|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
36th & 37th Meetings (AM & PM)
Intergovernmental Working Group Established by Human Rights Council to Elaborate
Convention on Regulating Private Security Companies, Third Committee Told
Draft Text Prepared by Working Group on Mercenaries;
Also Hears from Two United Nations Experts on Racism, Racial Discrimination
The Human Rights Council had established an intergovernmental working group to elaborate an international convention to regulate private military and security companies, using as its basis the draft text presented to the Council in September by its working group on the use of mercenaries, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
“Only the United Nations can offer a truly independent mechanism for regular oversight of the activities of such companies and provide effective remedies for the victims. The need to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in this respect has never been greater,” said Alexander Nikitin, Chair of the Working Group that prepared a draft on a possible convention.
He urged all States to support the process initiated by the Council by designating their representatives to the new intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue a process of discussions regarding a legally binding instrument.
To prepare their draft text, the Working Group on the use of mercenaries — which had been created by the Council in 2005 and made up of independent experts — had consulted with States and hundreds of organizations in several rounds since July 2009, he said. Now, the torch had been passed to inter-governmental negotiators, and he hoped that, in two or three years, the convention would be ready for adoption by the United Nations.
The draft text sought to move the approach of the international community from perceiving private military and security companies as “business as usual”, or ordinary services regulated by commercial rules, towards considering them highly sensitive services requiring specific oversight by Governments, civil society and the international community, led by the United Nations and regulated by a legally binding instrument.
The aim of the proposed new Convention was not the outright banning of private military and security companies, but the establishment of minimum international standards for States parties to regulate their activities and their personnel, he said, noting that the draft text reaffirmed States’ responsibility to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators and provide remedies for victims.
Having monitored the activities of private military and security companies over the past 12 months, conducting regional consultations in Addis Ababa, Geneva, Moscow, Panama and Bangkok, the mercenaries working group observed a global trend towards increased privatization of security without the establishment of appropriate oversight mechanisms. It also observed a lack of accountability of mercenaries, which had only been tried and convicted by States for criminal behaviour in a handful of cases. For example, the company Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, had been facing lawsuits related to its employees’ killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad, Iraq, but a judge dismissed all of the indictments on procedural grounds. An appeal was pending, but the United States Government, meanwhile, in June 2010, granted the company $220 million of new contracts to protect its facilities in Afghanistan.
The United Nations had also increased its use of private military and security companies – with close to 60 per cent or 12,000 facilities worldwide that were using such services - yet the United Nations lacked a firm system-wide policy concerning the vetting and monitoring of these companies and their personnel.
“The United Nations should serve as a model for Member States and other organizations in applying international human rights standards and should have a clear policy on where and in what conditions it will hire private military and security companies,” he said, explaining that the United Nations was engaged in a process to adopt a policy on its engagement with private military and security companies.
The Committee today also heard from two United Nations experts and a number of speakers on the issue of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, emphasized the need to identify early warning signs which helped recognize situations that might lead to conflict, calling upon all stakeholders to pay attention to, for example, the way the concept of “national identity” was debated within a given country, the presence of socio-economic discrimination against members of specific groups of the population and political manipulation of racist or nationalist ideology. Giving special attention to how advocacy of racial and religious hatred that constituted incitement to hostility could be combated, he noted that vigorously interrogating and criticizing religious doctrines and their teachings was thoroughly legitimate and constituted a significant part of the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of religion. He also called upon all States to remain vigilant about the existence of extremist political groups, stating, “No State is immune to this phenomenon.”
Anwar Kemal, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, said that universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination remained a goal, and that implementation by States of the Convention relating to the scope of the definition of the concept of racial discrimination was another challenge. After 40 years, the Committee continued to innovate and adapt to address racial discrimination, from apartheid to genocide and new forms of racial discrimination. The constructive interpretation of article one had enabled the Committee to address such issues as caste and descent, indirect discrimination and dual or multiple forms of discrimination.
Maggie Nicholson, Deputy Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also introduced four reports from the Secretary-General on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the right of peoples to self-determination.
Questions and comments to the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance were presented by the representatives of Switzerland, Norway, Pakistan, Kenya, European Union, Singapore, Denmark, Russian Federation, Syria, Brazil, United States, Maldives and Algeria.
Engaging in dialogue with the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination were representatives of Pakistan, Switzerland, Brazil, Norway, European Union and Iran.
To the Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, questions and comments came from representatives of Cuba, Pakistan, China, Russian Federation and South Africa.
Also speaking this afternoon were representatives of Yemen (on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China), Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Saint Kitts and Nevis (on behalf of the Caribbean Community), Zimbabwe (on behalf of the Southern African Development Community), Egypt, China, Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, Brazil, United States, Russian Federation, Libya and Algeria, as well as the Observers for Palestine and the Holy See.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 2 November, to begin its discussion of refugees, hearing from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. In the afternoon, the Committee will also hear a statement by a President of the Human Rights Council.
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today, it had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/65/292), which notes that 173 States parties had ratified or acceded to the Convention as of 15 August, with six States having signed but not yet ratified it. Fifty-four of the States parties also recognized the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to receive and consider communications from individuals or groups within their jurisdictions claiming to have been victims of violations of the Convention.
The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on the financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/65/312). The report noted that financing for the annual sessions of the Committee in 2009 and 2010 was provided from the regular budget, in accordance with General Assembly resolution 47/111. Consequently, no State party assessments were made in those two years. However, a number of States parties are still in arrears as a result of the non-payment of previous assessments. As of 30 June, the total arrears outstanding amounted to $121,216.13.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/64/18), summarizing the work of that Committee at its seventy-fourth session from 16 February to 6 March 2009 and its seventy-fifth session on 3-28 August 2009. It discusses organizational matters, early warning and urgent action procedures vis-à-vis racial discrimination, and consideration of reports submitted by States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/65/323). The report, submitted by Githu Muigai, Special Rapporteur, provides the context behind resolution 64/147 on the inadmissibility of certain practices contributing to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and then summarizes the statements of 13 States (Bulgaria, Colombia, Cyprus, Gabon, Georgia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Mauritius, Paraguay, Portugal, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation and Spain) on the implementation of the resolution. It also notes concerns by non-governmental organizations about issues raised in the resolution, including the increase of right-wing extremism in Eastern Europe; discrimination and marginalization suffered by indigenous peoples; recent legislation related to racial profiling of immigrants; and “hate crimes” and attacks against ethnic minorities.
The Special Rapporteur, then, puts forward numerous recommendations for Member States, such as ratifying the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, if they have not yet done so; ensuring legislation that fully incorporates the provisions of the Convention; introducing a provision in domestic criminal law according to which committing an offence with racist or xenophobic motivations constitutes an aggravating circumstance, allowing for enhanced penalties; strengthening efforts to ensure the effective implementation of existing legislation through adequately trained law enforcement agents and the judges; bringing to justice the perpetrators of racially motivated crimes through prompt and appropriate sanctions, while providing legal, medical and psychological support to victims; ensuring that State agents are provided with mandatory human rights training to identify and investigate racist and xenophobic crimes; and establishing internal official systems to record racially motivated incidents within the police.
Also, collecting ethnically disaggregated statistics and data on racist and xenophobic crimes to identify the types of offences committed and the characteristics of the perpetrators; addressing incitement to violence, racism and xenophobia in sport; establishing truth and justice commissions in post-conflict situations to explain why racist and xenophobic crimes occurred during a conflict and to prevent their resurgence; encouraging political leaders to be more vocal in tackling the negative influence of extremist political parties; addressing the dissemination of racist and xenophobic propaganda on the Internet; creating regional human rights instruments and mechanisms to prevent and eliminate extremist political parties, movements and groups like neo-Nazis and skinhead groups; and ensuring that the recommendations made are implemented in consultation with civil society and that it is provided with adequate financial support.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/65/377), which concludes that progress has been made in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Nevertheless, these phenomena have not been eradicated and no country can claim to be free of their destructive influence. Urgent measures are needed to reverse the worrisome trends over the last years of increasingly hostile racist attitudes and violence. Intercultural dialogue, tolerance and respect for diversity are essential for combating racial discrimination and related intolerance. The report invites all stakeholders to regularly submit inputs, in accordance with circulated requests for information, in order to review progress with regard to the comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference.
Member States are also encouraged to: invite the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent to carry out country visits, particularly in the light of the fact that 2011 is the International Year for People of African Descent; participate actively in the deliberations of the Durban follow-up mechanisms; and develop and implement national action plans to combat racial discrimination and related intolerance. International and regional organizations are encouraged to intensify collaboration to fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General entitled Combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/65/295), conveying the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the issue, Mr. Muigai. It recaps his country visits to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, and looks forward to his mission to Bolivia. In its conclusions and recommendations, the report reiterates that “racism is alive and still plagues every society”. Among other issues, it expresses serious concern with regards to reported acts of violence and discrimination against Muslim individuals; this was a serious issue in a variety of countries that needed to be address with greater resolve. Racial profiling was a permissible means of law enforcement, but States should not resort to profiling based on discrimination prohibited by international law. It was up to an independent and impartial judiciary to assess, on a case-by-case basis, the banning or restriction of religious symbols. Deeply marked tendencies in many societies to characterize migration as a problem and a threat to social cohesion were a matter of concern. Migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, like others, were entitled to have all their human rights protected by the State where they live without discrimination. Finally, the Special Rapporteur urged States to be particular vigilant vis-à-vis racism in sport, particularly football, and to use mass sports events to promote equality and non-discrimination.
Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/65/286). The report outlines the relevant jurisprudence of the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the treaty-based human rights norms relating to the realization of the right of peoples to self-determination. It also contains a summary of the developments relating to the consideration by the Human Rights Council of the subject matter, including recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and international human rights conventions. A reference to the recent advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legality of the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 is also included.
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General entitled use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/65/325), which addresses the challenges stemming from the use of private military and security companies and their impact on the enjoyment of human rights. It discusses the trend towards increasing privatization of security and its underlying consequences and points to a growing dependency of some States on private military and security companies. It also reports on challenges regarding the accountability of private military and security companies and their personnel. Additionally, the report presents an overview of the activities carried out by the Working Group during the period under review, including its three regular sessions and the three regional consultations it held (for Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Western European and others Group) on traditional and new forms of mercenary activities. The report provides a brief overview of the United Nations policy vis-à-vis the use of private security contractors and information on the progress achieved in the elaboration of a possible draft convention on private military and security companies. The main elements of such a possible draft convention are contained in the annex for the consideration of Member States.
The report recommends that States renounce the inclusion of immunity provisions in bilateral agreements for their national contractors working abroad. It welcomes the recent initiative of the Secretariat to elaborate a comprehensive policy regarding the use of private military and security companies by the United Nations and calls on the United Nations to elaborate a clear set of criteria, vetting standards and an oversight mechanism to monitor the compliance of private security contractors with United Nations policy. The Working Group encourages Member States to carefully consider the draft proposal for a possible new international legal instrument regulating private military and security companies and recommends to all Member States, in particular those confronted with the phenomenon of private military and security companies, as contracting States, States of operations, home States or States whose nationals are employed to work for a private military and security company, to contribute to the Human Rights Council open-ended Working Group tasked with elaborating a new convention regulating private military and security companies, taking into account the initial work done by the Working Group on the use of mercenaries.
Introduction of Reports
The Committee heard first from MAGGIE NICHOLSON, Deputy Director of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. She introduced four reports from the Secretary-General on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the right of peoples to self-determination, entitled Status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/65/292), Financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/65/312), Global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/65/377) and Universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/65/286).
Special Rapporteur on Racism
GITHU MUIGAI, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, raised key issues included in his interim report on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as his report on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling those issues. In his report to the Human Rights Council, he also emphasized the need to identify early warning signs which helped recognize situations that might lead to conflict. He called upon all stakeholders to give attention to issues such — for example, the way the concept of “national identity” was debated within a given country, the presence of socio-economic discrimination against members of specific groups of the population and political manipulation of racist or nationalist ideology. He addressed the question of hate speech as a factor that exacerbated conflicts and, in the context of post-conflict situations, and said it was essential to ensure that the root causes of a conflict be appropriately addressed to avoid resurgence of tensions and violence. “Let me stress that it is the State’s primary responsibility to protect its population; however, the responsibility to protect is also an obligation of the international community,” he said.
He noted that he had continued to give special attention to the question of incitement to racial or religious hatred in numerous presentations. In his latest report, he had referred to worldwide incidents relating to issues under five broad categories, warranting different approaches under international human rights law. Those categories included acts of violence or discrimination against individuals on the basis of their religion or belief; attacks on religious sites; religious and ethnic profiling; a ban or restrictions on religious symbols; and negative stereotyping of religions and their followers. For each category, he had presented observations pertaining to applicable international human rights law, and strongly condemned all acts of violence or discrimination against persons based on their religion. With regard to restrictions on religious symbols such as the Islamic veil or head-to-toe niqab, he said that it was up to an independent and impartial judiciary to assess on a case by case whether these restrictions ran counter to the freedom to manifest one’s religion or the freedom of expression. “I would also like to recall that vigorously interrogating and criticizing religious doctrines and their teachings is thoroughly legitimate and constitutes a significant part of the exercise of freedom of expression and freedom of religion,” he said, encouraging a focus on how advocacy of racial and religious hatred that constituted incitement to hostility could be combated.
With regard to the question of human rights challenges faced by migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, he said that they would be offered enhanced protection against racism and xenophobia through common approaches, coordinated strategies and joint initiatives involving a large range of actors, including civil society. Concerning the collection of ethnically-disaggregated data, he stated that it was an essential tool for identifying persons and groups affected by racial discrimination, understanding inequalities and designing appropriate legislation and policies. He was aware, however, of concerns that it could aggravate tensions between groups by exacerbating differences, so States should abide by key principles such as self-identification and the right to privacy and protection of personal data. Regarding racism and sports, he proposed promoting the message of tolerance and non-discrimination through sport, as both youth and adults could learn and experience for themselves how individuals from diverse, ethnic, national and religious backgrounds could interact in a harmonious manner.
Referring to his country visits, he discussed his trip to Singapore in April 2010 and highlighted that the Government was rightly proud of its diverse society and had endeavoured to put in place laws, policies and institutions that sought to combat threats posed by racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. He noted that the legitimate goal in searching for racial harmony might have created “blind spots” in the measures pursued by Singapore, which he outlined in his report to the Government. He also thanked the Government of Bolivia, which had confirmed dates for a visit from 6 to 13 December, and said that he was in discussions with the Government of South Africa concerning an eventual mission to that country.
The persistent existence of extremist political parties, movements and groups posed major challenges to the wide range of human rights and to democracy, he had reiterated in his report to the Human Rights Council, which identified how States could better address that phenomenon. Stating that a comprehensive approach was crucial to countering extremist groups, he stated that it was essential for States to adopt legislation in conformity with international human rights standards and called for the universal ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. The fight against impunity and the bringing to justice of perpetrators of racially motivated crimes was also important. Additionally, he encouraged States to provide law enforcement agents with adequate human rights training and to adopt policies that addressed the root causes for the existence of extremist political groups. He also called on traditional political parties to condemn political discourse that incited racial discrimination. H e called upon all States to remain vigilant about the existence of extremist political groups, stating, “No State is immune to this phenomenon.”
Mr. MUIGAI then replied to questions and comments from a number of representatives. He said that, due to lack of time, he could not answer each representative, but their remarks would to make his future reports “better products”. In this second year of his mandate, he had sought very much to expand the scope of cooperation with other mandate holders, notably the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of religion and freedom of expression, and the Special Representative on genocide. On concrete measures that could be taken to end racism, he said that, in his opinion, the fight against racism had to be taken within the nation-state itself with the creation of more robust legal systems, coherent policies and mechanisms for enforcement. It was a tragedy to hear a lot of speeches at the international level about what to do about racism, only to find very little concrete efforts being made in individual countries, or at the regional level. Ideological debate could not be a substitute for concrete practical action that affected the lives of individual human beings.
He said it was incorrect to say that his report made no mention of Western countries; his full report contained many references to serious and unacceptable developments in Western countries. The suitability, desirability and compatibility of religious symbols was not a religious issue per se, but a judicial question. The ways in which one individual dressed for school, and another dressed to enter a military installation, were different questions. The right of individuals to wear whatever dress was important to them in terms of their culture, religion and lifestyle must be asserted; the compatibility of that principle with different situations was best left to judicial bodies. Those were not issues that the West alone was dealing with; in his own country, Kenya, a judge had looked at the law and the evidence and concluded that a high school could not deny access to a teenager wearing a headdress.
In response to questions about early warning systems, Mr. MUIGAI said that much had been learned from the Rwanda experience. The signals were known: almost invariably, where genocidal wars had erupted, there had been a rise in racist speech and hate speech. It was possible for governments and the United Nations to develop early warning mechanisms; the Special Representative on genocide was of the same view. Mr. MUIGAI said he had seen for himself, read for himself, and received information about a growing intolerance against certain established religions in the world, including Islam. But, he did not subscribe to the view that religion, as a body of belief, could not be challenged. He was also against religious and racial profiling and intolerance that made it hard for members of any religion to exercise their freedom of religion. In that regard, he had been beseeching the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly of the need to stay within the framework of contemporary human rights law.
Responding to the representative of Algeria, who inquired as to whether the Convention should be reopened, he replied that that was a legitimate question to ask, although he himself did not have an answer. To the representative of the Russian Federation, he acknowledged that the glorification of Nazism and destruction of post-Second World War statues was a serious issue that showed that intolerance was on the rise. To the representative of Syria, who questioned the absence of references in his report to Israel and the Palestinian territories, he said there had not been a deliberate effort to play down the issue that gave rise to very serious human rights questions.
Concluding his remarks, he said that he was inspired by the support expressed for his mandate. He would continue to do his best, but it was very important to visit countries and see what was happening. In Germany, he had seen some very interesting domestic social programmes; he had also seen very serious efforts in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Such efforts would remain unknown if a Special Rapporteur did not visit a country.
Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
ANWAR KEMAL, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, then presented an oral report on the Committee’s work. Because the Committee’s report was unavailable in all United Nations languages due to technical reasons, an extract had been prepared for the Third Committee to take action on. Mr. KEMAL described the progress that the Committee had made in reducing its “chronic backlog” of reports from States parties to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and in facilitating and improving its dialogue with States parties. General recommendations had been adopted by the Committee on the meaning of special measures, otherwise referred to as affirmation action or positive discrimination, and follow-up to the Durban Review Conference. A thematic discussion on racial discrimination, coinciding with the International Year for People of African Descent, is to be held by the Committee during its next session from 14 February to 11 March 2011.
He identified a number of challenges facing the Committee, including gender parity, a problem that could be resolved if States parties elected more women candidates. The independence of Committee experts should be ensured by States when candidates are nominated and throughout their membership in treaty bodies. Universal ratification of the Convention remained a goal; States that had yet to accede to the Convention were urged to so do as a matter of priority, and those with reservations were called upon to withdraw them. Regrettably, the number of States recognizing the ability of individuals to file complaints to the Committee – 54 out of 173 States parties – was very small.
The implementation by States of the Convention relating to the scope of the definition of the concept of racial discrimination – as provided in article one of the Convention - was another challenge, he said. Denying or minimizing the extent of racial discrimination in a country led to a false sense of security that all is well in that country, potentially aggravating the situation in the long run. After 40 years, the Committee had succeeded in remaining dynamic and relevant, achieving progress in both substance and procedure. It had continued to innovate and adapt to address racial discrimination, from apartheid to genocide and new forms of racial discrimination. The constructive interpretation of article one had enabled the Committee to address such issues as caste and descent, indirect discrimination and dual or multiple forms of discrimination. Returning to the topic of meeting time, he recalled the Committee’s request to the General Assembly to approve one additional week of meeting time per session from 2012; such time would enable the Committee to avert an increased backlog of reports and loss of the momentum that has been achieved.
Question and Answer Session
Responding to questions and comments from representatives, Mr. KEMAL said that the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had been able to save almost a day by reducing the number of meetings that started late. He remarked how the Third Committee started its meetings on time, as well. On early warning, he said that such work has been undertaken since the early 1990s when, in a period when acts of genocide had shocked the world, clues had been missed or minimised by the international community. The Committee now had a Working Group on early warning that met before and after regular meetings and also during lunch time. Proffering a thought, but not a solution, he noted that the Committee met only two months of the year; what happened during the other ten months? The reality was that the Committee was working part-time, in a way. It was a question worth reflecting upon.
Responding to the representative of Iran, who inquired about the Durban Declaration, he said the Committee was not directly concerned with discrimination on religious grounds unless there was overlap. The Convention only referred once to religion, in article five, section D paragraph seven. The Committee had to decide on a case-by-case issue whether it could intervene in such cases with “intersectionality”. As for the Durban Declaration, a reference was made to it in each and every one of the Committee’s concluding observations. Time was being devoted by the Committee to the Declaration and its implementation; the Convention itself was very much part of the Declaration, with much overlap between the two.
Giving a final thought, Mr. KEMAL noted how times had changed. When the Committee was established, there was apartheid in South Africa. Since then, new forms of racial discrimination had emerged. People of African descent certainly deserved special attention, as they faced discrimination in Latin America, the Western Hemisphere and Europe. “The struggle never ends,” he said.
Chair of Working Group on Mercenaries
ALEXANDER NIKITIN, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said that, over the last twelve months, the Working Group has continued to monitor the phenomenon of mercenarism and remained preoccupied about the lack of accountability of mercenaries, which had been tried and convicted by States for criminal behaviour only in a handful of cases. The Working Group had also continued to examine the activities of private military and security companies, as mandated by the Human Rights Council, observing a trend towards the increasing privatization of security in many parts of the world without the setting up of appropriate oversight mechanisms.
Noting a recent report of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States Government had failed to exercise adequate control over the private security contractors used in Afghanistan, and the concern that private contractors did not always respect international human rights standards, he said, “The growing dependency on [private military and security companies] in the field of intelligence activities also raises the question as to whether or to what extent States are still in control of their most sensitive activities.” Legal proceedings against private military and security companies for criminal activities or human rights abuses were extremely rare. For instance, the company Xe, formerly known as Blackwater, had been facing lawsuits related to the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad, Iraq, but the judge dismissed all of the indictments on procedural grounds and, so, an appeal was pending; meanwhile, in June 2010, the United States Government still granted the company new contracts worth $220 million to protect its facilities in Afghanistan.
Like some States, the United Nations has also increased its use of private military and security companies, including in the context of United Nations peacekeeping missions or other United Nations activities in conflict-affected areas, he said, stating that close to 60 per cent of United Nations offices, 12,000 facilities worldwide, were using the services of private military and security companies. The Working Group also stated that the United Nations lacked a firm system-wide policy governing the hiring of such companies, including on issues related to the vetting and monitoring of the companies and their personnel. Noting that the concept of accountability and institutional responsibility of intergovernmental organizations was complex, he cautioned that, without proper oversight by the United Nations of private companies, there was a risk that incidents could happen. The United Nations should serve as a model for Member States and other organizations in applying international human rights standards and should have a clear policy on where and in what conditions it will hire private military and security companies. It should also have an adequate oversight system, he said, affirming that the United Nations was engaged in a process to adopt a policy on its engagement with such companies.
He discussed the Working Group’s regional consultations in Addis Ababa, Geneva, Moscow, Panama and Bangkok, stating that they allowed the Working Group to gain regional perspectives about the current practices related to mercenaries and private military and security companies. He also discussed a country visit to Equatorial Guinea, recalling that, while States were entitled to combat mercenary activities, they must do so in accordance with international human rights standards. Further, over the last year, the Working Group had consulted a wide range of stakeholders, from States to international organizations, academia and civil society, on the content and scope of a draft Convention on the regulation of private military and security companies. An initial text had been circulated in July 2009 to about 250 experts, academics and non-governmental organizations, which sent over 100 comments. The Working Group then produced a new consolidated draft that was circulated in January 2010 to all States, which responded with written comments and participated in consultations. The Working Group had been in a position to present a draft text for a new convention to the Human Rights Council in September 2010.
“The Working Group has elaborated not only general principles, but has also proposed the elements, including definitions and detailed provisions, for a legally binding regulatory instrument,” he said, noting that the proposed Convention consisted of more than 40 articles and was drafted in consultation with States, international organizations and companies that provided more than 400 separate suggestions, amendments, proposals and formulations.
The full text of the draft Convention had been submitted for the consideration of States as an annex to the Report of the Working Group to the Human Rights Council in September 2010, he stated. The draft sought to move the approach of the international community from perceiving private military and security companies as “business as usual,” or ordinary services regulated by commercial rules, towards considering them as highly sensitive services requiring specific supervision and oversight by Governments, civil society and the international community, led by the United Nations. “The aim of the proposed new Convention is not the outright banning of [private military and security companies], but the establishment of minimum international standards for States parties to regulate their activities and their personnel,” he said.
The draft Convention reaffirmed States responsibility to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators and provide remedies for victims. It devised mechanisms to ensure international oversight and monitoring of the activities of private military security companies through: a better system of national registration and licensing of companies, including the creation of an International Register of private military and security companies operating on the market; licensing contingent on the provision of compulsory training to private military and security companies personnel in international human rights law; accountability and higher transparency by a system of annual reports of States about private military and security companies registered by them; legal definition by States of activities that should under no circumstances be outsourced to private military and security companies; an international United Nations-based monitoring and complaints mechanism concerning private military and security companies and prohibition of illegal acquisition, possession and trafficking in firearms and weapons by private military and security companies.
Currently, there were two approaches by the various States to the draft Convention, he said. One was to respond that such activities should be handled through self-regulation and mechanisms such as voluntary codes of conduct for private military and security companies, by which the most severe punishment for violations was not of a legal or financial nature, but mere expulsion from the “club” of privileged security companies. The second approach called for the development of a legally binding instrument on the regulation by States of companies, for instance through the adoption of a United Nations Convention on private military and security companies. The Working Group considered both approaches as complementary and believed that the Human Rights Council constituted the best forum for the development of a new international instrument to address the human rights impact of private military and security companies.
In September 2010, the Council voted to establish an inter-governmental working group to consider the possibility of an international regulatory framework, including a new convention on the regulation and monitoring of private military and security companies, taking into consideration the draft text proposed by the Working Group. The Working Group urged all States to designate their representatives to the new intergovernmental working group, which will hold its first session in 2011, and to continue discussion about a legally binding regulatory instrument. Noting that the role and status of private military and security companies would remain of pressing importance, he concluded that, “Only the UN could offer a truly independent mechanism for regular oversight of the activities of such companies and provide effective remedies for victims. The need to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights in this respect has never been greater.”
Questions and Answers
The Chair of the Working Group, then took questions and comments from the delegates.
Regarding the question of the representative of Pakistan about what steps could be taken to repair the plight of victims and what could be done in the short-term regarding the accountability of perpetrators, he answered that a combination of efforts was needed. In the short-term, a systematic policy could be created within the United Nations regarding the current use of private military and security companies, before negotiations concerning the Convention even finished. In the longer term, intergovernmental negotiations would be conducted. The Working Group had consulted with States and hundreds of expert institutions in several rounds, and produced an expert product about how the Convention should look. Now, the product was on the table, ready for intergovernmental negotiations. The decision to establish an intergovernmental Working Group represented an upgrade to the next level, where they would talk about and nail down the exact language in the Convention.
Concerning the question of the representative of China about the biggest obstacles to the plan of the Working Group in the next stage of formulating the Convention, he said that there was still an obvious difference in the opinion of countries that were “starving from” the activities of private military and security companies versus those that were sending private military and security companies to conflict areas. It was necessary to establish a proper dialogue about the process of formulating the Convention, considering that companies were rushing to create other documents about self-regulation. He noted that the key difference with a code of conduct, which had been elaborated by companies and supported by a particular group of States, was that the code stipulated that there would be “no legal obligations and no legal liabilities on the signatory companies”. The code of conduct was progress and good by itself, but it was not the end of the process if it was not legally binding, as was currently stated in its text.
With the regard to the questions by the representatives of Cuba and Pakistan about conflict mechanisms that countries could use to make private military and security companies on their territories more accountable, he said that the draft Convention proposed “entrance control mechanisms” that would allow countries with private military and security companies on their territories not to allow in particular countries or personnel with a previous criminal record. As to complaints and inquiries, they aimed to establish a system whereby every country would have the right to request and obtain information about what companies from other countries were doing on their territory. Also, if those companies were doing something on their territories, mechanisms involving the courts could be triggered to prosecute the violation of human rights law. At the same time, they realistically understood that private companies were part of the modern world and were performing functions granted to them by States.
International organizations were not ready to withdraw from using private militaries and security companies, which was why a draft Convention was created that distinguished between the possibility to regulate private military and security companies and the necessity to regulate them. The Chair stated that he was looking forward to the process that would be started by the new intergovernmental working group, which represented the passing of the torch from the experts to representatives from Governments. He hoped that, in two or three years, the negotiations about the Convention would lead to full preparation for the adoption of the instrument by the United Nations.
Statement from the Chair
At the start of the afternoon session, MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), the Chair of the Committee, said that there had been insufficient time for groups to reflect on the conclusions of the eighth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action that was held in Geneva from 11 October to 22 October. It was, therefore, proposed that the deadline for submission of draft proposals on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action be extended from today to 4 November 2010 at 6 p.m. With no delegations objecting, the proposal was adopted.
ABDULLAH M. ALSAIDI (Yemen), speaking on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, noted that in the last decade, the international community had made great progress in its fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, most notably, the “landmark” Durban Conference in 2001. Despite its great strides, however, the “scourge” of racism and the objective of a world free from all forms of discrimination remained elusive, he added, citing the global rise in religious and racial intolerance. In light of the persistent challenges, action should be taken to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference. Further, legislative action, intercultural dialogue and tolerance education were among other actions imperative to ending all forms of discrimination, he said.
To that end, he encouraged all Member States to participate in the Tenth Anniversary of the World Conference, during a high-level event during the 66th General Assembly and which he expected to result in the adoption of an outcome document encapsulating the global resolve to end racism. In that regard, he lauded the conclusions and recommendations adopted by Members at the Eighth Session of the Intergovernmental Working Group for the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (IGWG), particularly on the issues of migration, employment, protection of children and structural discrimination. He also encouraged participation in the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards. Further, he encouraged the Secretary-General to nominate a replacement to fill the vacancy within the Group of Eminent Persons, but expressed regret that the Ad Hoc Committee meetings would be held in Geneva, a move that would negatively impact the New York negotiations. Therefore, he called for the Office of the High Commissioner to take that into account when scheduling future meetings.
In closing, he welcomed the permanent memorial honouring the victims of slavery at the United Nations, saying it was a partial fulfilment of paragraph 101 of the Durban Declaration and calling on the international community to ensure that the tragic chapter in history would never be repeated itself. Further, he reaffirmed the Group’s commitment to the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action and the outcome of the 2009 Durban Review Conference in order to eliminate all forms of discrimination that hindered the enjoyment of the basic human rights and freedoms of millions around the world.
NICOLAS BURNIAT (Belgium) speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that racism, xenophobia and related intolerance must be tackled and effectively punished, and stressed the vital role that the promotion and protection of all human rights, particularly freedom of expression, played in the fight against all forms of discrimination. Free debate and exchange of ideas, distribution of information on human rights violations and freedom of the press were among the various factors that would contribute to human rights education and promote a culture of tolerance, he said.
He went on to say that discrimination in all forms was contrary to the very values upon which the European Union was founded, noting that respect for equality in diversity was a central premise of European integration. It had adopted and initiated various measures, including a recent law that required Member States to introduce laws prohibiting racial discrimination, including in employment, education, health care and housing and required that penalties for serious forms of racism and xenophobia be taken into consideration by the courts. In December, the European Council adopted the “Stockholm Programme”, for the period 2010 to 2014, which states the measure to tackle discrimination must be vigorously pursued, including integration of vulnerable groups, particularly the Roma community, and invited the European Commission to make full use of existing instruments in order to finance related programmes. Despite significant advancement, there was room for progress, he said.
Regrettably, he noted that 45 years after the adoption the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, there were still many shortcomings. First and foremost, the Convention lacked universal ratification and, despite the call made in the Durban Programme of Action to States to withdraw reservations contrary to its purpose, States’ compliance with reporting obligations to the Committee was insufficient, among other deficiencies. To that end, the Union welcomed the approach of the Special Rapporteur to “anchor the debate in the relevant existing international legal framework”. Finally, he said the outcome of last year’s Durban Review Conference provided a basis for further work against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, noting that streamlining was an essential follow-up mechanism to achieve on the ground what was agreed upon in Durban nine years ago. The Union looked forward to continuing the positive dialogue regarding the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and the Outcome Document of the Durban Review Conference, notably this year within the framework of the Human Rights Council, he said.
DELANO F. BART (Saint Kitts and Nevis) speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and aligning with the statement delivered by Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, stated that slavery was a recurring theme in Caribbean literature, and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was “one of the most barbaric crimes in the history of mankind.” Additionally, the “legacy of social and economic inequality, hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice” – legacies that were linked to current economic and social inequalities worldwide -- continued to pervade the international community. For that reason, CARICOM was honoured to have spearheaded the designation of 25 March as an annual International Day of Remembrance and to lead the process to erect a permanent memorial at the United Nations to honour the victims of the transatlantic slave trade.
CARICOM was concerned by the existence of extremist political parties, movements and groups which promoted racial superiority or hatred and incited violence against specific groups of individuals. He shared the view of some States that intercultural dialogue and interaction were an important means to raise awareness of those phenomena and to build a society based on tolerance and respect for multiculturalism and non-discrimination. The likes of the Mighty Sparrow, Bob Marley and the Mighty Arrow had done much to create a love for Caribbean culture, people and places. CARICOM supported the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur concerning sport as a tool for promoting understanding and the internet as a tool to educate and spread awareness of racism.
He also acknowledged the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting in the coordination of the Inter-governmental Working Group on Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Program of Action and commended the efforts of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. As Member States whose people were predominantly of African descent, CARICOM looked forward to participating in activities in 2011 marking the international year for persons of African descent. In closing, he said “Racism is a global problem that requires collective action.”
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), noted that members States of his delegation had lived through the worst forms of institutionalized racism and racial discrimination. Individually, collectively and with the support of many in the international community, they had fought and defeated that scourge in all its manifestations. That part of their history was still in their minds and they had drawn lessons from it. SADC members were determined and committed to root out the vestiges of racism in their region, including in subtle forms, which had, unfortunately risen in modern times, he said.
Continuing, he said SADC believed that racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, in all their forms and manifestations, were an affront to human dignity and constituted a total negation of the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In that regard, SADC members, in compliance with their obligations under international human rights law, in particular, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, had instituted domestic laws to combat the scourge and to achieve substantive equality of their peoples in line with constitutional imperatives.
The full implementation of the outcome of the World Conference Against Racism, namely the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, remained key to their policy priorities, he went on. They were concerned that 10 years had passed with little progress being made in the implementation of that action plan, particularly the key paragraphs, 157 to 159, of the Programme of Action, which identified poverty, political marginalization, human rights violations and social exclusion as among the root causes of racism, racial discrimination and other related intolerances. They, therefore, remained convinced that the elimination of racism must entail equitable distribution of economic, social and cultural resources to ensure social justice and fairness through equality of opportunities.
SOHA GENDI ( Egypt) said expansion of extremist rightwing tendencies, racism and xenophobia raised grave concern, especially since a large number of it came out of well-established democracies that made respect of human rights a top priority. Some States had undertaken efforts to confront “these alarming issues”, but others were pressing racist notions that had gained traction in the platforms of political parties. “We should act in parallel at the national levels to deal with the weakness or absence of necessary legal instruments in some States to prohibit incitement to racism and discrimination in all their forms and prevent impunity,” he said.
States must cooperate to implement the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, while the global community must promote initiatives for dialogue between cultures, civilizations and religions on foundations of mutual understanding and respect. Education must also be developed to instil principles of tolerance; non-governmental organizations, the private sector and communities must promote dialogue within their societies; and all States should reinforce freedom of expression and strengthen the role of the media to support efforts to eliminate racism.
Turning to the right of peoples to self-determination, he said that while the United Nations had made great efforts over the past 65 years to achieve the hopes of all peoples to live in dignity, it was still struggling to ensure equal rights and the full respect for the right of self-determination. Indeed, decolonization remained incomplete and it was imperative that the international community must intensify its efforts to promote sustained and balanced growth of the fragile economies of the Non-Self Governing Territories and peoples, as well as of those living under foreign occupation and colonialism. Full compensation for economic, social and cultural consequences of occupation was required for sustained and balanced growth such situations.
Egypt had carefully considered the Secretary-General’s report on the matter and looked forward to inclusion next year of specific recommendations on how to enable the Human Rights Council to perform its role dealing with Israel’s human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, he said. The United Nations should play an invigorating role to ensure respect of rights of the Palestinian people, along with other Arab peoples suffering from occupation. “We aspire for a larger UN engagement in a more serious manner, through its role in the Quartet and confidence building efforts, all the way through to the attainment of a just, comprehensive, and lasting peace,” he said.
LINGXIAO LIU (China), associating herself with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said combating racism, among other issues, was a common challenge. Citing the values and principles outlined in article 1 of the Universal Declaration, she said racism ran counter to those values. The United Nations had played an active role in eliminating racism, and China supported the work of the Organization and its relevant agencies in combating that scourge. Interpretation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had not been satisfactory, she said, adding that indeed, new forms of racism, like Islamophobia, were becoming more pronounced, while freedom of speech often was abused to foment such xenophobia.
For its part, China always had participated in the fight against racism, she said, notably by promoting implementation of the Declaration and harmonious co-existence among cultures. A “zero intolerance” policy should be implemented nationally and internationally and she called for effective measures to eliminate racism. Countries should not provide breeding grounds for such behaviour. The right to self-determination was a sacred right of all peoples. The international community should, in line with the United Nations Charter, protect and promote the realization of that right to more broadly promote peace, development and human rights. China supported Palestinians in their struggle for national self-determination and urged a greater role for the international community in solving that question, with a view to achieving peace in the Middle East at an early date.
MOHAMMAD A. AL NSOUR ( Jordan) said his country stood in unity with Turkey after the latest terrorist attack there. It condemned all forms of terrorism. Every day, people in the Middle East, particularly those of the current generation, heard much talk about the right of self-determination and the aspirations of those who lived under a colonial yoke. But, that right was a myth.
For more than 60 years, the Palestinians had aspired to self-determination and their own State, he said. The failure of the international movement to realize their right for self-determination only undermined other human rights for people in the Middle East. How could one talk about freedom of expression and education when the right to life and freedom had been denied to all Palestinian people? Jordan, which has a peace treaty with Israel, renewed its call for Israel to resume negotiations and lift unilateral measures. Doing so would enable millions of refugees to realize their expectations, return to their homes and determine the future for themselves and their children.
MONIA ALSALEH (Syria), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the fact that racism was widespread today, be it racial or religious, coupled with the fact that modern communication was used to distort religions and cultures, should act as an alarm bell. Such behaviour enhanced the illusory feeling of superiority of one ethnic group over another, and thus, threatened international security and stability. The targeting of Muslims by systematic racism, including the war on terror, was a gap that must be addressed. Syrian society did not face any problems with racial discrimination within its borders, as people equally enjoyed fundamental rights. There were no “hate crimes” in the known sense of that term. Syria had acceded to all United Nations conventions to combat racism and discrimination, which had been integrated into national legislation and were respected by both judicial authorities and State institutions.
Racist practices in her region, she said, had been compounded by Israel’s racist decision, adopted a few weeks ago, regarding taxes on non-Jews. Such laws were not compatible with what the world demanded to combat a growing tendency towards racism. Moreover, Israel’s racist practices against Palestinian detainees, documented by video and audio, demanded international action. Such practices revealed the racist truth behind Israel. By overlooking such crimes, the global community only encouraged Israel to continue violating human rights. Syria had taken note of the Secretary-General’s report and regretted the arbitrary measures adopted by Israel documented by the fact-finding mission. It was regrettable that the United Nations was still unable to use available resources to protect the rights of those living under the yoke of colonialism.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) spoke of the situation in Kashmir, in a statement in which he quoted a number of journalists and politicians, many of them from India. Within India, many voices of sanity had raised the volume on the plight there. Many youths, men and women had been killed, and there had been curfews and strikes. The situation in Kashmir was not externally motivated and, rather than abating, it had entered a new and alarming phase, with a new generation assuming the mantle of struggle.
More and more, women were participating in that struggle, he said. Quoting a journalist’s account, he said for the first time, women were on the streets, chucking stones and burning vehicles. No longer could they ignore the death of men killed outside their homes. Another journalist was quoted as saying that India could not live in denial; it had to accept that an uprising was underway, then seek to build trust and create the conditions for dialogue. A peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute could create an atmosphere for durable peace and security, so needed in South Asia, and the United Nations had to be involved in that effort.
ALAN SELLOS ( Brazil) noted that his country was home to the largest population of African descent in the world, comprising more than 50 per cent of its citizens. Combating racial discrimination was therefore a top priority, he said, as reflected in the establishment of a ministry specifically charged with the promotion and implementation of policies on racial equality. Also to that end, a law establishing the “Statute of Racial Equality” had entered into force to ensure equal opportunities to all and the right of every Brazilian citizen to fully participate in his or her community. The Statute encompassed a broad range of measures to further those goals, including programmes and policies of affirmative action, targeting such areas as health, education, culture, decent work, housing, access to land, media and public security, particularly for “Quilombola” communities.
“ Brazil believes that the collection of disaggregated data by race and ethnicity is essential for the implementation of effective public policies aimed at eliminating racial discrimination”, he stated. In that context, he noted the nation’s national census was being undertaken with respect to specific questions on race and colour in order to gain a clearer picture of the situation of people of African descent within the country.
JOHN SAMMIS ( United States) said his Government strongly supported the elimination of racial discrimination at home and abroad. In preparation of its Universal Periodic Review in Geneva on Friday, 5 November, United States citizens had been canvassed on their human rights challenges. It was clear that the United States had come a long way in addressing historic injustices, but still more needed to be done. The United States was committed to the path of a world free of injustice, and it was making progress in that area. To that end, President Barack Obama had signed legislation giving federal, state and local law enforcement agencies important tools to deter and prosecute hate crimes.
Considerable efforts have been undertaken by the Government to improve the cultural competency of law enforcement officers, including immigration officials, he said. Increased knowledge of different customs, beliefs and practices enabled law enforcement agencies to avoid unprofessional and unlawful conduct based on a lack of knowledge or misunderstanding. Such training was critical for addressing and preventing the inappropriate use of race, ethnicity or religion by law enforcement officers. The United Nations must continue to address the issue of race and racism, and the United States would work with all peoples and nations to build greater resolve and enduring political will to halt racism and racial discrimination wherever they occur.
GRIGORY LUKIYANTSEV ( Russian Federation) urged strengthening a comprehensive approach to counter all forms of racism. While welcoming that combating racism and racial discrimination had started to receive attention by the United Nations, he said that the duty of forging a tolerant society lay with States. For its part, the Russian Federation was taking steps to combat racism and crimes committed on those grounds, especially through a multi-pronged strategy to that end. Legislation envisioned a liability linked to crimes committed on political or ideological grounds, or for reasons of hatred against any social group. That was recognized by the Russian criminal code. The Government had stepped up law enforcement bodies, was conducting investigations into hate crimes and gaining experience in solving such crimes. It also was collecting information on crimes of an extremist nature. Together with law enforcement agencies, State efforts focused on pre-empting extremist manifestations of hatred. School books and those publishing them were screened. Educating Russians and preserving the memories of the Second World War, including the Holocaust, was also important, especially as this year marked the sixty-fifth anniversary of both victory in Second World War and the Nuremberg Trials.
Indeed, those Trials showed how tough sanctions should be for manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, notably in countries that suffered at the hands of the Nazis. In that context, he noted that some were “turning a blind eye” to the annual marches of SS legionnaires, saying that he was perplexed, to say the least, at the muted reaction of European authorities. Other examples included regional courts, whose verdicts questioned key legal principles developed after Second World War, negating the results of the Nuremburg trials, including its recognition of the SS as a criminal organization. His Government was also disappointed that Western democracies had abstained from voting on a resolution on the inadmissibility of racial discrimination and xenophobia. He expressed hope that, out of respect for Second World War victims, those States would change their position and support his country’s initiative.
SUAD AMBAR ( Libya) said racism and discrimination were universal problems that needed to be tackled in a universal manner. Racism varied in form from one place to another, and one culture to another, but in most cases it was directed against the vulnerable, the marginalized and minority groups. What the Palestinian people had been facing under Israeli occupation was the worst form of racial discrimination in contemporary times. The growth of racism based on religion and belief, especially hatred led by some extremist groups in Western countries against Islam, was a matter of deep concern. Laws which prohibited the building of minarets encouraged violence and communal tension; they also helped to nurture a clash of civilizations.
Historically, African people had been disadvantaged by racism, she said. Millions had been sent across the Atlantic to be used and abused as slaves by white colonialists who did not respect their dignity and right to live. All States that have suffered the scourge of colonialism should look at Libya as a model, and seek compensation and apology for the wrongs of the past. The governments of those countries that occupied other countries should meanwhile fulfil their responsibility and provide compensation for those who had been subject to a dark era of history.
NADYA RASHEED, the Permanent Observer Mission for Palestine, speaking about the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination, said that the United Nations work was incomplete as long as the Palestinian people remained under Israeli occupation, with their right to self-determination relentlessly violated by their occupation. For more than four decades, the machinery of Israel’s occupation had produced systematic violations against the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. They were subject to displacement, killing, imprisonment, destruction and other affronts to their dignity and security. The situation in the Gaza Strip was especially deplorable, as more than 1.5 million Palestinians were deprived of their basic rights. At the same time, Israel’s military occupation had continued over decades and its colonial nature had become undeniable, as was evident in Israel’s unlawful and fervent construction and expansion of more than 120 illegal settlements. Additionally, the human rights of the Palestinian people continued to be violated by the nearly 500,000 illegal settlers, many armed and fanatical, who had been illegally transferred to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
The occupying Power continued with its colonization of Palestinian Territory through its illegal construction of the separation wall, which was linked to the settlements and intended to entrench them and to advance its land grab, she said. It was important to recall that, in its Advisory Opinion, the International Court of Justice concluded that the construction of the wall, along with measures taken previously by the occupying Power, severely impeded the exercise by the Palestinian people of its right to self-determination and, therefore, was a breach of Israel’s obligation to respect that right. Israel’s construction of illegal settlements and the wall were making the internationally agreed goal of the two-State solution and the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination nearly impossible to achieve. Palestine reiterated its appeal to the international community to take real efforts to bring an end to these violations. She also said that the resolution entitled “the Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination” would be presented for adoption and that Palestine hoped for solidarity by adopting the resolution by consensus.
YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, the Permanent Observer Mission for Palestine, speaking on the elimination of racism, said the collective and individual rights of the Palestinian people had been desecrated “simply because they are not Jewish”. Discrimination had been institutionalized by Israel, the occupying power. Since 1948, Israel had been engaged in a racist campaign to bring Jews, and only Jews, to historical Palestine and the illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem. Racist laws had turned Palestinians into citizens of Israel, who made up one fifth of the Israeli population, into second- and third-class citizens. The so-called “loyalty oath” had legalized racism by obliging non-Jews who apply for citizenship to swear loyalty to the Jewish character of the State; its purpose was to annul the right of return of Palestinian refugees and the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Israel was clearly “seeking a democracy for Jews and fascism for non-Jews”.
The “anti-Nakba bill” was another discriminatory law, he said. It had been proposed by the political party led by Israel’s foreign minister, a settler living illegally in the Occupied Palestinian Territory who had called for the expulsion of Palestinian citizens of Israel. Last week, in the Knesset, a racist law was introduced that would enable a community to reject tenants deemed “unfit within the community’s social fabric”; it was intended to set a legal basis for exclusively Jewish villages from which Arabs would be excluded. Israel has been the single biggest violator of international humanitarian law and United Nations resolutions, and its persistent violation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid was ample proof of its apartheid politics. The time had come for the international community to take steps to end all Israeli violations and to pursue accountability and justice for Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian civilian population.
FRANCIS CHULLIKATT, the Permanent Observer Mission for the Holy See, said that racism and racial discrimination could not be fought by laws alone, but required individuals to change from within. For its part, the Catholic Church promoted such academic, moral and spiritual growth, so that each human being, from conception through natural death, would be recognized as “having been endowed with an innate human dignity” that must be both protected and respected. Respect for religious freedom continued to be elusive in many parts of the world, with many people lacking the freedom to pray and express their faith, or search for God without facing serious physical and legal repercussions. In that regard, he expressed disappointment in the Special Rapporteur’s interim report, which failed to note the fate of Christians who had been driven from their homes, tortured, imprisoned, murdered or forced to convert or deny their faith around the world. The protection of religious rights was a crisis that continued to be ignored by the international community and required the urgent attention of global leaders.
The tragic attack on the Syrian Catholic community in Baghdad on Saturday was a sign of continuing intolerance, discrimination and violence directed at Christians; the Holy See calls upon the international community to ensure that all religions and believers have the most basic human right to religious freedom.
Moreover, while his delegation supported freedom of religion, it remained concerned that the concept of “defamation of religions” had not protected religious believers, but, in fact, had served as a means for State-sponsored oppression. Regarding a rise in xenophobic behaviour directed at migrants, he said it was deplorable that local leaders and religious groups too often took the law into their own hands, causing conflicts and disorder; rather, they must work to foster better understanding and mutual respect. Echoing the words of Pope Benedict XVI, he said that nations had the task of welcoming diverse nationalities and parents had the responsibility to educate children on the “way of universal brotherhood”. In that regard, the concept of defamation of religion sought to address instances of religious violence or ethnic profiling, negative stereotyping of religion and attacks on sacred books, religious sites and figures. In closing, he said, through respect for human rights and the promotion of the dignity of every human being “we may better build a global community which sees all people as brothers and sisters”.
MOURAD BENMEHIDI (Algeria), aligning with the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said racial discrimination affected the universality of human rights, the quality of social justice and the respect for diversity. As such, the international community was called on to reiterate its commitment to implementing the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action. Racism had adapted to a contemporary world and was widespread. Contemporary forms of racism and discrimination had won international moral - and even legal - recognition through the years. Today, xenophobic organizations stressed hatred against new arrivals and immigrants that had contributed to the prosperity of the receiving country, while the media had made certain communities and religions responsible for all countries’ ills, conveyed through racist, xenophobic discourse. Islamophobia and associating the Muslim religion with terrorism were examples of such intolerance. For its part, the Algerian constitution enshrined the struggle against all forms of racism in its article 29. All citizens were equal before the law.
Moreover, he said the Constitution granted equal treatment to foreigners on Algerian territory, and the freedom of religion and faith. Algeria also attached importance to all those principles at the international level. It was the exercise of the right to self-determination, however, which was vital for the full enjoyment of all other civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Attempts to introduce simplified interpretations of that right could not take away the right of those living under oppression to freely choose their destiny. Algeria, which had supported all those struggling for their dignity in Africa, Asia and elsewhere, would support the exercise of that right through a free and impartial referendum. The United Nations, which had made precious efforts to apply that right, must persevere in order to achieve its universality. It was a concern that the right to self-determination remained inaccessible to Palestinians and Saharawi people, whose fate rested in the hands of the international community.
* *** *For information media • not an official record