Category: News

Indonesia at the 34th session of the UN Human Rights Council

Indonesia is currently a member of the Human Rights Council, with its membership expiring in 2017.

Speaking at the conclusion of the high-level segment of the thirty-fourth session of the UNHRC, Ronald K Warsal, Minister of Justice and Community Development of Vanuatu delivered a statement wherein he relayed accounts of Indonesian oppression in West Papua, citing reports of extrajudicial executions of activists, arrests, beatings and fatal shootings of peaceful demonstrators, and persistent violence against Papuan women.  He called on the Council to request the High Commissioner to produce a consolidated report on the situation in West Papua. Indonesia, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the allegations concerning the situation in Papua, saying that they did not reflect the situation on the ground.  As a democracy based on the rule of law, Indonesia claimed that it always investigates allegations of human rights violations and delivered justice, and promoted the rights of its people in Papua.

At interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs on truth, justice, reparations; guarantees of non-recurrence; and the freedom of religion or belief, Indonesia stated that it was developing a law on the protection of religions, and was taking steps to investigate, prosecute and punish all instances of religious-based discrimination and violence.

During the High Commissioner’s presentation of his annual report, Indonesia declared that it had revised its Electronic Information Technology Law, which contained a clause that ensured that authorised officials would respect principles of privacy.  On the matter of illegal adoption and the sale of children, Indonesia commended the work of the Special Rapporteur and took note of her request for a country visit to Indonesia.

Indonesia also delivered a statement during the interactive dialogue on the rights of migrants, where it called on all member states to ratify the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Indonesia went on to state that the rights of migrant workers should be considered in the overall discourse of migration, as they tend to be as vulnerable as asylum seekers and refugees.

At the Item 3 general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, Indonesia stated that the Council should avoid practices of naming and shaming, politicization and double standards, and should adhere to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter.

Indonesia also delivered an explanation of its vote on the resolution on the human rights situation in Myanmar, confirming that it would join consensus on the resolution and expressed legitimate concern about the situation in the Rakhine state. However, Indonesia also went on to state that the Government of Myanmar should be allowed the time and space to conclude its ongoing national processes.

Indonesia co-sponsored nineteen resolutions tabled at this session, and voted for 12 resolutions, voted against the resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and abstained on 2 resolutions on cooperation with Georgia and the Human Rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic.

Mongolia at the 34th Session of UN Human Rights Council

Mongolia began its second year as a member of the Human Rights Council with relatively more active participation. At this session, Mongolia co-sponsored five resolutions: one on the economic, social, and cultural rights (A/HRC/RES/34/4), the rights of the child (A/HRC/RES/34/16), the mandate of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders (A/HRC/RES/34/5), right to privacy (A/HRC/RES/34/7), and the mandate of Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/RES/34/18). Mongolia’s sponsorship of these resolutions is indicative of its support for civil and political rights, especially freedom of opinion and expression and the role the human rights defenders.

In terms of its voting, Mongolia was in favour of majority of the resolutions that were adopted by vote. However, it abstained on four resolutions, including the resolutions on terrorism (A/HRC/RES/34/8), technical assistance to Georgia (A/HRC/RES/34/37), and the situations of human rights in Iran and Syria (A/HRC/RES/34/23 and A/HRC/RES/34/26).

The human rights situation in Mongolia was absent from the discussions at the Council. However, Mongolia was relatively more active compared to its first year in the Council with four key interventions.

Speaking at the high level segment of the session, the Foreign Minister of Mongolia asserted the country’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, reduction of poverty and eradication of inequality. The Minister also updated on the follow up of the country’s Universal Periodic Review recommendations, focusing in particular on the commitments to abolish the death penalty, align criminal law with the Convention against Torture, protect rights of children and elders, revise the law on domestic violence, combat human trafficking, and ensure an accountable, independent, and transparent judiciary. Further, the Foreign Minister expressed concern at the negative impacts of corruption and climate change. The other statements by Mongolia focused on the rights of persons with disabilities and maternal mortality and mobility.

At the closing of the session, Mongolia welcomed the resolution on the Voluntary Technical Assistance Trust Fund (A/HRC/RES/34/40), highlighting the importance of technical assistance and capacity building in strengthening States’ capacities at the national level. Importantly, it emphasised the need for the Trust Fund to be extended to the landlocked developing countries.

Republic of Korea at the 34th Session of UN Human Rights Council

The 34th session of the Human Rights Council saw the Republic of Korea continue its active participation in discussions of the Council. Republic of Korea co-sponsored 19 resolutions during the session and made a total of 21 interventions over the 4 weeks of the session.

The resolutions they co-sponsored include both thematic and country specific resolutions. On the thematic resolutions, importantly, the Republic of Korea supported1 key resolutions on human rights defenders (A/HRC/RES/34/5), minority issues (A/HRC/RES/34/6), freedom of religion or belief (A/HRC/RES/34/10), human rights, democracy, and rule of law (A/HRC/RES/34/41), freedom of opinion and expression (A/HRC/RES/34/18), and torture (A/HRC/RES/34/19).

The Republic of Korea remains one of the few Asian states that have consistently sponsored resolutions on the country situations that require the Council’s attention. At the 34th session, the Republic of Korea sponsored the resolutions on Sri Lanka (A/HRC/RES/34/1), Myanmar (A/HRC/RES/34/22), Mali (A/HRC/RES/34/39), the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) (A/HRC/RES/34/24), and Syria (A/HRC/RES/34/26).

The Republic of Korea voted in favor of resolutions on the situation of human rights in Syria and Palestine. However, it was against three resolutions: on the effects of foreign debt, terrorism on human rights, and human rights and unilateral coercive measures. It abstained the resolutions on human rights in Syrian Golan, cooperation with Georgia, negative impact of non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin, right to food, and elaboration of complementary standards to the international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination.

In terms of its engagement during the discussion at the Council, most of its 21 oral interventions during the session focused on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This included statements and counter-statements between the Republic of Korea and DPRK during the high-level segment and general debates of Items 2, 3 and 4 of the Council’s agenda. The Republic of Korea also made statements during the debates on mainstreaming of human rights and peace-building, situation of human rights defenders, children’s rights, access to medicine, climate change, forum on human rights, democracy, and rule of law, as well as the UPR outcomes of Venezuela and Timor-Leste. On the country specific situations, during the dialogue on the human rights in Burma/Myanmar, it welcomed the government’s efforts in its reconciliation process, but highlighted concerns at human rights violations against Rohingya.

During the debates on the resolution on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, the Republic of Korea reaffirmed its recognition of the important role played by human rights defenders, and rebutting the attempts by some states to remove references to the term ‘human rights defenders’ from the resolution. It said that recognition of ‘human rights defenders’ was integral to the text, and if removed, it could have a negative effect on the safety of human rights defenders everywhere.

1 (A/HRC/RES/34/2, A/HRC/34/3, A/HRC/RES/34/9, A/HRC/RES/34/12, A/HRC/RES/34/17, and A/HRC/RES/34/40).

Bangladesh at the 34th Session of UN Human Rights Council

As a voting member of the Human Rights Council, Bangladesh had co-sponsored a total of 9 resolutions and voted in favor of 12 out of 15 resolutions. The resolutions they co-sponsored were mostly related to human rights and development and resolutions on Palestine (A/HRC/RES/34/28, A/HRC/RES/34/29, A/HRC/RES/34/30, and A/HRC/RES/34/31). Bangladesh voted in favor of all resolutions that were put up for votes except the one on the human rights situation in Iran. It also abstained from voting two resolutions on Georgia and Syria.

As in earlier sessions, Bangladesh actively participated in panel discussions as well as interactive dialogues on thematic issues and country specific situations. It made a total of 17 individual statements throughout the session. Most of its statements, were on the thematic issues with only a few country specific issues.

Bangladesh’s statements mainly focused on the rights of the child, rights of persons with disabilities, and other rights that fall in the realm of development such as rights to food and adequate housing. However, it also spoke on the issue of right to freedom of religion concerning the global trend of an increase in religious intolerance and incitement of violence, discrimination, and xenophobia. It also reiterated the statement made by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed that the root cause of these problems is the politicisation of human rights, including the right to freedom of religion or belief. In terms of country specific situation, it made comments on the situations of human rights in Burma/Myanmar, Palestine (mention of Israel), and Sri Lanka.

Similar to the previous session of the Council, very little attention was paid to the situation of human rights in Bangladesh. It was mentioned only a few times by a Human Rights Council Panelist, state, and NGOs. Only one panellist on the panel discussion on climate change and the rights of the child, Kirsten Sandberg, mentioned about the issue of early marriage of young girls and unequal access to land and freshwater of some of the population in the country. While the United Kingdom was the only state that made a statement concerning the country’s restriction on religious and media freedoms.

A few non-governmental organisations also mentioned the human rights situation in the country. FORUM-ASIA was one amongst the few that expressed a concern on targeted attacks and killings of those exercised their right to freedom of expression such as bloggers, journalists and writers. Restrictions on minorities in the country were also identified. Other grave violations of human rights identified as issues that persist were enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and deaths in prisons. Mr. John Samuel, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA, in his statement, also emphasised the fact that the newly enacted Foreign Donations Regulation Bill in 2016 actually added to the legislation that already restricted the functions and work of human rights defenders. Asian Legal Resource Centre was another NGO that raised the same concern with FORUM-ASIA about the issues on freedom and security of human rights defenders.

Philippines at the Human Rights Council: Prospects for the New Administration

By Rosanna Ocampo, FORUM-ASIA

While the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council was close to wrapping up in Switzerland on 30 June 2016, Mr. Rodrigo Duterte took his oath as Philippines’ 16th president. What does this mean for Philippines at the Human Rights Council?

From the beginning of the session, concerns were raised about human rights under the new leadership. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, during his update to the Council, reminded “the incoming President of Philippines that international law requires him to protect the rights of all his people, including journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders who expose malfeasance ”

Prior to the session, the Special Rapporteurs on summary executions and freedom of opinion and expression, expressed concerns when Mr, Duterte held murdered journalists responsible for their own deaths. In response, he urged the rapporteurs to “go home and get some sleep.”

In his inauguration speech, the President asked Congress and the Commission on Human Rights to allow him to do his work. In the same speech, he reiterated that the country would continue to honor treaties and its international obligations. These conflicting ideas raise the questions of how Philippines, a member of the Human Rights Council until 2018, will respond to human rights issues.

Philippines has been responsive to issues affecting Filipino citizens at the Council. At the 32nd session, it took the lead on resolutions on protecting victims of trafficking and on human rights and climate change, and delivered statements to introduce these resolutions. As a country of concern, it spoke following the presentation of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons. It took pride of its accomplishments during the interactive dialogues with the Special Rapporteurs on freedoms of peaceful assembly and of association, and on the independence of judges and lawyers.

In spite of these, Philippines was passive on two crucial issues. During the general debate following the High Commissioner’s report on Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, Philippines did not deliver a statement urging its ASEAN neighbor to take action. More crucially, it abstained on voting for a historic resolution to protect against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). While noting that it had supported similar resolutions in the past, Philippines was firm that it could not accept the appointment of an independent expert on this issue. The resolutions it previously supported would “not impose nor derogate the rights of states to formulate and define its own laws.” The creation of a mandate holder in this year’s resolution would compel countries to abide by certain standards.

Philippines’ stance on the Rohingya issue and the SOGI resolution highlights the importance the country gives to the idea of taking softer positions on country specific issues. Under the new administration, Philippines may only remain vocal in issues where it believes it can be aided by international cooperation, like climate change. It may not be proactive in taking action on country-specific situations and it cannot be expected to cooperate with human rights mechanisms where attention is drawn to restrictions on freedom of expression and the already increasing number of extrajudicial killings in the country.