THIRD COMMITTEE CONSIDERS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS OF AFGHANISTAN, MIGRANT WORKERS, HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
THIRD COMMITTEE CONSIDERS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS OF AFGHANISTAN, MIGRANT WORKERS, HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Fifty-seventh General Assembly
34th Meeting (PM)
THIRD COMMITTEE CONSIDERS HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATIONS OF AFGHANISTAN,
MIGRANT WORKERS, HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
The situation of human rights in Afghanistan, the situation of human rights defenders and the human rights of migrants were considered this afternoon as the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural)began its annual dialogue with Special Rapporteurs and Special Representatives on human rights questions relating to specific country situations and thematic issues.
Addressing the Committee, Kamal Hossain, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, presented his report and said despite the noted imperfections in the convening of the emergency Loya Jirga , convening it within the timeframe laid down in the Bonn Agreement had been a significant milestone. It had presented the Afghan people with a forum where they could express and exchange their views. The Loya Jirga had marked the beginning of a process for resolving internal difference through political means rather than by violence.
The number one priority in Afghanistan was to replace the rule of the gun by the rule of law, he continued. This required building up of a national police force as well as other disciplined forces to maintain internal security and defence. For human rights to be restored, it was necessary to disarm the country and to establish a national legal order based on human rights and the rule of law. He stressed that funds and food were urgently needed to meet survival needs of the Afghan people and for priority reconstruction projects. Without adequate resources it would be difficult -- if not impossible -- to realize the goals of the Bonn Agreement and for an improvement to be made in the human rights situation in Afghanistan.
A regional approach toward the implementation of her mandate had emphasized the responsibilities incumbent upon States under both regional and international human rights instruments for the implementation of the Declaration on human rights defenders, said Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders. While the risks human rights defenders encountered had common global features, a regional emphasis on specific issues and problems had been evident in the accounts of human rights defenders.
In all regions, human rights defenders tended to be vulnerable to social discrimination and faced gender specific risks, she continued. These risks followed either the issues they were attempting to address or because of the
environment in which they worked. In light of the insecurity faced by human rights defenders, a proposed major strategy could lead to the creation and strengthening of regional coalitions and support networks. Institutionalizing arrangements for the protection of human rights defenders, and ending tactics to undermine their legitimacy had been among the recommendations addressed by governments.
The Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, presented her report and said that host countries must not see migration and migrants as a problem. Rather, migration might be seen as an important source of economic, social and cultural development. However, particular attention must be paid to the increasing marginalization of migrants in the work place. Due to fears of being detained or deported, migrants often had no choice but to be subjected to the most horrible working conditions. Furthermore, employers often confiscated migrants’ documents and forced female migrant workers to endure work in nearly slave-like conditions.
She explained that an exacerbating factor to the human rights situation of migrants was the escalation of criminal trafficking networks, to which migrants -- particularly women and unaccompanied minors -- increasingly fell victim. Host States must develop effective prevention policies with countries of origin to lessen the risks of trafficking and smuggling. She added that States must provide proper consular protection, as well as documentation and screening policies so that migrants were not left open to the abuse of smuggling. It was also important for all States to take action to ensure that migrants were not automatically linked to terrorism.
Following the presentation of each report, the Committee held interactive dialogue segments, which allowed Member States to ask questions, share concerns and refer to issues of particular concern to their respective countries.
Speaking during the interactive dialogue segments this afternoon were representatives of Egypt, Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Pakistan, Canada, Afghanistan, Italy, Switzerland, and Pakistan.
The observer of Palestine also participated in the interactive dialogue segment this afternoon.
During the Committee’s general discussion, the representatives of Denmark (speaking on behalf of the European Union); Brazil (speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and Bolivia and Chile); Mexico, and Peru spoke
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to hear the introduction of reports by three Special Rapporteurs.
The Third Committee met this afternoon to begin the next phase of its consideration of human rights questions with the first of six interactive dialogues with various human rights experts and Special Rapporteurs.
Today, delegations will hear presentations from and participate in discussions with Ms. Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders; Kamal Hossain, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan; and Ms. Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants. The Committee with have before it the relevant reports of those experts.
Delegations will examine Mr. Hossain’s brief interim report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (document A/57/309), which highlights, among other things, his visits to Pakistan and Iran (October 2001), Kabul (January 2002) and Herat last February. Following the holding of the Emergency Loya Jirga -- which led to the election of President Hamid Karzai and the approval of the Transitional Administration’s Cabinet -- concern was expressed that continued gross violations of human rights and continuing impunity for those responsible could present obstacles for both the emergence of democracy and the establishment of the rule of law in Afghanistan.
The Special Rapporteur therefore urged that priority be given to replacing the rule of the gun by the rule of law. That would require building a national police force as well as other disciplined forces for the purpose of internal security and defence. It was emphasized that for human rights to be restored, it would be necessary to disarm the country, collect the arms held by many groups under various local commanders, and establish a national legal order based on human rights and the rule of law. He also issued specific warnings in October and November 2001 about the need to take special measures to protect civilians against the threat of ethnically motivated violence in areas where ethnic minorities associated with the earlier regime could be exposed to reprisals.
The Committee will also consider the note by the Secretary-General (document A/57/182) on human rights defenders, in which he transmits Ms. Jilani’s report. It is her second report, and it contains an overview of the outcome of the regional consultations she has attended since the beginning of her mandate. She examines the recommendations made by the participants in each of the regional consultations. In addition, she recommends strategies for the better protection of human rights defenders and the implementation of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individual, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
In the conclusion and recommendations, the Special Representative expresses concern about the human rights situation described by human rights defenders. She stresses that independence, credibility and transparency are cornerstones of the efforts to promote and protect human rights; that special attention must be paid to women’s protection needs; and that cooperation of governments is essential for her to undertake in-site visits.
Delegations will also have before them a note by the Secretary-General on human rights of migrants (document A/57/292) which contains a report on the human rights of migrants prepared by Ms. Rodriguez Pizarro. The report contains a summary of her activities during the first three years following the establishment of her mandate and her vision of the situation concerning the protection of the human rights of migrants.
Key issues are discrimination; the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families; the situation of migrant women and violence against migrant women; unaccompanied minors; irregular migration; trafficking, smuggling and slave labour; orderly and decent migration management and the role of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in protecting the human rights of migrants.
Ms. Rodriguez Pizarro recommends, among other things, the ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and the reviewing of States’ practice and legislation to ensure that unaccompanied minors are not subjected to restrictions on their liberty and are able to receive assistance appropriate to their status as minors.
During this segment, the Committee will also examine a number of other reports and documents on human rights questions, including on alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
There is a report of the Secretary-General on the question of enforced or involuntary disappearances (document A/57/140). In a note verbale of May 2002, the Secretary-General invited Governments to transmit any information pertaining to the implementation of resolution 55/103 on the question of enforced or involuntary disappearances. As of 26 June 2002, replies had been received from the Governments of Argentina, Cuba and Guatemala. The replies are reproduced in the present report. The report highlights the activities of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances regarding two basic aspects of the situation of such disappearances in the world: the practice of disappearances, which continued to occur in a number of countries; and the process of clarification of cases, especially those transmitted more than 10 years ago.
The Group reiterated its appeal to governments to cooperate with it and, in particular, to refrain from the practice of incommunicado detention and to release immediately all persons held in secret detention. The Group continued to remind governments of their obligation under the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and recommended a number of preventive measures, including that the Commission finalize the drafting to a legally binding normative instrument for protection from enforced disappearance. In 2001, the Group completed a long process of reviewing its methods of work and presented the results to the Commission. The Group expressed grave concern about its present limited financial resources and acute shortage of staff, and reiterated its appeal to the Commission to allocate the appropriate resources. The present report also contains information on the activities undertaken by the Secretariat in compliance with the requests contained in resolution 55/103.
There is a report of the Secretary-General on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/57/205). By its resolution 56/165, the General Assembly had requested the Secretary-General to seek further the views of Member States on this issue. As of 26 June 2002, responses have been received from the Governments of Cuba, the Sudan and the United Kingdom. The responses are set out in the present report. There is an addendum to the present report (document A/57/205/Add.1) which contains a response from the Government of Haiti.
Also before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on strengthening of the rule of law (document A/57/275) which explains that the Office of the High Commissioner has made the promotion of the rule of law a priority in its technical cooperation programmes, and recognizes the link between the rule of law and respect for human rights. The technical cooperation programmes offer assistance in reporting under human rights treaties; development and implementation of national plans of action; establishment and strengthening of national institutions; assistance with constitutional and legislative reform; administration of justice, elections and national parliaments; and training for police, armed forces, prison personnel and legal professionals.
The report contains sections on technical cooperation, human rights training, national human right institutions, rule of law-related support to peace operations, rule of law in states of emergency and examples of technical cooperation activities in the area of rule of law, and future cooperation on the role of judges and lawyers. In the recommendations, States are encouraged to cooperate with the special procedures and mechanisms and facilitate the effective incorporation of the relevant international standards in their national legislation, policies and practices.
There is a report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/57/277). The report contains information on the role and achievements of the Cambodia Office of the Office of the High Commissioner from December 2001 to June 2002. The report states that the Cambodia Office has continued to follow the overall human rights situation, and regularly brought its concerns to the attention of provincial and national authorities, giving its particular attention to the commune council elections of 3 February 2002 through monitoring, reporting, legal assistance and capacity-building activities.
The Office continued to support human rights training at the provincial level for: the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces in former Khmer Rouge areas; the Cambodian National Police; and, in some training schools of the Armed Forces, for the Royal Gendermerie and the Police. It continued to provide training, legal advice and financial assistance to strengthen the capacity of Cambodian NGOs to carry out activities to promote and protect human rights. During the reporting period, the Office had undertaken a process of strategic planning and review of its programmes and had developed a set of activities for the coming year that built on past activities and set new directions to respond to the changing needs of the situation in Cambodia.
Another report is that of the Secretary-General on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/57/283). The present report on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights contains information on the regional strategies of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the most significant developments since 2000. Mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights have been established at the African Union, the Organization of American States and the Council of Europe. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has established its own mechanisms.
The Office of the High Commissioner has been systematically pursuing a regional and subregional approach through a variety of complementary means, in particular by supporting the establishment of regional frameworks for the promotion and protection of human rights. A subregional focus has been established in the out-posting of regional and subregional representatives; in concluding cooperative agreements with United Nations agencies and regional institutions; in undertaking joint regional projects; and in sponsoring or organizing consultations and dialogues.
There is a note by the Secretary-General on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Sierra Leone (document A/57/284). The report states that since the High Commissioner submitted her last report, there has been continuing progress in the implementation of the peace process in Sierra Leone. Internally displaced persons and refugees have started to return, and national elections were held on 14 May 2002, further bolstering confidence in the restoration of peace. Progress has been made in the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Special Court.
The Office of the High Commissioner has continued to support activities aimed at facilitating the preparatory phase of the Commission. A major handicap in supporting the Commission is the hesitance of Member States about providing the resources required for the special functioning of that body. Of the US
$9.9 million requested by the High Commissioner, only $1 million has been pledged.
In the report, it is recommended that the Office of the High Commissioner should continue to support the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone's Human Rights Section to consolidate its important role as a catalyst and facilitator of the human rights cause in Sierra Leone. It is also recommended that emphasis should continue to be placed on developing modules for the training of the judiciary and law enforcement agencies on human rights in the administration of justice, with emphasis on the due process of law and the handling of juvenile offenders, as well as the respect of human rights of women, internally displaced persons and other vulnerable groups.
There is a note by the Secretary-General on the human rights situation of Lebanese detainees in Israel (document A/57/345) which states that the Secretary-General had addressed a note verbale to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel on 10 June 2002 and that no reply had been received at the time of the preparation of the note.
The Committee will also have before it the Secretary-General’s report on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/57/311 and Add.1), which contains replies received from governments in support of United Nations initiatives in the area of human rights and cultural diversity. Those Governments include Ireland, Kuwait, Russian Federation and Thailand. The addendum also details the relevant replies received from the United Nations system, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
There is also a note before the Committee transmitting the report on the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) (document A/57/323), in which the High Commissioner for Human Rights details the communications received by the international community and of intergovernmental organizations and NGOs concerned with human rights education and public information. It also highlights the work of the High Commissioner’s Office in the area of human rights education between December 2001 and early July 2002.
The bulk of the report is structured around the priority components in the Plan of Action for United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education. It highlights the Office’s efforts to ensure the basic worldwide coordination of the Decade, to facilitate networking and information sharing among the Decade’s actors, and to assist grass-roots human rights education initiatives. The High Commissioner highlights the need for Governments to fulfil the commitments made at the international level to develop national strategies for human rights education which are comprehensive, participatory and effective.
The Committee has before it the Secretary-General’s note transmitting the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on a comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities (document A/57/357). The report highlights the work undertaken by the Ad Hoc Committee at its first meeting, held from 29 July to 9 August 2002 at Headquarters. It details the agenda and organization of work of the meeting and lists the Committee’s officers and documentation.
Also included in the report is a draft resolution on the Ad Hoc Committee on a comprehensive and integral international convention to promote and protect the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, recommended for adoption by the Assembly. That draft would have the Assembly decide that the Ad Hoc Committee should hold, within existing resources, at least one meeting in 2003 of a duration of ten working days, prior to the Assembly’s fifty-eighth session.
Also before the Committee is the report of the Secretary-General on human rights and extreme poverty (document A/57/369), which includes an overview of developments in relationship to clarifying the link between human rights and extreme poverty. It provides a recommendation for the Assembly’s consideration regarding the adoption of a conceptual framework for a human rights approach to poverty reduction. According to the report, the process of development is now increasingly seen in terms of socially desired outcomes. More importantly, it is being seen in terms of the “basket” of human rights that should be promoted, protected and even guaranteed to expedite the process towards those desired social ends.
The reports notes that much of that conceptual change in the perception of the development process comes from the recognition that economic growth, though necessary, in not sufficient in itself to ensure developmental goals are met for every individual. This view is particularly important in light of calls to define poverty in broader terms. The report goes on to highlight the priority given to poverty reduction at the past decade’s global conferences and summits, as well as the Bretton Woods Institutions’ establishment in 1990 of the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) system for countries seeking to qualify for concessional assistance and debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.
In its overview of developments during the past two decades, the report states that innovative contributions have been made to developing human rights approaches to poverty reduction. The work of the Human Rights Commission’s first working group, on the right to development in the 1980’s, highlighted the integral link between human rights and development, including poverty. Finally the report emphasizes that the rights-based approach integrates international human rights norms and principles into policies and processes for poverty reduction. Those principles include identification of the poor, empowerment, the international human rights framework, participation, equity and non-discrimination, the progressive realization of rights and accountability.
The Committee will examine the Secretary-General’s report on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/57/371). It contains contributions from the Governments of Cuba and Mexico. The submission by Cuba deplores the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on the country by the United States, stating that such practices not only affect the Cuban people but also violate the right of some sectors of the United States economic community to free commercial exchange.
Cuba calls on the international community to pronounce itself strongly against such measures and to take action towards the implementation of the relevant Assembly resolutions. The report continues with Mexico’s submission, which states its disapproval of the imposition of unilateral sanctions against any country and considers that sanctions should be imposed only when authorized by the United Nations.
Also before the Committee will be the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/57/385). The report, prepared in response to the Secretary-General’s May 2002 invitation to Member States to present practical proposals and ideas that would contribute to strengthening the Organizations action in this field, contains a reply from the Government of Cuba. Cuba believes that United Nations action in this field should pursue the basic objective of developing and stimulating respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms through international cooperation.
Crucial to this are a thorough understanding of the diverse problems that arise in all societies, together with a full respect for the political, economic and social realities of each nation, in strict conformity with the Charter. Cuba is therefore greatly concerned by the work of the various United Nations human rights agencies and mechanisms, which are moving ever further away from the ideal of international cooperation and now appear to be trapped in an absurd spiral of confrontation imposed on them by developed countries.
According to the report, the Government of Cuba considers that “a handful of rich and powerful nations of the North were exercising political manipulation of the Commission on Human Rights and other intergovernmental human rights bodies in order to impose their view and interests on other countries in the process of development”. Cuba believes that in more than 50 years of existence, the Commission has not been able to adopt a resolution condemning human rights violations in industrialized Western countries. This, in spite of visits to some of those countries by thematic rapportuers, revealed human rights violations. Cuba believes that the universality of human rights will only become a reality when the differences and special features of every human being and people are respected.
Another report before the Committee is on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (document A/57/394), which began operation in March 2001. Support for building the capacities of the Centre was provided by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other Secretariat bodies, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It consisted of providing personnel, contributing to the training of local staff, raising extrabudgetary funds and assisting in the development of electronic means of communication. During the period ending in June 2002, the Centre’s activities concerned technical cooperation, public information, development of partnerships for the promotion of human rights, and various activities related to the celebration of its first anniversary.
The Centre began implementing its human rights continuing training scholarship programme in November 2001. That programme, open to deserving advanced students and young practitioners from the countries of Central Africa specializing in the areas of human rights and democracy, aims to enhance trainees’ practical knowledge of human rights and democracy issues, and to build capacities of the States in the subregion to manage issues relating to human rights. The report states that the Centre will receive eight trainees this year.
Statement by Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders
HINA JILANI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, presented her report, which contained an overview of regional consultations with human rights defenders and their organizations that she had attended since the beginning of her mandate. In her report to the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights, she had mentioned consultations in West Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. Those consultations had become an important aspect of the implementation of her mandate, and based on an examination of the concerns of human rights defenders as well as with communications and dialogue with governments, she had formulated and recommended strategies for enhancing the security of human rights defenders.
She said taking a regional approach toward the implementation of her mandate had helped her emphasize the responsibilities incumbent upon States, under both regional and international human rights instruments, for implementation of the Declaration on human rights defenders. The trend toward building civil society support networks for human rights defenders at the regional level had also been useful.
While the risks human rights defenders encountered had common global features, a regional emphasis on specific issues and problems had been evident in the accounts of human rights defenders, she said. In many countries of the African region, human rights defenders and monitors continually confronted violations of human rights, including those resulting from armed conflict. Their search for accountability for past human rights abuses and their struggle for democratic rights had often resulted in State repression or repression by other actors.
The situation in Latin America had been marked by a dramatic increase in threats to life, liberty and physical security in several countries of that region, she continued. The expanding role of the military had allowed it to dominate and encroach upon political spaces, impairing the accountability and transparency of different public institutions and contributing to high rates of impunity. Human rights defenders had been attacked for their efforts. In Asia, struggles for the rights of self-determination and movements for democracy in several countries formed the backdrop of the work of human rights defenders, she said. National security laws, whether already a part of domestic legislation or imposed following a declaration of marshal law or state of emergency, tended to undermine human rights activity and had been used to punish human rights monitors, as well as lawyers, journalists and political activists in the region.
Freedom of association had emerged as a major concern for human rights defenders in the Middle East. She said that in all regions, human rights defenders tended to be more vulnerable to social discrimination and faced gender specific risks, either because of issues on which they were attempting to address or because of the environment in which they worked. In light of the insecurity facing human rights defenders, they had proposed a major strategy which would lead to the creation and strengthening of regional coalitions and support networks. Institutionalizing arrangements for the protection of human rights defenders, and ending tactics to undermine their legitimacy had been among the recommendations addressed by governments.
She also expressed concern that situations were being created that forced human rights defenders to seek refuge outside their countries. She saw that trend as a serious deficiency in efforts to implement the Declaration, and measures to ensure the safe return of those defenders required the combined efforts of the diplomatic community, the United Nations and regional human rights institutions.
Finally, she noted that while consultations with human rights defenders were essential to efforts to carry out her mandate effectively, timely responses to communications submitted to governments were also crucial. Timely responses were so important because they could critically affect the life, liberty or security of defenders. She urged governments to cooperate and to give favorable consideration to he requests for invitation for in situ visits.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative
Opening the dialogue, the representative of Egypt praised Ms. Jilani's reports, but noted that no country group alleged to have persecuted human rights defenders were mentioned other than the Palestinian Authority. Why had that body been mentioned but not the regime that was carrying out the occupation? It would only be fair to mention all parties to conflict when addressing human rights concerns.
The representative of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union) wondered about the gender specific risks that women human rights defenders faced. Was there a gender based response? She also wondered what type of regional cooperation had been established with the European Council or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe? Since 11 September, had the Special Representative noted any change in the treatment of human rights defenders?
The representative of Switzerland agreed with the Special Representative that laws enacted following 11 September 2001 should not be used to persecute migrants. She wondered if there was a comprehensive way to address the delicate question of international financing of human rights defenders or other civil society actors that would ensure transparency in the spirit of the Declaration on human rights defenders. She also wondered about the increasing trend of government-created organizations that purported to promote human rights.
The representative of Pakistan supported the work of the Special Representative. He reiterated the concern of the representative of Denmark about the need to address the issues surrounding those civil society groups created and supported by governments with the sole purpose of discrediting the work of legitimate human rights mechanisms.
Responding, Ms. JILANI said it had always been her desire to be objective about her work. She had mentioned the occupied Palestinian territory and the situation there as a part of her response to what the human rights defenders had reported to her. On the situation of women human rights defenders, she said that it had always been her practice to give special mention to the unique challenges facing such defenders. That would continue to be the case because during the past year, she had heard of instances where the right to movement of women human rights defenders had been restricted by social agencies. The best way to address that was to create an environment where women could work in safety in security. One sure way to accomplish that was to adopt a zero tolerance policy toward all violence against women.
Many governments were becoming more preoccupied with their international image and how that reflected their relationship with donors. She had highlighted that trend, because such governments had created their own organizations to counter the genuine efforts of civil society actors and NGOs. She said she was also aware of the importance of national human rights institutions and had therefore advocated that the mandate for such institutions should include a mechanism for the protection of human rights defenders. She would also look for better and more opportunities to cooperate with national human rights institutions as they arose.
Unfortunately, there was a growing list of countries adopting legislation which fell far short of international human rights norms. She had received reports of attacks against the defenders, as well as arbitrary prosecution and detention under those laws. Even media laws had been amended in some countries. In others, security concerns had been cited in order to imprison human rights and pro-democracy defenders. Further, many previously accepted forms of protest, association or demonstration were now not tolerated, and human rights defenders had been labeled as terrorists -- in order to discredit them -- when they protested laws that did not comply with human rights norms.
She reiterated the view expressed in the report that in cases of conflict where the security of human rights defenders was threatened, it would be useful to develop mechanisms that would possibly lead to a dialogue with all actors in that conflict. Her mandate did state that she could consult with governments and "any other actors". At present however, her views on consulting with non-State actors had not been presented in a formalized request to the Assembly.
The representative of Canada wondered if the Special Representative planned a study of the implementation of national security measures and their effects on human rights defenders.
The observer of Palestine reiterated the concerns of the representative of Egypt that it was necessary to mention the Israeli regime in any discussion about human rights, human rights abuses or the protection of human rights defenders.
Ms. JILANI said she would like to do case studies on national security measures. However, it was a matter of resources, and the issue had thus far remained pending on the agenda of her mandate. She said that the information in her report was neither her conclusion nor her finding. The information was based on the consultation on the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, which had been presented to her and it would have been unfair for her to add anything to that report.
KAMAL HOSSAIN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan, presented his report and said he had visited Kabul and Kandahar from 25 to 29 October 2002. During his visit, he had met with President Karzai and members of the Government, including ministries of Foreign Affairs, Women’s Affairs, Interior and Justice. It was about 11 months to the day that the Bonn Agreement had been concluded. It had spelled out a transitional process through which Afghanistan was to be restored to all of its people. The Bonn Agreement had also committed the Transitional Administration to restore to the people their human rights as assured by the international human rights instruments to which Afghanistan was party.
Despite the widely noted imperfections in the convening and conduct of the emergency Loya Jirga, the convening of it within the timeframe laid down in the Bonn Agreement had been a significant milestone. It had presented the Afghan people with a forum where they could express and exchange views and marked the beginning of a process for resolving internal difference through political means rather than by violence.
The number one priority remained to replace the rule of law of the gun by the rule of law, which required building up of a national police force as well as other disciplined forces for purposes of internal security and defence, he said. For human rights to be restored, it was necessary to disarm the country, collect arms that were held by many groups under various local commanders and to establish a national legal order based on human rights and the rule of law.
He had issued specific warnings in October and November 2001 of the need to take special measures to protect civilians against the threat of ethnically-motivated violence in areas where ethnic minorities which identified with the earlier regime might be exposed to reprisals. The capacity of the Interim Administration to take effective measures was clearly constrained by the absence of an effective national police force and local law enforcement mechanisms. He urged that the highest priority be accorded to security which would protect the lives and property of people in all of the provinces and relieve them of the fear and insecurity which they continued to experience in the absence of such protection.
Earlier reports had drawn attention to the plight of prisoners, numbers of whom suffered from overcrowding, malnutrition and disease. His inquiries last week indicated that these numbers had gone down considerably; however, the release of batches of prisoners was recommended.
He stressed that the removal of legal barriers to employment and education for women had showed positive results. Public employment was now open to women, who were seen working in different Government offices. Regarding access to education, it had been reported that 45 per cent of school-going children in Kabul were now girls. Afghanistan was one of the most mine-affected in the world, with an estimated 850 square kilometers of area affected by these items. Mine injuries had escalated due to the new contamination and also due to increased population movement, often in unfamiliar areas, as people shifted to avoid areas of fighting or return to newly secure locations.
Funds and food were urgently needed, he stressed. The Afghan Support Group meeting had urged a significant increase in commitment of aid to meet the critical humanitarian and reconstruction needs of the country. Failure to provide the critical minimum of the resources needed could cause serious damage to the transition in which Afghanistan and its people were currently engaged. The international community owed it to Afghanistan and its people to meet the basic requirements of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction. Without these resources, if would be difficult, it not impossible, to realize the goals of the Bonn Agreement and to significantly improve the human rights situation there.
Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan
In a subsequent interactive dialogue with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan segment, the representative of Afghanistan expressed his country’s appreciation for the report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan. He said the tragic plight of the people of Afghanistan had been well-accounted and documented under the human rights violations of the Taliban regime. While he welcomed the report and endorsed the recommendations therein, he said it had not highlighted the presence of monitoring groups during the emergency Loya Jirga. It had also been expected that the report would provide information on the reconstruction of human rights and the initiatives taken by the Government in this field. It was also pointed out that the term “Northern Alliance” had been used as opposed to the correct term “United Front”. Finally, he stressed that it was time for the system of human rights involvement to change, to begin to focus on technical cooperation and capacity building.
The representative of Denmark, speaking for the European Union, said one of the challenges faced by the Afghan Government was to strike a balance between Sharia law and more moderate views. What could be the role of the international community in this regard she asked. The establishment of the Afghan Human Rights Commission was an important step, she said, and asked if cooperation had been initiated. She said that 28 women had been elected to the Loya Jirga; however, the human rights of women were still not being respected in certain parts of the country. The Special Rapporteur was asked to elaborate on the situation of women in Afghanistan, as well as the situation of prisoners, the new constitution and drug trafficking.
The representative of Italy said reconstruction assistance was the utmost priority to the people in Afghanistan. Italy was strongly committed to human rights promotion and would make the necessary effort. The establishment of the Afghan Human Right Commission was important and it must be allowed to protect and promote human rights. Italy had recently provided financial assistance to this Commission. With regard to the reconstruction pledge made by Italy of
$43 million, 90 per cent had already been met.
The representative of Switzerland expressed concern about a female human rights defender and Head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission who had been accused of blasphemy in January in Kabul. This showed that justice might become a weapon of repression, he said, and he asked what could be done to guarantee her safety. He also expressed concern as to the massacre of Taliban combatants that had taken place in Mazar-i-Sharif and asked for the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on that incident.
Responding, KAMAL HOSSAIN, Special Rapporteur, said the Loya Jirga had been seen as a milestone and even if there were some flaws, realistically it had been a success. Freedom was restored in a formal sense; however, it was still a society devastated by 20 years of conflict, with returning refugees and internally displaced persons, as well suffering its fourth year of drought. There were still places where the rule of the gun prevailed. To expect something different and to claim that all human rights had been restored was unrealistic. He said the Judicial Commission must design a system of justice, including an independent judiciary. The Commission had many guidelines built into its terms of reference through the Bonn Agreement. The new Constitution was to be drafted, he said. The process had already begun, since the Bonn Agreement had provided targeted steps.
With regard to the questions raised by Denmark, he said the balance between Sharia law and a liberal democratic State was a dilemma that many countries had faced and were facing. This would be something that the drafters of the Constitution would have to grapple with. The solutions found in several Muslim countries were different, and Afghanistan would have to find its own solution. The time frame for the new Constitution was within the next twelve months.
He said the Head of the Afghan Human Rights Commission had lived in the face of danger, as pointed out by the representative of Switzerland. She had found herself in a difficult position, threatened with charges of blasphemy, which were later withdrawn. Freedoms had been restored; however, the security situation was such that she required protection from the more extreme sections of society.
The situation of prisoners had improved. However, there was a connection to the mass graves which had been found. There had been a likelihood of reprisal killings when territories began to change hands. Some prisoners had been taken to a particular fort, there had been a mutiny, and killings had occurred. He noted that in his last report, he had called for an inquiry to ensure that such incidents were not repeated. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was involved in this situation and had been pursuing these matters.
He stressed that the Human Rights Commission was about to become operational, in order to build a society in which human rights were respected. They would be needing all the help possible from the international community. He suggested that the human rights message would be more effectively spread through the media, and he encouraged States to help in any way they could. Concerning the drug problem, he said alternative livelihoods needed to be provided to reduce the production of drug crops.
The representative of Italy had been right, he said, in saying that reconstruction was in the forefront of peoples’ minds in Afghanistan, since it would provide employment. However, it needed resources. Afghanistan was a society which deserved special attention by the international community; attention must be paid to the lack of resources for the country's reconstruction.
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants
GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, in her first address the Committee, said there was a fairly comprehensive body of international law on the rights of migrants. It was up to all to ensure that the principles of those conventions were upheld and their tenets were implemented. She drew attention to the imminent entry into force of the Convention on the Protection of Migrants and their Families.
In the last three years, she had received reports of a large number of violations of the human rights of migrants. She had maintained an open and constructive dialogue with many governments in that regard. She had carried out five visits -- to Canada; to Mexico; to the border areas between the United States and Mexico, and to the Philippines. She stressed that countries of origin should not see migration and migrants as a problem; rather it might be seen as an important source of economic, social and cultural development. Even though there were many countries and regions which received significant economic benefits from migration, migrants themselves should not be seen as a business opportunity. Particular attention should be paid to the marginalization of migrants in the work and labour sectors; because of fears of being detained or deported, migrants often allowed themselves to be subjected to the most horrible working conditions.
She went on to say that employers often confiscated documents, and forced female migrant workers to endure work in nearly slave-like conditions. The situation for unaccompanied minors was equally grave. Young migrants were regularly subjected to forced detention or expulsion. She added that efforts to address the issue of separation from their families as well as reunification efforts were also lacking. Exacerbating all this had been the escalation of criminal trafficking networks, to which migrants -- particularly women and unaccompanied minors -- increasingly fell victim.
She said it was important for all States, but particularly receiving countries, to develop effective prevention policies with countries of origin, to lessen the risks of trafficking and smuggling. States should provide proper consular protection, as well as documentation and screening policies so that migrants were not left open to the abuse of smuggling. States should adopt legislative measures to penalize transnational crime, particularly trafficking in human beings. Further, countries of origin should make greater efforts to ensure the settlement of migrants. She said it was also important for all States to take every effort to make sure that migrants were not automatically linked to terrorism.
Dialogue on Migrants
Opening the dialogue, the representative of Denmark, speaking for the European Union, posed a series of questions concerning the rights and responsibilities of countries of origin.
The representative of Mexico said the Special Rapporteur's visit had galvanized the debate on the situation of migrants, and his Government was seeking ways to ensure that her concerns and recommendations were adequately addressed.
The representative of Pakistan expressed concern at the ethnic and religious profiling of migrant communities based on their countries of origin. It had been an increasing trend that migrant Arab and Muslim communities were coming under disproportionate pressure from the imposition of national security regulations.
Ms. PIZARRO said development of migration policies at the local level should be the ultimate goal. Countries of origin should be held accountable when trafficking and smuggling networks were identified. At the same time, it was important to raise awareness about States’ migration structures. She had, sadly, interviewed women and children who did not know that there were normal ways to leave a country, and believed that subjecting themselves to inhuman practices such as trafficking was unavoidable. She reiterated her call for institutionalized documentation and immigration procedures. It was not enough to have a consular official who only looked after labour matters on one side; there should always be a dialogue between host and recipient countries.
It was also crucial, she said, for host countries to treat migrants fairly and not to identify them as "problems". There should not be a contradiction between principles of migration and sovereignty of States, so long as human rights concerns were addressed. She added that deportation should be carefully and thoroughly coordinated with countries of origin. As for migrant women and domestic workers, contracts must be supervised and employers in recipient countries must pay their social security. Other basic needs must be met.
She also said that the international community must go beyond providing information on applicable laws and regulations, and promote comprehensive efforts to prevent modern forms of slavery and trafficking. Awareness-raising campaigns about those practices should be an integral part of a State's migration initiatives. The theme of cooperation should also be promoted in all immigration matters. It was the responsibility of the entire international community to ensure the safety of persons fleeing poverty or conflict.
She said her office was preparing a report on her visit to Mexico. On Pakistan, she said there had been many declarations and statements following the tragic events of 11 September 2001 urging non-discrimination regarding migrant communities. To that end, police and intelligence services should coordinate their activities to ensure human security. But those efforts should in no way be seen as a means to justify ethnic or religious persecution. She believed that the human rights of migrants must be taken seriously within the humanitarian bodies of the United Nations. It was also important to remember that the human rights of migrants had been highlighted in the Durban Declaration.
ELLEN MARGRETHE LOJ (Denmark), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said some specific country situations appeared to justify particular reactions by the General Assembly. Therefore, the European Union had presented draft resolutions on the human rights situation in Iraq, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. The European Union had decided not to present a draft resolution on Iran and would instead engage in a human rights dialogue with that country, as a way to contribute towards an improvement of the human rights situation there that continued to be a concern to the European Union.
Concerning torture, she said it was a man-made disease, which must be eradicated everywhere once and for all. Torture was one of the most nefarious violations of human integrity not only for the victim, but also for the perpetrators who brought shame on themselves. It left broken bodies and shattered minds. Thus, the European Union strongly supported the resolution on torture presented by Iceland, and Costa Rica’s proposal for an Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture. This protocol would make an essential contribution to the prevention of torture worldwide, and she urged States to support its adoption by the General Assembly.
Capital punishment ought to be a feature of the past, she said. The right to life was indeed a human right. The European Union believed as a matter of policy that the death penalty was a contravention of the right to life and called for its abolition. The European Union’s position was rooted in its belief in the inherent dignity of all human beings and the inviolability of the human person. The European Union regretted that this view was not shared universally. Every execution was one too many and over the last year, the European Union had made demarches with Barbados, Belize, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Japan, Lebanon, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the United States of America.
No legal system was immune to miscarriages of justice. They were the result of human, or sometimes technical, error, which no one could rule out. Legal errors also happened in the legal systems of the Member States of the European Union -- another reason why all European Union Member States had abolished the death penalty. The European Union did not accept the argument that the death penalty was a deterrent to violent or any other forms of crime. In the European Union countries, the evidence simply did not support that claim. Deterrence was linked to the risk of being caught -- not the severity of the sentence.
MARIA LUIZA RIBEIRO VIOTTI (Brazil), speaking on behalf of the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) and Bolivia and Chile, said the promotion and protection of the full range of human rights -- economic, social, cultural, as well as civil and political -- were a matter of permanent priority for the international community. Every year, the Third Committee’s attention was drawn to gross and systematic violations that continued to occur in different parts of the world. These situations constituted serious obstacles to the full enjoyment of all human rights. The current international juncture was particularly challenging, she said. The Member States of MERCOSUR and its associated States reiterated their condemnation in the strongest terms of all forms of terrorism and would continue to support the joint cooperative efforts of the international community to eradicate this scourge.
At the same time, Member States shared the view of the High Commissioner that it was possible to fight against terrorism at no cost to human rights. It was essential to ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism respected all human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the rule of law. As an expression of the region’s commitment to human rights, MERCOSUR had the honour to circulate, as a joint initiative, the draft resolution on the strengthening of the rule of law. The draft aimed at helping the increasing number of States willing to improve their national legal and judicial systems, which, on their turn, provided appropriate remedies for violations of human rights. It was their firm conviction that, as was the case two years ago, the draft resolution on the strengthening of the rule of law would be adopted by the General Assembly without a vote.
Ms. ACOSTA (Mexico) said her country recognized human rights as values of infinite scope -- essential in building a new world order. Mexico had made major efforts to establish structures that would guarantee the promotion and protection of human rights. It was currently developing a broad human rights strategy, with cooperation at its centre. Mexico would imminently begin the implementation of the second phase of its technical cooperation initiative, which had been undertaken in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Part of that programme would focus on the elaboration of national human rights policy as well as the expansion of civil society cooperation.
In the coming months, Mexico also hoped to put in place a representative of the Office of Human rights, reflecting the Government’s desire to have an ally on the ground to coordinate and participate in the important changes underway. The President of Mexico had undertaken a major initiative to ensure that all the departments of Federal Government had human rights units. A fundamental element of the changes underway in Mexico had been the promotion of human rights as a universal cause.
With new threats that had emerged following the tragic events of 11 September 2001, it was important for the Assembly to reaffirm its commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights for all people. Such reaffirmation
would send a message to all societies, and Mexico was preparing to put forward a relevant declaration that would highlight the role that the United Nations would play in defining human rights as the cross-cutting goal of a new world order to which all were aspiring. She added that it was also important to focus the efforts of the international community to support and strengthen the work of the Commission on Human Rights.
ALFREDO CHUQUIHUARA (Peru) said today’s discussions with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Representative and Special Rapporteurs had been fruitful, constructive and interesting. Over the last few decades, the international community had witnessed the development of international and national norms, which recognized the human being as the centre of human rights. Immense progress had been achieved in many fields, and as a concept, the development of such international norms was unprecedented in history. Members of the international community had made commitments out of the common interest of all States, between several political societies and cultures. He stressed that human rights represented a system of values of a universal nature. Progress had come so far that the legitimacy of a Government stemmed from popular sovereignty.
He stressed the importance of the full achievement of human rights as well as the indivisibility of all rights. Human rights were not limited to civil and political rights, but also included economic, social and cultural rights. Democracy was an important factor in the fulfillment of human rights. One of the greatest threats to democracy was corruption, he said. All States must cooperate in the fight against corruption in order to uphold human rights.
* *** *