Australian Permanent Mission and Consulate-General
Geneva, Switzerland
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Human Rights Council – 18th Session

Item 4 – Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention

Statement by Australia

23 September

Australia is deeply concerned about the deteriorating human rights situation in Fiji. The recent targeting of the Methodist Church and trade unions runs contrary to the fundamental principles of freedom of religion and association. The introduction of the ‘Essential Industries’ decree further erodes workers rights to strike and bargain collectively. The Fiji constitution remains abrogated, the judiciary compromised, and the economy underperforms due to serious mismanagement and corruption. Public Emergency Regulations, arbitrary decrees and media censorship curtail freedom of speech. We continue to call on the regime to take credible steps towards free and fair elections that will return Fiji to democracy, the rule of law, and its rightful place in the international community.
Australia unreservedly condemns the human rights abuses and violations occurring in Syria and urges UN Security Council members to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court. The High Commissioner’s report on human rights in Syria details widespread violence and the arbitrary arrest, detention, torture and execution of peaceful protesters. Australia calls on the Syrian Government to grant full and unfettered access to the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry.
Australia condemns the ongoing violence in Libya and egregious human rights abuses committed by the Qaddafi regime against the Libyan people. Australia welcomed recent statements by members of the National Transition Council committing to a new Libya that respects democracy, equality, justice, human rights and the rule of law. However, Australia is concerned by reports of unlawful abductions, killings and torture by anti-Qaddafi forces during the uprising. We continue to support the International Criminal Court’s work in prosecuting those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

All of us are aware of information made available since the Human Rights Council’s Special Session in May 2009 on alleged human rights abuses in Sri Lanka, including in the UN Secretary-General’s Expert Panel Report, which has now been referred to the President of the Human Rights Council (HRC). It is our strong view that these allegations need to be carefully assessed. We welcome the establishment by Sri Lanka of its Lessons Learned and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC). We look to efforts to ensure that the Commission’s report is timely, comprehensive, credible and in accordance with international standards. Australia and other countries will be closely scrutinising the LLRC report in assessing what further options might be pursued in the HRC. We also urge the Government of Sri Lanka to move forward with its initiatives towards reconciliation and devolution of power.

Australia welcomes recent indications of positive change in Myanmar, including UN Special Rapporteur Quintana’s visit and the formation of the National Human Rights Commission. But we agree with Mr Quintana’s 25 August statement noting ‘serious and ongoing human rights concerns’. We urge the Government to address these concerns, by releasing political prisoners, tackling justice and accountability issues, peacefully resolving ethnic conflicts and engaging in dialogue with all stakeholders.

Australia remains deeply concerned by the human rights situation in Iran, including the use of the death penalty, the intimidation and arbitrary arrest of human rights defenders and political activists, violation of political and media freedoms, and the treatment of religious and ethnic minorities. We urge Iran to stay all executions, respect the human rights of all detainees and ensure all trials are conducted fairly.

Australia remains deeply concerned about reports of serious and systematic human rights abuses in the DPRK. The use of execution, torture, beatings and other cruel, inhumane and degrading punishments remains widespread. Severe limitations on citizens’ civil and political rights exist in the absence of fair judicial or administrative proceedings. We welcome recent signs of greater DPRK willingness to engage more openly internationally and urge the DPRK to work to significantly improve its human rights record so it accords with internationally-accepted standards and practices.

Australia remains deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and repeats its call on all parties to the Inclusive Government to protect the human rights of Zimbabweans and end the harassment and detention of parliamentarians and civil society members. Australia commends the efforts of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Zimbabwe and underlines the importance of its efforts to facilitate a roadmap to elections.