ASIA: UN Human Rights Council statement in response to the High Commissioner for Human Rights

September 14, 2007

A Joint Statement delivered by Dulani Kulasinghe on behalf of FORUM-ASIA, Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR) and Pax Romana-ICMICA/MIIC in the debate with the High Commissioner for Human Rights

ASIA: UN Human Rights Council statement in response to the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Mr President,
Madam High Commissioner,

As Human Rights Defenders from Asia, we welcome the commitment and initiatives of you and your office for the protection of human rights in Asia, where domestic mechanisms continue to be inadequate. The lack of a regional human rights mechanism is also a serious obstacle in this regard.

We therefore welcome your support for the inclusion of human rights elements in the proposed ASEAN Charter and establishment of an ASEAN human rights mechanism, as you highlighted during your visit to Indonesia.

We also share the concerns you have expressed regarding the repression of peaceful protests and arrests in Myanmar, but urge you and this Council to venture beyond words and take credible action at this critical juncture. Since August 20, the Myanmar authorities have closed Rangoon’s courts, which will rapidly lead to overcrowding in detention facilities, case backlogs and high risk of torture and killings of detainees. The current situation in Myanmar is one that requires the international community’s immediate response and intervention in support of human rights and those defending them. The High Commissioner and Council are urged to immediately establish a special study and strategy group to look into addressing events in Myanmar, as a first step.

Madam High Commissioner, we are encouraged by your support to ensure that the review of mandates should be an opportunity to address protection gaps and the independence of the special procedures.

We hope the Council will also recognise the role of independent experts and their valuable contribution.

We in Asia are encouraged by the initiatives taken by your office in Nepal. Much remains to be done, however, as new situations require urgent responses.

Victims of human rights violations and human rights defenders have high expectations of your visit to Sri Lanka. We believe that this visit will contribute to greater respect for international humanitarian and human rights law in Sri Lanka. Civil society has always advocated for the establishment of a field based presence of your office, with a broader protection mandate than that of the Human Rights Advisor to the UN Country Team. We hope that your visit will facilitate progress towards this.

While we welcome your comments regarding the importance of civil society contribution to the UPR process, we note with concern comments by His Excellency the Sri Lankan Ambassador which indicates a lack of respect for civil society contributions to the Council.

Despite the Sri Lankan Ambassador’s comments on constructive engagement with the UN, we are also perturbed that a Sri Lankan minister called Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Sir John Holmes a terrorist, for his observation that Sri Lanka is a dangerous place for humanitarian workers. We note that, days after his visit, two humanitarian workers were shot and killed and that sixty humanitarian actors have been killed, abducted and disappeared since 2006. We are also concerned about military interference and presence in a civil society meeting with the Under-Secretary – General in Jaffna. This prevented civil society actors from having a frank exchange of views with the Under-Secretary General.

We request that you to take these concerns into consideration, as you plan your intended visit to Sri Lanka.

We also request that the Council explore ways to facilitate the High Commissioner to report back to the Council in a timely manner, such as through a special session, so that the Council could take immediate action based on the observations and recommendations arising from the High Commissioner’s visit.

Madam High Commissioner, Mr President, thank you.

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About ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organisation holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organisation of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at local and national levels throughout Asia.


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The Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) works towards the radical rethinking & fundamental redesigning of justice institutions in Asia, to ensure relief and redress for victims of human rights violations, as per Common Article 2 of the International Conventions. Sister organisation to the Asian Human Rights Commission, the ALRC is based in Hong Kong & holds general consultative status with the Economic & Social Council of the United Nations.

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