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Press release


Human Rights Council

Information ServiceUnited Nations Office at Geneva
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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES SECOND
DAY OF HIGH-LEVEL SEGMENT

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AFTERNOON
20 June 2006



The Human Rights Council this afternoon concluded the second day of
its high-level segment, hearing statements on the role of the new body by
dignitaries from the Holy See, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Timor-Leste, Mexico, Cyprus, China, the Russian Federation, Poland,
Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Lithuania, and Viet Nam.

Many speakers highlighted the role and contributions made by the
Commission on Human Rights, and urged the Member States of the Human Rights
Council to work together to promote human rights in an efficient manner
that avoided double standards and merely national interests. A new culture
of human rights, based on dialogue and cooperation, was what was required,
speakers said.

Giovanni Lajolo, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Holy See, said
the new Human Rights Council was called upon to fill the gap between the
texts of the human rights conventions system, and the reality of its
application in the different parts of the world.

Marie-Madeleine Kalala, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, said States should succeed in building a framework
in which Governments of the whole world could work together to promote
human rights in an efficient manner, as had never been done before.

Ana Pessao, Minister of State and Administration of Timor-Leste, said
the Council had an explicitly defined function of periodically reviewing
the record of all States, starting with that of its own members, in
fulfilling human rights obligations, and this approach would strengthen and
help to improve the human rights work of the Organization as a whole.

Maria del Refugio Gonzalez Dominguez, Deputy Foreign Minister for
Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said that in order not to
exacerbate differences, it was of utmost importance that the working
methods of the Council avoid the polarization of positions, and creativity
and courage would be needed to achieve this task, particularly to encourage
collective efforts between countries with a view to promote consensus.

Sotos Zackheos, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, said it
was expected that the Council would initiate an honest dialogue and
cooperation in human rights, away from political controversies, double
standards, and the pursuit of narrow national interests.

Yang Jiechi, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of China, said it was
incumbent upon all Member States, and particularly the newly elected
members of the Council, to demonstrate political commitment and exert real
efforts to make the Council both dynamic and effective.

Alexander V. Yakovenko, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the
Russian Federation, said the Council could not do without the system of
special procedures, but that did not exclude a critical review of their
role, place and mode of work in order to increase their efficiency and
improve their performance. The participation of non-governmental
organizations in the work of the Council was also something that was simply
unquestionable.

Janusz Stanczyk, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and
Under-Secretary of State of Poland, said the new body should adopt a new
philosophy: it should abandon confrontation and mutual lecturing, and focus
on dialogue, cooperation and the exchange of experience, and this should
lead to concrete results, laying the groundwork for authentic progress.

Mahmud Mammadquliyev, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of
Azerbaijan, said the Council should focus on the implementation of the
obligations and commitments undertaken, as well as on the mandates and
mechanisms that needed further scrutiny. The number of resolutions should
be reduced to expedient ones, and an effective monitoring mechanism for the
implementation of Council decisions should be established.

Marta Altolaguirre Larraondo, Under-Secretary for Cooperation of the
Ministry for Planning and Programming of Guatemala, said peace, security,
justice and equal opportunities were essential in the promotion and respect
of human rights. Effective human rights were fundamental pillars in
achieving human and national development.

Oskaras Jusys, Under-Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of
Lithuania, said the new Council should embody the new culture in the United
Nations human rights protection system, should base its activities on
dialogue and cooperation, and should serve as a forum where common
solutions were found.

Le Van Bang, Deputy Foreign Minister of Viet Nam, said he hoped that
the Council would make a fresh change, and introduce a new culture of
cooperation and mutual understanding in the field of promotion and
protection of human rights. It had to be ensured that the past practices
of selectivity, double standards and excessive politicisation would not be
repeated at the Council.

Speaking in right of reply were the delegations of the Democratic
People's Republic of Korea, the United States, Japan, and Cuba.

The next plenary session of the Council will be held on Wednesday, 21
June at 10 a.m., when the Council will continue its high-level segment.

Statements

GIOVANNI LAJOLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Holy See, said
the new Human Rights Council was an important step in the important fight
aiming to put mankind at the centre of all political, national and
international activity. It was a key moment: international norms of human
rights, which already recognised the essential elements of human dignity as
well as every fundamental right deriving therefrom, were now moving towards
the creation of procedures aiming to guarantee effective enjoyment of
rights. In law and in the moral conscience of the international community
today, mankind?s dignity was the seed from which all rights sprouted, and
it replaced the sovereign and autonomous will of States as the ultimate
foundation for the judicial system, including the international judicial
system. This was an irreversible change, but, at the same time, it was
clear that in many countries, the realisation of this supreme principle had
not been accompanied by an increase of human rights.

The new Human Rights Council was called upon to fill the gap between
the texts of the human rights conventions system, and the reality of its
application in the different parts of the world. All Member States of the
Council should individually and collectively take responsibility for its
defence and promotion. If the principle of the inalienable value of the
human being was the source of all human rights and all social order, then
the right to life and the rights to freedom of conscience and freedom of
religion were the essential corollary of this fact. The response that the
Council would bring to the challenges of liberty in many countries put to
the test the credibility of the United Nations system and the entire
international judicial system.

MARIE-MADELEINE KALALA, Minister for Human Rights of the Democratic
Republic of the Congo, said it was a crucial time for the implementation of
the amendment of issues linked to human rights throughout the world. With
regards to the goals of the Council, States should succeed in building a
framework in which Governments of the whole world could work together to
promote human rights in an efficient manner, as had never been done before,
and the Council?s members should commit themselves to respecting the
highest possible standards in the field of human rights, cooperate fully
with the new body, and undergo themselves an examination during the course
of their mandate.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo was sure that the Council would
give the same attention, without distinction, to issues related to the
fight against terrorism, extreme poverty throughout the world, racial
discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Issues linked to the
right to development would receive the same attention as that given to
civil and political rights. The role of civil society would be reinforced
through the considerable participation of non-governmental organizations,
and the leadership of the High Commissioner for Human Rights would be
increased.

ANA PESSOA, Minister for State Administration of Timor-Leste, said
that the new Human Rights Council reflected the universality of human
rights by elevating the Council into a body directly elected by the General
Assembly, giving it greater transparency and legitimacy. It also had an
explicitly defined function of periodically reviewing the record of all
States, starting with that of its own members, in fulfilling human rights
obligations. That approach would strengthen and help to improve the human
rights work of the Organization as a whole.

As all were aware, Timor-Leste was undergoing a crisis. On 10 May
2006, Timor-Leste?s Senior Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs and
Cooperation had written to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to issue
a standing invitation to all special procedures mandate holders of the
Human Rights Council, and also specifically requested relevant mandates to
undertake investigations into the events of 28 and 29 April 2006. Given
the seriousness of the subsequent events in May, the Government had called
for the establishment of an independent Special Inquiry Commission to
review specific violent incidents and other related events or issues that
had contributed to the present crisis. The establishment of the facts and
circumstances relevant to the incidents on 28 and 29 April and on 23, 24
and 25 May, and other related events or issues, was critical for
Timor-Leste to overcome its present crisis, achieve reconciliation and
uphold the rule of law. The Government was committed to guaranteeing
accountability for criminal and human rights violations allegedly
perpetrated during recent events. The Government considered that the
domestic justice system should be the primary setting of accountability for
any criminal or human rights violations. That was deemed an important step
in re-establishing public confidence in Timor-Leste?s justice system and
security institutions, Ms. Pessoa said.

MARIA DEL REFUGIO GONZALEZ DOMINGUEZ, Deputy Foreign Minister for
Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights of Mexico, said establishment of the
Council represented the beginning of a new era in the promotion and
protection of human rights. It was an era in which the United Nations
would be able to effectively respond to the enormous challenges posed by
the current world situation. The international community should take
advantage of the new opportunity to renew the endeavours to solve the
problems that affected the full enjoyment of all human rights. The Council
would be built upon the pillars contained in General Assembly resolution
60/251, as well as upon the strengths and legacies of the Commission on
Human Rights. When working in the definition of the content and working
methods of the Council, one should bear in mind that the most important
task was to consolidate the norms, raise the international standards and
ensure the compliance of all existing international obligations. It was
essential to create the conditions that would enable the understanding and
drawing closer of diverse points of view. It was imperative to develop
cooperation and technical assistance mechanisms that would avoid
confrontation, without affecting their objectives. Only in that way should
one leave behind the politicization that did so much damage to the
Commission.

The new Council should strengthen the participation in its work of
organizations from civil society as well as that of national institutions
for the protection of human rights. It should also assume the mandates,
mechanisms and functions transferred by the Commission to the Council,
including those that were of fundamental relevance for Mexico, such as the
Special Rapporteurs on human rights of indigenous peoples, on human rights
of migrants and on the protection of human rights in the fight against
terrorism. In order not to exacerbate differences, it was of utmost
importance that the working methods of the Council avoid the polarization
of positions. Creativity and courage would be needed to achieve that task,
particularly to encourage collective efforts between countries with a view
to promote consensus. Only by building upon consensus, by bringing
positions closer, by committing oneself with the rights of those most in
need and by broadening cooperation, would the international community be
able to move forward.

SOTOS ZACKHEOS, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cyprus, said
today was an important date for the international community: the official
initiation of the work of the newly established Human Rights Council was
solid proof of the enhanced importance the United Nations attached to the
question of human rights. It was hoped that its establishment, whilst
preserving the positive legacy of the Commission, would avoid its
deficiencies and address the urgent need for monitoring the implementation
of the international human rights covenants and conventions, with the aim
of accelerating the process of realising the common vision of societies
ruled by the rule of law and respect for human rights. The priority was of
course to terminate on an urgent basis the most gross systematic violations
and emergencies which stirred the world?s conscience. Impunity should come
to an end, and the Convention on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should be
adopted.

These were ambitious and lofty goals, but the debate was led by
thorough pragmatists. The deliberations took place in an international
environment marked by instability, fear about the future of the
multilateral institutions, wars, and armed conflicts, inequality and
poverty, and a mistrust of the intentions of the different groups making up
the organization. It was expected that the Council would initiate an
honest dialogue and cooperation in human rights, away from political
controversies, double standards, and the pursuit of narrow national
interests. The international community was focussed today on the fight
against terrorism, which was a scourge and affront to human dignity and
warranted international response and joint efforts, but this fight should
not lead to the weakening of the human rights standards and norms that the
international community had codified collectively.

YANG JIECHI, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of China, said that
today, peace and development remained two primary challenges facing the
world. The people of some countries and regions were still in the grip of
war, conflict and poverty. More than ever before, the international
community was conscious of the fact that peace, development and human
rights were indivisible and mutually reinforcing, which, together, formed
the foundation of collective security and human well-being. It was
incumbent upon all the Member States of the United Nations, and
particularly the newly elected members of the Council, to demonstrate
political commitment and exert real efforts to make the Council both
dynamic and effective. The Council should continue to focus its attention
on widespread and gross violations of human rights caused by war and
conflicts, and support intensified international efforts to prevent
conflicts, rebuild peace and combat terrorism in all forms and
manifestations. China would support the Council in continuing to closely
monitor the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory in
the interest of early realization of the Palestinian people?s human rights,
including the right to self-determination. The enjoyment of human rights
by peoples in the developing world was seriously curtailed by poverty,
disease and environmental degradation. The Council should urge the
international community and United Nations agencies to take effective steps
to help countries gain the right to development.

For a long time in its modern history, the Chinese nation had
suffered greatly from aggression by imperialist powers, fighting among
warlords, turbulence and poverty. That made the Chinese nation keenly
aware of the value of peace, development and human rights. At present, the
Chinese people enjoyed unprecedented freedom in movement, employment, and
access to information, belief, and the choice of way of life, among other
things. China had made important contributions to the cause of human
rights. China was the world?s largest developing country. It faced
numerous problems left over from the past and mounting pressure posed by a
vast population, shortage of resources and environmental degradation. That
meant that progress in human right and other areas in the country would be
a long-term endeavour. In China, development was for the people, the
people pursued it, and its fruit was shared among the people. China hoped
that the Council would go farther than its predecessor along the right
track and make greater contribution to improving the human well-being.

ALEXANDER V. YAKOVENKO, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the
Russian Federation, said that the Russian Federation had no doubts about
the need to preserve all the positive results of the work of the Commission
on Human Rights in the Human Rights Council. In particular, it considered
the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to be a
necessary element. Another important component the Council could not do
without was the system of special procedures, but that did not exclude a
critical review of their role, place and mode of work in order to increase
their efficiency and improve their performance. For the Russian
Federation, the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in
the work of the Council was something that was simply unquestionable. The
Russian Federation was of the view that the conditions for participation of
NGOs in the work of the Commission should be transferred to the Council.

The issue of reforming the United Nations human rights machinery and
increasing the effectiveness of its activities was inextricably linked to
the issue of qualitative improvement in the work of the Office of the High
Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), increasing its transparency and
accountability to United Nations Member States, including in equitable
geographic representation in the course of staff recruitment. The Russian
Federation welcomed the steps taken by the High Commissioner aimed at
improving management, rationalizing its structure and clarifying accounting
procedures. The Russian Federation reaffirmed its support to the High
Commissioner?s mandate and its readiness to support her efforts in the
cause of strengthening international cooperation in the area of human
rights. The best illustration of that approach was the decision of 17
December 2005 to contribute $ 2 million to the budget of OHCHR. Mr.
Yakovenko repeated that in the course of the large-scale reforms that they
were undertaking, changes had to occur in the approaches of States, in
their attitudes towards the very issue of international cooperation in the
field of human rights.

JANUSZ STANCZYK, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and
Under-Secretary of State of Poland, said that by the inauguration of its
work, the Human Rights Council had opened a new chapter in the activity of
the United Nations in the field of human rights. All agreed that human
rights observance had to be improved, and that those responsible for mass
violations of human rights could no longer enjoy impunity. It was up to
the Member States of the Council to ensure that it became more credible,
more effective, and more responsive to the actual needs of people. The
Council had a fundamental role to play in the promotion and protection of
human rights: it was supposed to avert serious violations of human rights,
and when they did occur, to respond expeditiously and effectively. Another
important task of the Council would be to serve as a forum of dialogue to
identify structural obstacles undermining human rights, and to elaborate
ways to eradicate them.

The Council had been equipped with a variety of tools to implement its
mission, prominently including human rights mainstreaming. The strength of
the Council would also depend on good cooperation with other partners,
mainly non-governmental organizations. One of its most urgent tasks was to
elaborate the modalities of the universal periodic review, assessing the
fulfilment of human rights commitments by Member States, and this should be
tackled as soon as possible. Furthermore, the review of the special
procedures should be concluded sooner than within twelve months, as this
would send a very positive signal as to the intentions of the Council to be
effective and efficient. The new body should adopt a new philosophy: it
should abandon confrontation and mutual lecturing, and focus on dialogue,
cooperation and the exchange of experience. Dialogue should lead to
concrete results, laying the groundwork for authentic progress.

MAHMUD MAMMADQULIYEV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of
Azerbaijan, said that the Council should focus on the implementation of the
obligations and commitments undertaken, as well as on the mandates and
mechanisms that needed further scrutiny. The number of resolutions should
be reduced to expedient ones, and effective monitoring mechanisms for the
implementation of Council decisions should be established, and the General
Assembly should not only take note of Council decisions, but should assist
in making them workable in reality. Azerbaijan also favoured enhanced
interaction between the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights, which would increase the sense of collective ownership by
Members of the overall United Nations human rights machinery. The role of
the Sub-Commission for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights should
be reviewed and enhanced.

Mr. Mammadquliyev said that certain urgent human rights issues
should be dealt with as pressing issues at this session, to be followed up
as part of the programme of work for the first year: armed conflicts,
resulting in foreign military occupation, and their implications and
consequences on human rights; and the promotion of tolerance and respect
for the freedom of religion and belief. Azerbaijan had to articulate that
gross and systematic violations of human rights mainly occurred in
situations of armed conflict. Azerbaijan was a clear example, when, as a
result of the military aggression of neighbouring Armenia, a large part of
its territory had fallen under foreign occupation and hundreds of thousands
of people had been subjected to a notorious policy of ethnic cleansing and
forced to leave their homes to become internally displaced persons and
refugees, with a huge number of missing persons. That was the very
manifestation of gross human rights violations. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan
was not the only country that suffered from such continuing injustice.
Members of the Council should not shy away from the difficult issues, but,
realizing their common responsibility, they should join in genuine efforts
to stand up to the challenges ahead of them.

MARTA ALTOLAGUIRRE LARRAONDO, Under-Secretary for Cooperation at the
Ministry of Planning and Programming of Guatemala, said Guatemala
recognized the important impact made by the Commission on Human Rights for
the promotion and protection of human rights. With much satisfaction,
Guatemala welcomed the establishment of the new Human Rights Council.
Guatemala was convinced that peace, security, justice and equal
opportunities were essential in the promotion and respect of human rights.
Effective human rights were fundamental pillars in achieving human and
national development. In 1996, Guatemala signed a peace agreement, which
ended decades of internal armed conflict and initiated a new step in the
promotion of democracy and peace, which became main elements in the
designation of the State agenda. That national agenda was strengthened by
the adoption last year of a law on the peace agreement, an agenda requiring
dynamic and progressive measures in attaining the goals. The process was
backed by the participation of public institutions and civil society,
particularly the indigenous communities and municipalities.

In the past decade, Guatemala had the United Nations as its major
ally; its bodies and the special mechanisms on human rights had assisted
the State in building confidence and trust in its endeavours to implement
its objectives. Since 2000, Guatemala had maintained a standing invitation
to the Commission?s mechanisms and special procedures to visit the country.
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental
freedoms of indigenous peoples had already visited Guatemala. The
Government was willing to extend its cooperation to all mechanisms and
special procedures. Guatemala was paying special attention to the
strengthening of the rights of indigenous peoples with regard to their
economic, social and cultural rights, and non-discrimination. Guatemala
would continue supporting the adoption of the draft Declaration on the
Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the General Assembly.

OSKARAS JUSYS, Under-Secretary of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs
of Lithuania, said the new Council should embody the new culture in the
United Nations human rights protection system. The Council should base its
activities on dialogue and cooperation, and should serve as a forum where
common solutions were found. These principles were provided in the General
Assembly resolution, and now had to find their place in the activities of
the Council and real life. The Council was also responsible for not only
reacting to serious situations, but also for promoting respect for human
rights. This was a great preventative measure which had to be used. The
Council would have multiple possibilities in carrying out its tasks. It
should be able to incorporate inputs from civil society, and this could
only be done by engaging with non-governmental organizations.

More challenges would be faced by the international community while
organising the work of the Council. These could only be resolved by joint
actions of all Member States, although particular responsibility lay with
the members of the Council. However, all States should be engaged: all
should feel responsible for the future of the Council and for the future of
the whole United Nations human rights protection system, otherwise, a
situation could be faced when the universality of the system would be
questioned, and this possibility should be avoided by all means. The world
looked at the Council with great expectations: indeed, it could change the
perception of the international system of human rights protection, and this
should result in better protection of the rights of all.

LE VAN BANG, Deputy Foreign Minister of Viet Nam, said the
establishment of the Council marked a historic moment, and a new beginning
for the United Nations, and the world community expected that human rights
would be further protected and promoted in a comprehensive manner
henceforth. The effective implementation of the new mechanism would
require an unprecedented level of balance, efficiency and good faith by
Member States. It was hoped that the Council would make a fresh change,
and introduce a new culture of cooperation and mutual understanding in the
field of the promotion and protection of human rights. It had to be
ensured that the past practices of selectivity, double standards and
excessive politicisation would not be repeated at the Council.

Work would have to be done to make sure that the Council would be more
cohesive and effective, and that it would not be a forum only for the
strong and the rich to condemn the poor and powerless. The Council should
promote objectivity, impartiality and non-selectivity in all spheres of
work. It should be the forum to equally address problems relating not only
to civil and political rights, but also to economic, social and cultural
rights and the right to development. To make those goals achievable, it
was important that all helped to build the Council into a forum for
increased cooperation among United Nations members, individually and
collectively, a forum where cooperation and dialogue were based on mutual
trust and understanding, respect for independence and sovereignty.

Right of Reply

A Representative of the Democratic People?s Republic of Korea,
speaking in a right of reply, said that the delegation of the Democratic
People?s Republic of Korea regretted the statements made by the Japanese
and ?South Korean? Ministers, in defiance of the cooperative atmosphere of
the discussions. It was Japan who had unresolved issues in its relations
with the Democratic People?s Republic of Korea, such as the abduction and
enslavement of Korean girls and women during its colonial rule. Japan did
not acknowledge that historical fact and indeed tried to hide it. As for
the ?South Korean? allegations, they were confrontational, and it was
regrettable that the Minister had failed to distinguish between
confrontation and cooperation. That Minister should be held responsible
for all consequences arising out of his allegations.

A Representative of the United States, speaking in a right of reply
in response to a statement made by Cuba this morning, said that Cuba,
rather than explaining how it intended to comply with its pledges, chose
instead to engage in gratuitous and unfounded attacks against the United
States. Perhaps it was because those pledges sounded hollow, especially in
the ears of the Cuban people. The American people needed no one else to
speak for them, particularly officials of an autocratic government.

A Representative of Japan, speaking in a right of reply, said with
regards to the statement of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the
abduction issues were not only issues related to the lives and security of
Japanese citizens, but were an internationally wrong series of acts, and no
satisfactory explanation had been provided by the authorities as to the
victims, and Japan could not accept that this issue had been resolved. The
Democratic People's Republic of Korea should allow the survivors to return
to their countries, conduct an investigation, and turn over those who were
responsible. The Government of Japan recognised the facts of history, and
had expressed contrition and remorse on several occasions. The history
issue was separate from the abduction issue, as this latter was an ongoing
violation of human rights, and the two should not be mixed. The figures
given by the Democratic People?s Republic of Korea were not substantiated.

A Representative of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea,
speaking in a second right of reply, said the Democratic People?s Republic
of Korea categorically rejected the allegations just made by Japan. The
number quoted was not unsubstantiated, it was historically documented. The
abduction cases had been resolved completely and fundamentally. Japan?s
first and foremost obligation now was to settle the crimes against humanity
that it had perpetrated in the past, however, Japan had never settled these
at all, and it was better for Japan, instead of talking about human rights
in other countries, to mind its own business including these crimes against
humanity.

A Representative of Cuba, speaking in a right of reply, said Cuba
did not have to make promises or pledges as human rights were a concrete
reality in the country. He said the abuse suffered by
Afro-Descendants in
the United States was ongoing, as was the abuse committed in detentioncentres in Guantanamo and in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan and yet the
United States continued to attack Cuba, when it uttered only truths, which
had been stated by the Committee against Torture and other bodies. All the
peoples of the world knew what had taken place in Guantanamo and the
civilian victims. These were not attacks, they were truths.

A Representative of Japan, speaking in a second right of reply, said
he wished to stress that the President of the Democratic People?s Republic
of Korea had accepted the mistake of the abductions and had apologized.
The issue had not been resolved. The delegation of the Democratic People?s
Republic of Korea should clearly explain the issue without any distortion.



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For use of information only; not an official record