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A lack of ventilators and hospital beds to address COVID-19 has pushed Gaza’s overstretched medical system to the brink, the expert tasked with monitoring human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, stressing that Israel’s 53‑year blockade of the area amounts to a collective punishment banned under the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

One of six country-specific mandate holders to present their findings, Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said that by mid-October, the number of confirmed cases had surpassed 4,000 in Gaza, and 52,000 in the West Bank.  Noting that Israel has never granted him permission to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory, or replied to any of his communications, he said COVID-19 is widening inequalities inherent in the occupation.  He called for international accountability.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine echoed concerns over the absence of accountability, pointing to Israel’s “absolute contempt” for the rule of law.  Palestinians suffer “relentless attempts to forcibly displace them through acts of colonization and annexation in a five-decade long campaign to replace them with Israeli settlers,” she asserted.

Earlier in the day, Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said the Government crackdown against protesters in November 2019 and January 2020 involved the use of torture, harassment of protesters calling for justice and a lack of accountability for those responsible.  The excessive and lethal force used by security forces amounted to the “worst incident of State violence in Iran in decades,” he said, condemning Iran’s blatant disregard for its obligation to protect the right to life.  Among those sentenced to death based on torture-induced confessions and after unfair trials were Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi.

Iran’s representative rejected the report as “politically motivated” and underpinned by unverified biased sources, “with the intention of justifying the policy of aggression”.  The so-called human rights issues were provoked by the “maximum pressure” strategy employed by the United States, he said, stressing that “terrorists have become allies in this campaign against Iranians.”  Had the human rights concerns been sincere, a mandate would have been proposed to hold the United States accountable for its illegal unilateral coercive measures.

Meanwhile, Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on human rights conditions in Eritrea, while acknowledging advances — such as the release of a large group of Muslim men in August — said the Government nonetheless remains unwilling to cooperate with her mandate.  There has been no progress on the issue of political prisoners, as reflected in numerous cases of individuals languishing in Eritrean prisons, including Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has been held for more than 19 years, without charge or trial.  Severe restrictions on civil liberties and religious communities are also documented, while independent human rights defenders and independent journalists cannot work freely in the country.

Eritrea’s representative responded by recalling that the resolution establishing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was prompted by political considerations that exploited regional tensions.  She rejected the “cherry-picking approach and politicization of human rights”, which contravene the principles of non-selectivity, sovereignty and cooperation among States.  Ms. Kravetz, she said, “follows the same track” as previous Special Rapporteurs who “served the geopolitical agenda and ill-intentions against Eritrea”, working hand-in-hand with regime change activists.

Also presenting reports today were Doudou Diène, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; and Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 27 October, to continue its discussion of promotion and protection of human rights.

Interactive Dialogues — Iran

The Committee began the day with interactive dialogues featuring presentations by:  Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran; Doudou Diène, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi; Daniela Kravetz, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

Mr. REHMAN, presenting his report (document A/75/213), described systematic violations of human rights and continued impunity in Iran.  These conclusions are drawn from an investigation into violent Government crackdown against November 2019 and January 2020 protests, involving the use of torture against demonstrators, harassment of victims calling for justice and a lack of accountability for those responsible.  “The excessive and lethal force used by security forces against the nationwide protests amounted to the worst incident of State violence in Iran in decades,” he stressed, citing the intentional use of live ammunition against protesters.  This blatant disregard for Iran’s obligation to protect the right to life and the freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly led to more than 300 verified deaths, including women and children.  The actual death toll is likely higher.  Moreover, no investigation consistent with international standards has been conducted to hold perpetrators to account.  The victims’ families have called for justice yet instead faced intimidation and arrest by the authorities.  “Equally disturbing are consistent reports from detained protesters of how they were tortured into forced confessions, including accounts of physical beatings, sexual assaults, solitary confinement and detention of relatives,” he said, pointing also to the many forcibly disappeared.  Some protesters, such as Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, have been sentenced to death based on torture-induced confessions and after unfair trials, while Navid Afkari faced arbitrary execution on 12 September 2020 over his involvement in August 2018 protests.

During the subsequent interactive dialogue, delegates were divided, with some condemning human rights violations in Iran and others calling the report “politically motivated” — first among them was the representative of Iran, who strongly opposed the “politically motivated report” that was “drafted upon unverified bias sources, with the intention of justifying the policy of aggression”, in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights law.  Those behind the report manipulated the issue of human rights against Iran’s Government in order to “distort reality with false information,” he stressed.  The so-called human rights issues were provoked by the “maximum pressure” strategy by the United States against Iranians, he said, stressing that “terrorists have become allies in this campaign against Iranians.”  Those behind the report levelled unsubstantiated allegations.  Had they been sincerely concerned about the human rights of Iranians, they would have immediately prepared a mandate to hold the United States accountable for its inhumane and illegal unilateral coercive measures, which have intensified amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a similar vein, the representative of Syria said the report’s prejudice and hasty judgement aim to diminish the progress made on human rights, notably in the area of justice, where various legal and practical advances have been made.  “The report has used bias and confidential information to present a distorted picture of the human rights situation in Iran,” he said, calling the report “far from a balanced text based on unprejudiced information”.  Rather it is based on disinformation, fake media claims and allegations by terrorist groups.

Meanwhile, the representative of the United States called on Iran to immediately permit country visits.  Stressing that there have been no transparent investigations this year into the regime’s killing of nearly 1,500 protestors in November 2019, she expressed concern over death sentences, unfair trials, forced confessions reportedly obtained through torture, and drew attention to the recent experience of wrestler Navid Afkari.  Independent investigation is needed, she assured, urging the international community to carry out an independent investigation.  Iran must observe Article 14 of its Constitution and respect the human rights of non-Muslims, she stressed, asking the Special Rapporteur to outline accountability measures for the treatment of thousands of Iranians imprisoned during the November 2019 protests.

Similarly, the representative of Norway shared concerns about the use of torture and the death penalty, noting that her country opposes all such behaviour.  She drew attention to Iran’s use of capital punishment for offenders under the age of 18 when the crime was committed and discrimination against women and girls, especially the practice of child marriage.  She asked for an assessment of Iran’s willingness to accept technical assistance on various human rights issues.

The representative of the United Kingdom meanwhile expressed deep concern over Iran’s arbitrary detention of many foreign and dual nationals, protestors and human rights defenders, urging authorities to ensure that the judicial system complies with Iran’s international obligations.  He pointed to mass arrests in recent months, which appear to affect minority religious groups disproportionately, as well as persistent harassment of foreign-based media and cultural organizations.  He asked about practical steps that Iran can take to comply with its international obligations.

Also speaking were representatives of Canada, Germany, Pakistan, Switzerland, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Cuba, China, Burundi, Venezuela, Belarus and Eritrea, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Burundi

Mr. DOUDOU DIENE, noted that the Commission’s report (document A/75/270) is based on 300 statements from victims and witnesses of human rights violations in Burundi since 2019.  While the 2020 electoral process did not see mass violence, violations were committed, including execution, arbitrary arrests and detentions — all resulting from a strategy based on violence to ensure an election win.  The Government relied on national intelligence agents, police and local administrators to weaken the political opposition party whose most active members were arrested, detained, tortured and killed, in some cases.  Hate speech with an ethnic component was tolerated, the press was muzzled, and the population closely controlled during the electoral process.  The Commission also completed an analysis of sexual violence against men, which occurs primarily during detention and is organized or at least tolerated by senior intelligence officials.  In addition, the Commission completed an analysis of violations against children, which have a compounding and lasting effect, and pose significant consequences for the country.  He went on to warn that economic malfeasance underpins Burundi’s economy, with poor governance, illegal acquisition of equity, customs fraud and elicit wealth gained by officials.  He called on the new Government to take credible measures to improve the situation there, by freeing human rights defenders and journalists, guaranteeing the freedom of press, civil opponents and ending the omnipresence and impunity of the Imbonerakure.  The renewed mandate of the Commission is evidence of broad international support for its work, he said.

Burundi’s delegate rejected the Commission’s report and called it politically motivated.  The Commission’s objective is to get rid of Burundi’s current Government and was thus disappointed in the outcome of the 2020 elections and motivated by revenge.  Non-interreference in the affairs of sovereign States is a fundamental norm of international relations and the Commission violates the Charter of the United Nations by attempting to intervene in affairs that are under domestic jurisdiction.  Moreover, the report comes at a time when Burundi is moving into a new era, just having held successful general elections and seen a peaceful democratic transition.  Nevertheless, Burundi will not be distracted by the Commission’s repetitive, inaccurate reports, he said, adding that his country has national mechanisms to monitor human rights violations.  The Commission’s report should have focused on the remarkable progress the country has made, he emphasized, saying that Burundi should be taken off the Human Rights Council’s agenda.  Calling for support from Burundi’s partners, he said unjust sanctions against his country violate human rights, not protect them.

In an ensuing dialogue, many delegates warned against country-specific and politicized human rights agendas with the representative of Cameroon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, stressing that, in advancing a human rights agenda, the Commission must ensure non-selectivity and avoid politicization.  Instead, the positive efforts of Burundi’s new Government must be supported by the international community, he said.

Agreeing, China’s representative said Burundi has made significant steps to improve the human rights situation and insisted that the international community should respect its sovereignty and provide it technical assistance as it continues to improve its domestic conditions.

The representative of the Russian Federation also noted the stabilizing political situation in Burundi, stressing that outside interference is unacceptable.  African problems should have African solutions, supported by the African Union.  As such, the Commission’s work is destructive and likely to damage the political settlement process.  In a similar vein, the representative from Iran said country-specific mandates are counterproductive and amount to a futile routine that has nothing to do with human rights.

The delegate from the United Kingdom, posed a question, wondering how the international community can support Burundi in implementing the Commission’s recommendations and improve the human rights situation in the country.

The representative of the United States asked about human rights developments observed since the election and since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Burundi’s President should demonstrate his Government’s commitment to improving the human rights situation through actions that prove its willingness to move forward, including by ending the violent tactics and the impunity of the Imbonerakure, he said.

Mr. DIENE responded briefly, reiterating that the decision by the Human Rights Council to renew the Commission’s mandate was exceptional and demonstrates the international interest in the human rights situation in Burundi.  The country is in a region where violations have a long history extending back to the colonial period, after which politicians instrumentalized human rights violations.  In that historical context, the question is around whether the change of Government will lead to a qualitative change in the situation on the ground.  The Commission observed continued violations of human rights.  Emphasizing the importance of international cooperation, he noted that no international organizations have been authorized to return to the country.  Indeed, Burundi has a chance to enact historic change, but the ball is in its court, he said.

Also speaking were representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Germany, Namibia, Eritrea, Netherlands and Gabon, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Eritrea

Ms. KRAVETZ said it has been two years since the peace agreement with Ethiopia and the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Eritrea.  While Eritrea has since strengthened its cooperation with neighbouring countries, its increased regional engagement has not translated into reforms.  There has been no progress on the issue of political prisoners, she stressed, drawing attention to numerous cases of individuals languishing in Eritrean prisons, with no prospect of release, including Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist who has been held for more than 19 years, without charge or trial.  Moreover, Eritrea continues to severely restrict civil liberties.  Independent human rights defenders and independent journalists cannot work freely in the country.  Authorities also impose restrictions on religious communities and she urged them to immediately release all those imprisoned because of their faith or belief.  Despite advances — such as the release of a large group of Muslim men in August — Eritrea has yet to ensure full respect for the rights to peaceful assembly and association.  The Government remains unwilling to cooperate with her mandate and has refused to meet with her over the past year.  Eritrea has also not made progress in its cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

During the subsequent interactive dialogue, delegates were divided, with some condemning human rights abuses in Eritrea and others opposing politicization of the issues at hand.

The representative of Eritrea rejected the “cherry-picking approach and politicization of human rights”, which contravene the principles of non-selectivity, sovereignty and cooperation among States.  Human rights underpin Eritrea’s national strategy, she said, noting that Eritrea’s COVID-19 incidence remains the lowest in the region.  The Government established strict lockdown strategies to prevent the spread, while the return of Eritrean nationals from Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti or Yemen, and through irregular routes, continues to date.  The good news is that there have been no deaths from COVID-19.  Recalling that the resolution establishing the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was prompted by political considerations that exploited regional tensions, she said the politicized, unjust and unfair country-specific approach persists.  The latest resolution to renew the mandate did not receive support from a single African State.  Ms. Kravetz continues to ignore progress recorded by various United Nations agencies and facts on the ground, she said, denouncing the report’s “unfounded and unsubstantiated claims”.  Underscoring that previous Special Rapporteurs “served the geopolitical agenda and ill-intentions against Eritrea and worked hand-in-hand with regime change activists, in violation of the international human rights principles,” she said the current Special Rapporteur has “followed the same track”.

Echoing those concerns, the representative of Venezuela rejected the selectivity around human rights issues and use of any instrument targeting a specific country, without the agreement of the country, as such moves manipulate information and violate the United Nations Charter.  He instead advocated an approach based on the principles of universality and non-selectivity, and with the Universal Periodic Review as the main instrument used to assess human rights issues, in dialogue with the State concerned.

Along similar lines, the representative of Cameroon, on behalf of the African Group, called for universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in addressing human rights issues, expressing his firm opposition to politicization and double standards, which are counterproductive and confrontational, and fail to achieve a meaningful outcome.  He drew attention to Eritrea’s initiatives to improve the human rights of its citizens, including by taking part in the Universal Periodic Review.

On that point, the representative of the United Kingdom welcomed Eritrea’s commitment to the Universal Periodic Review process, as well as the recent release from detention of Muslim and Pentecostal worshippers.  He nonetheless urged authorities to release all those still subject to arbitrary detention.  He asked Ms. Kravetz whether she sees any long-term shift in Eritrea’s engagement with the international community.

An observer for the European Union, meanwhile, opposed ongoing arbitrary detentions, inhumane prison conditions, enforced disappearances, torture and persistent gender-based violence, including sexual violence, in Eritrea.  He asked about ways to best assist Eritrea in improving conditions, including in promoting women’s rights and addressing gender-based violence.  He also requested an assessment of Eritrea’s apparent engagement in the Human Rights Council and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women.

Ms. KRAVETZ, addressing Eritrea’s concerns about an unfair and politicized mandate, said “I have no political agenda whatsoever and no interest in a specific political outcome in the region.”   Rather, her only intention is to raise issues before the Human Rights Council.  She pointed to Eritrea’s refusal to cooperate and expressed disappointment over its lack of commentary on the situation of political prisoners.  To the representative of the United Kingdom, she responded that she has not seen evidence of a long-term shift in Eritrea’s engagement.  As for helping Eritrea to develop its human rights agenda, she underscored the need for more opportunities for young people, as well as efforts to take down the barriers to religious rights.  On gender equality, she stressed the need to improve access to justice for women, as well as access to land.  “Eritrea is yet [ready] to cooperate with my mandate,” she noted, pointing to the country’s obligation to cooperate with special procedures. 

Also speaking in the dialogue were representatives of Greece, Iran, Germany, Russian Federation, Switzerland, Belarus, Burundi, China and Sudan.

In the afternoon, the Committee continued its interactive dialogues with presentations made by:  Anaïs Marin, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus; Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; and Isha Dyfan, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia.

Belarus

Ms. MARIN said that for almost three decades, Belarus has failed to ensure the independence of its judiciary, implying that the rule of law remains unguaranteed, and human rights, unprotected.  That is evidenced in the procedures for appointment, tenure and removal of judges.  In stark contradiction with the principle of separation of powers, in Belarus the President retains absolute discretion to appoint or remove judges, and to prosecute or dismiss a judge without triggering any disciplinary proceedings, she noted.  The excessive control of the executive branch also extends to prosecutors and manifests itself in prosecutions being undertaken, or prevented from being launched, for political reasons.  Moreover, prosecutors can extend detention periods without a judicial control, while Belarusian legislation significantly limits the independence of lawyers, whose licensing and activities are tightly controlled by the executive.  That often leaves human rights defenders without a lawyer to defend them in court.

Her report (document A/75/173) also raises concerns about the legislative framework pertaining to juvenile offenders, especially children convicted for non‑violent drug offences, she said, warning of disproportionately long prison terms and low health care standards for juveniles in detention.  While protests following the 9 August election remained largely peaceful to date, they have been violently repressed by anti-riot police and unidentified individuals who lawlessly abduct people in the streets.  Hundreds were reportedly beaten, intimidated, tortured or ill-treated while in detention.  Belarus must promptly stop repressing its own people.  Dissenting voices should not be silenced, but should instead be listened to, because their main claim is, after all, that rule of law be respected, she said.

The representative of Belarus noted that his country participates in many human rights mechanisms including the Universal Periodic Review to improve its national human rights policy.  Regarding the administration of justice, he said the information in the report is one-sided and based on unverified sources.  Belarus has a system of State institutions to protect human rights, including the right to fair legal cases for children and adults.  Stressing that the 9 August elections were free and democratic, he rejected charges that conditions worsened in the run up or aftermath of those elections.  As for post-election protests, he said the vast majority of people who were detained have been freed and those who were charged did break the law.  Nevertheless, the authorities will continue to investigate complaints from demonstrators, he assured.

In the ensuing dialogue, many delegates expressed concern over the treatment of protesters and directed questions to Ms. Marin, with an observer for the European Union wondering how the international community can help facilitate the realization of her mandate to the benefit of the Belarusian people.  He went on to condemn the use of force against peaceful protesters following the 9 August elections, which were neither free nor fair, as well as attacks on human rights defenders, political opposition and journalists.

Similarly, Lithuania’s representative asked how the international community can be more persuasive in convincing Belarus to cooperate and allow access to Committee members.  He also expressed grave concern over brutal mass violence and politically motivated detentions, both on the rise after the presidential elections.

Canada’s delegate wondered how the international community can support those fighting on the front lines of the human rights struggle in Belarus and what it can do to ensure more reliable Internet access there.

Meanwhile, the representative of Azerbaijan said Belarus’s cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review testifies to its desire and efforts to improve the human rights situation there.

Cuba’s delegate stressed that selectivity cannot be allowed and called the Committee’s mandate politically motivated.  In that context, he urged the international community to stop manipulating human rights agendas.

Ms. MARIN responded, pointing out that she is an independent researcher with 12 years of experience on the topic of Belarus.  As such, she rejected accusations of manipulation.  As for the necessity for dialogue, her invitation to engage with Government bodies stands.  The most important dialogue, however, will be between the Government and civil society, including political opposition, she said.  Immediate steps should include the release of all arbitrary detainees including prominent opposition leaders.  She also urged authorities to respect the separation of powers and said the executive must stop interfering with the justice system.  Turning to the situation of juvenile detainees in the context of the pandemic, she said there are no physical distance provisions, most of the trials have been held behind closed doors, visits have been restricted, access to water is limited, and no masks or gloves are provided to prisoners.  The international community must continue to monitor the situation in Belarus and support civil society organizations which remain resilient, constructive and non-violent, she asserted.

Representatives of the Russian Federation, Estonia, Egypt, Ireland, Poland, United Kingdom, Iran, Syria, Philippines, Latvia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Czech Republic, China, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, United States, Austria, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Venezuela, Switzerland and Tajikistan also spoke in the interactive dialogue.

Palestinian Territories

Mr. LYNK said he has received no cooperation from Israel, the occupying Power, in the conduct of his mandate.  Since his first appointment in May 2016, Israel has never granted permission for him to travel to the Occupied Palestinian Territory or replied to any of his many communications.  Stressing that COVID‑19 has widened the existing inequalities inherent in the occupation, straining the already overstretched health care systems serving the Palestinians, he said that by mid-October, the number of confirmed cases had reached more than 52,000 in the West Bank and more than 4,000 in Gaza.  Palestinians in the West Bank’s Area C — which is under Israel’s full security and civil control — and in occupied East Jerusalem face innumerable barriers to accessing decent health care.  In Gaza, he expressed concern over the lack of ventilators and hospital beds to address COVID‑19, calling on Israel to end its air, sea and land blockade of the area — a siege that “amounts to collective punishment, a prohibited activity under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.

To be sure, he said international accountability is the missing key needed to address the 53-year blockade, yet the United Nations and other authoritative international institutions have rarely taken steps to hold Israel accountable through effective counter-measures and sanctions.  To this end, he recalled that the Fourth Geneva Convention applies in full, and that Israel is required to uphold all its related obligations.  Stressing that “the acquisition of territory by force or war is inadmissible” and that “the creation and expansion of the Israeli settlements is a serious violation of the absolute prohibition under international law”, he pointed to Israel’s refusal to accept any of these principles.  At least six Security Council resolutions since 1979 state that these measures have “no legal validity” and are a “flagrant violation of international law”.  Yet, Israel has taken no steps to satisfy its obligations.  Among other things, he called for a complete prohibition on the import of all goods and services originating from Israel’s settlements into the international marketplace.

In the ensuing virtual dialogue, delegates condemned violations of human rights and international law in the context of Israel’s occupation, raising concern over Palestinian weakened capacity to withstand the impact of COVID‑19.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine denounced the countless human rights violations being perpetrated by Israel against innocent children, women and men under a 53-year military occupation.  The Special Rapporteur’s report provides just a minimal snapshot of the widespread humanitarian suffering and humiliation being endured by Palestinians.  “Their very existence in their homeland is at stake,” she said, as they suffer collective punishment and “relentless attempts to forcibly displace them through acts of colonization and annexation in a five-decade long campaign to replace them with Israeli settlers, attempting to erase their national presence and their right to self-determination and freedom.”  All such acts violate international law and Security Council resolutions, she said, objecting to Israel’s “absolute contempt for the rule of law”.  She asked Mr. Lynk how his recommendations can change the situation on the ground and finally bring the longest occupation in modern history to an end.

Addressing the issue of settlements, Ireland’s representative expressed deep concern over the demolition of Palestinian communities and the forced transfer of residents, particularly during a global pandemic.  He called the deliberate policy of clearing Palestinian residents off their land to make way for settlers “a clear breach of international law”.  Referring to the torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian detainees, she asked Mr. Lynk how COVID-19 has impacted their situation — and that of detained minors.  She also asked for an assessment of the current ground conditions and what the international community can do to improve them.

The representative of Azerbaijan, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, condemned Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territory in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions, as well as the brutal military campaign against defenceless Palestinians.  He called on the international community, including the Security Council, to ensure serious follow-up efforts to help end Israel’s impunity and realize justice for the victims.

The representative of Senegal said his country has been working for 53 years to realize the rights of Palestinians, expressing support for a two-State solution, a cornerstone for lasting peace.  Prospects for the region are not promising, he said, urging States to help address the negative impact of COVID-19 on Palestinians who are suffering under disastrous economic conditions and a dire health and humanitarian situation.  The spread of COVID-19 is aggravated by the humanitarian blockade and lack of health infrastructure, he added. 

The representative of Turkey echoed Special Rapporteur’s concerns over accountability, stressing that the impact of COVID-19 has been particularly devastating for the Palestinian people due to structural weakness and inequalities that Palestine suffered under decades of illegal occupation.  “Reduce access to health care during a global pandemic is particularly worrying,” she said, raising concern over the fact that the de facto annexations of Palestinian territory are ongoing.

Mr. LYNK, responding to questions and comments, said his recommendations are often drawn from the Security Council’s recommendations on Namibia, a conflict that has many striking similarities with Palestine.  Similar to what the Council stated about conditions in Namibia, he considers Israel’s presence in the Palestinian territory to be illegal.  He called on all corporate enterprises regulated by the international community to cease any trade relationships with Israeli settlements.  He also called on all States, as was done in the 1970s, not to permit the entry of any goods and services produced in Israeli settlements in the occupied territory.  “These recommendations should not be perceived as fantastical,” he said, recalling their precedent.  On improving ground conditions, he said there should be firm opposition to Israel’s demolition of homes and properties in the West Bank built by the European Union, non-governmental organizations or international institutions.  He called for an end to the Gaza blockade and enactment of international accountability measures, pointing to Israel’s approval of 12,000 housing units and stressing that as long as this is allowed to continue with impunity, the international community should expect no change on the ground.

Also speaking were representatives of the Russian Federation, Cuba, United Kingdom, Norway, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, Syria, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Qatar, Malta, China and an observer for the European Union.

Somalia

Mr. DYFA said the ongoing armed conflict, frequent terrorist attacks, and chronic humanitarian crises continue to take an unacceptable toll on civilians in Somalia.  The conflict has also resulted in grave violations against children and in conflict-related sexual violence against women and girls, especially in camps for internally displaced persons and refugees and in host communities, rarely generating any accountability.  The COVID-19 pandemic and desert locust infestation meanwhile have placed an additional burden on Somalia’s already fragile infrastructure and institutions, she warned.  The country has made strides in advancing its human rights agenda through the adoption of legal policy frameworks to protect and promote the rights of its people.  However, there are clear signs of regression and pushback, on the legislative front, especially in the areas of women and children’s rights.  As Somalia gears up for parliamentary and presidential elections, she called on the Somali authorities to strengthen protection of the democratic space by guaranteeing the rights to freedom of expression and opinion and creating a safe and enabling environment where journalists can operate independently.  The appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate and follow up on the killings of journalists to bring to justice those who organized, planned and carried out the killings, is a positive step in that direction, she said.

In the ensuing dialogue, an observer for the European Union said that, since the last report, there have been several instances of the one-person-one-vote model being undermined and wondered how the international community can support efforts to ensure fair elections.

The representative of the United States asked what else can be done to increase the role of women in the public sphere, while the United Kingdom’s representative asked for an assessment of Somalia’s ability to ensure fair elections.

Djibouti’s delegate hailed the progress made by Somalia in the area of human rights and asked about the impact of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces on security conditions in Somalia.

Ms. DYFAN, in response, expressed regret that the one-person-one-vote model did not take place, but pointed out that the electoral law was passed, which will have a bearing on the next election.  The changes that have taken place in terms of a 30 per cent quota for women will be implemented, she said, suggesting that civil society support the Government in implementing the 30 per cent quota.  On ensuring the participation of youth and minorities, she emphasized the importance of capacity building.  Turning again to Somali womens’ participation, she underscored the need for education and the ratification of the Community Economic Development Office, which will provide more opportunities for women to participate in public life.  In the face of COVID-19, the education rates of girls have dropped, she said, calling on the Government to process bills relating to the participation and protection of women and girls as quickly as possible.

For information media. Not an official record.

MIL OSI United Nations News