COUNTRIES CALL FOR STREAMLINING OF UNITED NATIONS MACHINERY, AS THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES UP HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

17 October 2006
GA/SHC/3856

COUNTRIES CALL FOR STREAMLINING OF UNITED NATIONS MACHINERY, AS THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES UP HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

17 October 2006
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3856
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Third Committee

19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)


COUNTRIES CALL FOR STREAMLINING OF UNITED NATIONS MACHINERY,


AS THIRD COMMITTEE TAKES UP HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

 


Discussion of Indigenous Issues Concludes; Draft Resolutions

Introduced on Situation of Lebanese Children; Violence against Women


Several countries today called for the streamlining of the United Nations human rights machinery, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its discussion of human rights questions.  Duplication of work, a backlog of reports from States, an excessive reporting burden, and a proliferation of mechanisms were among the challenges identified by representatives who took the floor.


The Committee first heard from Craig Mokhiber, Officer-In-Charge of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who introduced a number of reports dealing with the implementation of human rights instruments.  One of the reports dealt with the most recent meeting of the chairpersons of the seven human rights treaty bodies of the United Nations, at which they discussed harmonization of working methods and reform of the treaty body system.  That same report included a summary of a meeting with the High Commissioner in which she explained her proposal for a unified standing treaty body, put forward in the context of the Secretary-General’s invitation to take a progressive view of United Nations reform.


In the ensuing debate, the representative of Liechtenstein said the subject of treaty body reform deserved the attention of member States.  He pointed out that the reporting burden had posed a great challenge to small States in particular, and that there had been problems with non-reporting -– due more often to a lack of resources, than to a lack of will.  He pointed out that there had been very limited support for the idea of a unified standing body treaty, and that discussion should thus focus on politically feasible alternatives.


The representative of Australia, speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand, said the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the treaty body system should not be missed.  The three States welcomed harmonized reporting guidelines, but felt that more needed to be done regarding overlapping work and a backlog of State reports.  The representative of Colombia said it was important to avoid the excessive proliferation of mechanisms, and that there should be a move toward a system that avoided duplications, provided greater impartiality and ensured efficiency.


The representative of China said international human rights instruments had played a positive role in promoting and protecting human rights, but an excessive reporting burden for States parties posed a serious problem.  He too expressed concern over a duplication of work, the over-complexity of current reporting systems, and the overlapping functions of different treaty bodies.


The representatives of Japan, Uzbekistan, Republic of Korea, Colombia, Bangladesh and Iraq also spoke, as did the representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


Earlier today, the Committee concluded its discussion of indigenous issues, during which the representatives of Myanmar, Cuba, Guatemala, Nepal, the Philippines, France, Belize (on behalf of CARICOM) and Cameroon spoke.


In other business, the Committee also heard the introduction of a draft resolution by the representative of the Netherlands, on behalf of France, on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, as well as the introduction of a draft on the situation of Lebanese children by the representative of Cuba, also on behalf of member States that were also members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries and Palestine.


The Committee was expected to reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 October, to continue its debate on human rights issues.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude its discussions on indigenous issues.  For background, please see press release GA/SHC/3855 of 16 October.


The Committee was also scheduled to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/61/L.10) and a draft on the situation of the Lebanese children (document A/C.3/61/L.12).


The Committee also began its general discussion of human rights questions, including implementation of human rights instruments and comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.


It had before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/61/36) (not yet available); a Letter dated 20 June 2006 from the Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (A/61/97), which contains a 13 June statement of that country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a Letter dated 2 August 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/61/220), which contains the Japan-DPRK Pyongyang Declaration; and a Letter dated 17 August 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/61/280), which contains the 15 August Declaration of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly of People’s Power of the Republic of Cuba.


Also before the Committee was the Report of the Human Rights Committee (documents A/61/40 Vol. I and Vol. II) (not yet available) and the Report of the Committee against Torture (document A/61/44) (not yet available).


In addition, the Committee had before it the report of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers (document A/61/48), summarizing its work over the past year.  It includes a summary of a general discussion in December 2005, where participants stressed the need for migrants to be seen as human beings, not as commodities, and that their potential contributions to a host country’s economy could not be fully realized without full implementation of their rights.  The report also reviews Mali’s initial report to the Committee, and regrets that similar reports have yet to be submitted by other States as required by the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.


The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/61/226), which describes the recommendations for grants to beneficiary organizations that were adopted by the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture in April 2006, and subsequently approved by the Secretary-General.  The report also provides information on decisions adopted by the Board to implement recommendations made by the Office of Internal Oversight Services (see document E/CN.4/2005/55) and on activities relating to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Fund on 26 June 2006, the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.  Donors are invited to pay their contributions to the Fund in time for the Board to take them into account at its twenty-seventh session, in October 2007.  The report also notes that the General Assembly and the Board have urged regular donors to increase their contributions, if possible, in order to provide adequate resources to meet the growing needs of torture victims and the members of their families.  The Board strongly encourages Governments that have not yet contributed to the Fund to do so for the first time, preferably before September 2007.


The Secretary-General’s note on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/61/259) transmits the interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on those issues.  The report addresses issues of special concern and overall trends regarding the use of torture and ill-treatment.  Maintaining a focus on the absolute prohibition of torture in the context of counter-terrorism measures, he draws attention to the principle of non-admissibility of evidence extracted by torture in Article 15 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  He also reviews a series of key court decisions to illustrate the increasing trend toward the use of “secret evidence” in judicial proceedings, with a heavy burden of proof placed on an individual to establish that such evidence was obtained under torture.


The report also discusses the significance of the entry into force in June 2006 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which establishes a system of regular visits undertaken by independent international and national bodies to places where people are deprived of their liberty, in order to prevent torture and ill-treatment.  The Special Rapporteur considers this new instrument to be the “most effective and innovative method for the prevention of torture and ill-treatment worldwide” and calls on all States to ratify the Optional Protocol as soon as possible.  He also urges States to establish truly independent, effective, and well-resourced national prevention mechanisms with the right to carry out unannounced visits to all places of detention at any time, to conduct private interviews with all detainees, and to have detainees undergo thorough, independent medical examinations.  Noting that torture usually occurs in isolated places of detention, he concludes that the most effective way to prevent it is to expose all places of torture to public scrutiny.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/61/279), which discusses relevant actions of the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council, and also provides a list of the membership of the Committee against Torture.  The report notes that, as of 10 July 2006, 141 States had ratified or acceded to the Convention; in addition, 10 States were signatories.


Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (document A/61/354), which notes that the Secretary-General would, in accordance with resolution 60/149 of the General Assembly, keep the Assembly informed of developments regarding the Covenants and Optional Protocols through the websites untreaty.un.org (available by subscription) and www.ohchr.org (accessible to the public).


In addition, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General on effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights (document A/61/385), which transmits the report of the chairpersons of the 22-23 June meeting of the human rights treaty bodies.  The report calls on the human rights bodies to follow up on the points of agreement transmitted by the fifth inter-committee meeting and report on their implementation at the sixth inter-committee meeting in 2007.  Further, it recommends that all treaty bodies consider developing procedures and guidelines to better coordinate their work with the special procedures mandate holders and that the Secretariat seek ways to facilitate interaction between the treaty bodies and the special procedures during annual joint meetings and sessions.


The Committee also had before it a Letter dated 14 September 2006 from the Permanent Representative of Liechtenstein to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/61/351) (not yet available).


Statements


U KYI THEIN ( Myanmar) welcomed the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Human Rights Council as a constructive step that would contribute to the betterment of the 370 million indigenous peoples worldwide.  He noted that his country of 54 million people was made up of eight main ethnic groups and more than 100 national races.  All of Myanmar’s people were indigenous to the soil and had lived together throughout the ages, he said.  The ethnic groups, or national races, constituted 40 per cent of the population and lived mainly in the border areas.  A Government ministry had been established in 1992 to promote economic and social development in those border areas, to preserve and promote the culture, literature and customs of the national races, to eradicate opium poppy cultivation and provide alternative means of livelihood, and to maintain and promote security.  National developments plans were also in place to complement the work of the Ministry.


He reviewed a number of infrastructure projects in the border areas, including the construction of new roads, bridges, hydro-electric power plants, telegraph offices, and telephone exchanges.  New schools and hospitals had also been built.  His Government was taking measures to ensure that the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights was complemented by participation in the political process.  The national races were actively participating in the ongoing National Convention which was working toward the fulfilment of the aspirations of the people for a democratic nation.


JORGE CUMBERBACH MIGUÉN ( Cuba) said the Latin American region had played a crucial role in promoting the rights and well-being of indigenous peoples.  Given the precarious level of economic and social development faced by indigenous peoples in many parts of the world, the actions of the member States of the United Nations had to be reinforced.  The impact of colonialism on indigenous peoples was no secret, and remained a part of national and international agendas.  Here it would be useful to recall the conclusions of the 21st session of the Working Group on Indigenous Peoples, which said that globalization, in its present form, had weakened the sovereignty of States, emphasized wealth over social concerns, increased inequality between states, and caused long-term damage to the environment.


The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the result of many years of negotiations in Geneva, had been long awaited by indigenous peoples, he said.  Its impact on the work of the United Nations regarding indigenous issues would be important, given the creation of the Human Rights Council.  Its full implementation would serve as guide in responding to claims put forward by representatives of indigenous communities that had been colonized and robbed of their land and cultures.  Cuba appealed to other States to support the adoption by the General Assembly of the Declaration, a historic document for the United Nations.


CONNIE TARACENA SECAIRA ( Guatemala) said that indigenous issues were of prime importance to her country, which had undertaken a number of activities to protect the rights of indigenous peoples, particularly the Maya, Garifuna, and Xinka peoples.  The Government’s work on this issue was led by the Presidential Commission against Racism and Discrimination.  Her Government had also paid special attention to protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous women.   Guatemala had made progress in the area of political participation, with indigenous people serving as members of Congress and in decision-making roles in state and local governments.


The launch of the Second International Decade for Indigenous People and the Programme of Action was an opportunity for legislative reform, she said.  There must be better dissemination of the Decade’s objectives among indigenous peoples.  It also was necessary to collect data in order to check progress in combating poverty and hunger as member States worked to ensure a better future for indigenous people.  The adoption of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the Human Rights Council was the culmination of years of negotiated effort, she said, expressing her delegation’s firm desire that it should be adopted as soon as possible by the General Assembly.  The Declaration would be a foundation for promoting national and regional action.


PRADIP NEPAL ( Nepal) said indigenous peoples represented a great challenge to the international community.  Nepal had been committed to their development and welfare by eliminating discrimination and suppression against them.  There had been some progress in the economic, social and human development of indigenous peoples, and the participation of their representatives had significantly increased at international meetings.  Though the draft Declaration was not legally binding, Nepal believed it could play a significant role as a frame of reference for the issues of indigenous peoples.  Nepal supported the Human Rights Council’s recommendation for the Declaration to be adopted by the current session of the General Assembly.


Nepal was confident that the United Nations could build on the momentum generated by the Declaration’s adoption, he said.  It called upon the international community to extend its support and cooperation to the United Nations and member States for legislative and institutional measures to be taken at the national level.  Financial and technical support should be given to developing countries, particularly the least developed ones; in that context, countries emerging from conflict and violence should be given special attention.  Nepal had immense pride in being a rich garden of different ethnic groups and to accelerate efforts for their development, it had an urgent need for additional financial resources.


LAURO L. BAJA ( Philippines) noted that the country’s Constitution recognized and promoted the rights of indigenous cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development, and that commitment had been reaffirmed in the Indigenous People’s Rights Act.  The implementation of the President’s 10-point priority agenda was aimed at ensuring that indigenous people were fully included in the development process and empowered as active agents of development.  The building block of the Government’s work was securing land tenure for them, in tandem with a framework plan for sustainable development and protection of ancestral domains.  The National Commission on Indigenous Peoples provided livelihood projects that promoted self-sufficiency and also worked with the Department of Health to promote indigenous peoples’ right to health -- particularly to eliminate tuberculosis, malaria, and filariasis.  In the area of education, the Government had developed a culture-sensitive core curriculum for indigenous students and provided assistance to indigenous scholars at the elementary, high school and college levels.


The Government was sharpening its response to reports of human rights violations, including those against indigenous people, he said.  The President had condemned such killings in the harshest possible terms and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.  The National Commission had also expressed strong indignation at heinous acts committed against members of indigenous communities and was working to strengthen the capacity of the Office of Empowerment and Human Rights and the Legal Affairs Office to strategically attend to reports of human rights violations against indigenous peoples.  The Philippines supported the much-awaited completion of the process to adopt a Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, a global undertaking that had taken more than two decades to develop.  The Declaration, together with national legislation, would solidify and enhance the human rights foundations of the work to improve the lives of indigenous peoples.


MR. DROSZEWSKI ( France) said his country hailed the Declaration’s adoption by the Human Rights Council, as it marked a key step forward in the protection of human rights, especially those of indigenous peoples, and it was France’s hope that the current session of the General Assembly would adopt it as well.  The text might not be perfect, but it represented the best possible compromise.  It pointed the way forward to the better protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples.


Given the indigenous populations in its overseas territories, France had been directly concerned, he said.  Through its Overseas Ministry, it had carried out programmes to support their economic and social development, in a framework adapted to their specific needs and cultural expression.  France supported measures undertaken at the multilateral level, as well as financial support, particularly for the decade for indigenous peoples.


DINA SHOMAN (Belize), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the Second International Decade of Indigenous People had brought the situation of indigenous people onto the international agenda and had resulted in growing awareness of the obstacles they faced in preserving their cultures, livelihoods, and communities.  One of the greatest achievements of the Decade had been the establishment of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, which was a valuable meeting point between States, indigenous organizations and the United Nations system and other inter-governmental bodies.  The Forum could play an important role in facilitating development initiatives for indigenous people of the Caribbean region, including through advocacy for greater coordination of efforts of United Nations agencies and by encouraging those agencies to help collect reliable data on indigenous people of the region so that their problems could be more precisely addressed.


Acknowledging important advances made during the first Decade, she also recalled the High Commissioner’s report pointing out that indigenous peoples in many countries continued to be among the poorest and most marginalized.  Much remained to be done to protect them from human rights violations, to alleviate the poverty they faced, and to safeguard against discrimination.  CARICOM noted that after almost two decades of debate, the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples had been adopted by the Human Rights Council with a view to being adopted by the General Assembly during this sixty-first session.


CÉCILE MBALLA EYENGA ( Cameroon) said the First International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People had raised the awareness of the international community, and of States, regarding the condition of indigenous peoples, who had suffered from a lack of realization of their rights, their cultural development and protection of their environment.  Cameroon, a member of the Human Rights Council, had fully supported the Declaration, and it had confidence that the General Assembly would, by consensus, give it its political blessing.


In Central Africa, and in Cameroon in particular, the Pygmy and the Mbororo had been considered indigenous peoples or communities.  The State prohibited all forms of discrimination, ensured the protection of their fundamental rights, and provided basic social services, ensuring their socio-economic integration while preserving their cultural identity.  It had been protecting their environment as well.  For example, a pipeline route had been redirected in order to avoid destroying Pygmy villages.


Introduction of Draft Resolutions


The representative of the Netherlands, speaking also on behalf of France, introduced a draft resolution on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/61/L.10).  She said the resolution was intended to ensure that the in-depth study on all forms of violence against women would lead to concrete action in all countries, that adequate resources for programmes were provided, and that United Nations agencies could assist States in their efforts.  The General Assembly should show leadership by directing the way for follow-up to the study at the national and international levels, she said.  Co-sponsors of the draft included Fiji, Slovakia, Latvia, Luxembourg, Chile, Greece, Hungary, United Kingdom, Georgia, Morocco, Germany, Switzerland, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Peru, Slovenia, Sweden, Mozambique, Lebanon and Madagascar.


Introducing the draft resolution on the situation of Lebanese children (document A/C.3/61/L.12), the representative of Cuba, speaking on behalf of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries, said the matter was of particular importance to the work of this Committee.  He noted that this past summer, Lebanon and its children had once again been victims of Israel.  He cited the deaths of more than 1,100 civilians, one-third of whom were children, as well as the fact that many children had been wounded, and even permanently disabled in the violence.  He also noted that thousands of children remained displaced, many still living in camps with unsanitary conditions, and that schools and health centres had been destroyed.  The resolution was intended to address these concerns and was co-sponsored by Palestine, also on behalf of the Arab States Group.


Introduction of Reports on Human Rights Instruments


CRAIG MOKHIBER, Officer-In-Charge of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the reports on implementation of human rights instruments (documents A/61/40 (Vol.1), A/61./40 (Vol.II), A/61/44, A/61/48, A/61/226, A/61/259, A/61/279, A/61/354, A/61/385, A/61/351).  He said the Human Rights Committee had considered nine periodic reports during the period 1 August 2005 to 31 July 2006 and had adopted concluding observations; it had also considered one country’s situation in the absence of a report and had adopted provisional concluding observations.  The report of the Committee on Torture noted that 141 States had accepted the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and that 22 had ratified the Optional Protocol.  The report on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture revealed that $8.797 million dollars had been allocated to 165 projects in 71 countries, and that requests for $12 million should be expected for 2008.


The report on the status of the United Nations Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery included a recommendation from its Board of Trustees that a global review of the Fund be undertaken, he said.  The report of the Committee on Migrant Works recalled that the Committee had considered an initial report from Mali, and that an initial report from Mexico would be considered at its next session.  Finally, the report of the chairpersons of the human rights treaty bodies included a reference to a discussion between the chairpersons on a harmonization of their bodies’ work methods.


Statements on Human Rights


CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said the subject of treaty body reform deserved the attention of member States.  While the monitoring system established under the human rights treaties was one of the success stories of United Nations human rights work, the current system faced problems and challenges, including with the varying quality of its membership.  In addition, the reporting burden posed a great challenge to small States in particular, and the system continued to be plagued by the phenomenon of non-reporting, which was often due to lack of resources rather than to lack of political will.


Regarding the concept paper prepared by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on creating a unified standing treaty body, he said that currently, there was very limited support for the idea.  He suggested that discussions should, therefore, focus on other measures that were politically feasible.  What the process of treaty body reform needed now was not more general debate, which was bound to be confined to the realm of the abstract, but focused meetings that dealt with particular aspects of the issue in an in-depth and analytical manner.


YASUSHI TAKASE ( Japan) focused on the need for treaty body reform.  His delegation was greatly satisfied with the adoption by the Human Rights Council of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the consensus reached by the Ad Hoc Committee of the General Assembly on the text of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol.


He noted, however, that the creation of the eighth and ninth human rights treaties might impose increased obligations on States parties to submit reports, worsening the current situation of overdue or non-submission of reports, which impaired the ability of treaty bodies to function properly.  Duplication of the work done by treaty bodies would increase.  Regarding the concept paper submitted by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the establishment of a unified treaty body, his delegation found that several subjects needed further elaboration, such as new working methods, qualification of expert members, and cost performance.  Japan believed that it was an urgent task for States parties to streamline their reports, using the harmonized guidelines as a reference.


Mr. ABDULLAEV ( Uzbekistan) described how his country had been implementing its international commitments on human rights.  It had ratified all fundamental human rights treaties, without exception, and aligned its national legislation with United Nations instruments.  In the legal system, human rights took precedence, and in the event of a conflict between national and international law, the latter would prevail.


Uzbekistan had regularly submitted reports to the United Nations treaty bodies, with non-governmental organizations and the mass media contributing to the work of monitoring human rights, he said.  Mechanisms had been set up for the protection and promotion of human rights, including a constitutional court and a parliamentary ombudsman.  An office for human rights had been set up within the Justice Ministry.  Also, Parliament had adopted a programme for education in human rights, and a monitoring mechanism had been developed.  Uzbekistan was fully committed to promoting human rights, and ready to compromise with United Nations treaty bodies.


LIU ZHENMIN (China) said that international human rights instruments had played a positive role in promoting and protecting human rights, noting that his country was a State party to many important treaties, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, among others.  The Government had been conscientious in fulfilling its obligations under human rights instruments.  However, his delegation believed that the excessive reporting burden for States parties presented a serious problem.  He also expressed concern over the duplication of work, the over-complexity of current reporting systems, the short interval between reports, and the overlapping functions of different treaty bodies.


He said that reform of the human rights treaty bodies involved many complex legal issues and would be a relatively long process requiring extensive consultation among countries.  Any reform initiative should be in line with the principle of simplifying the reporting mechanism, enhancing efficiency, and saving resources.  He also noted that in the process of considering implementation reports, human rights treaty bodies should always follow the principle of objectivity, fairness, cooperation and dialogue, and avoid being used by groups or individuals with political motives.


CHO HYUN (Republic of Korea) said that, with the creation of the Human Rights Council and on-going discussions on the Universal Periodic Review, the world was on the verge of a new era vis-à-vis  the protection and promotion of human rights.  Implementation of international human rights instruments in the most efficient manner was now the main challenge.  Eight distinct human rights treaty bodies had been established, and the number of treaty body experts had grown to 115.  The growing number of treaties and ratifications had steeply increased the workload of the treaty bodies and the Secretariat.


The protection and promotion of human rights could be weakened by inefficiency, duplication of work and conflicting priorities, he said.  It would be commendable for the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, among others, to call for harmonizing procedures and methods, and for a coordination of efforts among several bodies.  Creating a unified standing treaty body could be one alternative to the existing complicated system.  The focus should stay on addressing the problems of duplication, backlogs, non-reporting and lack of follow-up to reporting, and the visibility of treaty bodies under the current legal framework.


CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said her country was firmly committed to compliance with the human rights treaties to which it was a party and had submitted periodic reports as required.  She also noted the presence in her country of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  The question of human rights was a matter of priority for her Government, which had reversed the trend towards the violation of fundamental rights which had existed in the country in previous years.  Between 2002 and 2005, the number of homicides, kidnapping, forced displacement, and acts of terrorism all had gone down.  The number of complaints against public security forces also had gone down, despite the fact that military operations had increased during this period to meet the security needs of Colombia’s citizens.


Thousands of members of armed groups had been demobilized collectively and individually, she said.  The Government sought to balance peace with justice, including through the framework provided by the Justice and Peace Law, which upheld the rights of victims to freedom, justice and reparation.  A National Commission on Peace and Reconciliation had been formed under that law and included representatives of the Government and civil society.  Turning to the issue of treaty body reform, her delegation believed it was important to avoid the excessive proliferation of mechanisms and sought to move toward a system that avoided duplication, had greater impartiality, and ensured efficiency.  The reforms should move forward through the universal periodic review process, she said.


DUNCAN KERR (Australia), speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada and New Zealand, said the opportunity to improve the effectiveness of the United Nations human rights treaty body system should not be missed.  Ensuring that the system improved human rights protection at the national level required concerted and coordinated action by all member States, working with the committees, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and other stakeholders.  Australia, Canada and New Zealand welcomed harmonized reporting guidelines, and commended the committees for testing new approaches to their work.


While progress had been made, however, he said much remained to be done.  There had been overlaps in the work of the committees, and renewed attention had to be given to a backlog of State reports.  The Universal Periodic Review should complement, not duplicate, the existing treaty body system.   Australia, Canada and New Zealand applauded the High Commissioner’s interest in committees focusing on the most serious and pressing human rights problems on the ground, and appreciated her ongoing initiatives to strengthen the field presence of her organization.  National, regional and international human rights protections would be strong and more enduring as a result.


Mr. HEMAYETUDDIN ( Bangladesh) noted that his country was a State party to all major international human rights instruments and had taken all measures for their effective and timely implementation, including by creating national machinery, formulating new programmes and policies, and through legal reform.  The Government accorded the highest priority to empowerment of women and to the promotion of their rights to health, education, and employment.  The Government had established a National Advisory Committee to combat trafficking and had ratified the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention on combating trafficking in women and children.


Bangladesh was also working with non-governmental and civil society organizations to empower women through microcredit programmes and non-formal education, he said.  His country also played a constructive role in international forums, including through its participation in the new Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding Commission, and through its representation on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.  In closing, he noted that poverty posed a daunting challenge to realizing the goals of human rights.  The awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Professor Yunus of Grameen Bank had underscored the linkage between poverty alleviation and peace.


Mr. HATEM ( Iraq) said his country had been reviewing its legislation as it related to the rights and freedoms of its citizens.  Article 2 of the Constitution stated that no law could be above the fundamental rights set out in the Constitution.  In addition, Iraq had been pursuing legislation covering property rights and gender equality.


Many decisions had been adopted since the fall of the former regime in 2003 in a manner in line with international human rights provisions, he said.  Those had included an election law, an anti-terrorism law, compensation for victims of terrorism, prison inspections, a ban on child labour, and limits on work by adolescents.  The two optional protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child had been put before Parliament to be discussed and adopted.  Iraq appealed to the international community to support the Iraqi people and Government at the current critical stage to build a democratic State that respected human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.


DOMINIQUE BUFF of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomed the entry into force of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture on 22 June 2006.  The Protocol provided for a crucial and comprehensive system of regular visits to persons deprived of their liberty, to be conducted both by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention, and by national preventive mechanisms.  There was no question that States were entitled to detain people on a number of grounds, including for reasons related to security.  However, with this right came the obligation to treat those who had been deprived of their liberty.


Adequate openness to scrutiny was crucial to preventing and eliminating ill-treatment, she said.  With more organizations and bodies working in the field of detention and visiting places of detention, the challenge of the coming years would be to develop an effective complementarity and coherence among all of them.  Particular emphasis must be placed on avoiding duplication of effort, excluding contradictory recommendations or references to different standards, and establishing a minimum of coordination.  In conclusion, he noted that ill-treatment bred hatred, and hatred threatened peace and humanity.  The ICRC was confident that the entry into force of the Optional Protocol would have a significant impact on the respect for the life and dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.