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Agenda item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Are UN Resolutions Violating Human Rights?
According to UN documents on Unilateral Coercive Measures (UCM), the whole theory behind economic sanctions appears to be inaccurate, because pressure on civilians does not translate into political changes in the governments.
In addition, according to the same documents:
- Sanctions should not “target civilians who are not involved with the threat to peace or international security”.
- Sanctions should not interfere with the free flow of humanitarian goods … nor essential medical provisions or educational materials of any kind.
It must be said with deepest regret that in the case of economic sanctions imposed on Iran, none of the criteria stated in UN documents about sanctions were observed. Instead, the sanctions targeted the most vulnerable people in the society: All patients’ access to medicine and medical equipment were seriously limited as the result. Patients with chronic disease whose lives rely on receiving medicine are the ones to suffer the most from the sanctions which have seriously affected “deliveries of medicine and raw materials for Iranian pharmaceutical companies”.
Apart from availability of medicine, the sanctions weaken medical infrastructure, straining the ability of the health system to provide services and to respond to medical emergencies. Sanctions can be considered as a silent method of killing people, especially for those who are tolerating chronic diseases or emergency situations.
Medicines which are particularly affected by the sanctions include chronic disease medicines such as leukemia and thalassemia as well as vaccines to treat and protect infants, antibiotics and supplies for diagnostic equipment.
Although medical items and humanitarian goods such as food, are exempted from sanctions imposed on Iran, but the sanctions’ effects, for example on financial transactions, cause medicine and food shortages that have a negative impact on hospitals, medical-research centers and the whole society.
The sanctions are proved to lead to humanitarian disasters, jeopardizing the lives of patients while failing to meet their own objectives. The bitter reality is that they are taking the toll on the patients while violating all human rights specially the fundamental rights of ordinary civilians. Sanctions aggravate imbalances in income distribution, hamper the process of development, weaken the civil society organizations, ban foreign financial humanitarian aids, generate unethical businesses, affect the most vulnerable people including the poor and the sick, and in the long run ruin the infrastructures of societies.
All these sufferings occur in spite of the fact that human rights are guaranteed in Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other human rights covenants including International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
It is paradoxical that on the one hand, sanctions are imposed on counties for decades, making the innocent civilians to suffer the adverse consequences and on the other hand UN documents ban the sanctions from having adverse effects on “civilians” and “humanitarian goods.”
Another even ridiculous contradiction is that, in Iran, despite the nuclear deal and the promises on removing the economic sanctions, there are still restrictions on patient’s access to medicine which was supposed to exempt from the sanctions but in practice it is not. Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) considers sanctions as methods of legalizing systematic violation of human rights and urges the Human Rights Council to make every effort to protect the human rights of the Iranian civilians and remove “all” economic sanctions imposed on Iran.
Agenda item 6: Universal Periodic ReviewThe UPR mechanism
We share the common view that UPR mechanism is adding value to the HRC mandate in promotion of human rights however, attempts must be made to enhance the effectiveness of the process.
Fortunately the majority of UN member States are committed to the mechanism and a study conducted on the UPR process has found that 48% of recommendations by Member States have triggered actions by Governments three years after the first review.
However, in order to enhance the effectiveness of the mechanism a number of points need to be observed:
During the reviews, universal coverage and equal treatment of all States and must be ensured and reviews should be conducted in an objective, transparent, non-selective, non-confrontational and non-politicized manner.
During the review process, principles of universality, equality and constructive cooperation should be observed, so that the process can present significant contributions to the human rights agenda of the countries. According to the principles of universality and equality, similar cases of human rights violations in different countries should receive equal attention. States should not be subjected to significant, and often politically motivated, scrutiny for their human right issues.
Politicization of human rights issues should be seriously avoided. It is important that this process, which provides the opportunity for interstate dialogue, is not used for politicized intentions. All stakeholders including the civil society organizations are encouraged to avoid politicization of the UPR mechanism.
While offering recommendations to the States attempts must be made to treat them non-selectively because, the mechanism has been defined to address the human rights situation of all Member States in a non-selective and constructive manner.
To further strengthen the UPR process, possible areas for capacity building should be identified in the State under review, but still mindful of each State’s right to self-determination and consistent with the principles set forth under General Assembly resolution 60/251.
Another point that should be mentioned is that, apart from observing the principles of equality, in presenting recommendations, the quality of the given recommendations is also important.
According to the figures, by the end of the second cycle, over 50'000 recommendations will have been made at the UPR. Some experts of the field consider the number too high, and there has been repeated calls to decrease the number of recommendations made by each Recommending State. But, limiting the number of recommendations could be detrimental to the UPR process for two reasons: Firstly, if fewer recommendations are made, important issues will be left aside. Only mainstream issues will be raised at the UPR. Secondly, having many similar on a given issue demonstrates how important that issue is and does not overload the State under Review.
The increase in the number of recommendations should not lead to a decrease in the number of quality recommendations. One of the existing problems of the UPR mechanism is the proportion of weak, unspecific recommendations offered to the States.
In order to support the UPR mechanism to reach its predetermined objectives, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) urges the UN member States and the civil society actors not to follow political intentions while making recommendations.
Also, ODVV calls on all States and the civil society to make an effort to improve the quality, specificity, practicality and measurability, of the recommendations they are offering to the State under review, so as to better guide the implementation process.
Agenda item 7: Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories A Land without People, For a People without Land
It all began from the Balfour declaration. Palestine before 1918 was a province within the Ottoman Empire and after 1918, it officially entered into Britain's sphere of influence. The British Mandate over Palestine included the Balfour Declaration of 1917 which stated that:
“ His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine,or any other country.”
As it can be seen, Balfour declaration was therefore made by European power, about a non- European territory, without consulting the native people. Palestine was chosen for the establishment of a ‘national home’ for Jews. It is worth mentioning that Zionist leader after Belfour declaration had always talked about the re-constitution and re-building of Palestine which meant the establishment of an exclusive national home for the Jewish people:
Moshe Dayan (1969): “We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here... Jewish villages were built in place of Arab villages...”
And now, here we are: after all these years, not only the situation has not been better, but it gets worse and worse every day. The ultimate goal of the laws of war is to protect every single individual in the time of conflict. If the goal is ever achieved, that means no one can be outside of the protection of the law. But is that really the case?
It is unfortunate to say that even after 2009 Goldstone Report (The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict), which concluded that the three principals of jus in bello or the laws in wars (distinction, proportionality and military necessity), were at many times infringed by Israeli military group; we have seen no change in Israelis approach in the time of conflict.
The same conclusion was reached after the recent 183-page report of the United Nation Human Rights Council on the 50-day Gaza war. The report suggested that Israel's overall military policy during the conflict may have "violate[d] the laws of war." In particular, it bemoaned the lack of accountability on the part of Israeli officials conducting the war and expressed dismay that Israel did not alter its strategy of airstrikes even after it became clear that many civilians were dying.
More than 6,000 Israeli airstrikes, 14,500 tank shells and 35,000 artillery shells led to the destruction of about 18,000 dwellings in Gaza, as well as much of the impoverished territory's infrastructure.
The report said that "the fact that the [Israeli] political and military leadership did not change its course of action, despite considerable information regarding the massive degree of death and destruction in Gaza, raises questions about potential violations of international humanitarian law by these officials, which may amount to war crimes."
According to the U.N. investigations, conducted by an independent commission led by an American judge, 2,251 Palestinians were killed during the conflict. This figure includes 1,462 Palestinian civilians, including 299 women and 551 children. In Israel, six civilians and 67 soldiers were killed.
"The extent of the devastation and human suffering in Gaza was unprecedented and will impact the generations to come," said Mary McGowan Davis, a former New York State Supreme Court justice who led the commission.
o What has happened, is a clear violation of the International Treaties and Conventions of:
o 1949 Geneva Convention
o Protocols Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War
o 1980 UN Protocol on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary
o Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
Israel’s constant violation of international humanitarian law are included but not limited to:
o Attacks on government buildings and police
o Deliberate / indiscriminate attacks on civilian population
o Use of certain prohibited weapons
o Attacks on foundation of civilian life in Gaza
o Use of Palestinian civilians as human shields
o Deprivation of liberty / detentions
o Negative impact of the blockade on people of Gaza
o Ill Treatment of Palestinians in the West Back
o Detention of Palestinians in Israeli prisons
o Violations of free movement and access
Moreover, an organization of Israeli soldiers known as “Breaking the Silence” released a report containing testimonies from more than 60 officers and soldiers from the Israel Defense Forces who served during the 50-day war against Hamas militants last summer in the Gaza Strip. Testimonies suggested a lax attitude toward protecting Palestinian civilian life as well as the admission that, in some instances, Israeli forces fired "purposelessly" and used "ridiculous amounts of fire."
As we all know, Israel has a long, contentious history with U.N. investigations into its wars and refused to cooperate with the report's investigators, who were denied access to conduct their research in the occupied territories.
This is while, as history has proved, once a state denies to cooperate with the United Nation or the international community, UN Security Council, along with the world powers would target its people by various sanctions (Iran). Thereby, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) calls on the UN and the international community to take coercive measures in order to stop the heinous acts of Israel in the occupied territory of Palestine. We believe that a violation of one principle will lead to the infringement of another. Thus, taking action is required now.
Agenda item 5: Human rights bodies and mechanisms UN Special Procedures need more cooperation
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) welcomes the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its excellent work. ODVV believes that the special procedures are the most important vital mechanisms of the Human Rights Council for promotion and protection of human rights. We highly appreciate and support their effective efforts and contributions to the improvement of human rights situation all over the world and firmly call states to fully support and cooperate with the special procedures and in special occasions extend invitation to the mandate holders for the country visits.
In some cases we have seen that the required cooperation do not take place between the countries and special procedures. This is contrary to the countries’ international commitments and lead to the fact that some special procedures keep facing difficulties in carrying out their mandates in an effective manner in the absence of access to enough and suitable evidences and documents.
Since August 2014 to-date, following the establishment of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict, Israel had no cooperation with the Commission. However, during the one year investigation on the Gaza conflict, the Commission completed its mission by relying on indirect evidences. Accordingly, the Commission prepared its 2015 report based on the NGO’s reports, 280 interviews with the victims, witnesses and 500 written complaints.
Although the Commission managed to complete its mandate, a direct visit would facilitate the Commission’s access to real statistics leading to preparation of a well -documented report, which would be more fair and transparent. As a consequence better results would be achieved.
ODVV is deeply concerned with non-cooperation between states and UN special procedures and calls upon the states for full cooperation with the UN mechanisms. This organization asks Israel to facilitate the visits of Gaza Commission of Inquiry helping the experts to complete their mission in a supportive atmosphere.
Agenda item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Violence in the Middle East
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) would like to draw the attention of 30th Session of the Human Rights Council to the human rights situation in a number of Middle Eastern countries. This NGO believes that violence and extremism is growing in the region because of the lack of attention or support of western powers, and civilians are always the first and most suffering victims. In Yemen, following the intervention of alliance forces led by Saudi, the humanitarian crisis increased and thousands of civilians are killed. In the latest attacks against Ta-az province alone, many homes and villages have been bombed, 60 people are left dead and another 80 injured.According to latest figures, following the attacks of the alliance to-date 23,000 are left dead and injured. UNICEF announced that the average number of Yemeni children that have been killed or injured has reached to 8 per day. From March 26th 2015 and the start of the war in Yemen till now, 400 children have been killed and another 600 injured. 13 million Yemenis are suffering from food shortages and 6 million are suffering from extreme food shortages, and badly need international aid. And this means that 2 out of every five Yemenis are in need of emergency aid, and this average is on the increase.Reminding the need to respect the sovereignty of nations, the right to self-determination of nations and prohibition of military intervention principles, ODVV states that the military attack against Yemen is unlawful according to the Geneva Conventions, and while condemning this, the UN must provide the basis for the observation and proper implementation principles, and facilitate the judicial and executive measures for the victims. Furthermore air attacks against residential and civilian areas in Yemen and the killing of civilians, are all violations of fundamental and humanitarian law. Therefore while supporting the right to legitimate defence of the people of Yemen, ODVV calls for a UN special investigation, particularly the Human Rights Council, on the violation of humanitarian law in the country.The human rights situation in Bahrain continues to deteriorate. ODVV is concerned about the legislation and application of unjust laws in the country. These include the Press law of 2002 which allows for journalists that criticize the government get arrested, the defamation and insult law of 2014, which criminalizes any insult against the king, the anti-terror law which allows the security forces to persecute political opponents of the government, the 2013 law on the prohibition of all demonstrations and congregations all over the country, which has resulted in the detention of many citizens, civil activists and journalists (since 2011, more than 300 women have been detained in Bahrain and been subjected to torture), and many other laws.Unfortunately there are numerous reports that indicate the freedom expression and belief is severely violated by the government, to such an extent that in recent unrests a large number of journalists, reporters, civilians, and human rights defenders have been subjected to pressure and or arrested for their beliefs or news coverage of incidents and or human rights advocacy. ODVV calls upon the Human Rights Council to make the Bahrain government accountable for violation of freedom of expression and belief, and while condemning the ratification and implementation of unjust laws, calls on the Yemeni government to remove such laws.In Iraq, following the increasing crimes of the ISIS terror group, which has occupied approximately half of the country, and has turned into a serious threat to the people of Iraq. Displacement of over 3 million people, destruction of a substantial part of the economic infrastructures of the country, kidnappings, rape, and use of children in armed conflicts and killing and injuring of over 4000 civilians are all causes for concern of ODVV. While expressing concern of the increasing dire human rights situation in Iraq, ODVV stresses on the support and cooperation of the international community with the government, leadership and people of Iraq and asks the international community to make a more effective intervention to free Iraq of the inhuman acts of ISIS, and encourage the Human Rights Council to support the economic and judicial reform programs of Iraq, and calls upon states to assist reconstruction of the country.In Syria, the terrorist and inhuman acts continue to take place against civilians. While reminding the articles of Human Rights Council 29th Session A/HRC/29/L.4 resolution, on the basis of the condemnation of the killing of civilians with heavy weapons, torture in prisons and detention centres, ODVV sees cause for concern of the inhuman acts of terror groups in the region. Organized violence committed against civilians. Terror attacks of the numerous terrorist groups in the country, who are supported by a number of countries, is strongly condemned by the ODVV Extremist ideology and the brutality of a number of groups in the conflict theatre in Syria, does not conform to any religion, culture or civilization, and all Monotheist religions and cultures deem these types of inhuman and brutal acts only as the systematic and extensive violation of human rights and international humanitarian law principles.ODVV deems the existing political and religious tensions in the country as having roots in the failure to have an apt dialogue among Syrians and supports the new people plan for Syria which is also approved by the UN Security Council and calls upon states to assist Syria within the framework of their duties in this path.
Agenda item 9:Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programe of Action Islamophobia and Discrimination against Muslims
Xenophobia and discrimination against minorities is widely condemned in international human rights declarations, conventions, treaties, and all meetings. However, Muslims are still facing a variety of discrimination all over the world, including verbal harassment, hate speech, violent attacks and religious profiling. One of the root causes of the unfair treatment of Muslims is the bitter reality that some religious extremist groups are committing violent crimes in the name of Islam. For example, ISIS, ill-famed by the atrocities presented, is being known in the media mainstream as a Muslim Extremist group. These extremists however, present a wrong picture of Islam through their negative practices that have nothing to do with noble Islamic values and teaching. They tend to interpret the religious scripture in a selective manner so as to justify their illogical, inhuman decisions. As a consequence, Muslims turn to be the biggest victims of religious extremism in the world. Because, actions of extremists and violence seekers, create waves of Islamophobia across the world, which results in presenting a dark and unreal image of Islam along with a tendency to reject, marginalize Muslims and discriminate against them.When the crimes committed by religious extremist groups get full media coverage, they trigger a phobia toward Muslims. As a result, numerous cases of harassment and threat toward Muslims, their religious sites or buildings are reported. Such as the attacks to Muslim mosques across Europe.This is while many Muslims face much more serious problems as they get dead or injured because of involvement in conflicts created by extremists. According to the United Nations, over 220,000 Syrians have been killed, and almost half of the country's men, women and children have been forced to flee their homes since the conflict in Syria erupted in March 2011. The spread and intensification of the fight have led to a dire humanitarian crisis with millions internally displaced or seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and many of these people have been Muslims. ODVV strongly believes that the fight against Xenophobia should unite the world as this phenomenon, including practices of racial and religious profiling, is present to all societies. Accordingly ODVV calls upon the states and the Human Rights Council to:
- Arrange panel discussions, in the council to study and discuss various aspects of Islamophobia, consider the best practices done by the States and NGOs to deal with the issue and offer recommendations on how to approach the problem.
- Encourage the media to do its best in illustrating a real picture of minority groups such as Muslims so as not to create atmosphere.