GICJ delivered 16 oral statatments including joint oral statements under items 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 of the agenda of the Council.

General debate under Item 2: Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Statement delivered by Ms. Ife Kolade  Mr. President,  We would like to thank the High Commissioner for his opening remarks which drew attention to the impacts of Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq. Indeed, years of military occupation and intervention have bred an environment where terrorist acts come not only from groups such as Daesh, but also from national security forces and militias. The acts of violence perpetrated against Iraqi civilians exacerbate their already dire living situation.  

An estimated 3.3 million Iraqis are internally displaced while a further 11 million are in need of humanitarian assistance. Extreme poverty affects 13 percent of the population and poverty is identified as the most pressing need by 75 percent of Iraqis. Labour force participation is below 50 percent as there are fewer and fewer opportunities for employment.  

Access to healthcare is also precarious as much of the health infrastructure, hospitals and clinics were lost during the war. Furthermore, the number of healthcare practitioners in the country remains woefully inadequate to serve the population.  Mr. President,  

Iraqis continue to endure not only limited services and economic hardship, but also fear as the efforts to eradicate Daesh continue. While the barbarity of Daesh cannot be understated, the counteractions undertaken by the Iraqi Security Forces and their affiliated militias pose a challenge for Iraqi civilians. Iraqi forces and militias are well documented to perform extrajudicial killings, torture and rape on those they suspect to be supportive of Daesh. These violations of basic rights and freedoms further complicate the already difficult living conditions of the Iraqi people. Whether it is combatting Daesh or holding state actors accountable, we certainly agree with the statement made by the High Commissioner that counter-terrorism can and must occur alongside preservation of human rights. 

In Iraq, the consequences of the 2003 invasion remain long after the occupation has ended. It is time to change the narrative for Iraqis. The situation that persists is, in many ways, a consequence of international actions and the international community must no longer turn away.

General debate under Item 2: Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General

Statement delivered by: Mr Mutua Kobia

Mr. President,

This is joint statement by EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice. We acknowledge the rise in human rights violations of terrorist groups, especially ISIS but we beseech the recognition of crimes committed by government militia groups that go under the radar. In this instance, we raise concern on the challenging situation in Iraq.

Over the years, coalition strikes have destroyed residential and civil areas killing and displacing innocent women and children. In Fallujah, for instance, households have been destroyed and children maimed by air strikes.

Additionally, images and videos displaying soldiers threatening and beating innocent men and arbitrarily killing prisoners have surfaced. On-ground reports and visual material show indiscriminate targeting of civilian households and properties, acts of abuse including rape, torture, summary executions, enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings committed under the guise of fighting ISIS.

Despite acceding to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, challenges persist. Children have been and continue to be recruited into military training camps by armed militia groups.

For the protection and safety of the Iraqi people we recommend to the UN the establishment and exercise of a monitoring mechanism to investigate human rights violations and identify all perpetrators to be held in account.

We call the Iraqi government to dissolve the militias in Iraq and bring all perpetrators to justice and immediately halt affiliation and participation of children with terrorist militia groups.

General debate under Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development

Statement delivered by: Ms Giulia Squadrin

Thank you, Mr. President

This is a joint statement of EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

Our organizations would like to call the Council’s attention on the deteriorating human rights situation in Iraq and Syria.

Following the U.S-led invasion and subsequent occupation, Iraq has entered a spiral of violence and impunity that has been further exacerbated by the advance of Daesh and by the reckless fight against terrorism. In fact, while violent terrorism must be opposed and condemned, the Iraqi security forces – supported by the militias and the U.S-led coalition – are indiscriminately targeting civilian households and properties, and are committing brutal abuses, including torture, rape, summary execution and enforced disappearance under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Furthermore, the Iraqi government is using the death penalty as a means of political repression, and continues to arbitrarily detain and kill innocent civilians on pure sectarian basis. Therefore, our organizations call on this Council to immediately dispatch an independent commission of inquiry to investigate into all violations committed during “liberation” campaigns by militias and governmental forces.

The conditions of defenseless civilians are, if possible, even worse in Syria, where the indiscriminate bombing and attacks committed by governmental forces, rebel groups and terrorist organizations have caused the death of over 400.000 persons, and have provoked one of the largest waves of displacement of the last decades. Moreover, the violence of the conflict is being further exacerbated by the employment of prohibited weapons and by brutal attacks committed in concomitance of the UN-led peace talks. As such, our organizations call on the international community to intensify the efforts aimed at protecting civilians and at achieving lasting peaceful solutions.

General debate under Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention

Delivered by: Ms Alice Wickens

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

We wish to bring to this council’s attention the dire situation in Iraq. While ISIS and the campaign against them has kept the country in the headlines, they are not the only reason its people are suffering. The Iraqi government and its Coalition are guilty too, for waging destructive campaigns, that have left innocent and unarmed civilians trapped in the cities like Mosul. This has ensured that Iraqi citizens are no longer just the victims of ISIS, but also frequent airstrikes, and the violent crimes of government forces and pro-government militias. These civilians remain under siege, dying of starvation, with no doctors, and no food.

Successive Iraqi governments have also utilised the rise of ISIS to authorise high execution rates, arbitrary arrests and to justify the detention of peaceful demonstrators - all under the guise of “fighting terrorism.”

Distinguished delegates,

There aren’t many things which are more corrosive to human rights than impunity. Yet, so far, this Council has failed to adequately address the crimes against humanity which are being committed everyday in Iraq - suggesting that liberation is far from anything Iraqi people may hope to witness anytime soon. For them, defeating ISIS is only the start of restoring Iraq - a task that will never be accomplished without first addressing justice, governance, and accountability.

General debate under Item 5 on the Report of the Forum on Business and Human Rights

Statement delivered by: Ms Ife Kolade

Thank you, Mr. President. and Geneva International Centre for Justice note the report of the Forum on Business and Human Rights and its concern with the respect of human rights by State-owned and supported enterprises.

We especially draw the Council’s attention specifically to the practices of Canadian-owned mining companies. As 57 percent of all mining companies in the world are domiciled in Canada, there exists a unique opportunity for the country to be a global leader in spearheading respect for human rights within extractive industries. Regrettably, Canada still lags behind.

A recent report by the Justice and Corporate Accountability Project documents “30 targeted deaths and 709 cases of ‘criminalization, during the period from 2000 to 2015, associated with the operations of 28 Canadian companies in Latin America.” Recently, the Supreme Court of Canada cleared the way for a Guatemalan group to proceed against Canadian-owned Tahoe Resources, with a case seeking redress for abuses carried out at the company’s Guatemalan mine.

The UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights observed after its recent ten-day fact-finding mission to Canada that a gap still remains between the human rights values Canada espouses and its will to provide effective remedies for victims of human rights violations, especially where they pertain to the business activities of Canadian companies overseas. This complex situation is especially exacerbated by the reality that government oversight in the countries in which the companies operate is often limited.

Our organisations join the Canadian civil society in calling on the government of Canada to establish an institution with a mandate to investigate human rights violations perpetrated by Canadian companies involved in the extractive industries anywhere in the world.

General debate under Item 5 on the Report of the Forum on Business and Human Rights

Statement delivered by: Mr. Siddharth Abraham Srikanth

Thank you Mr. Vice-President,

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice.

Our organizations are concerned by the observation presented in the summary report that many export credit agencies (hereon ECAs) and development finance institutions are yet to take effective steps to ensure the protection of human rights in the course of their supported projects.

Article 4 of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights calls upon states to “take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the State.” Despite this, many members of this very Council seem to lack the political will to carry out the aforementioned obligation.

In Australia, for example, although the ECA reluctantly halted its prospective lending to a coal mine in South Africa, it has not ruled out future financing of projects that may cause or facilitate human rights violations. Similarly, between 2007 and 2015, the ECA in the United States provided 315 million dollars in financing to businesses supplying African mines believed to utilize slave labour.

Mr. Vice-President,

The vital role to be played by states is especially pertinent when we speak about ECAs, as governments have the influence and authority to affect change within these institutions at a faster pace than perhaps other business operations. In that regard, and to that end, we call upon Member States to take immediate steps towards bringing the business practices of their export credit agencies in line with the Guiding Principles and all relevant international human rights instruments.

General debate under Item 6 on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Statement delivered by: Ms. Lisa-Marlen Gronemeier

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement by International Lawyers and Geneva International Centre for Justice. We are deeply concerned that Israel’s actions since its last UPR are in contravention to recommendations by Member States and a further testament to the State’s disregard for human rights and international law.

In direct contravention to UPR recommendations, Israel persists in its illegal occupation and the denial of Palestinian self-determination and the rights, including the right of return, of Palestine refugees, and continues its illegal settlement and annexationist activities. Israel rejected recommendations demanding the dismantling of the illegal Separation Wall in accordance with the ICJ advisory opinion and the end to the suffocating Gaza blockade.

(Contrary to recommendations, Palestinian citizens of Israel continue to face discrimination in, inter alia, access to justice, in property and housing rights, employment, education, health care, as well as in participation in political and public affairs.)

The State continues to refuse to abide by its international obligations, in particular the Fourth Geneva Convention, and continues to violate Palestinians’ fundamental rights, including through excessive and lethal force, the devastating destruction of homes and villages, deportations, closures and curfews, and arbitrary detention under ill-treatment and torture.

Israel has also failed to comply with States’ recommendations to investigate violations, including those amounting to war crimes, and continues to act with impunity. We call upon the international community to hold Israel accountable and force it to comply with its international obligations in the service of real democracy and just peace in the region and beyond.

General debate under Item 6 on the Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Statement delivered by: Mr Siddharth Abraham Srikanth

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice.

We would like to draw the Council’s attention to the Republic of Iraq’s lack of adherence to the accepted UPR recommendations.

After disregarding a majority of the recommendations received during the first cycle of its UPR (25 of which were not even responded to), Iraq received an alarmingly high 242 recommendations in the second cycle alone. In stark contrast to the elementary objectives of the Universal Periodic Review, human rights ideals have time and again been undermined in Iraq, despite the multitude of pertinent recommendations made by member states, even with regard to the most essential rights.

More specifically, the right to life is under constant threat by the militias of the Iraqi political parties, with the use of the death penalty remaining widespread as a means of political repression. The government and the judiciary continue to be plagued by corruption, and there alarmingly still exists no form of legal protection for female victims of violence, thus amounting to a complete lack of accountability for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes.

To make matters worse, freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations of political dissent continue to be forcibly repressed by said militias, and the government has even gone far enough to create obstacles in order to delay or prevent a country visit by the Special Rapporteur on torture.

We thus urge the government of Iraq to start respecting its international commitments, to implement the accepted UPR recommendations, and to make expeditious provisions for UN special procedures to enter the country.

General debate under Item 7 on the Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Statement delivered by: Ms. Ife Kolade

International-Lawyers.Org draws attention to continuing serious and widespread violations of Palestinians’ human rights by Israel. This situation undoubtedly necessitates the continued attention of the Human Rights Council.  

We regret that rather than address these violations by ensuring respect for human rights and condemning Israel’s actions, some Member States of the Human Rights Council seek to instead hide their heads in the sand and pretend that nothing is happening. Such a stance is inconsistent with the obligations of the Council’s Member States. Such intentional ignorance is a dark mark on the history of the States that are taking such an unfortunate stance and impugns the integrity of the Council itself.

Moreover, Israel’s recent action to restrict, and, in some cases suspend, electricity to parts of Gaza indicates once again the continuation of an intentional and ongoing Israeli policy aimed at creating conditions of life for Palestinians in Gaza that evidences Israel’s intention is to destroy the Palestinian people, at least in part. As every Member State of the Council is aware such actions give rise to the responsibility of all States to act to prevent these activities no matter where they occur because they constitute acts of genocide. The failure to fulfil this responsibility is not only an unfortunate example of irresponsibility by complacent States, but it may also give rise to the responsibility of these States for the international crime of genocide.  

In light of this situation, we urge the Special Rapporteur to investigate whether Israel’s action have reached the level of actions—over the better part of a century—that constitute the crime of genocide.

Gender debate under Item 7 on the Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Statement delivered by: Ms. Jennifer Tapia

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

Our organizations would like to express our serious concern about the human rights violations that daily occur against the Palestinian people.

69 years have passed since the occupation. Many reports show evidence of Israeli expansion through illegal settlement activities for the last 50 years. As a result, millions of Palestinians have fled their lands or are internally displaced.

We are also concerned about the discriminatory laws, racial oppression and segregation of the Palestinian population living under the constant threat of evictions, confiscation of their lands, restrictions on their freedom of movement, and deprivation of access to basic resources.

We urge this Council and all member states,

• To take immediate measures to pressure the Israeli government to fulfil its obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law;

• and to enable the Palestinian people to exert their right to self-determination; as well as the right to return home, for all displaced Palestinians.

Moreover, we urge this Council to call on the State of Israel,

• to terminate all settlement activities;

• stop institutionalized discrimination against Palestinians;

• and to exert all efforts to implement UN resolutions that guarantee the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

General debate under Item 8: Follow-up to and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

Statement delivered by: Mr. Mutua Kobia

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

Civil society as recognized in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action is critical to the functioning of the Human Rights Council regarding the assurance and awareness of human rights reporting and violations. For the sake of countless victims and their unheard voices it is warranted and paramount that the platform for civil society space must be increased and exercised.

The VDPA recognizes that, quote, “all human rights derive from the dignity and worth inherent in the human person, and that the human person is the central subject of human rights and fundamental freedoms”. Yet, in many instances economic and self-serving interests are continuously put ahead of the human person.

Forms of alien domination or foreign occupation are still active in all regions of the globe. Such as land grabbing by big businesses and extractive industries and discriminatory settlements that deliberately violate human rights, especially that of local, marginalized, and indigenous people, and even further, violators obstruct the activities of human rights and environmental defenders.

As well, harmful child labour, sale of children and children in armed conflict not only persist but are on the rise. For instance, within states currently engaged in armed conflict, militias or other governmental forces actively recruit and train children in military operations.

The VDPA calls for international cooperation and support, therefore;

We urge the Council to take immediate steps to better engage with civil society and we ask what necessary and practical steps civil society should take in order to be more effective at the Human Rights Council to; hold governments accountable, eliminate impunity, and encourage the political will of governments?

General Debate under Item 9: Report of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Statement delivered by: Mr. Mutua Kobia

Thank you Mr. President,

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

The results of racial intolerance, discrimination, and hatred that led to the creation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action sadly persist. Multiple forms of racial discrimination are present in policies and national legislation of numerous states. Violations against identifiable groups such as Palestinians entrenched to a system of institutionalized racial discrimination qualify as crimes against humanity as recognized in the World Conference.

While Israel’s Basic Laws do not explicitly guarantee equality and non-discrimination, some Basic Laws institutionalize discrimination, such as in the field of land policy. Such discriminatory legislation is buttressed by the para-statal status allocated to right-wing extremist organizations but can be revised under the DDPA.

Additionally, Israel’s geographic and legal fragmentation of the Palestinian people facilitates inhuman acts as described in the Apartheid Convention. Palestinians’ participation in life of their community is obstructed and conditions preventing their full development are deliberately created.

Palestinians are thus deprived of vital infrastructure, essential resources, and social services, as well as of equal access to employment, housing, education, and healthcare. Discriminatory laws governing entry and residence are enacted as well as family reunification that perpetuates practices that discriminate against the Palestinian population.

As in the current IWG report we highly recommend implementation of effective measures underlined in the DDPA, particularly regarding national legislation, which can lead to elimination of discriminatory laws and practices for the full enjoyment of human rights.

General Debate Under Item 10: on Technical assistance and capacity-building

Statement delivered by Ms Ife Kolade

Thank you, Mr. President. and Geneva International Centre for Justice would like to, once again, draw this council’s attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen.

With over 2 million Internally Displaced Persons in a country of 26 million, and many more people affected by the conflict in other respects, the need for assistance in Yemen is truly widespread.

We would especially like to draw attention to the recent cholera outbreak which is estimated to have already affected over 135,000 people and killed 950, according to the World Health Organization. Both the Special Rapporteur on the Human

Right to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, and the Special Rapporteur on Health have noted that the lack of access to reliable and clean drinking water, in tandem with a broken sanitation system, have and will continue to enable conditions for the spread of cholera in Yemen.

The cholera outbreak, famine in certain regions, and lack of access to healthcare across the country will create the perfect storm for mass suffering and deaths if the international community does not take action. While humanitarian assistance will temporarily ease the pain and suffering, only a human rights sensitive approach to ending the conflict will produce a long-term solution.

We, therefore, call on the members of this council to increase their pressure on all parties to end its blockade of Yemen cities.

General Debate under Item 10: on Technical assistance and capacity-building

Statement delivered by Ms Alice Wickens

This is a joint statement by EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice.

We wish to call attention to the desperate situation in Yemen. This country remains under siege due to the radical Houthi miltias, who are inflicting a campaign of horror and destruction on Yemeni citizens. The Houthi attacks are unjust acts of aggression, fuelled by Iran, a country which is exerting its influence and control throughout the entire region.

As the chaos continues, Yemen has been torn apart. In 2015, a senior UN aid official stated that 18 million Yemeni people were in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance. Two years later, this situation has only deteriorated, and in March 2017, the UN World Food Programme warned that just 3 months worth of food remained inside the country.

Mr President,

We wish to tell you that it is not too late to stop the devastation of Yemen. Nor is it too late to prevent children from being left to die of famine and curable diseases, while food security, sanitation, water, medicine and shelter all become increasingly unattainable.

Yet in order to do so, this Council and the international community must finally take action to halt the illegal interference of Iran and the Houthi militia, whose actions are hindering the achievement of peaceful settlements, and which are an assault on Yemen’s sovereignty and security.

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