Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with Independent Expert on Situation of Human Rights

OHCHR

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic and began an interactive dialogue with the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya.

Yao Agbetse, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said that since March, some positive developments had been recorded, including the new Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Central African Republic taking office, as well as the adoption of the law on the abolition of the death penalty, among other initiatives. However, the human rights situation in the Central African Republic remained worrying. He invited the Council to consider adapting the resolution to be adopted in September during its fifty-first session to the evolution of the situation.

Arnaud Djoubaye Abazene, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Central African Republic, said the rule of law, good governance and combatting sexual and gender-based violence remained at the heart of the Government’s priorities. Efforts had led to the law on military proclamation, increasing the number of soldiers and deploying the army to protect the territory of the Central African Republic. The extension of the State’s authority had facilitated investigations of violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. The Central African Republic continued to work for peace and stability and to consolidate its progress, despite the lingering armed groups present in certain areas.

In the ensuing discussion on the Central African Republic, speakers thanked the Independent Expert for his work and congratulated the Reconciliation Commission for its work. The Banjari court investigations were encouraging signs in the fight against impunity and needed to be continued to restore confidence in the peacebuilding process. Some speakers welcomed the recent steps taken to abolish the death penalty, which was a vital step towards human rights for all, and encouraged the Government to finalise this process. Some speakers expressed concern at the persistent human rights violations, including gender-based and sexual violence committed by armed groups. They called on the Government of the Central African Republic to open an independent investigation into the allegations of violations of international humanitarian law.

The Council then started an interactive dialogue with the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya.

Mohamed Auajjar, Chair of the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya, said the investigation team had conducted four investigative missions to Libya throughout its mandate. Some of the violations identified included direct attacks on civilians during the conduct of hostilities; arbitrary detention; enforced disappearances: sexual and gender-based violence; torture; violations of fundamental freedoms; persecution of and violations against journalists, human rights defenders, civil society, minorities, and internally displaced persons; and violations of the rights of women and children. Now, more than ever, the Libyan people deserved a strong commitment, from within and also from the international community, to bring justice and a sustainable peace to their country.

Lamia Abusedra, Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said the report highlighted the serious challenges facing Libya, including the political division, insecurity, the proliferation of weapons and the increasing phenomenon of irregular migration and external intervention. Libya would rely heavily on the final recommendations of the work of the Fact-finding Mission to draw up a clear road map to promote human rights and fight impunity, under Libya’s national project of reconciliation and justice. Libya had decided to submit a draft resolution through the African Group to extend the Mission’s mandate for an additional and final term, ending within nine months.

In the ensuing discussion, several speakers said the human rights situation in Libya remained deeply concerning. It was unacceptable that reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and sexual and gender-based violence remained largely unaddressed. Several speakers called for the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission to be extended, saying the renewal of this important mandate enabled strengthened cooperation between the international community, the Fact-Finding Mission and Libyan institutions. It also provided the opportunity to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance to advance the protection of human rights and accountability processes across the country. The Mission should abide by its mandate and complete its work on schedule, whilst focusing on the needs of Libya, a speaker stressed.

Speaking in the interactive discussion on the Central African Republic were European Union, Senegal, France, United Nations Children’s Fund, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Sudan, Egypt, China, Portugal, Angola, Mali, United Kingdom, Ireland, Gabon, and United States.

Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Ensemble contre la Peine de Mort, Penal Reform International, World Evangelical Alliance, Defence for Children International, Elizka Relief Foundation, and Rencontre Africaine pour la defense des droits de l’homme.

Speaking in the interactive discussion on Libya were Iceland (on behalf of a group of countries), European Union, Jordan (on behalf of the Group of Arab States), Saudi Arabia (on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council), Côte d’Ivoire (on behalf of the African Group), Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, United Nations Women, Sierra Leone, Spain, Senegal, Iraq, Morocco, Luxembourg, Venezuela, Bahrain, Sudan, Egypt, China, Algeria, Greece, Türkiye, Malta, Yemen, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States of America, Jordan, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Mauritania, South Sudan, Tunisia, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Qatar and France.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s fiftieth regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude the interactive dialogue with the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya, and hear an oral update by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Georgia.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in the Central African Republic

Presentation

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, highlighted the good cooperation of the Government of the Central African Republic with his mandate in facilitating his visit. Since March, some positive developments had been recorded, including the new Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in the Central African Republic taking office, as well as the adoption of the law on the abolition of the death penalty, among other initiatives. However, the human rights situation in the Central African Republic remained worrying. In the first half of 2022, 436 incidents of human rights violations, abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law were documented.

The three main technical and financial partners of the Central African Republic – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union – based the non-disbursement of budget support on non-compliance with the agreed criteria, as well as the lack of transparency in security-related expenditures. Mr. Agbetse urgently appealed to the Council and the other organizations to find practical solutions as soon as possible with the Central African authorities, who needed to show committed leadership, including the rapid adoption of the anti-corruption law. After consultations with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Agbetse was concerned that if the current critical situation continued, the Central African Republic ran the risk of collapse, and the situation of instability would give new impetus to armed groups. He called on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to integrate the human rights dimension into their macroeconomic analyses and to refrain from imposing the burden of financial and economic sanctions.

It was important that the Government followed up on the findings of the investigations conducted by its Special Commission of Inquiry, established in May 2021, into allegations of abuses by the Central African armed forces and their Russian allies. Mr. Agbetse said that the recovery of the Central African Republic would not happen without its youth, and it was urgent to prioritise education, especially technical, agricultural and vocational training. Mr. Agbetse said he was very concerned about hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and misinformation in the media and on social networks. He invited the Council to consider adapting the resolution to be adopted in September during its fifty-first session to the evolution of the situation. There was an urgent need to accelerate justice and security reforms, and to find ways to put an end to armed groups. He also noted the need to strengthen the capacities of Central African institutions, whose mandate was to fight impunity, promote the rule of law and good governance, and inspect cases of deprivation of liberty.

Statement by Country Concerned

ARNAUD DJOUBAYE ABAZENE, Minister of Justice and Human Rights of the Central African Republic, said the rule of law, good governance and combatting sexual and gender-based violence remained at the heart of the Government’s priorities. Efforts had led to the law on military proclamation, increasing the number of soldiers and deploying the army to protect the territory of the Central African Republic. The reform of the security system had allowed this to guarantee peace, social cohesion and a harmonious life. The extension of the State’s authority had facilitated investigations of violations of human rights and of international humanitarian law. A Permanent dialogue must be at the heart of the political vision of the Head of State, who was working in harmony with the entirety of the international community.

The Government had undertaken actions to quieten the political climate and reduce tensions. The improvement of the social climate through permanent dialogue with social partners was visible. The extension of the National Plan for the Consolidation of Peace would run until 2023. The teams from the Government, with the support of the United Nations Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in the Central African Republic, had targeted combatants attached to political movements in two provinces, and continued to work with partners in these provinces. The fight against impunity was the backbone of the Government’s actions. The African Union was contributing to capacity building through providing training.

The Central African Republic had a national action plan to combat trafficking in children, aiming to prevent the recruitment of children into the armed conflict. The law on the abolition of the death penalty had been adopted, as had been a national plan to reduce gender and domestic violence. There was a national mechanism for the prevention of torture. Awareness raising missions on issues of human rights had also been carried out, including among the Armed Forces, on such topics as child soldiers and the repression of sexual violence against women and children; the justice sector was receiving training in order to combat these phenomena. The Central African Republic continued to work for peace and stability and to consolidate its progress, despite the lingering armed groups present in certain areas. A holistic and global response was needed to consolidate the peace beyond question.

Discussion

Some speakers thanked the Independent Expert for his work and congratulated the Reconciliation Commission for its work. The Banjari court investigations were encouraging signs in the fight against impunity and needed to be continued to restore confidence in the peacebuilding process. The Central African Republic had cooperated with the Council and its mechanisms and had made significant progress in the promotion and protection of human rights. Some speakers commended the efforts deployed by the Government to build peace, while protecting the most vulnerable groups.

The Central African Republic had made significant progress in the areas of disarmament, and in the repatriation of refugees to the country, some speakers said. Authorities in the Central African Region were encouraged to implement the Rwanda Joint Roadmap for Peace, to lift the arms embargo, and to strengthen the judicial system. Some speakers welcomed the recent steps taken to abolish the death penalty, which was a vital step towards human rights for all, and encouraged the Government to finalise this process. The Office of the Hight Commissioner of Human Rights was urged to provide technical assistance and capacity building to enable the Central African Region to continue to ensure human rights for its population.

Some speakers said that the human rights challenges in the Central African Republic were engendered by many years of civil conflict in the country, which had prevented an economic take-off. They expressed concern at the persistent human rights violations, including gender-based and sexual violence committed by armed groups. The violations of children’s rights, including the recruitment of child soldiers, needed to cease immediately; 70 cases of child recruitment had been verified in the first quarter of this year alone.

Some speakers were concerned about the operation of armed groups in the country and the reports that these groups were targeting Muslim communities. The continued targeting of humanitarian personnel and the killing of civilians was unacceptable and needed to stop. Disinformation campaigns were of particular concern. Speakers called on the Government of the Central African Republic to open an independent investigation into the allegations of violations of international humanitarian law. This included allegations of abuses committed by the Central African Armed Forces and the private Russian mercenary group, Wagner, which was worsening the humanitarian situation and undermining the work of the United Nations.

Concluding Remarks

YAO AGBETSE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Central African Republic, said he remained open for dialogue with all actors and partners. It was clear that there must be effective respect of the ceasefire by all sides, Government forces, allies, and armed groups, and for this, the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration Programme must be respected by all sides. Some elements such as the Union for Peace in Central Africa were still carrying out attacks throughout the territory, preventing the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration process from evolving in a normal manner. There was a need to make sure that neighbouring countries were in a position to cooperate, as in the north-east of the country there was concern for the population, as the Coalition of Patriots for Change was receiving supplies from Sudan. Neighbouring countries must ensure that armed groups did not use them as base camps for their combat.

There needed to be a restoration of the State’s authority throughout the country, and there should be a discipline charter for all. To combat impunity, it was vital for this to happen to find a way out of the crisis: justice needed to be given to all victims, including victims of sexual violence. For the restoration of the State’s authority, there was a need for training of the defence and security forces. Major efforts had been made in this regard, but they were insufficient.

On the contribution of the international community to ensure that international commitments were respected, first, it was vital for technical and financial assistance to be provided by all United Nations mechanisms that had made recommendations. The international community must provide further assistance so that mechanisms could be established. Second, there was a need for the adoption of a national human rights policy, and this would allow for all challenges to be addressed at the national level. Third, on cooperation, it was important that the Central African Republic cooperate further with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism in particular.

Mr. Agbetse said that on combatting impunity, it was important to support the activities of the International Criminal Court. Another aspect of combatting impunity was the need to support the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, and for this, it was vital that the Commission be supported by the international community, the United Nations country team, and all technical and financial partners. There must be substantive reform of the national court system so that it could address corruption. The upcoming local elections were vital for the country to hold these in a free and transparent manner, and measures should be adopted now to ensure the participation of women, young persons, displaced persons and refugees.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya

Report

The Council has before it the report on the Situation of human rights in Libya by the Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Libya (A/HRC/50/63).

Presentation of Report

MOHAMED AUAJJAR, Chair of the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya, presenting the report, said at present, the culture of impunity continued to prevail in Libya and posed a great obstacle towards achieving national reconciliation, as well as justice, truth and reparations for victims and their families. The Fact-finding Mission’s efforts continued to be directed towards human rights violations and abuses as well as international crimes – these posed a challenge to Libya’s transition to peace, democracy and the rule of law. The investigation team had conducted four investigative missions to Libya throughout its mandate, holding high-level exchanges with Libyan authorities, both political and judicial and representatives of civil society organizations. Some of the violations identified included direct attacks on civilians during the conduct of hostilities; arbitrary detention; enforced disappearances: sexual and gender-based violence; torture; violations of fundamental freedoms; persecution of and violations against journalists, human rights defenders, civil society, minorities, and internally displaced persons; and violations of the rights of women and children.

Civilians had suffered from the throes of war in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Enforced disappearances had left families in the dark about the fate of their loved ones. Patterns of torture and inhumane treatment of detainees were prevalent in several prisons. Extrajudicial killings were routinely used as a means of punishment. Children had been recruited and used to take a direct part in hostilities. Thousands of internally displaced persons were still unable to return to their homes. Migrants, refugees and asylums seekers found themselves caught in patterns of violence, at sea, in detention centres and in the hands of traffickers. And violence had had a dramatic impact on Libyans’ economic, social and cultural rights.

The human rights situation in Libya called for urgent action, to stop immediately human rights violations and abuses, to ensure that the rights of victims were restored and that they obtained reparations, and to ensure that all those who had violated human rights and committed international crimes were held to account, in Libya and abroad, with no exception. Now, more than ever, the Libyan people deserved a strong commitment, from within and also from the international community, to bring justice and a sustainable peace to their country. This could not be achieved without strong political will and unwavering support for a democratic transition towards a State based on the rule of law and human rights. Free and fair elections were essential to achieving this end.

Statement by Country Concerned

LAMIA ABUSEDRA, Permanent Representative of Libya to the United Nations Office at Geneva, commended the progress made by the Independent Fact-finding Mission on Libya on its specific mandate. The report highlighted the serious challenges facing Libya, including the political division, insecurity, the proliferation of weapons and the increasing phenomenon of irregular migration and external intervention. Despite these circumstances, Libya was moving forward on the path of protecting and promoting human rights. This commitment had been reflected in many political, legal, and practical initiatives, most recently by the Cabinet’s creation of a permanent national authority to coordinate the Government’s preparation of reports to human rights mechanisms. This body would also take advantage of the recommendations of the Fact-finding Mission and put them into practice. Libya would rely heavily on the final recommendations of the work of the Fact-finding Mission to draw up a clear road map to promote human rights and fight impunity, under Libya’s national project of reconciliation and justice. Ms. Abusedra stressed the need for the Mission to complete its work within its time limits because any delay would have a negative impact on the national track.

Libya had dealt positively with the members of the Council, particularly in cooperation with the Fact-finding Mission. Libya had decided to submit a draft resolution through the African Group to extend the Mission’s mandate for an additional and final term, ending within nine months. Ms. Abusedra stressed that the Mission must adhere to its mandate, within the framework of Libya’s religious and cultural specificities. The road to promoting human rights was an arduous and long path, and Libya emphasised the need for the Council, as well as the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to continue and intensify technical support and capacity building to national institutions.

Discussion

In the ensuing discussion, some speakers said the human rights situation in Libya remained deeply concerning. It was unacceptable that reports of torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and sexual and gender-based violence remained largely unaddressed. The resurgence of politically motivated violence was condemned. All actors should work towards a peaceful political transition in Libya and adopt a holistic national human rights plan of action to ensure full respect for human rights and a sustainable transition to peace and democracy through fair elections. The conditions in which asylum seekers, migrants and refugees were detained in Libya were deeply alarming. All political actors in Libya should refrain from taking actions that would deepen divisions and undermine the hard-won stability achieved since the signing of the ceasefire agreement in October 2020.

Several speakers called for the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission to be extended, saying the renewal of this important mandate enabled strengthened cooperation between the international community, the Fact-finding Mission and Libyan institutions. It also provided the opportunity to strengthen capacity building and technical assistance to advance the protection of human rights and accountability processes across the country. The Mission should, however, abide by its mandate and complete its work on schedule, whilst focusing on the needs of Libya, a speaker stressed. Libya should continue to cooperate with the Mission to ensure that a useful rapport could be the foundation for further progress.

The fight against impunity was vital for transitional justice to be effective. The shrinking of civil society was an issue that could restrict grassroots actions, and could affect the lifting of any repression of freedoms of expression and association. All prisoners arbitrarily detained should be freed immediately. Libya’s long-term stabilisation was supported, and all parties should contribute towards this progress. It was important to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that had taken place since 2014. Ensuring accountability would provide a stable foundation for the future protection of human rights.

Libya was to be commended for its work on human rights, a speaker said, including establishing a national human rights plan, and follow up on recommendations made by the Universal Periodic Review and treaty bodies. The international community, the United Nations and the Human Rights Council should provide assistance to ensure that transitional justice was provided, including capacity building and technical assistance in order to strengthen the rule of law and respect for human rights. The progress made so far should be built on, and a progressive solution to the situation should be created without bowing to pressures from afar.

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