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Human rights council holds general debate on technical assistance and capacity building

5 October 2020

Hear Presentation of Reports on Cambodia, Georgia and Yemen

The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard the presentation of the report of the High Commissioner on Georgia, her report on Yemen, and the report of the Secretary-General on Cambodia, followed by a general debate on technical assistance and capacity building.

Speaking during the general debate on technical assistance and capacity building were Kuwait on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Burkina Faso on behalf of the Group of African States, United Kingdom on behalf of the Commonwealth, Pakistan on behalf of a group of countries, Canada on behalf of the francophonie, Brazil on behalf of the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries, Bahrain on behalf of a group of countries, Germany, Libya, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Ukraine, Togo, Australia, Bahamas, Netherlands, Venezuela, Bahrain, Nepal, Bulgaria, Sudan, Poland, Philippines (video statement), Finland, Jordan, France, Estonia, Sierra Leone, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Greece, Morocco, China, Thailand, Iran, Cuba, Lithuania, Timor-Leste, Latvia, Costa Rica, Algeria, Russian Federation, United Kingdom (video statement), South Sudan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Romania, United Arab Emirates, Georgia, Uganda, Belarus and Republic of Moldova.

Also taking the floor were the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations : Philippines Commission on Human Rights, Public Defender's Office of Georgia, American Association of Jurists, World Organisation Against Torture, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Guinea Medical Mutual Association, Zero Poor in Africa, Human Rights House Foundation, Health and Environment Program, association of world citizens, The International Organisation for LDCs, Universal Rights Group, african green foundation international, Conscience and Peace Tax International, villages unis (united villages), World Barua Organization, Liberation, Global Welfare Association, Association pour l'Intégration et le Développement Durable au Burundi, Center for Organisation Research and Education, Mother of Hope Cameroon Common Initiative Group, Prahar, Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights, International Commission of Jurists, International Lesbian and Gay Association, and Servas International.

Cambodia spoke in a point of order.

Ukraine and Georgia spoke in right of reply.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 6 October, in room XX to take action on draft resolutions.

Presentation of Reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General on Cambodia, Georgia and Yemen

GEORGETTE GAGNON, Director of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, presenting the report on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights, called on the Government to immediately and unconditionally release those detained for exercising their fundamental freedoms and to bring an end to the environment of intimidation against civil society. While acknowledging the efforts of the Government to address the COVID-19 pandemic, she encouraged a robust human rights-based response. Turning to the report of the High Commissioner on cooperation with Georgia, Ms. Gagnon expressed appreciation for the productive cooperation with the Government of Georgia, the Public Defender and civil society. There were persisting challenges faced by the Muslim community in Batumi in obtaining a permit to build a mosque. The Office of the High Commissioner had no access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, despite repeated requests by the Council to that end. On the report on the implementation of technical assistance provided to the National Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of violations and abuses committed by all parties to the conflict in Yemen, Ms. Gagnon noted that in eight reports, the Office had documented 21,000 human rights violations and abuses perpetrated by the various parties to the conflict. And yet, the Commission continued to face considerable challenges, including security and political constraints, which had significantly impeded its ability to safely and freely conduct comprehensive investigations. She called on all parties to the conflict to fully cooperate with the Commission.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Cambodia, speaking as a concerned country, said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ country office in Cambodia, which was the oldest in the world, enjoyed open and sincere cooperation from the Government. While appreciating the advice of the Office, Cambodia maintained that technical cooperation should always be driven by the needs of the State concerned and aligned with its national objectives and priorities, bearing in mind the primary duty of the State as a human right duty bearer. It was imperative that the Office deliver on its mandate in conformity with the founding resolution 48/1/41, which placed it under the obligation to respect the sovereignty and domestic jurisdiction of the State. All steps taken by Cambodia to respond to the pandemic abided by the principles of due process and legality, proportionality and necessity. The actions which aimed to ensure the right of every citizen to live without fear, hatred and discrimination should not be construed as clamping down on freedom of expression and of the media. Fake news and hate speech constituted an attack on human rights norms. Protecting the rights of people deprived of liberty remained a priority.

Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, said the report demonstrated Russia’s illegal and provocative actions in the occupied regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which had deteriorated the human rights and humanitarian situation. Populations living there and in the adjacent regions suffered from the consequences of illegal militarization, installation of artificial barriers, and human rights violations, such as kidnappings, shootings, arbitrary detentions, torture and killings, infringement on the right to property and the right to health, restrictions on access to education in ethnic languages, as well as ethic discrimination. There were vivid attestations of the breach of the United Nations-negotiated agreement and a blatant disregard for the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire. As a result of an ethnically-driven discriminatory Russian decision to them deny emergency treatment, 15 ethnic Georgians had died since September 2019.

Yemen, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed the report, which showed the importance of the National Commission of Inquiry to investigate allegations of violations of human rights, as well as the results thereof. The Commission was an independent national mechanism, with a full mandate ; it must receive all the assistance it needed to achieve truth, justice and compensation for victims. The positive evaluation in the report was a driver for additional activities by the National Commission of Inquiry. There was no need for additional mechanisms that were not aware of the complexity of the situation in Yemen. The efforts of the international community did not address the root causes of the conflict. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should provide assistance to Yemen while understanding the root causes of the coup that had been undertaken by the militias of the Houthis in September 2014. They had never responded to international calls for a ceasefire. They continued their attacks, targeting civilians, schools and places of worship with heavy artillery. They only sought violence and destruction.

General Debate on Technical Assistance and Capacity Building

Speakers said technical cooperation was not an end in itself but was a means serving the goal of safeguarding and strengthening the human rights of individual right holders. Therefore, it needed to go hand in hand with other instruments, in particular monitoring and reporting, in order to effectively contribute to the Council’s prevention mandate. The Council should continue its advocacy to ensure the equitable access to healthcare technology. The effective promotion and protection of human rights was contingent on the principles of cooperation and sincere dialogue, speakers said. Deploring the politicization of technical assistance, some speakers called for the full participation of not only the countries concerned, but also other regional players, in the preparation of reports. Emphasising that technical assistance should lead to State accountability, as well as remedies for victims and their families, speakers urged the Council to engage with States in a manner that yielded concrete human rights outcomes. Some speakers urged experts to include benchmarks in their recommendations, so that States may identify gaps and fill them through the adoption of legislation or the amendment of existing laws. The Council should review its working methods to allow for the greater participation of civil society, some speakers said.


For use of the information media; not an official record