groups and drug traffickers, coupled with underlying structural problems such as inequitable distribution of wealth, discrimination and stigmatization of vulnerable groups, impunity, and difficulties in accessing justice continue to limit full enjoyment of human rights. The Government has made great efforts to strengthen the rule of law, mainly through increasing regional State presence in locations previously under the control of illegal armed groups. However, serious violations of human rights continued to take place, including stigmatization of human rights defenders, opposition leaders and social activists by some Government officials, putting at risk their life, security and valuable work. Also dealt with are extrajudicial executions and a lack of economic growth resulting in insufficient progress on the Millennium Development Goals. It also contains the activities of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the human rights situation in the country.
The report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the question of human rights in Cyprus (A/HRC/10/37), based on a variety of sources as OHCHR does not have a field presence on the island, notes the persisting division of Cyprus has consequences in relation to a number of human rights issues on the whole island, including freedom of movement, property rights, human rights pertaining to the question of missing persons, discrimination, freedom of religion, the right to education, human trafficking, and economic rights. It looks at each of those situations and concludes with the hope that the new momentum to achieve a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus problem will provide avenues to improve the human rights situation on the island.
The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Assistance to Sierra Leone in the field of human rights (A/HRC/10/52) notes that Sierra Leone registered a positive trend in 2008 towards respect for civil and political rights although serious concerns remain in a number of areas. The people of Sierra Leone went to the polls on 5 July 2008 to elect their local representatives. Most election observers agreed that the election had been conducted in a fair and transparent manner and that the results were credible. Significant improvement was noted in the representation of women, with female candidates increasing their representation by 40 per cent. Political, legal and security institutions in the country continue to make progress towards securing respect for the right to life and security of the person for citizens. The moratorium imposed on the execution of the death penalty remained in full force and effect, notwithstanding the change in Government. The report also addresses achievements in the areas of combating female genital mutilation, making progress in the justice sector, the operationalization of the national Human Rights Commission and strengthening of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
The Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and the activities of her Office, including technical cooperation, in Nepal (A/HRC/10/53) says during 2008 there have been very significant political developments since the report submitted last year, including the election of a Constituent Assembly, the declaration of a Republic and the formation of a new Government, as well as legislative and institutional reforms aimed at strengthening human rights protection. Challenges remain with regard to addressing the root causes of the conflict, which include impunity and deep-seated inequalities and discrimination. Priorities must also include improving public security and the protection of the population’s rights to life, liberty and security, which are threatened by the proliferation of armed groups operating in the Terai (plains). The report highlights the need for all parties to the peace process to translate their public commitments into concrete actions to bring about lasting improvements in the human rights situation, including by ensuring that human rights and fundamental freedoms for all are enshrined in the future Constitution of Nepal.
Presentation of Reports on Country Situations by Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights
KYUNG-WHA KANG, Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, said she had visited Guatemala in September 2008 to renew the mandate of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Office there for three more years. The report, presented as an addendum to the High Commissioner's annual report, provided an overview of the work carried out by the Office in Guatemala, and also commented on the human rights situation in the country, the Government's policies regarding human rights and the follow-up to the recommendations made in the previous reports of the High Commissioner. The report observed with concern the difficult situation hindering the full enjoyment of the right to life, the challenges in the fight against impunity, the rule of law, the fight against discrimination, and the situation of human rights defenders. The activities of the Office in Bolivia were also presented as an addendum to the High Commissioner’s annual report. During the year under review, OHCHR carried out various monitoring missions and provided advisory services and training on human rights to government institutions and civil society. The Government took some positive steps in the field of economic, social and cultural rights. Despite progress, many challenges still remained.
At this session, the High Commissioner had also submitted a report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan and on the achievements of technical assistance in the field of human rights, in which she expressed her concern regarding the deteriorating conditions in that country, where civilians continued to bear the brunt of the conflict. Of serious concern was the lack of progress on transitional justice, in particular in terms of accountability for past abuses. Similarly, further progress was needed in safeguarding women's rights and addressing impunity. With regards to the High Commissioner's report on the situation of human rights in Colombia, during her visit there she had the opportunity to discuss the efforts of the Government to strengthen the rule of law, and had observed first hand the persistence of entrenched challenges.
This year's report on the question of human rights in Cyprus provided an update in relation to a number of human rights issues resulting from the persisting division of the island, including freedom of movement, property rights, human rights pertaining to the question of missing persons, and economic rights. Regarding the High Commissioner's report on assistance to Sierra Leone in the field of human rights, the document covered both the human rights situation in the country as well as the activities of United Nations peace missions in Sierra Leone, where progress was slow on transitional justice, violence against women was widespread, and harmful traditional practices persisted. With regards to the report on the human rights situation and activities of the Office in Nepal, the Government and the people of Nepal were congratulated on the successful steps they had taken over the past year in the transition to peace and democracy. Long-standing issues, such as discrimination against women, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups, including in the field of economic, social and cultural rights needed particular attention, as well as the strengthening of national human rights protection mechanisms.
Statements by Concerned Countries
NANGUYALAI TARZI (Afghanistan), speaking as a concerned country, said that after three decades of war, Afghanistan had started from scratch only seven years ago. Afghanistan had made substantial progress in different areas of human rights. Afghanistan now had a new Constitution, an elected President, Parliament and an Independent Commission for Human Rights. Participation of all citizens, especially women, in the political, social and economic life, and reform of the legal and judicial systems were all examples of the ongoing improvements in the field of human rights in Afghanistan. But, unfortunately, despite many achievements in different sectors, Afghanistan was now facing serious challenges especially from the activities of terrorist organizations, which were hampering peace, progress, and development in country and affecting social, cultural, economic and political life of the people. With its policy of reconciliation, the Government of Afghanistan had invited all armed opposition to lay down their arms, respect the Constitution and join the process of reconciliation.
In response to some of the comments reflected in the report, Afghanistan said that most of the comments were made without taking into account the will and commitment of the Government of Afghanistan for the betterment of human rights as a whole. The death penalty was only executed for acts of heinous crimes and after having their case thoroughly examined by the judicial authorities and in order to prevent the rise of such crimes. The Constitution of Afghanistan guaranteed a suitable environment for freedom of expression, and freedom to establish and to become member of political parties and social organizations. The Constitution and other legislations prevented discrimination and violence against women and guaranteed the equal rights and obligations of all Afghan citizens including the rights of minorities.
ANGELICA NAVARRO LLANOS (Bolivia), speaking as a concerned country, said the Bolivian Government was grateful to Ms. Kang for her presentation of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Bolivia. Bolivia appreciated the work that the National Office, which was present in Bolivia as a result of an invitation from the current Government to provide necessary technical support to complement Bolivia’s obligations regarding human rights. Bolivia was deeply committed to the promotion, respect and implementation of all human rights, and the Government demonstrated this commitment with the adoption of a new Constitution, a magna carta, which was approved through a successful referendum and which included human rights recognized in international treaties. Additional measures included the inclusion of the rights of indigenous peoples as contained in the United Nations Declaration of 2007, the mainstreaming of women's rights in all sectors, the recognition of access to water and food as a human rights, and the right to intercultural education and the right to live in a healthy environment.
Bolivia had launched the National Action Plan for Human Rights, which would be implemented through the National Council for Human Rights, whose membership was comprised of civil servants, non-governmental organizations, civil society, indigenous people and rural farmers. Bolivia was committed to uphold economic, cultural and civil rights for its people and in this respect welcomed the report of the High Commissioner. However, Bolivia noted that there was a imprecision in the report and asked, what source or reason was used to say that the Government of Bolivia aimed to enforce judgments onto judges for reasons related to the outcomes they decided in certain proceedings?
ANGELINO GARZON (Colombia), speaking as a concerned country, said Colombia wished to thank the High Commissioner for her report on the situation in Colombia and the activities of the Office in the country. The report presented a comprehensive, broad, and sweeping vision of the trends in human rights and humanitarian issues in Colombia. Progress and challenges were also included. The report showed that independence and commitment to human rights did not conflict with activities initiated by the State. Colombia recognised the challenges that still existed, and accepted the recommendations in the report. An alternative report was submitted, with a joint analysis from organizations working in human rights and other bodies, containing some views which should be included when considering the national human rights situation.
Colombia was in the throes of a situation of violence due to the activities of armed groups who were linked to drug trafficking, and yet had been consistent in living up to its commitments. Colombia had had an Office for eleven years, and was convinced that the recent visit of the High Commissioner took note of the excellent cooperation between the Government and the Office. Colombia had approached the Universal Periodic Review exercise as an opportunity to share the valuable lessons it had learnt in the preparations for the review, and to talk about mechanisms for follow-up and public accountability. The voluntary commitments that had been made during the Review were part of a Road Map to be used to make progress on the situation of human rights in the country. Colombia would continue to work to put into practice the High Commissioner's recommendations, hand in hand with the international community.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus), speaking as a concerned country, said that the issue of the ongoing massive human rights violations caused by the 1974 Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of the Republic of Cyprus was first placed on the agenda of the Commission on Human Rights in 1975 and had remained since. The outcome of the relevant deliberations of the Commission was several resolutions which established a legal basis of the mandate to the United Nations Secretary-General to report on the implementation of the specific provisions of those resolutions. Regrettably, Cyprus could not inform the Council of any significant progress as regards the implementation of the provisions of these resolutions. The resolutions called for the return of all displaced persons to their homes. They also called for the restoration and respect of the freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement and the right to property.
An issue, on which the Secretary-General was mandated to report, concerned the changes in the demographic structure of Cyprus. It was a fact that the demographic manipulations by Turkey in the occupied area of Cyprus had reached alarming levels. Through a systemic and continuing implantation of Turkish settlers in the occupied area, the settlers outnumbered today the native Turkish Cypriots by a ration 3:1. Needless to say that under international law, the transfer by an occupying power of its own civilians into a territory that it occupied was illegal. This was clearly stipulated in the Fourth Geneva Convention that Turkey had signed and ratified. Violation of the relevant article of the Convention constituted a breach of the Convention, making the offending party liable to sanctions. Since last September the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus had resumed negotiations on a basis that provided for a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation with political equality, as described in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions. The ongoing negotiations, however, could not be used as a pretext for the continuation of occurring human rights violations.
CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala), speaking as a concerned country, said the Government of Guatemala welcomed the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and in particular on the activities of her Office in Guatemala during 2008. The Government requested last year to renew the agreement that governed the operation of the Office in Guatemala. The Government welcomed the visit of the Deputy High Commissioner, and was grateful to her for the interest shown in this matter. Guatemala noted that the contents of the report, while describing the problems and challenges facing the country in terms of human rights, also recognized that there had been some advances in various spheres and pointed to the efforts undertaken in this regard by Guatemala.
Guatemala said it appreciated the recommendations presented in the report which reiterated the need to redouble efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights. This was spelled out in specific areas such as security, justice and combating impunity, among others. Those recommendations were supplemented by previous country reports as well as the results of the Universal Periodic Review which Guatemala underwent last May. The Government expressed its interest in extending the mandate of the National Commission on Impunity from September to May for two years. Guatemala said that the State could share with the Office the support and advice given to support quantitative and qualitative results in the efforts in the realization of human rights.
DINESH BHATTARAI (Nepal), speaking as a concerned country, said as a country making a democratic transition, the Government of Nepal had remained receptive of any suggestions that genuinely intended to complement national efforts. This was the first report since Nepal's historic elections, transformation from monarchy to republic, elections, and formation of a coalition Government. This peaceful political transformation had created open space and democratic institutions to provide a sustainable base for democracy, human rights and development to grow side by side. Nepal remained constructively and comprehensively engaged with the United Nations human rights machinery. Nepal's experience told it that massive poverty, inequality, deprivation and marginalisation made society vulnerable to violent conflict and created a crippling effect on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and other human rights. Addressing the root causes of conflict was a long-term effort.
Despite several challenges and difficulties, Nepal stood fully committed to protect and promote the human rights of its people under all circumstances, and honour its obligations to international human rights instruments to which it was a party. As Nepal worked for a better tomorrow, it remained determined to address the issue of transitional justice. Nepal was totally committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Ending impunity, strengthening national human rights institutions, creating an equitable, just and democratic society, healing the wounds of the conflict and creating a peaceful, democratic and forward-looking society constituted the foremost priorities of the Government. The Government and people of Nepal expected better appreciation of their democratic achievements in a peaceful manner even under the trying circumstances, and looked forward to an enhanced level of sensitivity, understanding and assistance from the international community.
PETR PRECLIK. (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union welcomed the forward looking annual reports of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation and activities of its field offices and reiterated its continuing strong support to their work, which the European Union saw as very important. The European Union agreed with the importance of technical cooperation for integrated strategy to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term peace and security and the need to strengthen the human rights based approach. In the report on Guatemala, the European Union noted that despite some achievements, there were still human rights issues of particular concern, such as violations of the right to life and security, violence against women or attacks against human rights defenders. The European Union reiterated that the focus on human rights and the continuation of the cooperation between Nepal and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were essential in this transitional period, in order to achieve durable peace and development.
PHILIP M. A. TISSOT (United Kingdom) joined others in thanking the Deputy High Commissioner for the presentation of the reports which raised a range of important issues relating to the work of the Office of the High Commissioner in its country offices. The United Kingdom congratulated the people of Nepal on their elections in April 2008, and welcomed the commitments to promote human rights. In particular, the establishment of the National Human Rights Council was welcomed and the United Kingdom encouraged the National Human Rights Council to work closely with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and to draw on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ expertise to develop its own capacity. The United Kingdom urged the Government of Nepal to respond publicly to the recent Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on conflict-related disappearances in Bardiya district, and to set out what steps it planned to take to implement the recommendations contained in the report.
The United Kingdom expressed support for the United Nations’ work in Colombia. The report recognized the efforts made by the Colombian Government to address the main human rights problems it faced, though it was clear that a number of significant challenges remained. Improving the promotion and protection of human rights in Colombia was a key focus of the United Kingdom’s work in Colombia.
VICTORIA BERRY (Canada) said it was important to continue technical assistance and capacity-building in Nepal. Canada commended the work that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was doing to advance human rights in Nepal - since the establishment of its mandate, the Office had played a critically important role not only in preventing and reducing human rights violations through its presence and monitoring activities, but also in strengthening local capacities to promote understanding of and respect for human rights, and called upon the Government to send a strong signal of its public commitments to respect and promote human rights. Canada concurred with the assessment of the High Commissioner that addressing human rights issues was an integral part of the peace process, and supported extending the mandate of the Office in Nepal. Canada agreed with the intended focus of an extended mandate for the Office on completing its work on local capacity-building; in this way, national human rights organizations would be further strengthened, and would be able to fully assume their responsibility to protect and promote human rights.
TERRY CORMIER, (Switzerland) said Nepal was a country with which Switzerland had had a close relationship for over forty years. With the support of the international community, Nepal had made significant progress in bringing about human rights and democracy, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had made a significant contribution. However, there were problems with regards to structural rights, democratic control of the armed forces, the absence of respect of the rule of law, and impunity. The Government's commitment to put in place credible mechanisms of transitional justice was welcomed. Nepal needed strong human rights institutions. Switzerland was in favour of setting up an Office in Nepal, as the Office had played a significant role since 2005. It was essential for the United Nations to continue to provide Nepal with support in human rights, and thus the mandate of the Office should be renewed for a longer period. Nepal should send a positive signal to ensure human rights respect in the country.
PEKKA METSO (Finland) said that Finland emphasized the important role of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal and encouraged the renewal of the cooperation agreement between the Government and the High Commissioner. Finland strongly agreed with the High Commissioner that a focus on human rights issues, including impunity, must remain central during the transitional period. Finland considered that an improvement of the human rights situation in Afghanistan was a requirement for its sustainable development and one of the most crucial challenges faced by the country. Finland joined the notion in the Office’s report that while women had made important advances in the spheres of education, employment and political participation they continued to confront discriminatory laws, attitudes and practices. The recent efforts by the Office to further support the work and capacity of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission through more coordinated United Nations support were extremely important.
FRANCISCOS VERROS (Greece) said Greece appreciated the report on the situation of human rights in Cyprus prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It was indeed important that the Human Rights Council remained seized of this matter which was still as pertinent as ever. While trying to be up to date and to include all recent developments in the island, this report seemed to overlook the root of the problem that led to the adoption of this mandate. The report was initially requested in 1975 because of the flagrant violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cypriot people, as a result of an invasion by another country, in 1974, and the occupation since then of almost 40 per cent of this island.
This situation had caused a plethora of United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, but the violation of fundamental rights of the Cypriots, including the freedom of movement, the freedom of settlement and the right to property had not yet been adequately addressed. One third of the Cypriots were still refuges or displaced, being denied their right to return, being deprived of their properties. Many families still did not know what the fate of their missing relatives had been.
FERIDUN KEMAL FERIDUN (Turkey) said with regards to the situation of human rights in Cyprus, Turkey supported a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation, on the basis of political equality as defined by relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions, and supported the negotiation process that aimed to reach a comprehensive settlement in 2009. The present report sidestepped the overall political picture and developments on the island, and failed to reflect a full perspective on the question of human rights in Cyprus. The report should have reflected the property issue situation in the South as well. The fate of the missing persons in Cyprus could not be taken up in a vacuum, nor could it be addressed in a general framework without considering the historical circumstances that led to this human tragedy. Hate speech, insulting and racist descriptions for Turkish Cypriots and Turks in general persisted in the Greek Cypriot educational system. The isolation imposed upon the Turkish Cypriots constituted the most flagrant and widespread human rights violation on the Island. Turkey fully subscribed to the joint statement of the two leaders on 23 May 2008 which foresaw a new partnership having a federal Government with a single international personality as well as a Turkish Cypriot Constituent State and a Greek Cypriot Constituent State, which would be of equal status.
ORLA MCBREEN (Ireland) said that Ireland welcomed the cooperation between Nepal and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Ireland believed that the continued work of the Office in Nepal represented an important contribution to the building of a sustainable and enduring peace settlement during this important period of transition. Ireland welcomed Nepal’s commitment to implementing international human rights instruments and the support given by Nepal to its national human rights institutions. Ireland also welcomed the priority given by the Government of Nepal and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to addressing the culture of impunity and the promotion of the rule of law. Ireland placed great importance on the protection human rights defenders who worked through peaceful means for the promotion, protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
PABLO GOMEZ DE OLEA BUSTINZA (Spain) thanked the Deputy High Commissioner for her presentation of the report on the activities of the country offices. The activities of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the field were of vital importance and for that reason Spain supported the Office and in particular the country office activities of Bolivia, Guatemala and Colombia. The Government in Guatemala recently took a number of legislative measures to promote the rights of women, among others. In Colombia the Government through the Ministry of Defense took measures to combat the armed groups in the country. In Bolivia, the Government recently took measures on the rights of indigenous peoples. Spain stressed that the outcome achieved by the country offices was not possible without the cooperation of the Governments. In addition the broad view of the mandates taken by those Governments also contributed to the successful measures taken thus far.
ARNOLD SKIBSTED (Denmark) said Denmark was a longstanding supporter and a major donor of the field office in Nepal, and strongly supported the mandate of the office to monitor, protect and promote human rights, as well as to provide advisory services and support to the National Human Rights Commission, civil society, and the Government. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights played a pivotal role in the endeavour to end impunity and discrimination and in re-establishing the rule of law and accountability in Nepal. Ending impunity was a prerequisite for breaking with the violent past and preventing future violations. As recently stated by the High Commissioner, following her visit to Nepal, the human rights situation in Nepal continued to give rise to concern. Although progress had been made since signing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, challenges that lay ahead remained as daunting as those that had been surmounted already. The continuing presence of the Office was therefore also crucial and needed in the years to come to support the Government's efforts to address the remaining challenges of the peace process and the human rights issues that were both a cause and a consequence of the conflict.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said that the report on Colombia was only available in Spanish which meant that more than half of the Council’s members were prevented from making a statement about that. Algeria thought that there should be a rule about that. What bothered Algeria was that for reports in Latin America, Asia and Africa there were one and half pages of boldly printed recommendations. But when it came to Europe, as Cyprus, language was much milder. The Council should take a more balanced approach. Algeria reiterated its hope that one day there would be reunification in Cyprus.
ISABELLE HEYER, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said that there were various areas of deep concern that had been presented in the country report on Colombia. The report mentioned that there were continuing cases of extrajudicial executions involving members of the military, and that the Government said those were false cases; that there was a constant presence of paramilitary groups that attacked the civilian population; that there was a serious failure of the Justice and Peace law; and that there were violations against trade unionists and human rights defenders. Given the situation the Human Rights Council must closely monitor the persistence of human rights violations in Colombia and take into account once and for all the recommendations made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the past 11 years.
PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said the report on Colombia indicated that the Office recorded a number of attacks in 2008 on human rights defenders and others. Public officials stigmatised human rights defenders and union members, and were sympathetic towards armed groups. Attacks on human rights defenders and other activists were a symptom of the conflict in Colombia. There was also concern for legal proceedings against activists, which appeared to be a smokescreen to protect the Colombian armed forces. There was a clear gap between the Government's stated commitment to human rights and the reality on the ground, and it should ensure that its efforts to protect human rights defenders and other activists lived up to its international commitments.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, in a joint statement with International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said regarding the report on Bolivia that this was a very good report to address the continuous problems that indigenous peoples faced in Bolivia. They continued to be discriminated against. Laws were not implemented to include indigenous peoples. This report could become the basis to address the injustice indigenous peoples experienced in Bolivia. The organizations congratulated Bolivia on accepting the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and said that this was a very important first step.
Right of Reply
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus), speaking in a right of reply, said that in regard to what Turkey said, Cyprus regretted that Turkey decided to politicize the provisions of the resolutions being discussed today. The so-called isolation of the Turkish Cypriots was a myth Turkey evoked and insisted on hiding behind as the occupying power. On the provocative comments made by Turkey on the existence of the Republic of Cyprus, Cyprus suggested that Turkey take a better read of the Security Council resolutions 541 and 550 as it was now a member and this would help resolve any confusion it had.
FERIDUN KEMAL FERIDUN (Turkey), speaking in a right of reply, said with regards to the statement made by Greece and Greek Cypriot representatives, presenting the situation as a problem of invasion, and neglecting the ethnic cleansing programme, which had caused the loss of life of innocent Cypriot civilians, was gross and unfair. All remembered that the Greek Cypriot terror that had culminated in a coup d'état in 1974, which was supported by another country, left Turkey with no choice other than to exercise its treaty rights. These statements were disappointing and discouraging, reflecting a frame of mind that was far from realities, and were not conducive to finding a solution to the problem on the island. Impunity remained a pressing issue on the Greek Cypriot side. Turkey would have hoped that the Greek Cypriot representatives would have refrained from directing unfounded allegations, and would have rather focused on a settlement based on equality on both sides, and two Constituent States.
DINESH BHATTARAI (Nepal), speaking in a right of reply, said that Nepal appreciated the close attention given by the Council to the ongoing peace process in Nepal. It was a complicated and multidimensional work and Nepal was aware of the mandate of the High Commissioner in Nepal which expired in June this year. The leadership in Nepal had revealed to the High Commissioner that the matter would be dealt with in due time by the Government. Peace was on the way and the Government attached high priority to building a democratic system and a human rights protection system.
ANDREAS HADJICHRYSANTHOU (Cyprus), speaking in a second right of reply, said that Turkey should refrain from politicizing the issue. Everyone was here today to examine the implementation of the recommendations made by the country offices, which were in relation to the aftermath of the invasion of Cyprus by Turkey. Turkey knew very well that what it was claiming was not true, Mr. Olgac’s claims were thoroughly examined by the Cyprus authorities and Turkey knew exactly what had transpired from that examination. Cyprus said it was here to reach a mutually acceptable resolution to the Cyrus situation, and that Turkey should withdraw its soldiers which were illegally maintained in Cyprus.
FRANCISCOS VERROS (Greece), speaking in a right of reply, said Greece greeted and praised the full enquiries of all investigations on missing persons. It was not the place of the Council to discuss what had happened in 1974, but all had to respect Security Council decisions, and not contest their judgement. Efforts for a lasting and fair solution to the Cyprus problem were supported, and the discussions between the leaders on both sides were welcomed. Greece hoped that this would have a positive effect on the lives of all on the Island.
FERIDUN KEMAL FERIDUN, (Turkey), speaking in a second right of reply, said that in the peace plan of Kofi Annan the titles “Turkish Cypriots” and “Greece Cypriots” were mentioned. The interlocutors were the Turkish Cypriots who were not represented in the Council. Turkey underlined that it fully subscribed to a new Government as well as a Turkish and a Greek Cypriot State which would be of equal status.
The Council has before it the report of Shamsul Bari, Independent Expert appointed by the Human Rights Council on the situation of human rights in Somalia (A/HRC/10/85), which notes that the election of a new President of Somalia, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the expansion of the Parliament, the appointment of a government of unity, and the complete withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Somalia in early January 2009, have created a new momentum and a window of opportunity for the implementation of the Djibouti peace agreement. The feared breakdown in the security situation has not occurred so far, with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s assurances of an inclusive process and discussions with a wide range of groups positively perceived. Peaceful elections in “Puntland” in January have also led to the election of a new President and a Government, which has made a commitment to democratization and change. Nevertheless, many challenges lie ahead. Strengthening security, including through the development of Somali transitional forces and a new civilian police force in South/Central, is urgent. At the same time, the African Union Peace and Security Committee has urged the reinforcement of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and asked the United Nations to provide urgently needed support. Despite these developments, all parties to the conflict have continued to commit serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law. Indiscriminate violence and frequent attacks against civilians continue, including the use of heavy artillery, mortars and roadside bombs; targeted attacks, abduction and killings of aid workers and human rights defenders, in particular journalists; smuggling and human trafficking; looting and extensive property destruction; as well as sexual and gender-based violence. Intensified and widespread violence, in 2008 especially, has also led to a significant increase in the number of displaced persons, which stood at a staggering 1.1 million people as of September 2008. The right to food is severely affected by the drought and water shortages and the rights to education, health, shelter, water and sanitation are seriously challenged. A culture of impunity, although not new, prevails, and is felt most acutely in cases where the victims belong to a minority. Although institutions are still very weak, the ongoing Djibouti peace process is the opportunity to start building the necessary structures to prevent human rights violations and abuses in the future. Much will depend on how the security needs in Mogadishu and Baidoa, in particular, are met and whether the international community would be able to strengthen the capacity of AMISOM.
The report of the Secretary-General on advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights (A/HRC/10/57 and Corr.1) reflects the discussions of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights. It contains chapters on the translation of human rights themes into the technical cooperation programme and policy recommendations; capacity and institution-building activities, including human rights advisers and human rights components of United Nations peace missions; technical cooperation activities; recent developments; and the financial situation of the Voluntary Fund.
Presentation of Report by Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
SHAMSUL BARI, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said he was happy to present the second report to the Council since taking over as Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia in May 2008. The situation in Somalia was one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. For close to two decades the people of Somalia had been the victim of the most terrible human rights and humanitarian law abuses. Unfortunately, however, the international community had not been able to make a meaningful impact to bring the crisis to an end. For close to two decades, the country had witnessed unending internecine conflict and warfare with their inevitable impact on the people. Unable to bear the consequences of such violence, some 3 million Somalis, out of the total population of 9 million, chose to flee their country to seek refuge abroad. More than a million had been internally displaced. Hundreds of thousands had been killed and many more were maimed or wounded.
Those who could not afford to leave suffered one of the most precarious existences that Mr. Bari said he had witnessed in many years of work with such people all over the world. There was hardly any normal livelihood opportunities for them in the country; there were very little education opportunities for their children; almost two generations of youth had had no formal education; war and drought had badly affected local food production and the international food aid was subject to pilferage and mal-distribution; the scant private medical facilities were mainly available to those who could pay; hospitals that had survived the war were devoid of even basic facilities. On top of this, there were unscrupulous traders who exploited the plight of the people for personal gain. There could not have been a worse example in the world where ordinary people were faced with such a hopeless situation. In the report, mention had been made of the heavy loss of lives or ordinary people caught at the wrong place at the wrong time; abduction and killing of defenders of human rights, aid workers, journalists, and so on.
The international community had provided humanitarian assistance, mainly through the United Nations, since the beginning of the conflict close to two decades ago, but its impact had been limited by the on-going conflicts. In recent years, the international community had helped to put together a Transitional Federal Government for Somalia. In a strongly clan-based society, this was no mean achievement, stressed Mr. Bari. The Transitional Federal Government was hardly in a position to provide the people with basic services and protection. Since its establishment, it had been faced with conflict with those who were opposed to it. While the main conflict in Somalia was premised upon power struggle among the clans, and the Transitional Federal Government arrangement was premised upon clan representative, a more volatile factor was added when Islamist groups entered the fray in more recent years to dislodge the fledgling Government and established Islamic rule in Somalia. Mr. Bari said that his report was written based on the discussions he conducted with people in Somalia and refugees in Kenya and Yemen, and said he was now convinced that the people of Somalia were more ready now than ever to give peace a chance. Further, he stressed that transitional justice and national reconciliation should be the dominant subjects in the coming months in this regard.
Statement by Concerned Country
YUSUF MOHAMED ISMAIL (Somalia), speaking as a concerned country, said that the situation in Somalia was well-known. After the Djibouti peace process and having a new Government, it was now most important to get the pledged support of the international community. At this point, Somalia did not want to make any concrete comment on the points raised by the Special Rapporteur. A robust development and capacity building as part of a sustainable roadmap would be the only way to prevent gross human rights violations. The technical cooperation should be carried out within the framework determined by the Somali Government. Somalia was willing to continue its cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.
General Debate on Report on Somalia and on Technical Assistance and Capacity-Building
AMR ROSHDY HASSAN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that Somalia was not a failed State, but a State that had been failed by the international community. They had to decide whether they were going to give the country time to rebound. The African Group could not understand the logic that everything would be solved overnight if they renewed the mandate of the Independent Expert. If the security situation in Mogadishu was not conducive, an office could be opened in Puntland or elsewhere. To simply say that the security situation in Somalia was not conducive to opening an office of the High Commissioner meant that the Independent Expert could not work either. So why were they then contemplating renewing the mandate?
If they tried to pressure Somalia and tried to get it to change its values they would have another Taliban. There was a very difficult balance taking place in Somalia now. They could not tell them, "just forget your values, forget Shariah and everything will be fine overnight". That was the best way to cause a disaster.
IDRISS JAZAIRY (Algeria) said Algeria was happy to renew its dialogue with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, Mr. Bari, and underscored its commitment to return stability in Somalia after 16 years of unrest. Algeria said that everyone had to mobilize to help Somalia return to stability, given the priorities established by the Government of Somalia to strengthen capacities for promoting human rights. In addition, it was necessary that this support be in the form of increased means for humanitarian assistance as well as technical support.
Algeria was concerned about the situation of millions of displaced persons as well as lots of others located outside the country as a result of the conflict. In this regard, Algeria said that Kenya and Yemen being outside countries deserved technical support as well. It was up to Somalia and no other country to decide if the Government wished to extend the mandate of Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the country, as well as for how long that mandate would be extended. There remained doubts about how useful a special session on the situation of human rights in Somalia would be, but Algeria said if Council members felt it was necessary it was not opposed to this idea.
BENTE ARGELL-HANSER (Norway) said that Somalia had been in a state of turmoil for the last two decades; without a legitimate and effective Government, and with rampant lawlessness, insecurity, and extensive violation of human rights. Recently, and in particular since the end of last year, Norway had seen important new political developments in Somalia. This gave reason for hope and optimism that the situation might gradually improve. Still, Norway remained gravely concerned about the human rights situation. There was a need to take measures both to reduce impunity and to prevent on-going abuses and violations. Indiscriminate attacks on civilians, often killing women and children, and targeted killings, like they had seen of journalists, political and civil society leaders, as well as peace keepers, must come to an end. Perpetrators of such acts must be held accountable. The Somali justice system had to be strengthened , and the new Security and Police Forces, that were now being established, should be given the means to ensure law and order to protect the civilian population, while at the same time upholding international human rights standards to which Somalia was a party.
PETR PRECLIK (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, observed that, since its establishment, the mandate of the Independent Expert had been a useful tool in monitoring and promoting human rights in Somalia, despite the grave situation on the ground, which continued to be marked by widespread insecurity and grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law. At the same time, as the Independent Expert had said in his report, "development in the political sphere was inextricably linked to the human rights situation in Somalia". In that regard, it had been emphasized in the report that the latest political events had created a new political momentum and a window of opportunity for the implementation of the Djibouti Peace Agreement.
Against that background, the European Union asked what concrete measures could the Independent Expert suggest regarding his recommendation that human rights education and training for Government officials be carried out? Could the Independent Expert elaborate on his recommendation that the Council consider a special session or a panel discussion on the human rights situation in the country? What outcomes would he see for such an event? Also asked were what would be needed to set up a credible commission of inquiry to examine past human rights violations and what data were available to support the needed analysis, and what additional measures could be taken to prevent and protect against sexual and gender-based violence.
ROBERTO VELLANO (Italy) said since the establishment of this mandate in 1993, it had proved to be a useful tool in monitoring and promoting human rights in Somalia, despite the grave situation on the ground, which continued to be marked by widespread insecurity and grave violations of humanitarian and human rights law. Italy was convinced that, as stated in the report, “development in the political sphere was inextricably linked to the human rights situation in Somalia”. In this regard, Italy recognized the latest political events that created a new momentum for the implementation of the Djibouti Peace Agreement and the stabilization of the country. To this development, the international community, in all its components, had the duty to give its fundamental contribution.
Italy asked the Independent Expert, given the precarious conditions in which aid workers, human rights defenders and media professionals, tried to do their job in Somalia, could he provide the Council with a specific update, including on the right to life and physical integrity, as well as on the effective enjoyment of freedom of expression?
ALLEHONE MULUGETA ABEBE (Ethiopia) said that while acknowledging the tireless effort of the Independent Expert, Ethiopia highlighted some of the fundamental flaws in the working method the Independent Expert had adopted, and the outcome of such methodology. Ethiopia understood that the mandate continued to face the most challenging environment to report on. But Ethiopia believed that the Independent Expert could not delegate his important authority of preparing reports on the human rights situation in Somalia to others. His report could not excessively rely on politically motivated and unreliable advocacy groups’ pamphlets. The report openly admitted that the Independent Expert had relied on documentation prepared by organizations such as Human Rights Watch, and it also considered them to be the most accurate and objective sources of data and information. Ethiopia was proud what its troops had accomplished during their difficult mission in Somalia. Some of the recommendations of the Independent Expert dealt with broad political and security issues and it was imperative that his recommendations fell within the mandate of the Independent Expert and that of the Council.
KARIN STENSON (Sweden) said Sweden fully shared the worries about the serious situation for human rights defenders and journalists in Somalia, and in particular the situation of women human rights defenders. It was clear that widespread violations of human rights and humanitarian law made life in Somalia intolerable. One way to address that was through such mechanisms as the Independent Expert. What did he think could be done for a more effective implementation of the mandate? In his report he mentioned that gender and sexual violence were widespread in Somalia, but were not addressed as crimes. Could he elaborate on what measures could be taken to address those violations and to punish perpetrators? Also, with regard to such incidents as deaths by stoning of women held to be adulterers, how could discriminatory laws and inhuman punishments be prohibited?
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, thanked the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Somalia, for his report and efforts in visiting a number of African countries as well. Yemen noted the changes in the new President and a new parliament which opened the way for new peace negotiations. Peace could only be achieved once the police and security forces were strengthened and there was open dialogue with all the belligerent parties. There was serious spread of rape and AIDS in Somalia, which was of grave concern to Yemen. The international community had a major responsibility to help achieve peace, and this was possible through increased technical aid. Yemen was aware that the people of Somalia were suffering, and said that the case of refugees in Djibouti, Yemen and Kenya must not be forgotten. The international community should also help to combat piracy. Yemen said staunching the wounds required cooperation rather than a trail. Yemen was committed to help contribute to peace in Somalia and supported the adoption of a resolution by the Human Rights Council for a special session on the human rights situation in Somalia.
MOHAMED SIAD DOUALEH (Djibouti) said that the devastating impact of the crisis in Somalia had produced a humanitarian catastrophe that needed to be addressed by the international community on an urgent basis. As the Independent Expert rightly pointed out in his report, the intensified and widespread violence in 2008 had led to a significant increase in the number of displaced persons, a complete disruption of the economic activities and severely limited access for humanitarian response efforts. The latest food security assessments, carried out during December 2008 and January 2009 by the Food and Agricultural Organization, confirmed that more than 3 million people in Somalia would continue to be in need of humanitarian assistance. The right to food was affected by the drought and water shortages and the rights to educations, health, shelter, water and sanitation were seriously challenges. The continued report of targeted killings, civilians killed in crossfire and during indiscriminate killings was also a source of profound concern to Djibouti. The recent upsurge of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia was only one manifestation of the tragic events this country had experienced for almost two decades.
MELANIE HOPKINS (United Kingdom) thanked the Independent Expert for his report and acknowledged the good work of the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia, and welcomed their combined efforts in support for the ongoing peace process and to raise awareness of the international community of human rights in Somalia. The United Kingdom remained gravely concerned about the human rights situation in Somalia and was in agreement with the overall tone of the Independent Expert's report, with his assessment largely in line with their perceptions. Recent developments in the Somali political process gave them reason to believe that the next year could provide a real opportunity for genuine progress on human rights. The renewal of the mandate provided the scope for the Independent Expert, and through him the Human Rights Council, to keep abreast of such developments and to support efforts to make a real impact on the ground.
The United Kingdom agreed with recommendations that all parties should fully commit to the Djibouti peace agreement and to reconciliation efforts and that the Human Rights Unit of the UNPOS should be continued and its effectiveness enhanced. There had been many calls for a Commission of Inquiry to investigate human rights violations. The United Kingdom believed that such a commission should be Somali-owned and Somali-led, with support from the international community. The Independent Expert was asked to give an assessment of the security situation for United Nations personnel and aid workers at present and how that might alter over the next 12 months?
IBRAHIM SAIED MOHAMED AL-ADOOFI (Yemen) said that as a country that had been dealing with Somali refugees, ties which went back in history, Yemen welcomed the frankness and transparency concerning certain aspects of the human rights situation in Somalia, in particular the issue of refugees and displaced persons. The Independent Expert clearly explained a number of activities and measures that should be taken by the United Nations and the international community to resolve stability in Somalia which Yemen agreed with. However, Yemen did not agree with the recommendation to deploy a fact finding mission to Somalia, and said the resources should go towards the human rights situation on the ground and to healing the wounds on the ground. Yemen shared the concern of the Independent Expert regarding the situation of human rights, and recalled that Yemen since the 1990s had been taking in refugees from Somalia, which totalled 750,000 to date. The international community should consider this relationship and support Yemen in this regard. Further, Yemen said it supported the mandate of the Independent Expert and the convening of a special session on the situation of human rights in Somalia.
ERICA BACH (Canada) said that Canada was deeply concerned about the dangerous and unpredictable human rights situation in Somalia and the widespread impunity for violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. As noted in the report, the situation in Somalia was extremely challenging with many problems touching directly or indirectly on human rights concerns. The problems of political instability, ongoing violence, piracy and a persistent humanitarian emergency all contributed to a dangerous environment for the people of Somalia, for humanitarian and development actors and for human rights defenders. Given other competing priority areas for international intervention in Somalia, how would the Independent Expert suggest the international community prioritized its support to improve the human rights situation on the ground for people in Somalia? Canada was deeply concerned by the dangerous security environment in Somalia and in particular by the targeting of aid workers. Canada continued to focus on supporting international humanitarian action to help ensure life-saving needs were met.
IBRAHIM KHRAISHI (Palestine) expressed its thanks and appreciation for the efforts made in the context of this mandate by the Independent Expert, as well as for those made by the Government of Somalia to enhance peace and security, which constituted a challenge not just to the Government but also to the international community. Palestine stressed the importance of the technical cooperation programme for the building of institutions, as well as the delivery of assistance for development programmes. There were favourable conditions for going ahead in the context of the recent political achievements. Palestine supported the continuation of the mandate. Every effort should be made to provide support to Somalia so that it could go ahead with its development programmes.
ABDULLA ABDULLATIF ABDULLA (Bahrain) thanked the Independent Expert for his report and the work he conducted with respect to the human rights situation in Somalia. Bahrain had considered the report of the Independent Expert, and concluded that the situation in Somalia was a priority issue for the Council, and in particular with regard to the refugee situation. The fleeing of refugees to surrounding countries was an alarming situation. Bahrain agreed with the recommendations made by the Independent Expert that changes had taken place with the establishment of a new Government and the expansion of the parliament, which would enhance the peace process. If peace was the goal, all parties should sit down and discuss it among themselves. Bahrain asked the Independent Expert how could cooperation be improved to achieve peace and advance human rights in Somalia? Bahrain hoped that the Council would agree to the hold a special session on the human rights situation in Somalia.
MUSTAFIZUR RAHMAN (Bangladesh) said that Bangladesh found the report useful to understand the human rights situation in Somalia. The situation was of serious concern to Bangladesh and it was worried that if the international community would not take the necessary steps, Somalia would take the road to destitution. There had to be an interlocutor to implement decisions taken. The country now needed capacity building and opening an office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would maybe be a good first step in that direction.
PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, said the population of Somalia was suffering through one of the most dire and long-running human rights catastrophes in the world. Since the end of 2006, civilians had been the primary victims of indiscriminate warfare and had also been targeted for direct attacks. Civilians had been subjected to murder, rape, looting and indiscriminate shelling, and all parties had been responsible for those abuses. Somalia needed to rebuild and address the urgent humanitarian needs of its population. In 2007 and 2008, over 870,000 civilians had fled from Mogadishu and 1.1 million Somalis had been displaced from their homes across south-central Somalia. Hundreds had lost their lives trying to flee across the Gulf of Aden by boat. Human Rights Watch had consistently called for the establishment of an Independent Commission of Inquiry by the United Nations Security Council to investigate and document human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict. Human Rights Watch urged the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert and for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to rapidly increase its capacity to address the human rights crisis in Somalia.
BELL HILAIRE, of Cercle de recherche sur les droits et les devoirs de la personne humaine (CRED), expressed concern regarding the feasibility of the mandate of the Independent Expert. The situation was a demonstration of the ineffectiveness of the application of humanitarian and human rights law in times of conflict. The Independent Expert should tell the Council clearly what his objectives were and the impact it had on peace objectives in the country. The Independent Expert should identify the needs for Somalia. In particular it was recommended that there should be awareness campaigns carried out to promote the rights and duties of the people of Somalia.
SHAMSUL BARI, Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia, said that he felt that he had not been as useful as he wanted to be when he accepted the responsibility of being the Independent Expert to Somalia. He did not think that the visits to neighbouring countries would provide enough information on the country. But even if he could not visit Somalia, he could talk to the interlocutors in Somalia and there were many. He did not get an opportunity to meet with the President and had only fleeting encounters with officials. He did not have an opportunity to hear what they thought about how the international community could help Somalia. When he accepted the mandate he hardly knew the country. He had had the opportunity to talk to a large number of Somalis in Djibouti, a large number of parliamentarians, this gave him a good opportunity to understand and this information had been integrated in the report. How could the mandate be better served? The best possibility would be to sit down somewhere and talk with interlocutors in Somalia on how they saw the situation. If the mandate would be renewed, he would like it to be based on this condition.
The political developments were intertwined with the human rights situation and the peace efforts were of fundamental importance. Unfortunately however, he was not able to work closely with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and he would have loved to find out more about what he did but he was unhappy that he was not able to talk to him. Either he was very busy or he was not able to see how the Independent Expert could help. The Independent Expert could only help his efforts. He had now visited Djibouti twice and thanked the Djibouti authorities for having facilitated those visits. He had also taken part in a seminar on transitional justice organized in Djibouti. This was a very good way to move on. It was good to involve the people of Somalia, they were only able to discuss their situation outside the country and a mechanism of transitional justice would make it possible for them to get involved in Somalia.
Regarding the harmonization meeting and bringing together people from Somalia and outside Experts, he said that the Somali people recognized the need for discussion. For example, on the issue of sexual abuse, there was a possibility to harmonise, identifying the issues and integrating the issues that the Council had raised. Sharia law and customary law needed to be linked up with humanitarian law. A well-organised meeting would be a good starting point. It maybe sounded farfetched, but from discussions in Djibouti, the Independent Expert was convinced that this would be a fruitful approach.
For use of the information media; not an official record