UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



xxxxxxxxxx
HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONSIDERS
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS THAT
REQUIRE ITS ATTENTION

xxxxxxxxxx
Human Rights Council
MORNING
24 September 2007


Group of Experts on Darfur Presents Interim Report


The Human Rights Council this morning opened its general debate on human rights situations that require its attention, hearing the Group of Experts on Darfur present an interim report.

Walter Kalin, Rapporteur of the Group of Experts and Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said there had been constructive discussions with the Sudanese Government and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In its meetings the Group had focused on the situation of human rights defenders, humanitarian access, accountability and justice and monitoring of the implementation process. The Group was not yet able to deliver a detailed objective assessment of the present status of implementation of the compiled recommendations. A comprehensive report would be provided to the Human Rights Council in December 2007. The Group of Experts called on the Sudanese Government to intensify its efforts to implement the recommendations in accordance with the time frames and indicators, to address impunity, and to call on all parties to end violence against civilians, especially women, children, internally displaced persons, those with disabilities and humanitarian workers.

Sudan, speaking as a concerned country, said the Government of Sudan was committed to the implementation of Council resolution 4/8. The updated report was very encouraging and Sudan hoped to complete the job in this atmosphere of cooperation and action orientation. In a short period of time, the Government had achieved, inter alia, the following: the Ministry of the Interior had issued orders to facilitate the work of international observers; a new Armed Forces Act was passed; and the Minister of Justice had issued the Declaration to Combat Violence against Women in Darfur. The Government had provided requests for its needs for the implementation of each of the recommendations in the resolution, but it had not received the needed assistance.

In the general debate on the report, delegations said the good collaboration between the United Nations, regional partners, the UN and Sudan was positive, and the spirit of cooperation shown by the Government of Sudan was warmly welcomed. Sudan was encouraged to continue its collaboration with the Group of Experts in order to improve the situation on the ground. All those involved in resolving the crisis were encouraged to show a positive, supportive attitude. The humanitarian situation was still worrying, however, and the plight of women and children was still of grave concern. The Government of Sudan was urged to tackle impunity.

The Council also began a general debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention, during which delegates voiced concern over human rights issues in a number of countries and territories. Some speakers said there was too much naming and shaming in the Council which was not in keeping with the spirit of universality of the Human Rights Council.


Speaking in the general debate on the report of the Group of Experts on Darfur were Egypt on behalf of the African Group, Portugal on behalf of the European Union, Canada, Republic of Korea, Ireland, Norway, Algeria, Indonesia, United Kingdom, China, Malaysia, Japan and Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, International Commission of Jurists, Femmes Africa Solidarité, Human Rights Watch and Hawa Society for Women.

Cuba, Switzerland, Germany, France, Sri Lanka, Netherlands, China and Egypt on behalf of the African Group spoke in the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.

The Human Rights Council will resume its meeting at 3 p.m. this afternoon to continue the general debate on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention.


Reports Before the Council

The Council has before it the interim report on the situation of human rights in Darfur, prepared by the Group of Experts mandated by the Human Rights Council in its resolution 4/8 presided by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan and composed of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders, the Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/HR/6/7). The Group of Experts expresses its appreciation for the high degree of cooperation, flexibility and openness of its interlocutors during the period under review. The Group welcomes the efforts made by the Government of Sudan towards implementation of its short-term recommendations, but concludes that while certain recommendations have been partially implemented, it is not in a position to report that a clear impact on the ground has been identified. The Group of Experts reiterates its concern about reports of ongoing serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights by the various parties to the conflict.

In conclusion, the Group of Experts recommends that the Human Rights Council urges the Government of Sudan to continue its efforts to implement the recommendations compiled by the Group of Experts, to address impunity and ensure that all allegations of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are duly investigated and the perpetrators are promptly brought to justice, and reiterate its call to all parties to the conflict to put an end to all acts of violence against women.

There is a note verbale (A/HRC/6/G/2) from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, which contains the text of the statement by Dr. Lam Akol Ajawin, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Sudan, before the Sudanese National Assembly on United Nations support for the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) towards settlement of the Darfur crisis.

There is a note verbale (A/HRC/6/G/3) from the Permanent Mission of the
Republic of the Sudan to the United Nations at Geneva, which contains a progress report concerning the “Implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in Sudan.

There is a note verbale (A/HRC/6/G/4) from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Sudan to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva addressed to the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council, which contains the text, in English and French, of the Final Communiqué of the second International Meeting on Darfur held in Tripoli from 15 to 16 July 2007.

There is a note verbale (A/HRC/6/G/6) from the Permanent Mission of the Sudan to the United Nations Office at Geneva, which says that 1,250 families in the Abu Shoak camp for the internally displaced in northern Darfur returned to their home villages in northern Darfur on Friday, 17 August 2007. The Governor of North Darfur State, Osman Kibir, addressed the returning families and expressed his pleasure and satisfaction. He vowed that the Government would spare no effort to facilitate the return of the internally displaced persons (IDPs). The representatives of the returning IDPs demanded protection for the returnees in their respective home villages. The villages to which the IDPs have returned are Tawila, Karoma, Tuma, Abu Sikeen, Gabral-Ganan, Kaila, Um Hai, Serfaya, Miailga and Kailal-Uyoun.

There is a note verbale (A/HRC/6/G/7) from the Permanent Mission of the Sudan to the United Nations Office which contains the press statement by Mr. Hassabu Mohamed Abdulrahman, the Commissioner-General of the Humanitarian Aid Commission, made on 23 July 2007 about the recent return and repatriation of 750 families from their camps. The statement says that over 750 families of internally displaced persons and refugees have voluntarily returned from displaced and refugees’ camps in Chad to their home areas in Dar-Zaghawa (Zaghawa lands) in West Darfur State.


Presentation of Report of Group of Experts on Follow-Up and Implementation of Resolutions on Darfur

WALTER KALIN, Rapporteur of the Expert Group on Darfur and Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, presenting the report of the Group of Experts, said the Group had presented its first report to the Human Rights Council on 13 June 2007. This report had identified priorities for implementation of pre-existing Resolutions and Recommendations on Darfur, and compiled specific recommendations for the short and medium term. On 20 June the Group of Experts was asked to continue its work for a further six months and update the Council again in September 2007. The Group continued with its methodology, seeking to cooperate with the Sudanese Government, identify obstacles to implementation of previous recommendations, and differentiate short and medium term recommendations with a view to assisting the Government in its implementation of the recommendations in the annex to the first report.

The Government of Sudan had produced a Plan of Action identifying training and financial needs, and a progress report on implementation of the recommendations. In September there had been constructive discussions with the Sudan Government and the Special Rapporteur on Refugees, Internally Displaced Persons and Migrants in Africa representing the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. In its meetings, the Group of Experts focused on the situation of human rights defenders, humanitarian access, accountability and justice and monitoring of the implementation process. There had been excellent cooperation with the Sudan Government. The Group was not yet able, however, to deliver a detailed objective assessment of the present status of implementation of the compiled recommendations. While certain recommendations had been in part implemented, it was not in a position to report that a clear impact on the ground had been identified. A comprehensive report would be provided to the Human Rights Council in December 2007. The Group wished to allow maximum time for the Sudan Government to undertake initiatives in connection with implementation, and for obtaining as much detailed information as possible from UNMIS and other UN bodies.

Mr. Kalin said the Group of Experts called on the Sudanese Government to intensify its efforts to implement the recommendations in accordance with the time frames and indicators, to address impunity and ensure justice, and to call on all parties to end violence against civilians, especially women, children, internally displaced persons, those with disabilities and humanitarian workers. The Group also invited the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other UN bodies to provide technical assistance, and donors to provide funds and support.

Statement by Concerned Country

IBRAHIM MARGANI IBRAHIM MOHAMED KHEIR (Sudan), speaking as a concerned country, said the Government of Sudan was committed to the implementation of Council resolution 4/8. The updated report was very encouraging and Sudan hoped to complete the job in this atmosphere of cooperation and action orientation. In a short period of time, the Government had achieved, inter alia, the following: the Ministry of the Interior had issued orders to facilitate the work of international observers; a new Armed Forces Act was passed; and the Minister of Justice had issued the Declaration to Combat Violence against Women in Darfur. The Government had provided requests for its needs for the implementation of each of the recommendations in the resolution, but it had not received the needed assistance.

The assistance needed required the urgent attention of the Council and of the High Commissioner, since Sudan needed to discuss what it had implemented in the final report with the Group of Experts less than two months from today. The African Group was thanked for its support and for its dedicated troika that was negotiating on the behalf of Sudan. Sudan was quite confident that the final report on resolution 4/8 in December would be equally satisfactory to the Council and very fruitful to the citizens of Darfur.


General Debate on Report of Group of Experts on Follow-Up and Implementation of Resolutions on Darfur

IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed the positive developments made in Sudan and looked forward to the Group of Experts final report. The high level of collaboration of the Sudanese Government with the United Nations was welcomed as was the hybrid peace force and the start of the return of displaced persons to their homes. The return of normalcy on the ground was welcomed. The African Group believed that the second part of the Council’s sixth session in December would be the right time to review the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. The Expert Group was the best mechanism to address the situation. The tripartite collaboration between the United Nations, the African Union and Sudan was welcomed. The promises made by the Human Rights Council and the international community to continue to help Sudan should be met.

FRANCISCO XAVIER ESTEVES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union welcomed the cooperation shown by the Government of Sudan, but was concerned that short-term recommendations had not been addressed. In particular, the European Union called on Sudan to address impunity and bring perpetrators to justice. It reiterated its appeal to all parties in the conflict to end violence, especially against women and girls. The European Union was concerned that the Group of Experts might not be receiving all necessary information, and understood that the Group was not able to undertake a profound evaluation of the implementation of the recommendations. The December report to the Human Rights Council would address only short-term recommendations. Medium and long-term issues would remain an issue for the Group to deal with. Implementation of all recommendations was fundamental to addressing the tragic situation in Darfur.

JOHN VON KAUFMANN (Canada) welcomed the recent progress, in particular the reinvigoration of the Darfur peace talks. However, Canada had ongoing concern for the ongoing violations of human rights, including sexual abuse, by all parties in the conflict, which were continuing, even as progress was being made. Protection of civilians continued to be undermined. Government and rebel forces continued to act with impunity. Canada welcomed the spirit of cooperation, but it was appalled by the recent decision by the Government to appoint an individual as co-Chair for the national commission to investigate human rights abuses in Sudan, when he had been indicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court. The Government should cooperate with the International Criminal Court.

DONG-HEE CHANG (Republic of Korea) welcomed the cooperative attitude of Sudan. The Republic of Korea regretted that the report had not been distributed earlier for consideration. The Republic of Korea welcomed the planned deployment of the hybrid force. The return of refugees and displaced person was heartening. The situation of women and children was still of concern to the Republic of Korea and the Government of Sudan was asked to ensure accountability, to stop impunity, and to continue its collaboration with the Expert Group in order to improve the situation on the ground.

MICHAEL TIERNEY (Ireland) said Ireland was deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Darfur. Ireland strongly urged the Government of Sudan to end the culture of impunity in Darfur, and regretted the decision to appoint Ahmed Mohammed Haroun as co-chair of the national commission to investigate human rights abuses in Sudan, wile he was wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Ireland welcomed, however, the good cooperation shown by the Sudanese Government in relation to the United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur and looked forward to the deployment of the force, which it was hoped would bring about tangible improvements in civilian protection and humanitarian aid.

VEBJORN HEINES (Norway) said the short time between the release of the update and the discussion of the issue was regretted. The statement of the delegation of Sudan was welcomed, and it was hoped that this would cause positive changes on the ground. The humanitarian situation was deteriorating in Sudan, due to the repeated displacements, the overcrowded camps, and the increasing number of armed groups therein. The lack of access by and attacks on humanitarian workers were also grave. The Government should protect all its citizens, and unimpeded access should be given to the humanitarian workers. The comprehensive implementation of the Peace Agreement should take place. The efforts made by the Human Rights Council were welcomed, and the constructive cooperation of the Government of Sudan in this regard was appreciated. Norway believed that the human rights situation in Sudan, and Darfur in particular, merited the continued, constructive, and action-oriented attention of the Council.

MOHAMMED BESSEDIK (Algeria) said that only a positive attitude, taking into account the complexity of the situation, could help to control the humanitarian crisis on the ground in Darfur. The Council needed to have a balanced view on the situation. The final report in December was much expected. The Sudanese Government had shown excellent collaboration and this should be welcomed by the Council. Algeria criticized the exaggerations and the disinformation of the situation inside the United Nations.

JOSE TAVARES (Indonesia) said the Council had mandated the Group of Experts to follow-up on the decisions of the Council. The Government of Sudan had shown good cooperation and this was a positive sign. Unconditional agreement by the Government of Sudan on the deployment of the hybrid force was a positive step, and this force should be given all financial, technical and logistical support in this endeavour. Continued commitment by all parties was the key to achieving the goals in Darfur.

REBECCA SAGAR (United Kingdom) said the Group of Experts was to be thanked for the informative report and continued hard work to support the Government of Sudan to improve the situation of human rights in Darfur. The report’s description of the constructive dialogue was noted - constructive cooperation leading to concrete changes on the ground should be the model for the work of the Council. The Group’s concern that it was not yet able to note an impact on the ground in Darfur was also noted. The report recalled reports of serious and ongoing violations of international and humanitarian law, and called the human rights situation perilous, as well as calling for unfettered access by humanitarian actors to those suffering. Which short-term implementations had taken place which allowed access, the United Kingdom asked? On the issue of impunity, there could be no sustained solution to the desperate human rights situation unless concrete action was taken to combat this problem. How should the Council work with the Government of Sudan beyond December, the United Kingdom asked Mr. Kalin.

LA YIFAN (China) said that China appreciated the close contact the Sudanese Government was maintaining with the Expert Group as well as the improvements on the ground. The positive progress since the Human Rights Council’s fifth session was noted. The deployment of the hybrid force was an important achievement through dialogue. In this light the international community should attach the same importance for other issues, like the economic rebuilding of the country. The constructive dialogue between the United Nations and the African Union should continue. The improvement of life was important in order to heal the root causes of the conflict.

AMRAN MOHAMED ZIN (Malaysia) said the excellent cooperation between the Government of Sudan and the Group of Experts was welcome. Sudan faced a huge rebuilding task and this would require time and resources. Progress was gradual, but commendable, and the situation was complex. Effective implementation of the peace agreements would be a positive development. Malaysia was pleased to see a constructive approach being pursued. But considerable challenges remained. The international community would have to be supportive and productive.

TETSUYA KIMURA (Japan) said the efforts of the Council to improve the human rights situation in Darfur were appreciated. However, there was still concern for the humanitarian situation - there were clashes between the Government Forces and factions which had not signed the peace agreement, as well as attacks on humanitarian aid workers by militias. It was necessary that all parties concerned make more efforts to put into effect the Joint Communiqué on Humanitarian Efforts in Darfur, signed last March.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan), speaking on behalf the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), said that the OIC would have appreciated to have the report earlier in order to prepare comments. Nevertheless, the report reflected the good will of the Sudanese Government, which should be supported in its efforts. The outcome of the high-level meeting and the Secretary-General’s visit to Darfur were welcomed.

JANE LINDRIO ALAO, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said the Government of Sudan continued to carry out indiscriminate attacks. Janjaweed militias still attacked with impunity. Only low-ranking soldiers had been prosecuted. A recent mission by the International Federation in Eastern Chad had revealed the extent of displacement in the region. Sudan should ensure rapid deployment of the hybrid force, act against impunity, cooperate with the International Criminal Court and implement recommendations of the Special Rapporteur without delay.

LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said there was deep concern about the human rights situation in Sudan, particularly in Darfur. The ongoing gross human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law had been exacerbated by impunity for crimes which continued to destabilise Darfur. The Government should repeal a system of immunities and various laws that shielded military, police and other officials from prosecution for human rights violations. The Government should bring existing laws into line with the 2005 Interim Constitution and its international obligations, and criminalise acts amounting to international crimes including torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and enforced disappearance.

ROBERTA MEAN, of Femmes Africa Solidarite, said that since the European Union was planning to deploy an international military force in eastern Chad, it should include a women-only police force for the protection of women. Despite limited resources, the African Union had sent a significant number of troops to try to keep the peace in Darfur. However, in the months before the deployment of the hybrid force, women and children would still face violence. African Governments had acted but it was not enough, the international community’s responsibility should not be forgotten. Women had to play a central role in the peace process. The crisis could not be allowed to continue. Eastern Chad was in danger of becoming another Darfur. Succeeding in Darfur would be a defining moment for Africa as a whole.

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said the Council should look at concrete actions that would help to make immediate changes. These included enforcing of orders prohibiting attacks on civilians, enforcing zero tolerance policies of violence against women, stopping the use of white-painted vehicles by combatant forces, issuing a blanket waiver of legal immunities for war crimes and serious human rights violations, and ensuring full cooperation by the Government of Sudan with the International Criminal Court and with the African Union Mission in Sudan and the United Nations/African Union Mission in Sudan force.

ABLA MAHDI ABDELMOMIEM, of Hawa Society for Women, said the international community was thanked for its concern over the situation in Sudan, in particular the situation of women. Organizations for women were working to improve the situation for women in Darfur. Their rights should be respected by all parties - the current situation violated all economic, social and cultural rights. In order to limit such crimes and curtail their implications on men, women and children, the competent authorities carried out investigations - but the reports were biased, one-sided and insufficiently credible. They contained unreal facts, and were contrary to the truth. The Sudanese man was a very protective man, who cared for the protection of his women, in pursuance of his culture and up bringing. The international community should be more careful in describing the situation, and base themselves on credible rights.


Concluding Remarks by Rapporteur of Group of Experts on Darfur

WALTER KALIN, Rapporteur of the Expert Group on Darfur and Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, in concluding comments, said that the Group of Experts also regretted the late availability of the report. It had not been an easy task to bring together a group of volunteer Experts that had to continue to work on their other mandates. As regards to questions concerning the view of the Group of Experts about the actual situation and the next steps that of the actual situation. Their views about the next steps to be undertaken should be undertaken, the report gave a clear picture expressed in the December report and would depend on its outcome and its examination and analysis. The trust expressed by the delegations in the work of the Expert Group was welcomed.


General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

FRANCISCO XAVIER ESTEVES (Portugal), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union was deeply concerned about the situation in Zimbabwe. Torture and intimidation were condemned. Economic policies of the Government of Zimbabwe had led to severe food insecurity, refugees and regional destabilization. In Iran, executions were continuing, and the use of stoning and cruel and unusual punishments was disturbing. Persecution of minority groups and human rights defenders were a cause for concern in Iran. In Sri Lanka, serious crimes by the LTTE and reported increases of abuses by Government forces demanded action against perpetrators and to secure humanitarian assistance. In Myanmar, the European Union urged the Burmese authorities to release detainees and cooperate with UN mechanisms to respect international obligations. In Iraq, the humanitarian crisis was a cause of deep concern; the deterioration of civil and political rights in Belarus was a serious matter; and the human rights situation in Cuba remained precarious.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said the content and focus of the debate, and the nature of the decisions adopted on this agenda item would determine whether or not the Council was able to be a human rights body which based its work on dialogue and cooperation, and away from the politicisation, double standards and bias which characterised the work of the Commission. This agenda item was adopted while rejecting the inquisitorial and condemnatory resolutions of the past.

Cuba supported a Universal Periodic Review which was based on defending the human rights of all. What was not acceptable was to allow impunity to a few who continued to manipulate human rights international bodies as a function of their spurious geopolitical domination interests. The Council should give a priority to situations which really required its attention, such as the grave violations of international law threatening the enjoyment by peoples of their right to peace; the bombing of civilians, arbitrary detention and torture under the pretext of the war against terrorism; the illegal doctrine of regime change in countries unilaterally demonised by hegemonistic imperialists; and pandemics, and preventable diseases. The Council should change this unacceptable state inherited from the former Commission and give attention to justice, equality, solidarity, peace and self-determination.

ICHIRO FUJISAKI (Japan) said that item 4 on human rights situations that require the Council’s attention should not be used to make the Human Rights Council politicized but it was an important system to bring to the attention of the Council important situations. The Council took note of the concrete results in Sri Lanka and the improvement of the human rights situation in the country. The Human Rights situation in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was a matter of concern, which required the Human Rights Council’s attention. The Government of Japan remained firm in its stance to normalize its relations with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. The issue of leprosy should also be tackled.

BLAISE GODET (Switzerland) said the crisis in Iraq persisted and it was urgent that the Council invite all Iraqis to renounce violence and work towards conciliation. Myanmar was also a worrying situation. Regrettably, there had been no progress on authorizing the International Committee of the Red Cross to resume its activities concerning detention facilities in the country. On the Occupied Palestinian Territories, all parties should be called on to respect their international legal obligations, and Switzerland continued to believe that, in the interest of impartiality, the issue of human rights in the occupied areas belonged under item 4 of the agenda, not item 7. The culture of impunity in Sri Lanka required attention, and the execution of humanitarian workers was condemned. National mechanisms were having difficulty dealing with the human rights challenges and Switzerland hope the High Commissioner would be able to visit the most troubled regions to assess the situation. In Sudan, the civilian population continued to suffer and refugees lived in constant fear of attack or arbitrary arrest.

GUNTER NOOKE (Germany) said as far as Iran was concerned, the international community, despite repeated United Nations General Assembly resolutions, was witnessing a continuous deterioration of the situation, especially over the last 12 months. There was particular dismay at the extended use of capital punishment, alarm at restrictions of the freedom of the press and freedom of opinion. Civil rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated or imprisoned. There was also concern about continued forms of discrimination and human rights violations against persons belonging to minorities.

With regards to Sri Lanka, Germany urged that country to redouble its efforts to achieve a peacefully negotiated settlement of the internal conflict. Germany also urged the LTTE and paramilitary groups to refrain from continued serious acts of violence. Continuing and widespread lack of safety for humanitarian aid workers continued to be a cause for serious concern, and the Government should ensure the safety of all humanitarian aid workers and improve the conditions of their work.

NICHOLAS THORNE (United Kingdom) listed the situations that required attention in the view of the United Kingdom. The consistent human rights violations in Burma were of concern. Prisoners and anti-government leaders there should be released. The human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were also of concern. Access should be granted to the UN Special Rapporteur. Of grave concern was the situation in Zimbabwe. The economic policies of the Zimbabwean Government, which were harmful to the population, were noted with regret. The Zimbabwean regime’s use of arbitrary detention and torture of persons and violence against human rights defenders was alarming. The non-respect of the rule of law by policemen was also alarming. The Special Rapporteur’s update on the situation was awaited. Freedom of expression was a vital factor. Of deep concern was the human rights situation in Iran where massive arrests of protesters and floggings were taking place. The situation in Belarus had also deteriorated. The United Kingdom called for the release of political prisoners. Citizens should be granted full freedom. The situation in Darfur remained of concern, as great breaches in human rights were still present. The situation in Sri-Lanka was also noted. All parties should respect human rights and humanitarian law. The situation since the coup in Fiji was also of concern. The Government should respect its promise to return the country to normality.

JEAN-BAPTISTE MATTEI (France) said there was still a need to respond to the grave situation in Darfur, and for the Government to cooperate fully with the International Criminal Court over severe violations of human rights. France condemned violations by both sides in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. There was an urgent need for authorities in Myanmar and the Democratic Peoples' Republic of Korea to cooperate with Special Procedures, especially concerning detention and the situation of human rights defenders.

France also wanted to remark on the positive developments in Haiti, where elected authorities had been able to bring about essential reforms, notably in the justice field. Progress in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Burundi also showed the usefulness of cooperation between the United Nations and concerned States. On the ground, however, the situation was still delicate and further efforts were needed toward the full realization of basic rights and freedoms. Given the escalating number of disappearances, France also called on all States to sign the Convention against Forced Disappearances.

TERRY CORMIER (Canada) said the Human Rights Council met the needs of the international community to have a body to deal with human rights for all. It was important that the most urgent cases be raised therein. Canada continued to view with great concern the precarious situation of human rights in Uzbekistan, where individual rights, political rights, and freedom of expression were continuously under threat. Iran’s deteriorating human rights situation was of serious concern - Iran continued to ignore its obligations under international human rights law, including with regards to the use of the death penalty. Women were treated as second-class citizens under Iranian law. Peaceful demonstrations to draw attention to this discrimination were suppressed.

Canada was concerned by reports of widespread human rights violations in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, including the ill treatment of prisoners and citizens caught fleeing the country or forcibly repatriated. It was also deeply concerned by the situation in Burma, and condemned the arrests of representatives of the democratic movement. The Human Rights Council should also consider on a priority basis the situation in Belarus. The Council had means which could allow it to deal with these situations, and it should take into account and consider all of these issues.

DAYAN JAYATILLEKA (Sri Lanka) said that Sri Lanka was struck by the expression of concerns by the different delegations about the situation in Sri Lanka, especially those by the European Union. It was not the view of the delegation of Sri Lanka that the matters in Sri Lanka were for Sri Lankans only; there was a global humanity. However, there was too much naming in different directions. This was not in keeping with the spirit of universality of human rights. No country had an historic vocation to defend human rights. No understanding of modern history was noted in the expressed critics. The Government cared no less for the population as those who expressed the criticism. The citizens of Sri Lanka had always been cared for. It would be stretching the imagination that others would care more for them than Sri Lankans themselves. Sri Lankans were fighting for the reuniting of their country. They did not believe in neutrality and did not need lectures of those who did. The Office of the High Commissioner should not become the office of a new East-Indian Company and the matter of setting up a regional human rights office in Sri Lanka was a matter for the Sri Lankans only.

BOUDEWIJN J. VAN EENENNAAM (Netherlands) said it was only possible to improve a country’s human rights record if human rights defenders were taken into account, and the Netherlands called on all countries to engage in dialogue with them. The situation of human rights defenders was still troubling in Belarus and Cuba, where arbitrary detention was still used to prevent defenders from carrying out their legitimate work. It was disappointing that Special Procedures for these countries were to be discontinued. In Sri Lanka violence against media representatives, including killing, death threats and exile, created a climate of fear and self-censorship. The Sri Lanka Government was called on to end impunity and investigate all abuses fully. In Zimbabwe, the violence perpetrated by police and security personnel against human rights defenders, students and peaceful demonstrations was a worrying situation. The Netherlands also condemned Sudan’s choice for appointment to the co-chair of the national commission to investigate human rights abuses in Sudan. Investigation of the human rights situation in Darfur could not be taken seriously under the direction of such a person.

LA YIFAN (China) said there were many human rights situations, in fact, too many, that required the Council’s attention, and they were crying out for the Council to act. Children were dying in the hundreds and thousands of curable diseases. The livelihoods of tens of thousands of poor families in the South had been destroyed by persistent agricultural subsidies in the North. Lives had been lost in those areas which had been illegally militarily occupied by alien troops. Racially based hatred and xenophobia was on the rise, and had affected the lives of billions of Muslims around the world. Indigenous peoples basic rights and their very survival had been endangered for too long - at least several hundred years.

Unfortunately, some self-proclaimed human rights protectors continued to drag their feet on these matters and others. The credibility of the Council was at stake, and the Council should address these issues as a priority. China would continue to work to alleviate these problems, which deserved the attention of the Council.

TEHMINA JANJUA (Pakistan) said that the human rights situation in Indian occupied Kashmir was of concern. The world had demanded an end to human rights violations there. Extra judicial killings were a common fact. International human rights organisations had condemned the consistent violations of human rights there. The Human Rights Council should call for an immediate end to the violations in Indian occupied Kashmir. Dialogue was crucial. A fourth round of dialogue with India would take place. The two sides were exploring widening communication, however the situation had not improved. The opportunity created by the dialogue must be seized. The Government had presented several options to tackle the situation.

IHAB GAMALELDIN (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said some members had expressed concern over human rights in Zimbabwe, and this was an example of the bad practice of naming and shaming of the old Commission. The Government and opposition of Zimbabwe had come together to chart a way forward and the African Group was fully behind this. Some countries did not accept these developments. Those who leveled accusations against Zimbabwe should withdraw them and back the Zimbabwean people in their pursuit of democracy. The African Group would not support anything that might derail the great strides towards normality made in Zimbabwe. Democracy was not a matter of one’s chosen group winning elections.
__________

For use of the information media; not an official record