Side Meeting Intervention on North Korea at the 37th Session of the Human Rights Council
The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Item 6 General Debate Human Rights Council
Megan Welby speaking on behalf of the Next Century Foundation notes the shortcoming of the Human Rights Council to engage effectively with some key states, which are then blamed for not stepping up to the requirements of the HRC. There seems to be a strong element of hubris on all sides. Continuing reluctance on the part of those criticised often competes with a lack of recognition of the progress made by these states by the HRC. As a case in point, we note with equal concern to the High Commissioner the growing crisis cast upon the Rohingyas in Myanmar. In light of the mass exodus since 25th August, we urge the HRC to strongly urge that Bangladesh, India and Myanmar all sign the Refugee Convention, to ensure their compliance to international law and human rights standards on the treatment of refugees. Without the boundaries of this Convention in place, refugees are left exposed to serious protection risks. However, the NCF also notes that the HRC declaims the use of torture in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The real problem in this instance is Bahrain’s failure to deliver a proper response to international requests for access and information. Unknown to many, Bahrain has a Ministry of Interior Ombudsman who is present here in Geneva now. The Next Century Foundation calls upon the Government of Bahrain to reconsider the ratification of OPCAT. However, we further believe that the Government of Bahrain might be encouraged to so do, if the HRC approached its issues of concern with greater understanding on the incremental progress that continues to be made.
As an NGO actively involved in monitoring and promoting human rights, the Next Century Foundation pays particular attention to the relentless worldwide issues of intolerance and discriminations. Among the many unacceptable forms of discrimination, one in particular represents a case of the utmost urgency for the international community: discrimination against women. Discrimination against women in its most varied forms, deeply affects a country, harming its culture, its values, its economy, its political and social identity. It represents an intolerable insult to the entire mankind. In line with the principles expressed by the Durban declaration, the Next Century Foundation strongly urges all the States to implement reforms aimed at incorporating a gender perspective in all programmes of action against racism and intolerance at large. More importantly, we urge States to establish an equal and effective participation of women in decision-making at all levels and grant women equal rights with men. In this regard, States should follow the example of the Kingdom of Bahrain that – with its recent introduction of Bahrain’s Unified Family Law – allows a woman to no longer give up her rights over her children as prerequisite to attaining divorce nor to ask for husband’s approval. The Bahrain’s opening process to women’s rights is exemplary and it clearly demonstrates that a positive change is possible if there is a political will.
The Next Century Foundation recognises the value of close engagement with the United Nations Human Rights Council and the need for more Memorandums of Understanding with key states. We view voluntary technical assistance and capacity building as exceptionally important. However in regard to states most in need of help from the Human Rights Council, help is often not forthcoming. There is no Memorandum of Understanding under negotiation with the internationally recognised government of Libya. Yet this could easily be progressed at this time. Safe travel to Libya to meet the government concerned could be facilitated by the government of Italy which has an embassy there. The same applies to the Syrian Arab Republic. Both governments would be eager to receive the HRC. Now is the time to work with these nations where human rights are most threatened. Not later when the problem is no longer in the public arena. And why is the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated with Bahrain in 2013 not implemented? It should be progressed now without further amendment by the HRC. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Both the Human Rights Council and the office of the High Commissioner could be more helpful and start to think outside of the box.
The Next Century Foundation recognises that some of the parties at war in the Syrian Arab Republic mistreat and frequently kill prisoners of war. As a precursor to an eventual peace, it would be constructive if the Government of the Syrian Arab Republic were to take a lead and establish a mechanism to monitor prisons and provide safeguards that ensure abuse and torture is brought to an end and that the killing of prisoners no longer happens. One model might be that adopted by the Kingdom of Bahrain as a response to the report of the Bahrain International Commission of Inquiry. The oversight bodies established in that instance in order to secure better standards of human rights included an Ombudsman’s office to examine the practices of the Ministry of Interior, and standards in prisons and police stations under the Ministry’s oversight; as well as a second Ombudsman for places of detention under the auspices of the Security Services; and an independent Special Investigation Unit to investigate allegations of the torture and mistreatment of prisoners brought forward either by the Ombudsman or referred directly. Additionally a National Institute for Human Rights was founded in Bahrain to deal proactively with the public. A system of this kind would work in countries across the Middle East from the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Republic of Iraq. But it would be particularly valuable in regard to Syria, a state that wishes to be rehabilitated in the eyes of the international community. The recently appointed Syrian Minister of Justice and the Syrian Minister of State for National Reconciliation Affairs could take a lead in these matters.