10 November 2011
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4028

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

43rd Meeting (PM)


Third Committee Approves Text Condemning All Forms of Torture, Any Steps

 

to Legalize Such Actions, Including on Grounds of National Security

 


Also Approves Texts on Year of Family Observance, World Down Syndrome Day,

Refugee Commissioner’s Executive Committee, Central African Human Rights Centre


Acting by consensus, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the Assembly condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation.


Tabling the resolution — one of five draft texts approved by the Committee — Denmark’s delegate said it represented the value the international community placed on human dignity.  By further terms, the Assembly would condemn any action to legalize, authorize or acquiesce in torture under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security or through judicial decisions, and urge States to ensure accountability for all such acts.


It would also strongly urge States to ensure that no statement that is established to have been made as a result of torture is invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture.


By a second text, on preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014, the Assembly would urge Member States to make 2014 a target year for concrete efforts to improve family well-being through national programmes.  It would also urge States to create a conducive environment to strengthen and support all families, recognizing that equality between women and men and respect for all the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all family members were essential to the well-being of families and societies.


By another text, the Assembly would decide to designate 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2012.  Presenting the text, Brazil’s representative said it aimed to recognize the inherent worth of people with intellectual disabilities, as well as the independence and autonomy of such persons.


The Assembly would also, by the terms of the draft resolution on the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, increase the number of that body’s members from 85 States to 87 States and request the Economic and Social Council to elect the additional two members at its resumed organizational session for 2012.


Finally, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, which Burundi’s delegate presented, saying that it contributed to national capacities for human rights and facilitated transitional justice mechanisms in countries affected by conflict.


Also today, the Committee heard the introduction of six other draft resolutions relating to the Report of the Human Rights Council; a new third Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; elimination of racism; strengthening the role of the United Nations in elections and promotion of democratization; the rights of minorities; and protection of migrants.


Introducing those draft resolutions today were the representatives of United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African Group), Slovakia, Argentina (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), United States, Austria and Mexico.


The representatives of Poland (on behalf of the European Union) and the United States spoke in explanation of position during action.


The representative of El Salvador withdrew the draft resolution on brain education as a tool of implementing the Millennium Development Goals and contributing to global peace and development.


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 November, to hear the introduction of all remaining texts and to take action on several others.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to hear the introductions of several draft texts and to take action on draft resolutions, including on preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family(document A/C.3/66/L.12/Rev.1); enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/66/L.67); World Down Syndrome Day (document A/C.3/66/L.27/Rev.1); torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/66/L.28/Rev.1); and Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/66/L.42).


Introductions


Introducing the draft resolution on the report of the Human Rights Council (document A/C.3/66/L.64/Rev.1), the United Republic of Tanzania's representative, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said it recalled the relevant resolution establishing the Human Rights Council and considered the recommendations in its report of the past year.  She said the African Group looked forward to the adoption of the resolution by consensus.


Introducing the draft resolution on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure (document A/C.3/66/L.66), the representative of Slovakia said the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the last international human rights treaty without a communications procedure mechanism.  By adopting of the Optional Protocol, the Committee would fill a significant legal gap and make a crucial step towards improvement of child’s rights protection.  The new procedure would strengthen the protection of the rights guaranteed under the Convention and its two substantive optional protocols, and it would also positively influence development of adequate protection and remedy mechanisms for children at national levels, he said.


The representative of Argentina, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, introduced the draft resolution on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial, discrimination, xenophobia and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/66/L.68).  The fight against racism had seen unprecedented success this year when heads of States adopted by consensus the resolution on commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said.  This draft resolution would proclaim 2012 to 2022 the decade of people of African descent and call for programmes of action to be implemented fully and comprehensively.  He looked forward to constructive participation of all interested parties.


Next, the representative of the United States, introducing the draft text on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization(document A/C.3/66/L.43), said free and fair elections were integral to democracy. T he United States hoped this year’s resolution would again be approved by consensus, especially in light of the expression of the people around the world for such elections.  He noted the words of the Secretary-General, who recently said it was difficult to identify a moment when the desire for genuine and credible leadership was more effectively expressed than in 2011.  Among other things, he commended the United Nations Electoral Assistance Division on its work.  The United States would be pleased, he said, to table a revised draft in the coming days based on the comments and suggestions submitted by State delegations.


Introducing the draft resolution on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/C.3/66/L.46*), Austria’s representative said this year’s resolution covered a range of issues relating to the rights of persons belonging to minorities with a special focus on the twentieth anniversary, in 2012, of the Declaration’s adoption on 18 December 1992.  Among other things, the Declaration set essential standards to ensure the right of persons belonging to minorities.  It offered an opportunity to reflect on achievements, best practices and challenges regarding the Declaration’s implementation.  It also paid attention to the issue in the context of preventing and resolving conflicts.


Noting that several rounds of informal and bilateral consultations had been held over the last few weeks, he said a final text would soon be finalized.  He was confident the draft resolution would be adopted without a vote.  He also requested several revisions to restore previously agreed language in operative paragraphs 8, 16 and 19.


Introducing the draft resolution on the protection of migrants (document A/C.3/66/L.52), Mexico’s representative noted that hers was a country of origin, transit and destination.  As a result, her delegation consistently emphasized the need to look at the multiple aspects of migration.  Thus, the current draft reiterated the universal nature of human rights.  Stressing that States had an obligation to observe all rights all the time, she said the draft underscored the obligations of Governments to protect the rights of migrants in their territory.  All authorities, be they local or national, must guarantee the rights of all migrants.  It also stressed the need to guarantee the rights of children, particularly the right to education.  It called for the elimination of any administrative or other barrier that might limit that right.


She said the intention of the co-sponsors was to reassert a fundamental principle:  human rights were universal and everyone should enjoy them irrespective of their status as a migrant.  She further noted that many meetings and bilateral meetings had been held in a constructive spirit on the draft text.


Action on Draft Resolutions


The Committee first took up a draft resolution on preparations for and observance of the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family(document A/C.3/66/L.12/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of Argentina on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China.


Acting without a vote, the Committee approved the resolution.


By that text, the General Assembly would urge Member States to view 2014 as a target year by which concrete efforts will be made to improve family well-being through the implementation of effective national policies, strategies and programmes.  States would be encouraged to adopt holistic approaches to policies and programmes that address family poverty, social exclusion and work-family balance.


The Assembly would, by further provisions, urge States to create a conducive environment to strengthen and support all families, recognizing that equality between women and men and respect for all the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all family members are essential to family well-being and to society at large.  It would request that the Secretary-General submit a report at its sixty-eighth session on the implementation of the present resolution, including a description of the state of preparations for observing the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family in 2014 at all levels.


Speaking in explanation of position after action, Poland’s representative, on behalf of the European Union, said the bloc attached great importance to family-related issues.  Among other things, he noted European actions to reconcile work and family life and to promote the crucial role of parents, families and caregivers in supporting young people.  Families made valuable contributions to societies and policies must work to protect families.  However, to be effective, policies must change as families did.  To that end, all policymakers must work to recognize the diversity of families.  All references to the term “family” in the current text were understood by the European Union to reflect that diversity.


The representative of the United States said his delegation was pleased to join consensus.  It placed great importance on the family.  However, the United States delegation would have preferred that the resolution include a crucial concept from the Cairo Programme of Action, which was reiterated at this year’s High-level meeting on AIDS, reaffirming the central role of the family, bearing in mind that various forms of the family existed in different cultural, social and political systems.


Next, the Committee turned to the draft resolution on the enlargement of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (document A/C.3/66/L.67), which was tabled by Azerbaijan and Rwanda and introduced by the former.


The Chair said the resolution contained no programme budget implications.


Acting again without a vote, the Committee approved the draft text.


The text would have the Assembly decide to increase the number of members of the Executive Committee of the Programme of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from 85 States to 87 States and request the Economic and Social Council to elect the additional two members at its resumed organizational session for 2012.


Next, the Committee took up a draft resolution, tabled by Brazil, on World Down Syndrome Day (document A/C.3/66/L.27/Rev.1).  Brazil’s representative said the revised text was agreed after three informal consultations.  It closely tracked the original draft and fully incorporated the comments of State delegations.  It aimed to recognize the inherent worth of people with intellectual disabilities, as well as the independence and autonomy of such persons.


The Committee approved the draft text by consensus.


The Assembly would, by the text, designate 21 March as World Down Syndrome Day, to be observed every year beginning in 2012 and invite all States, relevant organizations of the United Nations system and other international organizations, as well as civil society, to observe that Day in an appropriate manner to raise public awareness of Down syndrome.  The Secretary-General would be requested to bring the resolution to the attention of all States and United Nations organizations.


The Committee then turned to the draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/66/L.28/Rev.1), which was introduced by the representative of Denmark.  She said it represented the value the international community placed on human dignity, despite abuses the Special Rapporteur had found in various parts of the world.  The draft resolution was the result of constructive negotiations, but there were some outstanding issues in the past days that were resolved.  She made some oral revisions to the text.


The Committee then approved the draft resolution as orally revised.


By that text, the Assembly emphasizes the importance of properly interpreting and implementing the obligations of States with respect to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and of abiding strictly by the definition of torture contained in article 1 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.


The Assembly would condemn all forms of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including through intimidation, and would call upon all States to implement fully the absolute and non-derogable prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.


It would also condemn any action or attempt by States or public officials to legalize, authorize or acquiesce in torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under any circumstances, including on grounds of national security or through judicial decisions, and urges States to ensure accountability for all such acts.


The Assembly would strongly urge States to ensure that no statement that is established to have been made as a result of torture is invoked as evidence in any proceedings, except against a person accused of torture as evidence that the statement was made.


Finally, the Committee turned to the draft resolution on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/66/L.42), introduced by the representative of Burundi.  She said the adoption of the draft resolution would once again show the interest of Member States in raising awareness and promoting democracy in Central Africa.  That training had great impact, contributing to national capacities for human rights and facilitating transitional justice mechanisms in countries affected by conflict.  She thanked the co-sponsors of the resolution, and hoped that it would be adopted by consensus as in previous years.


The draft resolution was adopted by consensus.


By the text, the Assembly would welcome the Centre’s activities, note with satisfaction the support provided by the host country and take note of the Centre’s strategic thematic priorities for the period 2012-2013, which include elimination of discrimination; strengthening the rule of law and combating impunity; promotion of democracy and good governance; promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights; and strengthening national human rights institutions and cooperation with international and regional human rights mechanisms.


Noting with satisfaction the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Centre, the Assembly would encourage the Centre to strengthen its cooperation and invest in relations with subregional organizations and bodies.  It would also request the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to continue to provide additional funds and human resources within the existing resources of the High Commissioner’s Office to enable the Centre to respond to the growing needs in promoting and protecting human rights and in developing a culture of democracy and the rule of law in the Central African subregion.


Following action, the representative of El Salvador said his delegation was withdrawing the draft resolution on brain education as a tool of implementing the Millennium Development Goals and contributing to global peace and development (document A/C.3/66/L.14).


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For information media • not an official record