During the 48th Session of the UN Human Rights Council Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) delivered sixteen joint oral statements in collaboration with Meezaan Center for Human Rights and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD). 

Contents 

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

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

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review 

Item7: Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance: follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

 

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

Interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi on its comprehensive written report (A/HRC/48/68) 

Oral Statement on behalf of Meezaan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Beatrice Serra

  

Thank you, President,

We would like to thank the Commission of Inquiry for its latest report establishing the facts about the situation of human rights in Burundi. We welcome the progress made by the Burundian Government, particularly in the fight against impunity and corruption, and the promotion of the rule of law. Still, important steps need to be taken to advance national reconciliation, respect fundamental freedoms, preserve democratic space, and protect human rights.

Meezaan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Center for Justice are deeply concerned about the numerous violations that continue to be perpetrated in the country, in particular the cases of torture, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detention faced by political opponents, human rights defenders, and journalists. We encourage Burundi to continue increasing its efforts in recognizing and investigating all human rights violations committed and hold perpetrators accountable; only by doing so Burundi can move towards peace, stability and development.

It is regrettable to hear the continued refusal of Burundi to collaborate with international human rights bodies and the COI. Therefore, we urge all parties to resume progressive cooperation and Burundi to assume responsibility for the human rights violations reported in the country and to make the required structural changes.

To the COI, what steps can the international community take to build solidarity with the Government of Burundi and all other parties involved to help them in achieving long-lasting peace.  

Thank you.

General Debate on Arbitrary Detention in Iraq


Oral statement on behalf of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

 Delivered by: Payton Focht  



Thank you, President,

The human rights violations in Iraq continue to increase in severity and the most fundamental legal conditions and procedural safeguards are systematically disregarded.   The violations could continue indefinitely if the international community does not act.

Iraqis are kept in disgusting and dangerous detention for years without due process where they experience ill treatment such as no access to medical treatment and torture, with no notice of the reason or timeframe of detention. Detentions often lead to enforced disappearances or death from poor and inhumane conditions. EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice believe that these add to the growing number of people that are put to death without fair trial by the government.

Militias and other groups operate their own prisons making it difficult for families to track down loved ones which can prolong the detention and the emotional turmoil taken on by families. Enforced disappearances are widespread and systematic in Iraq leaving thousands of people without legitimate protection. Iraqi law does not explicitly criminalize enforced disappearances, nor does it provide for specific procedures for the search or investigation of disappeared or alleged disappeared persons.
We urge the UN to put forth all their efforts to end these human rights abuses. the UN and international communities cannot be spectators to these grave violations any longer.

Thank you.

General Debate on Human Rights in Iraq

Oral Statement on behalf of International Lawyers.org

Delivered by: Naji Haraj

 

Thank you.

I would like to bring to the attention of the Council to the human rights situation in Iraq. Iraq fosters a dangerous and widespread lack of accountability due to its corrupt sectarian system of government and dysfunctional judicial system. Citizens are arbitrarily arrested, kidnapped, tortured and extrajudicially executed on a daily basis. Without necessary measures to hold perpetrators accountable, these violations will continue indefinitely if the Council does not intervene to liberate the Iraqi people from these crimes and the regime that covers them.

Large-scale protests across Iraq have sought to establish a democratic system that respects human rights to replace the existing sectarian system. But Iraqi authorities responded with excessive force, mistreatment and assassination of activists and journalists. It is well documented that the perpetrators of these crimes are mainly Iran-backed militias, especially the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) al-Hashd al-Sha’abi.

It is crucial to recognize that Iraq is among the top three countries that resorts to the death penalty. Mass executions take place without due process and frequently without trial.

Therefore, the Human Rights Council and United Nations must recognize the imperative need to take positive steps towards ensuring justice for victims of these gross human rights violations and this can only be achieved by holding all perpetrators accountable.

Thank you.

 Interactive Dialogue with the Commission on Human rights in South Sudan on an oral update


Joint Statement by: Meezan Center for Human Rights and GICJ


Presented by: Tristan Arlaud

Thank you.

We welcome the High Commissioner’s oral update on the human rights situation in South Sudan and the country’s ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict back in 2018. We are grateful for the government’s recent improvement in the demobilization of children from armed forces. However, we remain concerned about the alarming number of children still trapped in the various conflicts and their abduction committed by the NAS as means of warfare. We urge South Sudan and international human rights actors to conduct a thorough investigation during clashes to ensure that no children are either killed or mistreated.

Furthermore, Meezan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Center for Justice cannot stress enough the urgency for the international community to cooperate and communicate to find rapid and plausible solutions to the growing famine across the country. With about 1.4 million children suffering from acute malnutrition and nearly 7 million individuals in total struggling to have enough food daily.

Additionally, we are deeply concern about the remaining number of attacks on aid and humanitarian workers. Since last January, at least seven aid workers have been killed and at least 120 since the civil war broke in 2013. Essential services such as health and education are dependent on humanitarian actors. South Sudan needs to comply with its international obligations under human rights and humanitarian law, as highlighted in the Council’s resolution of March 2021.

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

General Debate: The Israeli occupation, and attacks on Palestinian cultural identity

Oral Statement of the Meezaan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Louise REQUIN

 

Thank you president,

 

We would like to draw attention to the system of cultural appropriation engineered by Israel against Palestine. Israel is forcing displacement and settling into Palestinian and Muslim spaces. This is not  simple geographic expansion, but a cultural one designed to erase Palestinian presence and their cultural and religious rights.

The Meezaan Center  and Geneva International center for Justice believe Israel’s policy of eviction is not simply meant to acquire more territorial power, but also to establish rule over the cultural identity of Palestinians. The wave of evictions in Sheikh Jarrah from last May testifies to this: Sheikh Jarrah is one of the last standing Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem.  The replacement of Palestinians by Israelis in the neighborhood therefore serves a complete takeover of Jerusalem, against the international community’s recognition.

The attacks on Al-Aqsa mosque are representative of the suppression of religious rights Israel is conducting against Palestinians. Israeli settlers repeatedly stormed into the mosque in an attempt to appropriate this Muslim space. Israel’s policy of ethnic cleansing therefore goes beyond the killing of Palestinians.

Israel is not merely performing military occupation but actively erasing Palestinian lives, culture and history. The expansion of Israel’s settlement has left Palestinians with no other option than resisting such policies. Meanwhile, the state of Israel is ignoring NGOs and UN outcries and decided to silence and detain protesters. The ongoing pain faced by Palestinians needs to be addressed.

Thank you.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Slavery 

Oral Statement of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)

Delivered by: Karin Heisen 


Thank you, President.

We welcome the Special Rapporteur’s report on the “Nexus between displacement and contemporary forms of slavery.”

Contemporary slavery can only be prevented if States fix the structural factors that cause displaced persons to be vulnerable to exploitation.

We draw attention to the persisting protection gaps, including in developed countries who are party to the Refugee Convention. The Global Slavery Index indicates that 63.6 percent of countries either do not have domestic laws or systems that protect asylum seekers or refugees, or systematically detain, arrest, deport or discriminate against them. 

EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice are gravely concerned by the vulnerability of displaced persons with irregular or uncertain migration status. For instance, Australia, despite being one of the strongest responders to contemporary slavery, subjects asylum seekers coming by boat to indefinite detention in offshore processing sites where they frequently experience inhumane treatment. This leads to a surge of arrivals by plane and bridging visas. In the long term, bridging visas creates a protection gap that increases forced labor and labor exploitation.

Special Rapporteur, how can civil society organizations better pressure States to fill persisting protection gaps for displaced persons?

We urge:

  • Member States to improve restrictive domestic laws and regulations regarding displaced
    persons, including reception conditions,
  • States to ratify the Refugee Convention and Stateless Persons Convention,
  • And all parties to withdraw all work-related reservations to these Conventions.

Thank you.

Item 6: Universal Periodic Review 

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of the Niger 

Oral statement on behalf of the Meezaan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Louise REQUIN

  

Thank you President,

We congratulate the Niger on the creation of the national observatory for gender promotion and the National Gender Policy. We regret that the Niger has not repealed its reservations on CEDAW as recommended. We therefore further recommend Niger start considering the collective benefits of involving women as equal stakeholders in the economy.

Customary law in the Niger deeply affects the rights of women. Currently, customs regulate women’s access to property and inheritance. They are mostly unfavorable to women, preventing their access to inheritance or land rights. Allowing girls to inherit would also generate inter-generational wealth that is not dependable on marriage or male relatives, fostering autonomy and independence.

Meezaan Center and Geneva International Center for Justice recommend that bottom-up, vernacular, and inclusive processes of change be enacted. We encourage local-level campaigns of mediation. Programs should be led by Nigerien women themselves and focus on their agency, their demands, and their objectives.

Access to education is still very restricted and discriminatory. Infrastructural limitations prevent rural and semi-nomadic children from attending school. Covid-19 and the rise in terrorism has worsened access to education in the past year.  Girls are specifically affected which is reflected by the low female literacy rate. School enrolment remains the best protection against child marriage and child labor.

Therefore, measures must be taken to ensure the availability of schools in all areas and for all children without discrimination as it is a crucial tool to ensure economic and social development.

I thank you

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Denmark 

Oral Statement of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Delivered by: Karin Heisen

Thank you, President.

We commend Denmark for its exemplary commitment to gender equality. Including the lack of consent in the definition of rape aligned the Danish Criminal Code with the principles of the Istanbul Convention.

Despite measures taken, we are disappointed by the widespread impunity for gender-based violence. The Danish Ministry of Justice estimates that each year, 11,800 women are raped. In 2020, 1,041 rapes were reported to police. Only 109 perpetrators were convicted. How can it be that Denmark, in the past three UPR cycles, has highlighted the steps it takes to combat gender-based violence, yet currently, less than 1% of rapes result in conviction?

Women of colour and migrant women face particular barriers to reporting and accessing justice, which the government denies by citing the measures it has in place or that it has no knowledge of discrimination occurring. Migrant survivors often do not report to police as they fear that their immigration status will be questioned or their immigration permission applications denied.

EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice call on Denmark to eliminate barriers to reporting, investigation and prosecution of gender-based violence.

We urge the Danish government:

  • To strengthen and disaggregate data collection to better understand the nature and scope of gender-based violence;
  • Secondly, to improve training of police officers and legal professionals focused on eradicating gender stereotypes and secondary victimisation;
  • Thirdly, to step up awareness-raising campaigns and school education to prevent violence;
  • And lastly, to increase support for community-based and grassroots activism of black and brown women’s groups to ensure that policies are built around the experience of all women in Denmark.

Denmark needs to make justice the norm, not the exception for gender-based crimes.

Thank you.

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review of Denmark 

Oral Statement of Meezaan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Beatrice Serra

Thank you, President. 

We would like to commend the efforts of Denmark in fighting racism and discrimination. It is regrettable, however, that xenophobia, discrimination and hate speech, particularly anti-Muslim hatred, continues to be a widespread threat in the country. Denmark’s negative political discourse on migrants, including refugees and minority Muslims, has been exacerbated by the actions of some political parties adopting an open anti-Islam stance and by the Danish Government through targeted laws and policies.We want to thank Denmark for its participation in the Universal Periodic Review and its commitment to implementing the recommendations in close cooperation with all stakeholders.

Meezan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Center for Justice encourage Denmark to strengthening its efforts in developing and implementing a comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation, as well as repealing provisions that have direct and indirect discriminatory effects on refugees and migrants.

To comply with the responsibility to protect all those within its borders, we urge Denmark:

  • to repeal the law prohibiting the face veil which is a clear violation of the right to freedom of religion;
  • to develop adequate law and policy to identify and facilitate stateless persons’ and refugees’ access to naturalization;
  • to repeal the laws enabling collective punishment and doubling the sentences for crimes committed in the so-called “ghettos” recalling that penalties must correspond with the crime committed, not be excessive or discriminatory in nature.
  • Cease and prohibit the use of discriminatory terms and rhetoric, especially by politicians;

To conclude, we urge Denmark to make progress to harmonize its domestic legislation with international human rights instruments and standards. In particular, Denmark should reconsider about not to sign the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

Thank you.

Adoption of the Universal Periodic Review on Belgium

Statement delivered on behalf of Meezaan Center for Human Rights

 Presented by: Tristan Arlaud

 

Thank you, President.

We welcome Belgium's strong consideration and acceptance of all recommendations from the previous 2016 UPR.

It is also pleasing to know that the country has ratified the Istanbul Convention and became a vital contributor to eradicating violence against women. Nonetheless, as we appreciate the increase in efforts made by the government in reducing domestic and gender-based violence, we remain concerned about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the matter. We demand a better action plan to be implemented to collect accurate data and for the assigned authorities to conduct actual monitoring missions in line with the obligations of the Istanbul Convention.

Meezaan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Centre for Justice remain distressed about the rise in racism, xenophobia, islamophobia and ethnic profiling by police forces. Even though awareness was raised among authorities, according to civil society and the media, the government has not enacted any explicit laws targeting such misconducts. In light of the events in the USA with George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, it is clear that the fight against hate speech and racism is far from being over. Therefore, this should be one of Belgium's priorities. According to the Durban Declaration and Program of Action, akin to many European countries, the nation should continuously adapt its legislative system to stamp out such behaviors.

On another note, we urge Belgium to establish a National Human Rights Institution in line with the Paris Principles, to protect all citizens from human rights violations better. Finally, to ratify the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of their Families.

Thank you very much.

Item7: Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Report of the High Commissioner of water resources in Occupied Palestinian Territory,
including East Jerusalem, and High Commissioner oral update on Implementation of S-30/1, followed by General Debate

Oral Statement on behalf of the Meezan Center for Human Rights


Delivered by: Tristan Arlaud

Thank you, President. 

We thank the High Commissioner for the presentation of the report and the oral update. We remain concerned about Israel’s omissions of war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory last May, as pointed out by the Office during the 30th Special Session. Regardless of Israel’s ratification status of the Rome Statute and Human Rights Treaties, war crimes, resulting in the unnecessary and disproportionate mass killing of civilians, are crimes defined as serious violations of customary international humanitarian law. We stress that perpetrators should always be held accountable for such breaches. Those recently committed indiscriminate offensives should again serve as a wake-up call to end Israel’s impunity in its military operations as the occupying power in East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, and the West Bank.

Meezaan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Center for Justice have appealed to this Council before that the protracted Israel-Palestine conflict needs to stop, with grave international human rights and humanitarian law breaches. We further condemn the use of water as a tool of domination in the region. As highlighted in the report, Israel's last bombing campaign in the Gaza strip led to severe restrictions in access to drinking-water. Such should alarm the international community. We reiterate that all actions restricting access to water and sanitation are inhumane, depriving the Palestinian population of an essential entitlement to the realization of all human rights according to General Assembly resolution 64/392.


Thank you very much.

Item7: Human Rights Situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group of experts on people of African Descent 

On behalf of Meezan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Alexandra Guy

Thank you President,

We would like to thank the Working Group for their report, demonstrating how people of African Descent face environmental issues disproportionately.

People of African descent in urban areas are more vulnerable to environmental risks due to socioeconomic inequalities tied to historic racism; these risks include air pollution or a greater sense
of global warming. In the US, urban areas with a majority of people of color are exposed to a temperature 1,65 degrees higher than in other areas. We urge the government to take action to improve the environmental situation in these urban areas and to ensure equal rights for all people facing this danger.

Meezaan Center and GICJ would also like to draw attention to the consequences of colonialism that People of African Descent still face in South Africa. Black South African have been given the less
fertile lands, and now their lands have been used to develop the platinum industry, destroying the inhabitants’ environment, and thus affecting their health. The communities do not benefit from the economic profit of the mining industry which impede their human rights.

We strongly advocate for the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and program of action to ensure the rights of people of African descent in such crises.

Finally, we ask the Working Group how the international community can effectively implement the DDPA to ensure the end of segregation de jure and become a reality de facto.

Thank you.

Interactive Dialogue with Working Group on People of African Decent 

Statement by International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)

Delivered by: Payton Focht

 

 

Thank you, President,

People of African descent are continually and disproportionally affected by weather induced harm. This is due to socio economic inequality caused by systemic racism and segregation. Some POC communities have less access to basic needs as a result.

In February 2021, Texas experienced a record cold winter leaving thousands of people without power and hundreds dead.  Utility companies prioritized powering downtown areas, benefiting wealthier neighborhoods, while leaving poor communities, comprised mainly of People of African descent, vulnerable and without the rolling power that was promised.  

State assurances have not been met and residents were asked to reduce their electricity-usage mid-heat wave. Climate change disproportionally affects the rights of people of African descent, leaving them more vulnerable to suffer from heat related deaths or harm. The extreme weather has increased demand and cost of utilities, adversely affecting lower-income communities with no financial relief.

EAFORD and Geneva International Centre for Justice recognize that incidents like this are happening all over the worldThe international community must work towards effective climate change procedures that include the participation of people of African descent. We strongly advocate for the DDPA and encourage all states to implement its Program of Activities.

We ask the Working Group; what concrete steps must be taken to ensure accountability for incidents that adversely affect the rights of people of African descent more than other communities or groups?

Thank you.

 

Item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance: follow-up to and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Oral Statement of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Delivered by: Karin Heisen

Thank you, President.

We strongly support the Special Rapporteur and her report on racial discrimination and the use of digital technologies in border and immigration enforcement.

These technologies are informed by racially biased data and derived from a history of racist tools used to oppress people of colour. Biometric data and database sharing have their roots in the transatlantic slave trade and colonialism. Enslaved Black individuals were branded. Japanese Americans were interned using census data. Today, these historical tools are digitized.

If we don’t actively design and use technologies in an anti-racist manner, the cycle of structural and institutional violence continues.

EAFORD and the Geneva International Centre for Justice call for centering people of colour in knowledge production and migrants themselves in the design of border control technologies. In addition, experts on racism need to be involved.

We call for a moratorium on the sale and use of all surveillance technologies until they prove to be nondiscriminatory. A robust human rights framework must be set up. We strongly advocate for the Durban Declaration and Program of Action and encourage all States to fully implement it.

Member States, are you doing all in your power to implement anti-racist measures? In this interactive dialogue last year, the Special Rapporteur was unable to name a single good State practice where marginalised communities were involved in the designing of nondiscriminatory technology.

Thank you.

Interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Oral Statement of Meezaan Center for Human Rights

Delivered by: Beatrice Serra

 

Thank you, President,

We would like to thank the Special Rapporteur for her latest report on the impacts of digital technologies on racial equality and non-discrimination in border enforcement.

Over the past years, Governments’ and private sectors’ use of digital technologies to collect, store and share people’s personal data has generated multifaceted challenges for the protection of human rights.

Meezaan Center for Human Rights and Geneva International Centre for Justice are deeply concerned about the deployment of experimental and dangerous digital technology by Governments and non-state actors. “Smart borders” play a crucial role in fostering an anti-migrant and discriminatory narrative, which in turn feeds the public’s fear of migrants and the rejection of minorities within their society. We remind that States have the responsibility to condemn racism and promote tolerance, as established in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Therefore, digital technologies must be used to combat inequalities and contribute to end racial divisions.

Special Rapporteur, to adequately protect the human rights of migrants, stateless persons, refugees and other non-citizens, a shift in the regulation of the use of technology is required. In this regard, we urge States:

  • to develop and implement accountability frameworks and human rights oversight mechanisms to prevent and combat racial discriminations and violations due to digital border technologies;
  • to support, adopt and fully implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

Thank you.

General Debate on Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action

Oral statement on behalf of the Meezaan Center

Delivered by: Louise Requin

There are two legal systems in Israel: one for Jewish Israelis, and one for Palestinians. Palestinians living under the control of the occupying power are submitted to discriminatory rules based on their
identity.

Palestinians cannot access citizenship through the same rules as Jewish Israelis. They cannot settle freely in more than 900 Jewish towns, based on an assumed ‘socio cultural incompatibility’. Israeli
authorities have denied residency to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

While Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20 percent of the Israeli population, they only have jurisdiction over less than 3 percent of all land in the country. This is the consequence of a policy of segregation. Israel itself has made it clear in its constitution that “Israel is the nation state of the Jewish People’’. Israel prevents Palestinians from enjoying basic rights because of their ethnic and religious identity. This is the “intentional and severe deprivation of fundamental rights by reason of identity” described
in international law.

How are we not witnessing a system of apartheid ?

Meezan Center and GICJ call for the immediate investigation into Israel’s crimes of persecution. The systematic oppression of Palestinians amounts to crimes against humanity which must be stopped. The inaction of the members of this council proves their failure to respect their commitments. They must act now.

Thank you.

 

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