Bachelet briefs States on Colombia, Cyprus, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Venezuela and Yemen

GENEVA UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday presented reports on the situation in nine countries, as mandated by the UN Human Rights Council. Brief summaries follow, with links to the full statements and reports on which they are based.

On Sri Lanka: Despite progress on some issues, there has been minimal progress on accountability including on setting up a special judicial mechanism to deal with the worst crimes committed during the 2009 conflict, Bachelet said, noting that continuing impunity risks fuelling communal or interethnic violence, and instability. She called for establishment of an independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a vetting process to remove officers with questionable human rights records, and noted slow progress in replacing the problematic Prevention of Terrorism Act. She highlighted continuing allegations of torture and other human rights violations by security forces, including sexual violence, and called for an end to surveillance and reprisals targeting human rights defenders, and victims. She encouraged the Government to implement a detailed and comprehensive plan for the transitional process with a fixed timeline.

Click to view full statement and report on which it is based.

On Venezuela: I am deeply concerned by the magnitude and gravity of the human rights impact of the current crisis a worrying destabilizing factor in the region, Bachelet said. The deployment of her technical team is a positive first step, she said. She highlighted the dramatically deteriorating economic and social rights situation, exacerbated by the recent electricity blackout. She expressed concern about the continued criminalisation of peaceful protest and dissent, citing reports of numerous violations and abuses by security forces and pro-Government armed groups, including excessive use of force, killings, arbitrary detentions, torture and ill-treatment in detention, and threats and intimidation. Her Office is continuing to investigate reports of possible extrajudicial executions by security forces. She emphasised the continuing commitment of the Office to work with all relevant stakeholders.

Click to view full statement in English and in Spanish.

On Yemen: While the ceasefire in Hodeidah presents a glimmer of hope, Bachelet highlighted the dire situation in the rest of the country. More than 24 million people need aid, with 14.3 million in acute need. Basic resources have become a luxury that few can afford. Salaries of teachers, doctors, nurses and other public employees have gone unpaid for years. Periodic airstrikes, shelling and landmines continue to kill and maim civilians, and children continue to be conscripted or enlisted into armed forces or groups. Bachelet expressed particular concern about the recent escalation of hostilities in Hajjah governorate, where preliminary reports indicate that 22 people were killed earlier this month and thousands of were displaced. All States, including those not involved in the armed conflict, have the obligation to take measures to ensure that parties to a conflict respect the Conventions. Conditioning, limiting or refusing arms transfers is one such measure.

Click to view full statement.

The following six country updates were delivered in one statement, available here. The full reports on these country situations are available here.

On Colombia, Bachelet encouraged the Government to implement the provisions of the peace agreement in a comprehensive manner, with the protection of victims’ rights to justice, truth and guarantees of non-recurrence at the core of all State efforts. She expressed concerns the killings of human rights defenders and social leaders, including a reported 27 killed so far this year.

On Cyprus, Bachelet noted that four decades of division of the island continue to hinder full realisation of all people’s human rights. While pointing to some positive developments, including slow but positive steps regarding missing persons, and sustained efforts by civil society actors to build dialogue and cooperation, she urged stronger efforts for mutual dialogue, meaningful participation of women in the peace process, and full integration of human rights issues into the peace process.

On Guatemala, Bachelet said there were continuing, serious challenges to the rule of law, mounting threats to the independence and protection of members of the judiciary, and a number of legislative bills which risk reversing the country’s recent progress on accountability. Violence against human rights defenders, especially those working on land rights, natural resources and indigenous peoples’ rights is of deep concern. She also stressed the need for meaningful participation and adequate representation, including of groups that have traditionally suffered discrimination and exclusion.

On Honduras, Bachelet expressed regret that the comprehensive National Political Dialogue concluded without any formal agreement in December. She called for further steps to demilitarize public order, develop a professional and accountable civilian police force that is properly vetted and trained, and prioritise the fight against impunity. Given the strong links between violence, insecurity, involuntary displacement and the country’s high levels of poverty, inequality and exclusion, it will be essential for Honduras to set up strong, human rights-based policies, including through regional cooperation, to address root causes of migration.

On Iran, Bachelet welcomed the amendment abolishing the mandatory death penalty for some offences, which has led to a significant reduction in the overall number of executions in Iran. She raised concerns, however, that special courts set up in August to address economic crimes have led to five people sentenced to death. At least six child offenders were also executed in 2018 and at least 85 remain on death row. She reiterated the need to prohibit death sentences for child offenders in all circumstances. The situation of human rights defenders, lawyers, labour rights activists and environmentalists was also of great concern, including the recent conviction and long prison sentence for human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh. Bachelet noted the re-imposition of sanctions last November is likely to exacerbate economic challenges affecting the enjoyment of economic and social rights.

On Myanmar: Systematic discrimination and pervasive restrictions on freedom of movement continue to severely damage the human rights and fundamental freedoms of members of the Rohingya community, Bachelet said. Our report observes that no steps have been taken to adequately address the issue of citizenship of the Rohingya people, and that there is essentially no representation of the Rohingya community at any level of decision-making. Investigations into allegations of grave human rights violations remain absent, as are the conditions for voluntary, sustainable, dignified and safe returns.

Source: United Nations Human Rights