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Agenda item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
Some Recommendations to the Special Rapporteur of the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran
The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) has been working in the field of human rights for years. ODVV has always been trying to initiate a dialogue between the government and Human Right Council along with other persistent attempts to promote human rights within the country through negotiations with the government. As a human rights NGO, based in Iran, ODVV is quite familiar with our country’s human right issues. Our organization which is actively playing its effective role both inside Iran and in the Human Rights Council, would like to offer a number of recommendations to the Special Rapporteur of the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran:
1. Today is the deadline of NGO Written Statements for HRC31 and the report of the special rapporteur is not made available to the public on UN website yet. Considering the limited chances of NGOs to take the floor during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, ODVV asks Dr. Shaheed to provide the Iranian NGOs with the opportunity to have access to his report before the Written Statements Registration deadline, so that they can comment on the report.
2. The human right situation of countries need to be assessed in a non-political manner, this is while different factors have led to the politicization of human rights issues in Iran, adding to the complexity of the situation. ODVV would like to ask the Special Rapporteur to make attempts to depoliticize the whole process. As an example, the Special Rapporteur might call for papers and start a professional dialogue with Iran universities and religious schools on human rights issues so as to discuss the controversies risen between the government and international human right mechanisms and seek effective solutions to the existing problems.
3. Professional reports that assess human right situations in countries need to be unbiased, impartial and based on the realities of the country. Some sections of the reports of the Special Rapporteur of Human Rights Situation in the Islamic Republic of Iran are designed based on Interviews with or allegations made by individuals which might not be necessarily true. The Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) asks the Special Rapporteur to try to refer to more reliable resources to gather the related information.
4. As stated earlier, impartiality is one of the necessities of professional reports on human right situations. In recent years, Iran government has provided much detailed descriptions of the human rights cases pointed out in Special Rapporteur’s reports. Unfortunately, the answers are reflected in the final version of Mr. Shaheesd’s report in a really brief way, which has two negative consequences: a) The final human rights report of the situation of human rights in Iran does not provide the readers with the viewpoints of both sides – the government and the ones who report human rights violations – that is, the final report suffers from degrees of biasness; and b) Briefly citing the views expressed by the government will discourage our country officials policy of getting involved in providing answers to the report, hence undermining ODVV’s persistent longstanding attempts to encourage the government policies of cooperation with the Special Rapporteur.
5. ODVV has always been trying to promote the situation of human rights in Iran and considering the important role of judges within the Iranian legal system, our organization has sent a proposal to the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a project to run “Education Courses for Iranian Judges, Lawyers, Judicial and Law Enforcement Experts.” The objectives of the project was to train 100 Iranian lawyers, judges, judicial and law enforcement experts on human rights principles, the functions of the Human Rights Council, UPR mechanism as well as different aspects of human rights in national and international levels. The participants would learn more about human rights instruments, major concepts. However, despite the communications of ODVV representatives with the office of the Special Rapporteur, to date there has been no replies on the proposal.
6. Considering the Special Rapporteur’s lack of access to the country and the fact that NGOs based in Iran are dealing with human rights issues on the ground, they can be easily contacted to provide answers to human rights questions of Dr. Shaheed’s office. ODVV has provided, professional detailed answers to the few questions sent to the NGO office in recent years. As stated in face to face meetings of NGOs with the Special Rapporteur, all NGOs can provide answers to Dr. Shaheed’s questions.
Agenda item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Middle East Children: Victims of Endless Armed ConflictsThe fact that Iraq ranked the least happy country in the world is of no surprise. According to the available statistics, within the past 13 years (from 2003 to 2016), the civilian’s death toll in Iraq amounts to over 171000 lost lives, many of whom are women and children.
An increasing number of children are victims of the ongoing armed conflicts in Iraq and the whole Middle East: children in Iraq, Palestine, Syria and Yemen are facing breaches of their human rights including the right to life, the right to health, the right to education, the right to food, the right to clean water and the right to adequate housing.
Armed conflicts have various adverse effects on children. Children are killed, maimed, abducted, raped, displaced or are made to serve as child soldiers during the conflicts.
Children lose their life or physical health in armed conflicts. For example, Iraq child casualties, that is the number of children killed or maimed by ISIS atrocities, are estimated to be over 3000. A recent case is another mass grave discovered, in Iraq, containing bodies of Yazidis, including children, who refused to join the Islamic State.
In war zones, some children are abducted by armed groups and are subjected to abusive behavior. For example in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has abducted over one thousand girls and boys. In one incident in Syria, ISIS abducted approximately 150 young boys on their way home from school in Aleppo. They were released after a few months, but while in captivity, they were physically abused, indoctrinated and made to observe violent practices. In addition, in Iraq, Yezidi girls have been victims of sexual slavery which is quite justified by ISIS interpretation of religious texts. Also, in mid-January 2016, ISIS abducted about 400 Yazidi children who were reportedly being trained as potential suicide bombers.
Another negative effect of war on children is their abuse as child soldiers which leads to both physical disability and serious psychological traumas if they survive the conflict. Child soldiers are seriously injured or permanently disabled in wars. Moreover, those who are forced to kill other people or witness violent scenes will suffer from the adverse life-long effects of their bitter experiences.
Millions of children are reported to be victims of forced displacement as a result of the Middle East conflicts. Displaced children usually suffer from various deprivations, including loss of their home, family, friends and losing the chance of going to school.
As innocent children in war zones, especially Iraq and Syria are still paying the price of war, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) would like to offer the following recommendations to the Human Rights Council, hoping to alleviate the children’s endless sufferings:
• In the wake of the atrocities committed by the extremist groups toward children in Syria and Iraq, ODVV calls on the Human Rights Council to pronounce itself once more on this challenge. In our globalized world, where threats recognize no border, this challenge could only be thwarted through joint efforts by the entire international community.
• Reports indicate that millions of Iraqi and Syrian refugee children are deprived of education . Since the shocking number of children deprived of schooling because of Middle East and Africa conflict is estimated to be over 13 million , ODVV urges the member states to assist the Human Rights Council bodies such as UNICEF and UNHCR in order to save the children’s shattered future.
• Considering the fact that refugee crises is one of the most important challenges the world is facing today, ODVV calls on all member states to stop blaming refugees and migrants for economic and social problems, and instead combat all kinds of xenophobia and racial discrimination in order to prevent future tensions and violence.
Agenda item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development
Is the United Attempt to Eliminate ISIS Threat Successful?Seems as if the unanimous attempt to vanish ISIS has not been successful enough and the terrorist group continues to pose a threat not only to the Middle East but the Europe and other parts of the world. As the recruitment of new members to the terror group continues, the attacks carried out by them appear to be countless.
Despite the calls for shutting down the ISIS propaganda machine, recruitment of forces are maintained and people from different walks of life including fighters and doctors are joining the terror group. ISIS recruiters have been successful to radicalize students and civilians who are fascinated with violence, convincing them to unite with the extremists.
The sickening ISIS video of beheading 5 hostages, which shows ISIS new font man along with a very young boy who has joined ISIS shocked the world. The child grandparents are desperately begging the authorities to bring the young child back home.
There are attempts to stop young doctors from travelling to Syria. A British delegation, including an imam from London, have visited Sudan to try to dissuade young British doctors from joining (ISIS). At least 17 British doctors travelled from there to Syria during 2015 to staff ISIS’s hospitals.
Following the Paris attacks, security analysts are coming to the conclusion that that SIS appears to have the intention and capability to hit European targets in professionally planned attacks. According to them, terror threats will be the new normal for Europe.
In Munich, Germany, Police evacuated two major railway stations on New Year’s Eve, because they had received a tipoff from foreign intelligence agencies that a group affiliated to ISIS was intending to attack the stations .
Turkish police detain two suspected suicide bombers who were believed to be plotting to carry out Paris style attack in the capital city’s heart during the New Year celebrations .
In Brussels, following the arrest of two suspects by the Federal Prosecutor’s Office, the Mayor, Yvane Mayeur canceled the New Year celebrations over what authorities called a “serious threat” of holiday season attack.
Britain is announced to be more of a target for ISIS attacks since David Cameron decided to bomb ISIS positions in Syria. The new ISIS front man, who replaced Jihadi John (Mohammad Emvasi) following his being killed in a drone strike appears in the above mentioned sickening video showing the beheadings of five hostages.
Today, ISIS is active in 11 countries in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In Iraq, in spite of losing much of Ramadi , it still controls Fallujah and Mosul, and has lost little territory in Syria. And it has spread even more fear throughout Europe.
It seems as if the world leaders have failed to find workable solutions to one of the most pressing issues of our time, the horrific violence against civilians.
The military solutions have not proved to be successful enough to eliminate ISIS threat.
As a NGO aiming to defend victims of violence, our organization wishes to make few recommendations to the Human Rights Council in order to help re-establishing stability in the Middle east:
We would like to urge the council to support awareness raising projects in the areas where ISIS tries to mobilize young adults, giving the potential recruits enough information about the reality of ISIS Ideology that NO religion advocates.
It is necessary to cut off ISIS funding. For example, countries must be dissuade form getting involved in business with ISIS, buying its oil and providing the terror group with enough financial resources to survive.
We would also like to call on the Human Rights council to persuade Iraq government to create a polity that recognizes Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Alawite, and Christian interests at the same time.
In our opinion, it would also be helpful if a HRC supported study can interview ISIS defectors, encouraging them to tell their stories, and then publicize the information, so as to help the potential recruits understand that ISIS is not creating an Islamist utopia in the areas it controls, but a hell on earth; it is not protecting Muslims but killing them with brutality.
Agenda item 5: Human rights bodies and mechanisms
Shia Minority Rights in Saudi Justice SystemAccording to International law, minority rights should be protected once they are in contact with a criminal justice system and discrimination against them in such a system is prohibited.
Within the Saudi judicial system, the Shia face various cases of discrimination including: arbitrary arrests, denial of access to justice, discriminatory verdicts and religiously motivated charges. In January 2, 2016 Saudi Arabia’s authorities demonstrated their disregard for human rights by executing 47 people in a single day. Those put to death included prominent Shi’a Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr Baqir al-Nimr, whose death stirred up widespread discontent.
The human rights organizations consider his trial to have been political and “grossly unfair” and his charges to be vague, based largely on his peaceful criticism of Saudi officials. The organizations accuse Saudi of using death sentences in name of “counter-terror” in order to crush and silence dissidents.
Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr was a vocal critic of the Saudi Arabian government and among seven activists whose death sentences were upheld earlier in 2015. They had all been arrested for participating in Shia protests in 2011, and for calling for political reform.
While activists such as Sheikh Nimr urge the Saudi government to eliminate discrimination against minorities, the kingdom prefers to react with death sentences rather that making efforts to recognize the minority rights and providing them with opportunities equal to the majority.
The Shia minority suffer from various sorts of breaches to their rights, including the right to worship in mass, repair and maintain places of worship, equal job opportunities, freedom of expression and belief and their right to equal treatment by the police and the judicial system.
The Shia are usually faced with police violence while peacefully exercising their human rights. Government offices ban Shia religious observations and policemen prevent Shia from enjoying their rights of worship. Members of religious police attack the belief system of Shia, stating that they are considered infidels.
Members of the Shia minority who protest the discrimination are arrested in Saudi and face arbitrary arrests, arbitrary and flawed trial, denial of access to justice, discriminatory verdicts, religiously motivated charges, torture, and the prospect of execution for terrorism.
Another aspect of discrimination against the Shia in the judicial system can be seen in the scarcity of Shia Judges. The number of Shia judges in the Judiciary is extremely limited and there are few Judges who rule only in the Shia cities of the kingdom.
Considering the systematic discrimination against Shia minorities by the Saudi police force and the monarchy’s justice system, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) urges Saudi Arabia, as a HRC member State, to meet all its commitments under international human rights law, especially intensify its efforts to protect minority rights, especially Shia rights. We also call on the Kingdom to cooperate with HRC thematic rapporteurs to address the cases of minority rights violations.
ODVV calls on the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to study and assess the cases of minority rights violations especially discrimination against Shia in Saudi Arabia.
ODVV also urges the forum of minority Issues to study the alleged cases of discrimination against the Shia in Saudi Arabia including the reports of the alleged human rights violations in the legal and Judicial System, offering practical recommendations.
Since oppression against minorities and violence against them brings about more violence, ODVV calls on the Saudi government to seriously address all cases of violence against the Shia minority and bring perpetrators to justice.
Considering the fact that sectarian rhetoric, especially advocacy of hatred towards the Shi’a, which has been on the rise in Saudi, fuels the flames of sectarian violence, ODVV urges the Saudi government to seriously discourage the expression of hatred toward the Shia minority.
ODVV urges the Monarchy to abide by the international human rights law and take practical steps to eliminate the longstanding discriminations against the Shia minority.
Agenda item 6:Universal Periodic Review
UPR: The 1st and 2nd CyclesThe UPR process is unanimously considered as a constructive on-going and essential mechanism for continual improvement in a State's human rights situation.
All member states underwent the review, during the 1st UPR cycle, and all areas of their human rights situation was assessed. In the 2nd cycle, the objective was to look into the level of implementation of 1st cycle recommendations which will be the main goal of the subsequent UPR cycles.
Now, as the second round of UPR is coming to an end, it would be fruitful to review the UPR process to determine whether the mechanism is attaining its goals and identify the challenges ahead in order to engage in UPR more effectively.
The challenges we would like to discuss include:
“the weak link between the 1st and 2nd UPR recommendations” and
“different sources of bias in the UPR mechanism”.
a) As stated earlier, the main objective of the UPR 2nd cycle was to focus on the implementation of the accepted recommendations and the developments of the human rights situation in the State under Review. Therefore, the recommending States were supposed to play a great role in questioning the country under review in relation to the steps taken to implement 1st cycle recommendations. This is while, the results of a study done on the 70 first reviews of the second UPR cycle shows that the recommending states have underperform in ensuring that 2nd UPR cycle recommendations have a link with their 1st cycle recommendations and only less than %20 of 1st cycle recommendations were linked to ones made at the 2nd cycle.
Now, as the second cycle of UPR is getting completed, it seems as if there is a need for raising greater awareness of the UPR process. The States and the civil society need to be more aware of the importance of referring to the recommendations offered to the State under review in the previous UPR cycles, since the information can help States hold each other accountable for implementation of recommendations, which in its own turn, will lead to promotion of human rights in the State under review.
A weak link among the recommendations offered in UPR cycles will make the follow up process too difficult to the stakeholders. At the same time, strengthening the link among recommendations will put pressure on the State under review to intensify its efforts to promote human rights on the ground.
b) Another important challenge the UPR mechanism is facing is various biases that arise from diplomatic relations among States, such as the tendency of some Recommending States to support their allies, or some states under review to reject the recommendations of countries who disagree with them in politics. The Universal Periodic Review is designed based on the principle of equal treatment of all States, therefore it is important to ensure that the mechanism is free from any form of bias.
The procedure is designed to guarantee “non-selectivity” and equal treatment between States. However, in reality, States seem often to select those for whom they will speak, especially in terms of their regional group. For example, while a European country is being reviewed, most of the recommending States are from Europe, or most of the African States refuse to offer recommendations to a country being reviewed from the South American region.
Another source of bias in the UPR mechanism might emerge out the tendency of some States to praise their allies, which undermines the “objectivity” of the process and politicizes the nature of the whole mechanism. In some cases this ‘politicization’ has been misleading the assessment of the real human rights situation in the State under review.
In some other cases the State under Review refuses to accept recommendations only because of the nature of its diplomatic relations with the recommending State, which can create another source of bias in the UPR process.
And yet, as another issue that undermines the impartiality and objectivity of thee process is the fact that similar cases of human right violations, receive different levels of attention in different countries due to the political power of the State under review. For example, the widespread cases of violence and discrimination against women, minorities or human right defenders in Saudi Arabia does not receive due attention because of the Kingdom’s political influence in some countries.
Since UPR is designed to ensure equal treatment for every country, 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. Therefore, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) encourages all recommending States to avoid giving each other politically motivated recommendations based on the nature of their diplomatic relations and instead, focus on the reality of the human right situations on the ground.
Since NGOs have access to the human rights situations on the ground, ODVV calls on the Human Rights Council to include NGOs recommendations to the State under in the list of recommendations offered to the country under review.
Also, considering the importance of the link among the recommendations offered in UPR cycles, ODVV urges all Recommending States to help the follow up process by offering precise and clear recommendations, in line with their own previous suggestions, to the State under review.
Agenda item 9: Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, follow-up and implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action
Islamophobia and Violation of Muslim’s RightsIn only one year, 19000 people are brutally killed in Iraq and over 3.2 million people have lost their homes. 3,500 women and children, mainly from Yezidi community are enslaved, mass graves are being discovered one after the other, disappointing the hopes of the families who would look forward to the return of their loved ones. The majority of Iraq war casualties are Muslims.
In Syria about 300,000 people are killed and about 6.5 millions are become homeless. The ones who have lost their homes have fled to other counties and some have lost their lives. The huge number of the displaced has made the world face one of the most serious challenges of our time: dealing with refugee crises. The majority of Syria war casualties are Muslims.
In the ongoing conflicts, the invaluable heritage of the oldest civilizations of the world is being demolished in Iraq and Syria. Thousands of year old monasteries, temples and monuments are razed to ground. Historic sites such as Temple of Bel, Temple of Baalahamin, Mar Behnam Monastery, St Elijah's Monastery, Mosul Museum, Palmyra, Mar Elian Monastery, Apamea, Nimrud, Hatra, Nineveh, Dura-Europos, Mari and Khorsabad are totally or partially destroyed. Iraq lies in ruins from the ongoing carnage by ISIS and the continued fight between IS and other groups.
Suicide bombers known as ISIS members have attacked or threatened to attack different countries round the world including France, Germany, Brussels, Lebanon and Turkey.
ISIS steals the news headlines: the “Islamic State” is reported to be involved in the most brutal methods of killing and violence. Round the world, all atrocities committed by ISIS is associated with “Islam” and Muslims. A heinous image of Islam and Muslims is given to world, thanks to all brutalities committed by ISIS and affiliated groups. So Muslims will most probably be the ones who seriously suffer the cruel backlashes of the crimes. The news consumers feel desperate witnessing the pain and sufferings of the victims. In their view points an “Islamic State” is committing the crimes which makes many members of the news audience develop a hatred or phobia toward Islam or Muslims. Consequently, some of the ones who associate Islam with violence try to retaliate on Muslims by attacks, harassments or discrimination against them.
Muslims are demonized in the media and in some cases there is hatred expressed towards them. As an example, we can recall the remarks made by political figures such as Donald Trump, reflecting the negative perception of some people on Muslims which in turn can make Muslims prone to violence.
As violence is inherently incompatible with human rights, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence (ODVV) is seriously concerned about instances of Islamophobia expressed in terms of physical attacks to Muslims, their buildings or the verbal attacks they face in the Media.
ODVV believes that it is vital to counter new and contemporary forms of Islamophobia, xenophobia and related intolerance by formulating a strong international normative and legal framework. In the absence of such a framework, measures taken by states would lack universality, objectivity, coherence and adherence to international human rights norms and standards. ODVV would also urge the Human Rights Council to support programs of formal and non-formal education in deconstruction of prejudices and fostering of a culture of tolerance round the world, especially in USA, Europe and the Middle East.
Agenda item 7:Human rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories
OPT: Is There an End to the Endless TragedyDespite the numerous calls by the majority of the States in the international community to draw the world attention to the longstanding human rights violations in OPT, it seems as if some world powers refuse to attend the General Debate Item 7.
The United States strongly and unequivocally opposes the very existence of Agenda Item 7, affirming that the country stands with Israel at the United Nations. It seems as if the US and Israel are the only countries in the world, for whom Israel operations in OPT is justified. This is while, Israel policies in OPT is repeatedly criticized by the UN, the Human Rights Council, representatives of the States and members of the civil society.
As the UN resolutions against Israel operations are being adopted, violation of human rights in OPT continues. As the United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, reiterated on 27 January 2016, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, keep to expand and expand, disappointing the hopes of all young Palestinians in the face of nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation .
As it has been the cased for the past 50 years, UN is criticizing Israel operations in OPT. On February, 11, 2016, the U.N. human rights investigator for Gaza and the West Bank called on Israel on to investigate the excessive force used by Israeli security forces against Palestinians and to prosecute perpetrators. He also urged the Israeli authorities to charge or release all Palestinian prisoners being held under lengthy administrative detention, including children .
Killings, arrests and detention of Palestinians including the minors continue. Palestinian children are paying a huge price for the longstanding conflicts. Getting involved in war and protests, the children are far from the joys of childhood and frequently arrested by Israel. In February 2016, 450 Palestinian children were held in Israeli jails and according to the reports, three out of four children experience physical violence during their arrest, transfer or interrogation. In addition, according to Israeli officials form October 2015 to January 2016 at least 157 Palestinians have been killed in OPT.
Alongside the killings, arrests, and despite the UN warnings, destruction of Palestinian structures continues. On February 8, 2016, the EU deplored the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, regretting that the operations will threaten the peace process between Israel and Palestine . The EU spokesperson called on Israeli authorities to reverse the decision that has demolished several Palestinian residential structures in the area and to halt more demolitions.
The fact that Gaza has been under siege for years is another serious cause of depriving Palestinians of their human rights. U.N. experts believe that Israel's blockade of Gaza is illegal because subjects Gazans to collective punishment in "flagrant contravention of international human rights and humanitarian law." Lack of access to basic supplies such as food and medicine has multiplies the complications of life for Gazan people. The patients, including the ones suffering from cancer, are in serious risks because of their lack of access to medicine and adequate medical care.
Following the Gaza siege which started in 2007 Palestinians are in need of basic things including food and medicine, they have been highly dependent on underground tunnels to import their most basic supplies. Bur recently, the Israel Prime Minister has put the destruction of Gaza Tunnels a top priority while they are only means for Gaza people to meet their basic needs. The deterioration of Gaza situation is to the point that UN has warned the Gaza will be uninhabitable by 2020 .
During the Israel-Gaza war in 2014, 74% of Gaza homes were destroyed and they have not rebuilt yet. In February 2016, more than 16,000 families, amounting to approximately 90,000 people, who lost their homes in the War, remain displaced or homeless .
Echoing the UN Secretary Generals concerns for the long standing violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in OPT, including the vast displacement of people, the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence ODVV calls on Israel officials to abide by their international commitments.
Considering the vast scale of human right violations in OPT, (ODVV) urges the human rights council to discourage Israel from operations – including settlements expansions - that jeopardize the negotiations and peace process in the region.
Our Organization would also like to echo the Secretary-General’s concerns on OPT, who believes that Palestinians are frustrated of the half century statements and resolutions condemning violations of their rights while there are no changes in the situation on the ground.
Since the continuation of conflicts in OPT will endanger the security of all sides, ODVV urges Israel allies to encourage Israel to recognize Palestinian.