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​NHRIs join global human rights discussions

Graphic: Provedor of Timor Leste addresses Human Rights Council via video

National human rights institutions (NHRIs) from the Asia Pacific and other regions of the world added their voice to a number of discussions at the recent Human Rights Council session, with Timor Leste becoming the first NHRI to address the Council by video.

Dr Sebastiao Dias Ximenes, who heads the Office of the Provedor for Human Rights and Justice, presented the three-minute statement as part of the NHRI's follow-up activities to the February 2011 visit to Timor Leste by the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances.

Following the review of the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council, which was concluded last year, 'A status' NHRIs are now able to present statements by video, helping overcoming barriers to participation caused by a lack resources, time constraints and distance from Geneva.

"The use of IT at the Human Rights Council will greatly assist national stakeholders in effectively engaging with the Council," Dr Ximenes noted at the start of his statement.

He went on to acknowledge that Timor Leste "still has a long way to go to fulfil the right to truth, justice and reparation to those who disappeared and their families", which some groups have numbered in the tens of thousands.

Endorsing several of the recommendations made by the Working Group, Dr Ximenes called for "immediate and effective steps [to be] taken to bring justice to victims, including by investigating all unresolved cases of enforced disappearances and making alleged perpetrators accountable."

He also said that Timor Leste should ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, amend national criminal law to remove the possibility of granting amnesty for serious crimes of international law and that victims should be included more closely in the process of seeking justice and reparation.

"The Provedoria and civil society will further strengthen their efforts so that the recommendations of the Working Group will be implemented, timely and effectively," he told the Council.

The video statement can be viewed at: http://www.unmultimedia.org/tv/webcast/2012/03/nhri-timor-leste-item-3-cont-id-17th-meeting.html.

Graphic: Video presentation in Human Rights Council

Sexual orientation and gender identity

In addition, a coalition of 12 NHRIs – including Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia and Thailand from the Asia Pacific region – made a joint statement to the Council welcoming the "the commitment of the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Procedures, Treaty Bodies, non-governmental organisations and human rights defenders worldwide to addressing the issue of violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."

While "working in a diversity of societies and cultures", the NHRIs expressed their "unanimity in condemning human rights violations whenever and wherever they occur and on whatever basis that they occur."

The statement drew attention to the recent report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and welcomed "the acknowledgement in the report of the important role of that NHRIs can play in addressing violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity".

The NHRIs went on to state that "where possible and appropriate, we will work towards increasing our understanding and capacity in this area to enable us to speak out against discrimination and violations, and welcome the sharing – including through international and regional networks – of experiences and best practice in addressing legal, social, cultural and religious barriers for realising the rights of LGBTI individuals.

"Where appropriate and possible, we commit ourselves to work with relevant authorities and the community to monitor and inform on incidents of discrimination and violence linked to sexual orientation and gender identity, and to commit to continuing to engage with the Human Rights Council and Member States to ensure that these human rights violations are adequately addressed."

Date: 16 March 2012

Image credits

  1. Provedor of Timor Leste addresses Human Rights Council via video - APF
  2. Video presentation in Human Rights Council - APF