UN Human Rights Council, 15th Session
Delivered by Kristyana Valcheva, on behalf of Freedom House
Sponsored by UN Watch

16 September 2010

Mr. President,

I would first like to thank you for your commitment to hearing the voices of victims.

Article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees that “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Yet around the world, we see these crimes being committed with impunity.

For example, the UN General Assembly has expressed very serious concern about torture in North Korea.

Another example is Iran, where political prisoners are subjected to mistreatment, including those in the notorious Evin prison.

Finally, there is the example of my own suffering—from a government that now takes a seat on this Council.

I am a nurse from Bulgaria. In 1999, I was working in Benghazi, Libya. On February 9 of that year, I and five others were abducted on false charges, imprisoned, and brutally tortured.

We were subjected to barbaric torture, humiliation and mockery. They beat us over the soles of our feet….

 

President

I have to interrupt. Point of order. Please.

Libya

Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, through you I would like to point out that this NGO which is now speaking has just strayed off the subject of the agenda item. I would like hrough you to ask that this NGO should be prohibited from continuing her statement. Thank you.

President

Yes, point of order, Belgium.

Belgium

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I just want to say that the EU finds it imperative to safeguard the space of NGOs, and we definitely want to respect their views, even though we do not always agree with them. So I do feel that we have to listen to what the NGO has to say, even though the views might not always be the same for everyone. Thank you.

President

Thank you. The United States.

United States

Thank you, Mr. President. We would again like to highlight that we firmly believe that accredited NGOs must be permitted to speak. The voices of civil society, we repeat, are extremely important to the work of the Human Rights Council. Though member states, including the United States, may occasionally disagree with the content of their statements, the council should cultivate an environment of openness where we can discuss our differences. Real situations of human rights are happening in real places on the ground, and the council must be able to address this. Thank you for allowing the NGO to continue.

President

Thank you. The United Kingdom.

United Kingdom

Thank you very much Mr. President. We would also like to repeat our comments of a few moments’ ago when a similar issue was raised. The Human Rights Council and certainly the UK firmly believes in the participation and ability of ECOSOC-accredited NGOs to present views on any issue connected to the agenda item in discussion, and we very much hope that consistent practice will be followed and this NGO will be allowed to continue to speak. Thank you.

President

Thank you. Iran, please.

Iran

Thank you, Mr. President. We always welcome comments made by NGOs, but we believe that if everybody in the house respects the rules of procedure and frames its statements with regards to the item that is under consideration, it would be better for all of us.

With respect with what has been said by the distinguished colleagues from the US and the UK, about the necessity to allow civil society to have their voice, but I think that this argument delivered by them has a lack of logic behind it.

Everybody should respect the rules of procedure — this is not the reason that every time these colleagues take the floor, and say that we do not abandon the NGOs from speaking freely. We seek your wisdom and stewardship to rule the session, according to the rules of procedure. Thank you.

President

Thank you, thank you very much. I think it is a desire on the part of all of us to have a constructive dialogue that befits the dignity of this chamber. I am well aware that all of us are very much aware of the rules and procedures of the council. I need not repeat them and I urge speakers to relate their remarks to the agenda item and the country situation cited should be by way of an example. So I will give the floor back to the speaker.

Kristyana Valcheva

For example: they beat us over the soles of our feet, and then made us run with our feet swollen and black of beating, with blood flowing from them. They injected me with narcotics, undressed me….

President

Sorry — a point of order.

Libya

Mr. President, I would like to say that the NGOs are entitled to take the floor because this enriches the contributions to the Human Right Council. However, my delegation realizes that NGOs are not entitled to get into subjects that have nothing to do with the items on the agenda or to bring up subjects that have nothing to do with what is being discussed in the council. And so through you, Mr. President, I would like you to put a stop to these statements by that NGO. Thank you.

President

Yes, United Kingdom.

United Kingdom

Thank you very much Mr. President. We support the comments that you made earlier, you asked the NGO to contextualize the statement by way of example. We don’t believe that is always necessary, but we would note in this case the NGO in question did that. Again, without prejudices to any UK position on the contents of the NGO statement, it’s the job of this council to listen and engage with the NGOs appropriately, and in line with the rules of procedure. And any objections to the substance of this statement on fact can of course be made through right to reply in the usual way. Thank you.

President

Thank you, the United States.

United States

Thank you Mr. President. Again we are of the opinion that the intervention we just heard was indeed addressed to the subject matter at hand and we support your decision to give the floor back to the NGO and urge you to do so again. Thank you.

President

Ireland.

Ireland

Thank you, Mr. President. Ireland would like to express its strong belief about the nature of the Human Right Council as a forum for a dialogue and exchange of views. We of course agree with the ruling that has just been made by the President, but we understood that the speaker in question was making comments to illustrate an example of a category of violation of human rights, and without prejudice to our agreement or disagreement with the views expressed by the NGO. We would strongly reiterate our belief that such opinions should be permitted to be aired in this forum. Thank you.

President:

Thank you. Belgium, please.

Belgium

We support the statements made by the UK and Ireland as again the E.U. finds it very important to hear what the NGO has to say. We do agree with your ruling, however we do feel that what she is saying is important for this council to hear. Thank you.

President

China — please.

China

Thank you, Mr. President. My delegation and other delegations believe that we do not forbid NGO statements at the council, we have listened to many statements from NGOs and we attach importance to their views. However, the council has its rules of procedure, including the fact that we have ten agenda items. The rules of procedure apply to speeches to be given by delegations under relevant agenda items and the statements should focus on the items under discussion. As for the NGOs, their behavior should follow the rules of procedure of this council. Otherwise, while discussing relevant issues at the council there will be chaos. Thank you, sir.

President

Thank you, I give the floor to Iran.

Iran

Mr. President, sorry to take the floor again. I just want to reiterate that the most important thing is the rule of law in this august body. I think tomorrow we will have enough time under Item 4 for everybody to say their concerns about anything in a specific situation, but under this agenda item, under the pretext of allowing the civil society to speak, I think you should not allow this speaker to continue. Thank you.

President

Thank you. Cuba.

Cuba

Thank you Mr. President. Mr. President, the delegation of Cuba would like to state that we are completely in favor of NGOs raising their voices and making their comments. Nonetheless, they should do so in respect of the rules of the council and stick to the rules and procedure which are very clear, and which state that under each of the items, the issue should be tackle as laid down. This is why the NGOs should refer exclusively to the items which are under consideration, and as you said, if there is reference made to any country, it should only be done by way of example, and not by referring to concrete situations involving human rights. These situations should be looked at under Item 4 which will be on the agenda tomorrow. Thank you.

President

Thank you. Again I would like to stress that I would like to have this discussion continue in a constructive way. This is not a situation that works to the interest of all of us. I have made my observation. I would urge that the speaker make her point and also do so in a way that avoids excessive language. And so please continue with your statement, and please bring your point to a conclusion as fast as possible. Thank you.

Kristyana Valcheva

In the context of human rights and torture, they undressed me totally naked, and tied me to a metal bed. And then the worst started —inquisition by electrical shock.

President

Excuse me, I am sorry to interrupt. The Libyan delegation has exercised a point of order.

Libya

Mr. President, first of all my delegation expresses its regret since I’ve taken the floor several times and made points of order. I apologize. We are talking about human rights issues here, we are not throwing accusations at anyone. NGOs are fully entitled to take part in the general discussion. Nevertheless, they should in their statements focus on human rights issues and not bring up subjects that go beyond that context. They also are required to respect the rules of procedure of the council. We therefore call on you, Mr. President, to stop this NGO statement. Thank you.

President

Thank you, the United States.

United States

Thank you again Mr. President. I would just like to point out that we have a very clear precedent that it is perfectly appropriate and acceptable for a NGO to raise country specific situations as an example under this item. Freedom House is very clearly setting out examples of their concerns regarding the promotion and protection of human rights under agenda item 3. I would like to express our regret having to take the floor several times in this regard. Clearly in the context of human rights this NGO should be given the floor back to continue their statement. Thank you.

President

Thank you. United Kingdom.

United Kingdom

Thank you very much, Mr. President, and we also regret having to intervene again and hoped that your last observation would have been conclusive on this issue. We also very much support the right of NGOs to speak under Agenda Item 3, on which the full title is “the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.”

We believe that the issues of torture that this NGO was alleging certainly fall within the scope of Agenda Item 3, and it is therefore legitimate to give them back the floor. Again we would reiterate that if there is any disagreement on the facts of the issue at hand, then all delegations here have the opportunity to exercise the right to reply to put their position forward. Thank you.

President

Thank you, Ireland.

Ireland

Thank you. Ireland would also like to emphasize that in the view of my government it would be an extraordinary precedent if the expression of illustration of examples of perceived violation of human rights was deemed to be something that was beyond the remit of discussion of this council. Thank you.

President

Thank you. Belgium.

Belgium

Sorry for taking the floor again. We feel that the statement is relevant to this agenda item as it is showing examples of the concerns of human rights and the abuse that the person has injured. We do feel that the person should finish her statement as it is evident that it is according to this agenda. Thank you.

President

Thank you. As I have said, I have made my observation, my ruling, and I urge that the speaker makes her point but avoid using excessive language, and I urge delegations who perhaps may not agree with what has been said to exercise their right of reply. Now, I will give the floor back to the speaker and if she has made her point, I would appreciate if she could bring her statement to conclusion. Thank you.

Kristyana Valcheva

In the context of human rights and torture: They tried to destroy us physically, mentally and morally. We were hostages for eight and a half years. We have never received an apology or compensation for our suffering.

Mr. President, I ask: When will this Council take action to end impunity?

Thank you, Mr. President.

LIBYA RESPONDS IN RIGHT OF REPLY

Thank you. In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful, the two statements we heard today, which mentioned my country, contained allegations and lies which are very far from the truth. This is way my delegation would like to say that the question that was touched to by at least two statements is a legal issue. Moreover, the judicial system has taken note and taken a final decision on this issue already. Thank you Mr. President

 

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Rosa

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