Political Affairs Head Says UN Efforts to Assist Elections in ‘High Demand’ as Third Committee’s Debate on Promotion of Human Rights Continues
Political Affairs Head Says UN Efforts to Assist Elections in ‘High Demand’ as Third Committee’s Debate on Promotion of Human Rights Continues
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
28th & 29th Meetings (AM & PM)
Political Affairs Head Says UN Efforts to Assist Elections in ‘High Demand’
as Third Committee’s Debate on Promotion of Human Rights Continues
Also Hears from UN Human Rights Experts on Migrants,
Internally Displaced, Human Rights Protection while Countering Terrorism
Addressing the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as part of its discussion on ways to enhance the promotion of human rights, Lynn B. Pascoe, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, spoke of increasing attention within the United Nations on safeguarding its reputation for impartiality in electoral assistance to States, adding that there was high demand from Member States for help on elections.
Mr. Pascoe, who presented the Secretary-General’s report on the United Nations’ work on enhancing elections and the democratization process, said that, as part of his job as the Organization’s focal point for electoral assistance, he must ensure consistency of United Nations activities on elections. Since the last report was made in 2007, 52 Member States had received United Nations support -- eight on the basis of a Security Council mandate and the rest at the nations’ request.
The true measure of an election was whether it engendered broad public support for the process and outcome, he said. The United Nations was working hard with international, governmental and non-governmental organizations to help countries achieve that goal.
Addressing the Committee during “question time”, Craig Jenness, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division in the Department of Political Affairs, pointed to the potential for elections to lead to conflict or division, particularly in their aftermath or over the acceptance of their results. Some of the poorest countries in the world had chosen the most expensive electoral processes, and while it was their sovereign right, he was concerned that these decisions would leave countries dependent on donors or vendors. For its part, the United Nations was poised to offer advice to States on balancing their desire for fair and transparent ‑‑ but possibly expensive ‑‑ elections with other goals.
Speaking in defence of resource-poor countries, South Africa’s representative said some areas of his country were inaccessible and the ability to transfer the information through communications technology was costly. The norms that had grown up around transparency, such as television and radio broadcasting during the election, entailed huge costs. Also, expectations regarding the timeliness of the outcome carried costs. He called for more attention to those issues in future reports.
Earlier in the day, as they entered the second week of interactive discussions with Special Rapporteurs and Representatives, speakers held a vigorous exchange on what constituted a “gender perspective” when safeguarding human rights in the field of counter-terrorism ‑‑ specifically on whether it would include members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
The report by Martin Sheinin, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, generated considerable debate among Member States for suggesting that “gender diversity” included the experiences of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals, and that sexual minorities should be seen as a resource in the fight against terrorism and contributing to the design of counter-terrorism measures.
While various speakers noted that the Human Rights Council had requested the Special Rapporteur to “integrate a gender perceptive through the work of his mandate”, the representative of St. Lucia ‑‑ echoed by a few others -- said he had used personal ideas about a “gender perspective”, rather than what was agreed at international conferences, such as the Beijing Conference on women.
The Arab Group, whose views were presented by the delegation of Sudan, said the report brought Assembly into a debate that was based on definitions that had not been agreed upon. It would categorically refuse to be involved in the debate. The African Group, represented by the delegation of Tanzania, said “it would not engage with the report”.
Mr. Sheinin said he was aware that the report exceeded many expectations by taking the issue beyond the human rights of women, by describing how gays, lesbians and transgender persons faced particular hardships due to insensitive or maliciously targeted counter-terrorism measures. It also addressed how the interrogation of male terrorism suspects made use of torture methods that used rape and humiliation related to homophobic fears. Among his recommendations, Mr. Sheinin said torture and other inhuman treatment must be investigated and punished when homophobia was used in the selection of torture methods.
Also today, the Committee heard from Walter Kalin, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights and internally displaced persons, and Jorge A. Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.
The interactive discussion with Special Rapporteurs and Representatives was followed by a general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights in the afternoon, involving the representatives of Suriname (speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)), Mexico (speaking on behalf of the Rio Group), Sweden (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Lichtenstein, Japan, Russian Federation, Pakistan, Colombia, China, Morocco, Kazakhstan and Thailand.
The representative of the Observer Mission of the Holy See also made a statement.
In addition to Mr. Pascoe, Jessica Neuwirth, Director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports relating to the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 27 October, to hear presentations by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. It is also expected to continue its general discussion on improvement of the enjoyment of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.
It had before it the Secretary-General’s report on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/64/186). The report was submitted pursuant to General Assembly resolution 63/185, which reaffirmed that States must ensure that any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with their obligations under international law, in particular human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, and called upon States to raise awareness about the importance of these obligations among national authorities involved in combating terrorism. It refers to recent developments within the United Nations system in relation to human rights and counter-terrorism, including through the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Human Rights Council and its various special procedures mandates, the human rights treaty bodies, the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and its Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate.
Among the report’s conclusions is that the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy is an important development in ensuring a coordinated and comprehensive response to terrorism at the national, regional and global levels. Member States should continue to implement it and continue to support the work of the Task Force Working Group on Protecting Human Rights while Countering Terrorism, which is led by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Member States should further reaffirm their commitment in national law to the total prohibition of torture and the prosecution of those responsible for inflicting torture and ill-treatment; and prohibit the use of statements extracted under torture, whether the interrogation has taken place at home or abroad. Further, measures should be taken to ensure access to monitoring bodies to all prisoners in all places of detention, and to abolish places of secret detention. Member States should also abide by the principle of non-refoulement and refrain from returning persons to countries where they may face torture.
According to the Secretary-General’s report on protection of migrants (document A/64/188), 16 countries reported on their implementation of the resolution on the protection of migrants (resolution 62/156) and 9 countries on the importance of family reunification (resolution 63/184). The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants submitted a report to the Human Rights Council’s eleventh session, with a section highlighting the protection of children in the context of migration. The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families considered four country reports and also met members of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Population on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) continues its efforts to support the rights of migrants through its field offices, engaging in migration-related human rights work by providing training, technical advice and other initiatives.
Among the report’s recommendations, the Secretary-General encourages the adoption of national plans informed by international human rights standards to strengthen the protection of migrants. He encourages them to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, as well as protocols to the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, which deal with the smuggling of migrants and human trafficking.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/64/304), which describes the activities of the United Nations system in providing electoral assistance to Member States over the past two years.
[United Nations electoral assistance is provided only at the request of a Member State or on the basis of a resolution of the Security Council or the General Assembly. Over the past 20 years, the United Nations has provided electoral assistance to 104 Member States and 4 territories.]
The report indicates that the demand from Member States for United Nations electoral assistance remains high, with assistance provided during the reporting period to 52 Member States, 8 of them on the basis of a Security Council mandate. An increasing number of Member States are using elections as a peaceful means to discern the will of the people, build capacity among newer democracies to administer credible elections, and increase South-South cooperation among electoral administrators. Yet, a number of challenges have emerged, including the potential for elections to be overshadowed by political discord or violence; concerns regarding the cost of elections and sustainability; and the need to ensure coordination and cohesion and safeguard United Nations impartiality.
According to the report, there is a need to: make sustainability and cost-effectiveness more central in the design and provision of electoral assistance; consider additional measures to ensure that elections contribute to peace and good governance, not violence or instability; and increase the use of special or more flexible administrative procedures, with safeguards and controls, for electoral projects in a crisis situation or under a Security Council mandate. It suggests reiteration of the United Nations focal point’s role to ensure coordination and consistency as well as appropriate relationships with regional and intergovernmental organizations, and notes that the United Nations must continue to support electoral programmes that facilitate the participation of women and seek to ensure the rights of minorities and marginalized groups.
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (document A/64/211 and Corr.1). Submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 62/159 and Human Rights Council resolution 6/28 by Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin, the report summarizes his activities from 1 January to 31 July 2009. It also offers an analysis of counter-terrorism measures from a gender perspective, including the often unacknowledged and uncompensated collateral gender impacts of counter-terrorism measures.
The report further discusses the relationship between promoting gender equality and countering terrorism, noting that while Governments are required to ensure the right to gender equality and non-discrimination as ends in themselves, a gender perspective is also integral to combating the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism. Turning to the role of women in both terrorism and counter-terrorism measures, the report notes that, while women are victims of terrorism and counter-terrorism measures, they may also be volitional actors and should be considered as key stakeholders in counterterrorism measures. Finally, the Special Rapporteur offers conclusions and recommendations addressed to States and to various organs and bodies of the United Nations.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (document A/64/213 and Corr.1). Submitted in accordance with Assembly resolution 63/184 and Human Rights Council resolution 8/10 by Special Rapporteur Jorge Bustamante, the report summarizes his activities from January 2008 to June 2009. It highlights a number of issues related to the human rights of migrants, including the protection of children in the context of migration, as well as several good practices and some of the major challenges.
Among the report's conclusions are that immigration laws and policies should include concrete regulations aimed at protecting the rights of the child in the context of migration and fulfilling their specific needs in migration-related circumstances. States are also encouraged to consider the impact of migration on children in elaborating and implementing national development frameworks, poverty reduction strategies, human rights action plans, and programmes and strategies for human rights education and the advancement of children's rights. In the context of the current economic crisis, States should pay particular attention to preventing human rights abuses against migrants and avoid unreasonable restrictions on labour migration.
The Committee also had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report on the protection of and assistance to internally displaced persons (document A/64/214). Submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 62/153 and Human Rights Council resolution 6/32 by Walter Kälin, the Secretary-General's Representative on the human rights of internally displaced persons, the report provides a brief overview of the current situation of internal displacement and discusses the nexus between climate change and internal displacement. It also outlines the Representative's activities from August 2008 to July 2009.
According to the report, the number of persons internally displaced as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence or human rights violations across the world stood, at the beginning of 2009, at approximately 26 million. Further, an estimated 36 million persons were displaced in 2008 worldwide as a result of natural disasters, but reliable figures do not exist in the absence of an agreed methodology and global system to record displacement that is not related to conflict. Among other things, the report recommends that the increasing recognition of the human rights dimension of internal displacement at the international and regional levels be translated into effective action to protect the human rights of internally displaced persons at the national and local levels. This requires coherent laws and policies, capable coordination and implementation mechanisms, and adequate resources.
The Committee was also expected to begin its general discussion on human rights questions, and had before it the following reports.
The Secretary-General’s report on human rights and cultural diversity (document A/64/160) contains summaries of written comments from 10 States regarding the recognition and importance of cultural diversity among peoples and nations in the world. The comments received from Governments ‑‑ Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, Cyprus, Greece, Guatemala, Kazakhstan, Mexico, Monaco and Spain ‑‑ are focused largely on measures taken within the State to promote cultural diversity and to combat racism, xenophobia, intolerance and discrimination.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (document A/64/171). In resolution 63/186, the General Assembly called upon States which had not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying the Convention as a matter of priority, as well as to consider the option provided for in articles 31 and 32 regarding the Committee on Enforced Disappearances. Among other requests, it asked the Secretary-General to submit, during its sixty-fourth session, a report on the status of the Convention and the implementation of the resolution. In a note verbale dated 8 May 2009, the Secretariat invited Governments to transmit any information in that regard. The report summarizes the replies received from the Governments of Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, Greece, Guatemala, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Monaco, the Netherlands, Paraguay, Qatar, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Also before the Committee was 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/64/175). It compiles the responses to the note verbale from the Secretary-General dated 24 April 2009, which was sent to Member States in compliance with resolution 62/165, inviting them to present practical proposals and ideas that would contribute to the strengthening of United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation based on the principles of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity. Responses were received from the Governments of Algeria, Brazil, Qatar, Serbia, the Syrian Arab Republic and Ukraine.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on combating defamation of religions (document A/64/209). It notes that defamation of religions has an impact on the realization of human rights, and, since the permissible limitations to freedom of expression are one of the salient features of the discourse on defamation of religions, it draws attention to articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as article 4 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It says that treaty bodies and special procedures have reported serious instances of intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence based on religion or belief and have recommended that strong emphasis be put on the implementation of the core obligations of States relating to the protection of individuals and groups of individuals against violations of their rights incurred by hate speech.
According the report, and as underlined by the relevant Special Rapporteurs, the ultimate goal is to find the most effective ways through which to protect individuals against advocacy of hatred and violence by others. Hate speech is but a symptom, an external manifestation of something much more profound which is intolerance and bigotry. Legal responses, such as restrictions on freedom of expression alone, are far from being sufficient to bring about real changes in mindsets, perceptions and discourse. In order to tackle the root causes of intolerance, a much broader set of policy measures needs to be addressed covering the areas of intercultural dialogue as well as education for tolerance and diversity.
The report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (document A/64/216) discusses efforts to bring into operation the policy framework for business and human rights, described as the “protect, respect and remedy” framework. It comprises three pillars: the State duty to protect against human rights abuses by third parties, including business, through appropriate policies, regulation and adjudication; the corporate responsibility to respect human rights, which calls for the exercise of due diligence to avoid infringing on the rights of others; and greater access by victims to effective remedy both inside and outside the judicial system. During the reporting period, the Special Representative convened two regional consultations and met members of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. He spoke before the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and various national institutions, such as the United Kingdom parliament. He convened a leadership group in Salzburg, Austria to offer strategic advice to the Special Representative.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/64/219). Submitted in accordance with General Assembly resolution 63/179, in which the Secretary-General was requested to continue collecting from Member States information on the implications and negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on their national populations for an analytical report to be submitted to the Assembly at its sixty-fourth session. It summarizes the replies to a note verbale sent out by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting this information from the Governments of Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Costa Rica, Jamaica, Paraguay and the Syrian Arab Republic. A reply from Iraq, submitted in response to both General Assembly resolution 63/179 and Human Rights Council resolution 9/4, is included in the report of the Secretary-General submitted to the Human Rights Council at its twelfth session (A/HRC/12/30).
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on the right to development (document A/64/256), which supplements his report submitted to the Human Rights Council (document A/HRC/12/29) and provides information on the tenth session of the Working Group on the Right to Development. The Working Group was established as a follow-up mechanism to make progress towards realizing the right to development, as out outlined in the Declaration on the Right to Development.
At its tenth session, the Working Group considered the report of the fifth session of the high-level task force (held 1-9 April) and made recommendations. In response to those recommendations, the report says that the task force visited institutions working in the area of access to medicines, and attended a June World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Conference in Geneva. It also says the Working Group recommended that the task force attend the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen in December; devote time in 2010 to examining institutions responsible for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and draw on the expertise of academic bodies, among others, to help realize the right to development. It also urged that attention be given to other issues, including the global economic and financial crisis.
The Committee also had before it the Secretary-General’s report on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/64/265). It contains a summary of the views on the issue of globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights that have been received from the Governments of Oman and the Holy See, and from the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations Secretariat, the International Labour Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Trade Organization.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/64/293), which describes partial results for the Year, which began 10 December 2008 and is ongoing. Information is provided on a sample of initiatives and commemorative activities undertaken at all levels to date, with the aim of advancing human rights education. Activities by Member States include the adoption of laws, development of training programmes for civil servants, integration of human rights into curricula, and development of school programmes to promote the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As for regional initiatives, the report notes Oman’s participation in expert meetings of the League of Arab States, and extensive cooperation within Latin America. At the international level, it highlights events launched in the context of the World Programme for Human Rights Education, examples of United Nations inter-agency cooperation, and efforts to both increase information-sharing and support grass-roots initiatives. It concludes that observance of the Year has contributed to increasing global awareness of human rights, and of the role of human rights education and learning in promoting and protecting human rights.
The Secretary-General, in his report on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/64/320), urges national human rights institutions to cooperate with national civil society organizations in the promotion and protection of human rights. He encourages them to play an active role in the international human rights system, especially in the Human Rights Council, its universal periodic review mechanism and the special procedures, as well as the human rights treaty bodies. He welcomes the incorporation of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights as an association under Swiss law, and welcomes the financial and substantive support given to it by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report notes with satisfaction the increasing rigorousness, fairness and transparency of the accreditation process carried out by the Subcommittee on Accreditation of the International Coordinating Committee, with the support of High Commissioner, and stresses the importance of this process in ultimately strengthening the national human rights protection system. He welcomes the continuing development of general observations by the International Coordinating Committee, serving as an additional interpretative tool of the Paris Principles. Fostering strong partnerships system-wide to build on the capacities and expertise of United Nations entities is central to achieving this objective. For this reason, the Secretary-General welcomes the development of an OHCHR-UNDP toolkit for United Nations country team staff on the establishment and strengthening of national human rights institutions.
In the report, the Secretary-General welcomes the adoption of resolution 63/169 by the General Assembly on the role of Ombudsman institutions, which, inter alia, underlines the importance of the autonomy and independence of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions. The Secretary-General echoes the High Commissioner’s call for greater cooperation between national human rights institutions and Ombudsman institutions, as well as her encouragement to Ombudsman institutions to actively draw on the standards enumerated in international instruments and the Paris Principles to strengthen their independence and increase their capacity to act as national protection mechanisms.
Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report on Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/64/333), which covers the September 2008 to August 2009 period, outlines the Centre’s activities in the areas of capacity-building for regional Governments, technical cooperation, democracy and peace support and public information. It also describes the Centre’s innovative partnerships with Governments, subregional organizations, civil society and United Nations agencies, among others.
The report says that, for the next biennium, the Centre will increase its focus on anti-discrimination, combating impunity, protecting economic and social rights, and building capacity for national human rights institutions. In addition, it will support Governments, among others, in implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the Outcome of the Durban Review Conference. Work in new areas will include a focus on equitable distribution of natural resources, notably in the extractive industries. Cooperation with national human rights institutions will increase, particularly to create human rights bodies in countries where they do not yet exist.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General by which he transmitted the Report of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to education (document A/64/273). Submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 8/4, which renewed the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, Vernor Muñoz, the report addresses the issue of lifelong learning and human rights. According to the report, lifelong learning encompasses formal, informal and non-formal education. Initiatives launched to promote this type of learning on the national and international levels in both governmental and non-governmental sectors are described.
According to the report, the Special Rapporteur believes lifelong learning needs to move closer to the context of human rights, as this is essential for progression to a society free from all forms of prejudice, exclusion and discrimination and the realization of a global human rights culture. He calls on the international community to rethink educational proposals at all levels of action, so that education investments are not made based on purely utilitarian considerations to allow for a more productive workforce.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary General by which he transmitted the report of the independent expert, Cephas Lumina, on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights (document A/64/289). In that report, which is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 11/5, the independent expert highlights the relevance of the concept of “illegitimate debt” to global efforts to find a fair and durable solution to the debt crisis. [“Illegitimate debt” refers to unsustainable debt situations, which were recognized in the Monterrey Consensus as the equal responsibility of creditor and debtor countries.]
The report argues that human rights considerations must form part of the efforts towards the formulation of the concept of illegitimate debt in precise terms. It reviews the various definitions of illegitimate debt set forth by debt relief campaigners and others, and proposes that the human rights principles of participation, inclusion, transparency, accountability, the rule of law, equality and non-discrimination may provide invaluable guidance in efforts to formulate an internationally accepted definition of illegitimate debt.
The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including calls for all States to support efforts to find a precise and meaningful definition of the concept of illegitimate debt, to establish an international independent arbitration mechanism on debt and to reform the international financial system.
Statement by Secretary-General’s Representative on human rights of internally displaced persons
WALTER KALIN, Representative of the Secretary-General on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said he had come from Kampala, Uganda, where he witnessed the historic adoption of the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa. Building on the United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, it was the first legally binding treaty specific to internally displaced persons that covered an entire continent. He hoped it would serve as a model for other regions, too. He commended the African Union for its leadership and urged all African States to ratify it and implement its provisions.
Reflecting on the past 12 months, he said climate change increased the frequency and magnitude of climate-related disaster -- both sudden-onset disasters, like flooding and hurricanes, and slow-onset ones, such as desertification. The negative impact of these disasters could be mitigated by adopting disaster risk-reduction measures, but it was expected that the number of persons displaced by climate-related disasters would increase. The capacities of Governments and humanitarian actors to protect and assist these persons must be enhanced. He called on States to ensure that the adaptation and risk management regime of the new United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) agreement covered forced displacements.
Finding durable solutions for internally displaced persons was also an essential element of a successful peace process. How the issue was addressed in a peace agreement often predetermined how internal displacement was dealt with in a conflict’s aftermath. Yet, most dealt with it insufficiently or haphazardly. Working in close cooperation with the Mediation Support Unit of the Department of Political Affairs, he had developed a guide on internal displacement and peace processes for mediators. It provided advice on consulting internally displaced persons and engaging them in the different phases of a peace process. He had also deepened his engagement with the Peacebuilding Commission through country-based engagement on the Central African Republic, and the resulting country-specific strategic framework included many of his recommendations. He called on all actors involved in peace and peacebuilding processes to adequately address the needs of internally displaced persons following armed conflicts.
He said finding durable solutions for internally displaced persons was always a tremendous challenge. It was a multi-faceted, long, complex and often expensive process, which required the coordination and cooperation of a variety of actors from local and national authorities, as well as the humanitarian and development communities. Documents, such as the Framework for Durable Solutions, showed what should be done, but improvements must be made on the ground. Coordination was often insufficient and funding for early recovery activities was often lacking. Further, internally displaced persons were frequently not a priority.
The practical problems in this area, he stressed, were a consequence of systemic failures in bringing humanitarian and development actors together at an early stage of recovery. These failures, which were sometimes attributable to different approaches and cultures, also resulted from a lack of flexible funding mechanisms for early recovery. This remained true, despite recent steps in the right direction, like the Peacebuilding Fund.
Outlining some country-specific developments, he said he had been shocked during a visit to Somalia from 14 to 21 October by the degree of violence suffered by the civilian population -- particularly the internally displaced persons in south and central Somalia. International attention to the plight of internally displaced persons there was largely insufficient. Serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law were committed in an environment of impunity. Many displaced were trying to reach the safety of Puntland or Somaliland, but the reception capacities for new internally displaced persons should be strengthened and basic services expanded to reduce the burden on host communities. Also, robust development interventions were needed to transform humanitarian action into sustainable livelihoods, and investing in education and job opportunities was a must.
His two visits to Sri Lanka in the last six months indicated that the security situation had vastly improved, but over 250,000 internally displaced were still held in closed camps. Restoration of their freedom of movement had become a matter of urgency and immediate and substantial progress was an imperative for Sri Lanka to comply with its commitments under international law. Stressing that the approximately 220,000 individuals displaced over the long term in Georgia should be able to avail themselves of the same possibilities to improve their living conditions as those enjoyed by the more recently displaced, he welcomed the Government’s adoption of an action plan to improve the housing situation of the former. He noted that the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo continued to deteriorate.
His visits to Uganda and Serbia had focused on durable solutions. He had been impressed that the majority of the formerly 1.8 million internally displaced persons in Uganda had returned to their villages. In Serbia, a durable solution had not yet been found, and only a few sustainable returns had been made. He reemphasized that the right of a dignified life and the right of return were not mutually exclusive, and commended the increased efforts of the Serbian Government to improve the living conditions of internally displaced persons who had not returned.
Finally, he noted that the Guiding Principles were now firmly rooted as the relevant framework for the protection of internally displaced persons. Legislation and policies had been developed at the national and regional levels and the cluster approach had led to an improved humanitarian response. States, as well as humanitarian and development actors, were better prepared to address the 50 million persons displaced in their countries. This was badly needed, since the impacts of climate change would lead to new displacement.
Still, it was worrying to see that armed conflicts were conducted with utter disregard for the civilian populations in several parts of the world, he said. The humanitarian space was shrinking in many countries and many protracted displacement situations remained unchanged.
The representative of Sweden, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that this would be the Special Representative’s last report and thanked him for the effective discharge of his mandate. On conflict and its effects on displacement, and in view of the fear of increased internal displacement in the coming decade, she asked to hear more about his work with the inter-agency standing committee and on his discussions with other humanitarian actors and actors in disaster risk reduction programmes. What was his view of existing institutional arrangements? How did he ensure the wide use of guiding principles, and how did he use that framework in his activities with regional organizations? She asked to hear more about his work on mainstreaming the issue throughout the United Nations system. Also, what were some examples that he had come across on durable solutions to the multiple human rights challenges that internally displaced persons faced?
Switzerland’s representative noted the increased number of States using legislative and policy frameworks to tackle internally displaced persons, including the recent Convention of the African Union. What were some of the main challenges for the effective implementation of such normative instruments? With regard to the return of displaced persons to their places of origin, such as the complex situation of 250,000 people in Sri Lanka, what could States do, in terms of next steps, to create conducive conditions for their free return, or voluntary resettlement to other parts of the country?
The representative of Cote d’Ivoire asked what could be done to help States uphold the rights of displaced persons who had moved as a result of terrorism or activities of armed groups?
Chile’s delegate said relations with regional organizations were important to his Government. He noted that the relationship between the Peacebuilding Commission, of which Chile was Chair, with the Government of the Central African Republic, drew on assistance with regional groups. Turning to the food and economic crises, he asked how they were affecting internally displaced persons.
The representative of Norway thanked the Special Representative for five years of outstanding work, including good outreach to Governments. On the African Union Convention, he asked how the Special Representative planned to follow-up on that landmark adoption, particularly in terms of outreach to Governments in the region?
The representative of the United States said the Representative’s work had been instrumental in raising awareness on the issue. His report had referred to the difficulty in establishing the number of people displaced by disasters. How could the international community improve their assistance to such people, given that situation? Also, the situations of displaced persons in certain regions had lasted for decades. Could he elaborate on criteria to determine when protracted displacement could be considered resolved and ended?
The representative of the United Kingdom, aligning herself with the European Union, said her Government valued the contributions of the Special Representative and strongly supported a renewal of the mandate next year. Turning to arbitrary displacement resulting from state actors not respecting humanitarian international law, she asked: How could measures of accountability improve the rights of internally displaced persons? Did failure to investigate violations contribute to the intractability of the problem of displacement? She welcomed the Special Representative’s visit to Sri Lanka. Did he have plans to address the needs of the longer-term displaced in that country? What were some next steps that the United Nations could take in Sri Lanka? Pakistan had highest number of newly displaced in 2009 -- what was his assessment of the situation there, and was he planning a visit?
Licthenstein’s representative said he shared the assessment that displacement would soon become a big a humanitarian and human rights challenge, in light of climate change. He welcomed the Special Representative’s intention to collaborate with the various related United Nations bodies, and voiced appreciation of his work done in that regard so far. What further steps could be taken to mainstream the needs of internally displaced persons into the work of the United Nations even more?
The representative of Austria, aligning himself with the European Union, also welcomed his good collaboration with United Nations entities. Could he elaborate more on it? The lack of compliance with non-State actors had been cited as a key obstacle. How could compliance be better ensured? Were there any model legislations that he could share? On reintegration of internally displaced persons, did he have advice on the design of reintegration programmes? What role could be played by transitional justice systems?
Brazil’s representative said it was indeed disquieting that the number of displaced persons had increased in the last reporting period. The situation demanded more attention from the international community. On the impact of climate change on internally displaced persons, he said his Government remained to be convinced of the direct nexus between those two things. He recalled a statement by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its fourth assessment report, in which it said that disaggregating the cause of migration was problematic and amounted to, at best, guesswork. Also, the obligations of Member States on displacement, in the context of climate change, were unclear since there was no mention of climate change in the guiding principles.
Serbia’s representative said it had been more than 10 years since over 200,000 people had been displaced in her country. Only a small portion of those displaced had returned. According to the Special Representative’s report, the main obstacles to the return were, among other things, entrenched patterns of discrimination, lack of access to livelihoods, and the destruction of property. How could the work of different actors be better coordinated to rectify this situation? Also, regarding the Guiding Principles, particularly those related to the property and possession of internally displaced persons, how much did the destruction affect the decision of internally displaced persons to return?
The representative of Sri Lanka said the candid comments of the Special Representative were welcome. His open attitude to the issue of internally displaced persons was refreshing. Since the Special Representative’s last visit to Sri Lanka, the number of displaced in the camps had come down. The trend would continue. It must be remembered they were established only five months ago, and were relatively new. Nevertheless, the Government was committed to their return. He recalled that these people were rounded up and used as human shields by Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) troops. Moreover, the Government remained conscious of, and cautious about, by the presence of former LTTE fighters in the camps. As Sri Lanka worked to prepare for the return of the internally displaced persons, it hoped its development partners would remain cognizant of the difficulties involved and support its efforts.
Canada’s delegate said his delegation shared the concerns over the challenges faced by the internally displaced persons. It was particularly concerned by the deteriorating situation in northern Yemen, as well as ongoing situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Somalia. Of particular concern was the newly displaced in Pakistan. His delegation had also noted the impact of climate change on internally displaced persons and wondered what the response of Member States was, particularly those most vulnerable to changes in climate, to the particular challenges and guidelines on internal displacement and climate change.
The representative of Syria asked for further clarification on the dangers for the internally displaced persons, when it came to their ability to return quite freely to their homes and to ensure that their rights were not violated by the State responsible for their return. On the responsibility of States to provide assistance to internally displaced persons, she wondered how this assistance could be protected, particularly in situations where the State responsible flouted its obligations under international humanitarian law.
The representative of Ethiopia asked how the implementation of the recently adopted the African Union Convention on the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa would ease the situation of internally displaced persons on the continent. Indeed, it seemed State ratification of that Convention would take time. Thus, how could it be supplemented, in the meantime?
Sudan’s representative noted that Africa had been quite buffeted by the phenomenon of internally displaced persons. The causes stemmed from colonialism, which sundered the continent and created borders that were often artificial and frequently split families, and Sudan was an extremely interesting case, in this regard. It was also clear that climate change had severe consequences, especially in Sudan’s west. What could be done to boost national capacities to cope with climate change-induced displacement, and also to cope with the overall problems of internally displaced persons?
The representative of the International Criminal Court said this year marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Geneva Conventions, which were the cornerstone of international humanitarian law. Better respect for core international humanitarian law rules would greatly reduce the number of internally displaced persons. He wondered what the Special Representative thought were the trends, based on his field missions, regarding respect for international humanitarian law. Further, what lessons could be drawn?
Mr. KALIN first responded to comments on the climate change-displacement nexus, saying that climate change was not displacing people in and of itself; people were being displaced by windstorms, flooding, increased salination of groundwater, desertification and so on, because those occurrences were making certain parts of countries inhabitable. Working with Inter-Agency Standing Committee, he was trying to identify situations where there might be a nexus between displacement and the effects of climate change. He was also working to determine normative gaps. The guiding principles were proving sufficient in addressing displacement resulting from both slow- and sudden-onset disasters. The principles did not refer to climate change per se, but did refer to manmade and natural disasters, which were among the effects of climate change. He said the upcoming Copenhagen Conference needed to recognize that fleeing and migrating from environmental dangers were among people’s coping mechanisms. It was creating new problems that needed addressing in Government mitigation strategies.
On the guiding principles and work being done by regional organizations such as the African Union, he said they were helpful to Governments. But, to be fully effective, they needed to be made binding. He was trying to convince Governments to incorporate such guidelines into domestic laws, and was happy with progress made in that regard in the last few years. Now, it was important that the African Union Convention entered into force as soon as possible, and he would continue to lobby towards that end. The bigger challenge lay in implementation, and in creating the necessary legal and institutional frameworks to support implementation. Many countries had an inability to address the situation of internally displaced persons simply because “nobody was really responsible” and it was unclear “who had to do what”. Once those frameworks were in place, Governments then needed to allocate the necessary resources. The international community would have to play a role in supporting that.
He said the proposed framework for achieving durable solutions was aimed at providing guidance on how to examine integration in a comprehensive way. Attempts at durable solutions often failed, because they focused on one aspect of the situation with no regard for other things ‑‑ rebuilding houses, but neglecting to restore people’s livelihoods; or by not paying attention to ongoing discrimination in returnee areas.
Protracted situations were a particular challenge, he said. A durable solution was said to have been found when people had a free choice to locally integrate, or to move elsewhere. After all, internally displaced persons were citizens just like any other, and had the right to move around in their countries of origin. “Durable solution” meant rebuilding shattered lives, restorig property or being compensated for lost property if restoration was not possible, and becoming self sufficient again. “Protracted-ness” often indicated a lack of political will on some party’s part, or an inability of stakeholders to reach durable solutions. In such cases, he was promoting the concept of access to adequate housing, economic activities and the ability to lead a normal life with the right of return, which were not mutually exclusive.
On long-term displacement in Sri Lanka, he said that during his September 2008 visit, he had attended a workshop given by the Government on resolving protracted situations of displacement.
Regarding the situation in Pakistan, he said he would be willing to visit the country. But whether he could do so depended largely on whether the Government would issue an invitation. In terms of property issues in Kosovo, he agreed that unsolved issues like those amounted to major obstacles to a durable solution.
On non-state actors, he cited varying trends of disrespect for international humanitarian law that were affecting internally displaced persons and causing displacement. Terrorism and violence also had a direct impact on the rights of displaced persons. The huge increase of crimes against civilians had resulted in large groups of people fleeing for indefinite periods of time. Thus, tackling impunity was key to a durable solution.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on human rights of migrants
JORGE BUSTAMANTE, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said that over the course of his mandate he had visited Mexico, Guatemala, Romania and the United Kingdom. His reports of visits to Mexico and Guatemala had already been presented, while the report of visits to the United Kingdom would be presented to the Human Rights Council in 2010. During the period between January 2008 and June 2009, he had received and transmitted communications regarding allegations of arbitrary detention, incommunicado detention, repatriation to countries of origin where there was threat of torture, threats to life and security, and summary executions. He had also received and transmitted communications regarding the disproportionate use of force by law enforcement officials towards persons attempting to cross borders, expulsion of migrants married to nationals, as well as on cases of torture and other inhuman treatment, threats to freedom of association such as the right to join trade unions, collective deportation, enforced disappearances, violence against women, lack of protection for victims of trafficking. There were also communications on inadequate assistance to persons entering States in mixed migratory flows.
He said he had also addressed thematic concerns, which included, among other things, the protection of children in the context of migration. Other thematic concerns included the plight of migrant domestic workers, especially women, and the increased vulnerability of migrants in the wake of the economic and financial crisis. He had also engaged in activities related to the protection of migrants as a means to achieving peace and enhancing development.
On children, he said he had stressed, in his report, the obligation of States to ensure their protection in all stages of the migration process. There were three categories of children that were particularly affected: children left behind by migrating families; migrant children moving across borders; and migrant children in host countries. He had insisted on the gender dimension of migration, which included taking into consideration the special vulnerability of girls to trafficking for sexual exploitation, forced labour and other forms of exploitation and other abuses.
He said the protection of children’s rights should be ensured in States of origin, transit and destination at every stage of the migration process. Transit and destination countries should devote special attention to the protection of undocumented and unaccompanied children, children seeking asylum, and child victims of transnational organized crime, including those forced in pornography and prostitution. It was important that States provide adequate legal protection for children, through the ratification of relevant international human rights instruments, which in turn required their translation into national laws and policies. So far, there were 42 States parties to the International Convention for the Protection of the Human Rights of all Migrant Workers and their Family Members.
He said most countries had two major protection gaps: lack of specific provisions on children in most migration laws; and the need to take into account the specific conditions and needs of migrant children in public polices in general. The first gap should be address by harmonizing migration law with the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other relevant international and regional human rights instruments. The second gap should be addressed in part by harmonizing national laws and policies with the International Convention on migrant rights.
He said he had come across a number of initiatives, activities and policies implemented by Governments, civil society and other stakeholders, which were identified in the report as good practices. Most related to enhancing cooperation between countries of origin and diaspora communities, or to strengthening the role of national human rights institutions in the protection of migrants. He had also highlighted a number of good practices, such as providing health care coverage to people regardless of immigration status, particularly in the case of children. Some States had embarked on initiatives to prohibit explicitly the denial of health care based on irregular immigration status, especially in the context of the economic crisis. He had also praised efforts by some countries to provide early childhood services to migrant children, addressing issues such as language command among children with little opportunity to speak the local language in their families or neighbourhoods. He commended, as well, efforts of host countries to improve equality in access to education, where migrant children were allowed to enrol in free public school.
But, much remained to be done, he said. This year had been particularly alarming with regard to migrant rights, with outbreaks of hostility and xenophobia against the backdrop of the economic slowdown. There was a rise in cases of de facto indefinite detention of migrants, collective deportation and forced return of flows of mixed migration. “Mixed migration” referred to mass population movements by refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants and so on. The international community needed a serious and in-depth approach to address racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. There needed to be a strong stand against the criminalization of irregular migration, since migrants were not criminals.
Iran’s representative said one of the major roles of the Special Rapporteur was to monitor the situation of migrants worldwide. As such, would Mr. Bustamente expand on initiatives he was taking or planning to take regarding best practices and how to implement them? The Special Rapporteur’s report highlighted a number of special problems impacting migrants, such as the financial and economic crisis. Could he describe these impacts and suggest how countries could respond? Also, how did he see the Durban Plan of Action affecting the rights of migrants, particularly in the context of xenophobic attacks? Could he elaborate further on the approaches he thought should be taken to protect migrants in this regard? Further, what kind of collaboration did he receive from the other Special Rapporteurs?
Sweden’s delegate, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that as one of largest receivers of migrants, the European Union believed the issue of migration should be addressed in all its complexities, taking account of the needs and situations of both countries of origin and destination. It also considered the situation of children to be particularly relevant and the application of gender-balanced polices to be critical. Considering the situations of children throughout the migration process, had any general principles been identified and could he recommend them? Or did each situation have to be approached differently? What role could regional organizations play in improving the situation of children in the context of migration?
Mexico’s delegate asked how the approach of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights could be implemented, particularly in the United Nations system.
The representative of Peru said the migration issue involved elements related both to the countries of origin and reception, as well as transit countries. Thus, migration was a shared responsibility, and while some mention of that fact was made, it had not yet been implemented fully. Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on the notion of shared responsibility?
Guatemala’s representative thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report, as well as his visit to her country. Guatemala also believed that migrants should not be treated as prisoners and wondered what kind of special treatment they should receive when caught up in complicated situations. Given the xenophobic attacks on some migrants in destination countries, she asked him to elaborate on the issue, particularly in that context.
Responding to Iran, Mr. BUSTAMENTE said good practices were abundant. Some countries had decided to equate the children in irregular conditions with the situation of nationals. That was very important.
On the financial crisis, he noted the report from the International Labour Organization (ILO) which indicated a “very interesting pattern” of no return of migrants. It was expected that migrants would return after a period of employment, but it seemed instead that they were trying to “hang” in destination countries by reducing their employment costs and resorting to networks to try to stay in the destination country. This meant that conditions favouring their exploitation were increasing, particularly in the largest destination countries that had not ratified the Convention on Migrant Workers and their Families. He stressed the fact that this ratification was an act of power, and should, therefore, be a concern of the international community.
He went on to say that he had noticed a preoccupation in the European Union directive for the detention of immigrants and said it was the most worrisome development in European legislation on migrants. In general, the detention of minors was also troubling and Governments should pay more attention.
On shared responsibility, he said the phenomenon of international migration very often corresponded to bilateral causes and consequences in both countries of destination and origin. Other causes, such as a demand for undocumented workers, often went unaddressed, but was an important issue in the context of international migration.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism
MARTIN SHEININ, Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, noted it was his fifth appearance before the General Assembly, and there were promising signs that the pendulum was swinging back, and that after a wave of counter-terrorism measures after 9/11 that violated human rights, Governments were moving away from such practices. In some countries, there were signs of accountability for those who engaged in practices of torture. Others had announced their definitive rejection of extraordinary rendition, secret detention or other counter-terrorism measures hostile to human rights. In line with the Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, which the Assembly adopted in 2006, there was broad consensus that combating terrorism in compliance with human rights was not only a legal and moral obligation of States, but also the most effective way to fight against terrorism.
But, there was still much to do to counter abuses in the name of countering terrorism, he said. He had visited Egypt and would submit a report to the Human Rights Council in October, although the report was already available in the public domain. A visit to Tunisia had to be put on hold because the programme for the visit needed amending, but he expected to be able to visit in January. He also planned to visit Peru and Chile, while visits to Algeria, Malaysia, Pakistan, Philippines and Thailand were pending. He had received an invitation from Iceland and hoped to engage in consultations with the Russian Federation on forms of cooperation between himself and that country’s Government.
He reported the various ways in which he had incorporated the gender issue in his reports, as requested by the Human Rights Council. In a visit to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he had addressed the particular forms of hardship posed to Palestinian women by the wall or barrier by Israel, including those giving birth. In the United States, he dealt with the question of how tightened border controls were affecting female asylum seekers, including terrorism victims who might be denied asylum for providing “material support” to terrorists, even at gunpoint. In a thematic report on terrorist profiling and suicide terrorism, he had highlighted women falling victim to such profiling, especially pregnant women suspected of being suicide bombers. He had also drawn attention to the rights of women and to gender issues in a thematic report on the relationship between economic, social and cultural rights and counter-terrorism measures.
In March, he had convened an expert consultation in New York to assist in the preparation of a report on the gender impact of counter-terrorism measures. He was aware that the report exceeded many expectations by taking the issue of gender beyond focusing merely on the human rights of women. In it, he had also addressed questions, such as how sexual minorities, such as gays, lesbians and transgender persons, faced particular hardships due to insensitive or maliciously targeted counter-terrorism measures. In particular, it addressed how the interrogation of male terrorism suspects made use of torture methods that used sexuality, including rape, forced homosexuality, and humiliation related to homophobic fears.
In his report, he had recommended, among other things, that States give attention to gender-sensitive reparation schemes for victims of terrorism, and that States must stop detaining and ill-treating women and children to produce information on male family members suspected of terrorism. Torture and other inhuman treatment must be prevented, investigated and punished when it happened in the name of countering terrorism and targeted persons for their sexual orientation or gender identity, or used homophobia in the selection of torture methods. Victims of gender-based persecution should be granted entry and asylum in other countries. When they fell victim to abuse by terrorist groups, they should never be treated as if providing “material support” to terrorism. Gender diversity, including the different experiences of men and women, as well as of persons belonging to sexual minorities, should be seen as a resource in the fight against terrorism and contributing to the design of counter-terrorism measures.
He said the report ended with four specific recommendations addressed to United Nations bodies, including that the Human Rights Council and human rights treaty bodies should give attention to gender and counter-terrorism. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women should incorporate the specific question of the impact of counter-terrorism on women in its examination of State reports and other works. The Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee, the Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate and the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force should take explicit account of gender as a relevant human rights concern, and the Security Council and its subsidiary bodies should continue reforming the regime for listing individuals and entities as terrorist ones, and include a gender assessment in that review.
Beyond gender, he said he had also addressed issues relating to the listing and de-listing of Al Qaida and Taliban terrorists by the 1267 Sanctions Committee of the Security Council. There were piecemeal improvements in that regard, but they did not remedy the main shortcomings of the 1267 listing procedure. Decisions taken by a political body composed of diplomatic representatives of the fifteen Member States of the Security Council did not necessarily disclose the real reasons for a listing proposal, even to each other, but might use vague references to “existing” intelligence information. There was no judicial or other independent review of the listing and de-listing decisions by the 1267 Committee; any form of review lay in its own hands. On top of that, the de-listing of an individual required a consensus decision by the 1267 Committee. For all those reasons, the terrorist listing procedure of the 1267 Committee failed to meet the requirements of a fair and clear procedure.
He referred to the case of Sayadi and Vinck, considered by the Human Rights Committee, in which it was found that Belgium had violated Article 17 (right to privacy) and 12 (freedom of movement) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in respect of a Belgian couple, because it had initiated their listing as terrorists by the 1267 Committee, and was subsequently unable to have them de-listed, even though no case had been proven against them. In July, the 1267 Committee had finally removed the couple from its list, and that decision was indicative of a broader acknowledgment that there was a need for a judicial or other independent review of terrorist listings. In such a case, as the Human Rights Committee could conduct an indirect United Nations level quasi-judicial review over the consequences of the listing by the Security Council, as long as a State that had ratified the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights could be shown to have had a strong role in initiating or implementing the listing. Sanctions against persons listed by the Council should be implemented not blindly, but subject to adequate human rights guarantees.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that group had appreciated the work of the Special Rapporteur in the past. Yet, the recent report reflected an attempt to introduce controversial notions. While it was common knowledge that no universal agreement on the notions of sexual orientation and gender identity existed under internally agreed human rights instruments, this was not the core issue here. What was of concern was the departure from the Code of Conduct of Special Procedures Mandate-Holders of the Human Rights Council and the expansion of the interpretation of paragraph 2c of resolution 6/28. That resolution established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and requested him to “integrate a gender perceptive through the work of his mandate”.
She said doing so was one thing, but making it his work another. Even for the sake of argument, if the mandate-holder thought it would be beneficial to expand or reinforce his mandate, he should have made a request to the Human Rights Council. The African Group was alarmed at the attempt of this report to depart from the original mandate, thereby marginalizing the relevant human rights issues that urgently needed international attention in the context of counter-terrorism. It was equally alarmed at the attempt to redefine gender. More importantly, it was alarmed in general terms at the tendency to introduce interpretations of existing agreed upon human rights instruments, a matter that clearly fell beyond the mandate of any special procedure. If allowed to remain unchecked, this approach would undermine the credibility of the whole special procedures system.
She said the African Group deeply regretted that the Special Rapporteur did not seek to establish the facts reflected in his report, based on objective, reliable information from relevant credible sources that were duly cross-checked, where possible. Indeed, he paid total disregard to the commitment to rely on objective and dependable facts, based on evidentiary standards appropriate to the non-judicial character of the reports and conclusion the special procedures were called on to draft. It was unacceptable that he did not take into account the information provided by the States referred to in the report on situations relevant to his mandate. Given that some of the conclusions and recommendations were directed to all relevant special procedures and other mechanisms of the Human Rights Council, she failed to see why he did not ensure the Council was the first recipient of the conclusions and recommendations.
The African Group considered the system of special procedures to be the cornerstone for reinforcing the cooperative and constructive approach to dealing with human rights issues ushered in by the historical establishment of the Human Rights Council. However, the African Group was deeply disturbed by the way Mr. Scheinin had exceeded his mandate in order to propagate the so-called “Yogyakarta Principles”, of which he was a co-author. This was a stark violation of Article 12, which established in clear terms that, given the public nature of their mandate, the mandate-holders should bear in mind the need to ensure that their personal political opinions were without prejudice to the execution of their mission. It also asked them to show restraint, moderation and discretion in implementing their mandate, in order not to undermine the independent nature of their mandate, or the environment necessary to properly discharge that mandate.
She said that Article 3 of the general principles of conduct required mandate-holders, among other things, to “be aware of the importance of their duties and responsibilities, taking the particular nature of their mandate into consideration and behaving in such a way as to maintain and reinforce the trust they enjoy of all stakeholders”. That was not the case with this report. Therefore, the African Group wanted to convey, through the Chairman, its profound disappointment that he had breached the trust conferred upon him. Thus, it refused to engage with the report.
The representative of Saint Lucia underscored her country’s commitment to respecting the fundamental human rights of all persons in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its recognition that every human possessed inherent dignity and was entitled to the protection of his or her basic and fundamental human rights was the basis for the work of the Special Rapporteurs on Human Rights, including the Special Rapporteur for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism.
Her delegation remained deeply committed to the promotion of gender equity between men and women and appreciated the continuing efforts of the Human Rights Council to integrate a gender perspective in its work. But, she had carefully studied the current report and opposed the incorporation of the Special Rapporteur’s personal ideas about what a “gender perspective” means in the context of his mandate. Generally defined, incorporating a gender perspective required an analysis and understanding of the differences between men and women in terms of their responsibilities, activities, needs, opportunities and relations between them, in a certain context. It was a way of seeing and interpreting a reality of the social order in terms of male-female relations, and did not include any relation to sexual orientation or gender identity as purported by the Special Rapporteur.
She stressed that this had always been the understanding among Member States, United Nations agencies and the Human Rights Council itself, as was made clear by many General Assembly resolutions, as well as the Human Rights Council’s Annual Discussion on the Integration of a Gender Perspective in its Work. The Special Rapporteur, however, based his definition on “Guidelines on International Protection: Gender-Related Persecution within the context of Article 1A(2) of the 1951 Convention and/or its 1967 Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees” (document HCR/GIP/02/01), which specifically referred to those making a “refugee status determination”.
She noted that the report also referred to the “Yogyakarta Principles” – which was entirely inappropriate, since they had not been accepted or agreed on by Member States and were not evidence-based standards. Indeed, his reference to them violated Article 8 of the mandate-holders’ Code of Conduct. The Special Rapporteur embarked on an exercise in which he both exceeded his mandate and unilaterally attempted to change the definition of a universally accepted term that had been the vehicle for ensuring the recognition of women’s basic rights. He had based his new definition on premises that did not exist in international human rights law. By his own admission in paragraph 52, and at the expense of giving due consideration to other relevant subject matters within his mandate, he subjectively made undefined terms the main focus of his work.
The report also purported to equate women’s rights with the rights of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and intersex individuals and gender-based discrimination with homophobia. Although the rights related to these individuals
-- including the right not be discriminated against -- were important to her delegation, she said they fell entirely outside the scope of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate. This departure from his mandate had specific consequences for all Member States and for men and women subject to gender discrimination in the context of counter-terrorism efforts -- in this case, that the international community had not been given important information on the specific harmful effects of such measures on women. Instead, it had heard what it already knew: that terrorist actions, which violate the dignity of the human person in themselves, sometimes have a discriminatory effect. She requested the real guidance on the topic of counter-terrorism from a gender perspective.
The representative of Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that it attached great importance to the independence of mandate holders, which allowed them to conduct themselves effectively. But, while the mandate for the Special Rapporteur on countering terrorism included a call for the integration of a gender perspective, he had chosen to interpret that call in ways that diverged from his mandate. Moreover, his current report used terms not agreed on in the international context. He had, thus, deviated from the code of conduct for special procedures. Among other things, the report did not account for facts in a comprehensive and timely manner. He supported the need for the Special Rapporteur to focus on his mandate. But, the report had triggered an environment that did not allow for a full discussion of the mandate. He was required to exercise his functions in strict observance of his mandate. Therefore, the Organization of the Islamic Conference member states expressed regret at the report.
The representative of Sudan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that dialogues with special mandates and procedures enriched debates in an atmosphere of candour. The Arab Group rejected terrorism in all its manifestations. In addition, it had always supported, and would continue to support, the work of the Rapporteur within the limits of his mandate, thus protecting the world from massive violations of human rights. The Rapporteur’s report however was a clear departure from his mandate. It had drawn the Assembly into a debate that was controversial, based on definitions that had not been agreed upon, and based on distorted interpretations of established texts in international law that introduced erroneous definitions of people based on their “sexual whimsies”.
He said the Arab Group categorically refused to be involved in debates on such issues, on which there was no agreement. Human Rights Council resolution 6/28, adopted unanimously in December 2007, had requested the Rapporteur to mainstream gender perspective in the discharge of his mandate, and yet a bulk of his report had focused on a conceptualization of gender in a context that was not recognized. The definitions used in the report were the subject profound conceptual differences within the United Nations membership.
He said mandate holders had special responsibilities, including to verify the information they included in their report and to use verifiable sources. Reports were also “non-judicial”. To be sure, articles 8, 11, 12 and 13 and other articles of the code of conduct of special mandate holders adopted by the General Assembly provided for the responsibility of States to respect the immunity and other privileges of mandate holders. But, they also placed on the Rapporteurs a responsibility to carry out their tasks within the limits that had been set. If they had any questions about their limits, they could address those questions to Member States and the Human Rights Council. The special views of mandate holders should not impact upon the discharge of their mandate, as set forth in article 12. The Arab Group, while affirming its full support for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, regretted the approach taken by the Rapporteur, and stressed the need for all Rapporteurs to stay within the limits of their mandate in carrying out their work.
The United States representative thanked the Special Rapporteur for his work and his decision to shed light on issues that, while not commonly associated with counter-terrorism, were relevant to counter-terrorism actions. The United States was especially interested in the effects on counter-terrorism work on women and the Lesbian Gay Bi-sexual Transgender community. It was concerned, however, that the serious issues raised in the report were being overlooked because of the controversy on the meaning of gender. The United States believed that the use of that term corresponded to the understanding expressed by the President of the Beijing Conference that gender was used according to its general meaning. This continued to be the meaning on which the United States approached gender in the context of the United Nations. Indeed, this was not an attack on the Special Rapporteur or his work.
Moreover, the United States fully respected the independence of the special procedures mandate-holders. On the one hand, the report cautioned that some counter-terrorist activities served to reinforce misinformed gender stereotypes. But, it also indicated that women bore a special burden in the aftermath of some counter-terrorism policies. How should Governments go about creating legitimate counter-terrorism polices, while avoiding actions that reinforced gender stereotypes?
The representative of the Observer Mission of the Holy See said both women and men continued to be subject to discrimination and threats of violence, which needed addressing. He was concerned by the presumption that gender was a social construct. The Holy See understood the meaning of gender in the ordinary use of the term at the United Nations, as grounded in biological sexual identity and consistent with the Rome Statute and the Beijing Declaration. It rejected a biologically determinist view of gender, and at the same time also rejected the notion that gender could be adapted to suit new purposes. Insisting that gender was a shifting construct did not serve the cause of anti-terrorism and sowed divisions between men and women by placing them into ever-changing categories. Society needed to affirm people’s rights regardless of their differences; everyone had value and a right to dignity.
The representative of Australia welcomed the Rapporteur’s report and supported the vigorous discussion of issues that it afforded. Her Government worked hard to ensure that counter-terrorism measures were balanced and consistent with its human rights obligations. It supported the Rapporteur’s recommendation to encompass gender equality in the design of such measures. Also, it noted concerns about the impact of terrorism on funding for non-governmental organizations and welcomed a best practices paper by the financial action task force, which recommended that non-governmental organizations install accountability measures to ensure that donors knew where their money was going. The Australian Government was engaged with stakeholders to ensure awareness of vulnerabilities in that regard and to improve accountability, but would welcome additional ideas. She noted that increasing travel document security brought the risk of penalizing transgender persons. In Australia, transgender passport applicants had many options: they can be issued a passport using their preferred gender based on amended birth certificates. For those who did not have amended birth certificates, what measures could be put in place to protect transgender persons in the immigration context?
The representative of Sweden, on behalf of the European Union, noted with concern that those subject to gender-based abuses were in States that failed to prevent, investigate or punish those acts. Could the Special Rapporteur clarify how organizations promoting gender equality could develop measures that could counteract the environment conducive to recruitment for terrorism in the area of development? Could he also elaborate on work being done with the counter-terrorism implementation task force? Concerning what was said today by other Member States, she stressed the importance of maintaining the independence of mandate holders. They must decide how to best fulfil their tasks within the terms of their mandate, and to decide how best to organize their work and achieve implementation.
States were free to agree or disagree with the content of their reports, without criticizing the individuals, she said. She reminded States that the purpose of dialogue was to ask for clarification and seek guidance. In reaction to other delegations regarding the need to protect persons based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, she noted that discrimination against people on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity violated the individual’s human rights and fundamental freedoms. Nothing in the code of conduct would prevent the Special Rapporteur from upholding those rights and freedoms in that manner, and his treatment of the issue was relevant to the mandate. Special procedures must be free from political interference.
Argentina’s representative thanked the Special Rapporteur for the report, which provided much “food for thought” and brought certain ideas to the attention of the General Assembly. She welcomed the additional analysis regard the listing procedures of the Security Council. Argentina remained concerned about the reluctance of the Council’s permanent members to change the procedures for the listing of individuals. Her delegation was concerned, also, with the overbroad definition of terrorism, and it agreed with the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur that, because of its negative effects, the international community stop considering terrorism in the context of war.
The representative of the Permanent Observer of Palestine thanked the Special Rapporteur for his visit to Palestine. She noted the number of reports from the United Nations system on the impact of foreign occupation on women. She asked if the Special Rapporteur could make any comment on ending this situation once and for all.
Finland’s delegate thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report, noting that he addressed the report’s subject in a multi-faceted manner. Could he provide any more information on the publication of the reference materials he referred to in the report? Could he explain further measures to address the impact on indigenous peoples? How could the marginalization of women’s human rights defenders be mitigated and how could the work of women in these organizations be used to help end terrorism?
The representative of Switzerland said that the special procedures were one of the most important mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. The independence of their mandate-holders was a cornerstone of the system and must be preserved. The standards guiding the Special Rapporteur in his work were set forward in the code of conduct. Moreover, the Council in A/HRC/PRST/8/2 [on the terms of office of special procedure mandate-holders] reasserted the independence of the Special Rapporteur. Switzerland did not agree that certain States could attack the Special Rapporteur when they did not agree with his report. It was not the report with which Member States had to agree, but with the resolutions that followed up on the recommendations contained therein.
Uruguay’s representative voiced support for the independence of the Special Representative. The international community did not expect to discuss the issue of gender, but that issue was no less important for having raised some controversy.
The representative of Canada said the Special Rapporteur had a central role to play in promoting mutually acceptable approaches to protecting human rights. The work of special procedures was valuable for helping the international community in that respect. What actions could nations take to make sure the gender perspective was widely integrated in State policies?
The representative of the Netherlands, aligning herself with the European Union, said the report had addressed serious issues that would have been easy to overlook, and so she appreciated that he had raised them. The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community were a vulnerable minority and were particularly likely to fall victim to counter-terrorism measures. Human rights were universal and no exception was made for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It was important that the international community be aware of that, as they developed their counter-terrorism strategies. She stressed that special mandate holders should have a measure of independence in their work.
The representative of United Kingdom, aligning himself with the European Union, said he would continue to defend the independence of special mandate holders, stressing they could determine what issues fell within their mandates. At times, they could well raise issues that could split opinion, but it was important that the Third Committee had access to reports that reflected genuine human rights problems. The issues raised by the Rapporteur did intersect with his mandate and were relevant to the issue; it was right that they were not ignored. The universality of human rights extended to women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community alike. Ignoring them represented a failure of the international community to address discrimination. His Government would oppose any attempts to censor their consideration.
India’s delegate said that it was unfortunate that the Rapporteur had redefined the notion of “gender perspective”. In trying to give a comprehensive assessment, he had taken the Committee away from a meaningful debate, which was academic in nature and did not fall within the terms of his code of conduct. Broad statements on gender had already been made by other commissions and bodies. He asked to hear examples of situations that had given rise to the Rapporteur’s recommendations as contained in paragraphs 53b, c, e, j, l, m, o, p and q of the report.
The representative of Mexico said that, since taking on his mandate, Mr. Sheinin had always enjoyed the support of the Mexican delegation. The independence of the special procedures was fundamental and fellow Member States should support these principles, as they conditioned international support for promoting human rights for all. The Special Rapporteur had promoted the idea that respect for human rights be a true pillar for Member States’ work to prevent terrorism. Would the Special Rapporteur explain how technical cooperation on human rights could be part of all efforts to combat terrorism?
Chile’s delegate said the report of the Special Rapporteur showed the type of independence the mandate-holder should have. Discrimination against anyone, regardless of their agenda or sexual characteristics, should be considered separate of those characteristics. He asked what sort of cooperation could be established with regional actors to ensure that, at the regional level, there was more coordination with regard to countering terrorism.
Norway’s representative expressed full support to the Special Rapporteur and his report and welcomed the full review of human rights abuses in counter-terrorism measures. It was particularly welcome that he had addressed gender in this context. Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed that all beings were born free and equal in all rights. This included in sexual orientation and gender identity. Norway considered it of paramount importance that the special procedures be able to keep their independence and autonomy.
The representative of Cuba said that over the past few years her delegation had keenly followed the Special Rapporteur’s work in carrying out his mandate. Cuba was a party to all instruments on terrorism and condemned all terrorist acts. It also condemned torture or cruel and inhumane punishment in the so-called “war on terror” wherever it was carried out and condemned all sorts of discrimination conducted in combating terrorism. In this regard, her delegation urged the Special Rapporteur to take into account the comments of many countries and groups of countries expressed today. She also encouraged him to focus on reparation, compensation and rehabilitation of victims of counter-terrorism activities. Many were still being held in illegal detention facilities, such as in Guantanamo Bay.
Further, she noted that the United States and its private contractors had tortured Muslim detainees because of their religion and identity. She, thus, repeated that the Special Rapporteur should take into account the comments made today and focus clearly in his next report on reparation, compensation and rehabilitation for these victims -- something that was required in light of their treatment in the United States and corresponding tribunals.
In response, the Special Rapporteur welcomed the proposal of Cuba on a theme for a future report.
He said it would have been good to have had full agreement on the concept of gender. It was not bad to have disagreements; they provided an opportunity, such as today, to discuss different views.
On his adherence to the code of conduct for special procedures and mandate holders, he repeated, as the representative of Switzerland had said, that the special procedures operated on a code of conduct overseen by the Human Rights Council, which made him accountable to that body. He did not see a breach of the code of conduct in the current case. However, he pointed out that the code inadequately covered how Special Rapporteurs could decide on issues in cross‑cutting thematic reports.
On the use of sources, notably the Yogyakarta document appearing in footnote 16, he explained that he had cited it because it was a soft law document that enriched the understanding of legally-binding human rights norms. It was a guidance document, and States were free to discuss whether it had been right or not to use that document as guidance. But, as a source, it was a legitimate one. It had had much to do with certain observations and concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee, where he had served for eight years. The Yogyakarta document was part of the body of human rights law, adding to an understanding of treaty provisions.
While the code of conduct would seem to stipulate that the Human Rights Council was the main inter-governmental body towards which special mandate holders should direct their reports, it was also valid to present the report to the General Assembly in New York. Some of his recommendations to United Nations bodies concerned United Nations actors beyond the sphere of human rights.
He said “gender” referred to persons of male and female sex in their social context, which differed from time to time and from place to place. Gender identity was part of that issue. Focusing on gender identity did not take anything away from the discussion on women’s rights. In fact, it was highly relevant, because violations of women’s rights included their victimization for not sticking to expected gender roles, and victimizing them for wishing to go beyond those roles. In the case law of the Human Rights Committee, he said questions of discrimination on account of sexual orientation fell under discrimination on the basis of sex or other status. Human rights law also gave the basis for dealing with sexual-orientation issues in the context of gender. Many United Nations documents acknowledged that “gender” was not static, as per texts produced by the Special Adviser on the advancement of women, and guidelines by the High Commissioner for Refugees concerning gender-based persecution.
He noted that much of the report had related to discrimination against male persons, and had nothing to do with their sexual orientation, but with the treatment of terrorist suspects in ways that capitalized on the male-gender role, including male phobias in relation to homosexuality. It was not meant as a defence of different sexual orientations, but for defending each and every person’s rights. In that context, he voiced appreciation to the representative of the Holy See for his remark on the value of appreciating the dignity of each human person, irrespective of sex and gender orientation.
On the question by the representative of the United States on how to improve protection of women’s rights in counter-terrorism measures, he said he had addressed that issue in the country mission report of Turkey, where education for girls was stressed as key to building a society without terrorism. In the report on economic, social and cultural rights while countering terrorism, he advocated the idea that full enjoyment of those rights was a way to build a society without terrorism.
To the representatives of Australia and Sweden on non-governmental organization funding, including women’s organizations, and the risk that terrorism financing might affect them negatively, he said some countries had moderating agencies that managed micro projects, to secure the quality of funding and make sure no funds were used for terrorism financing. While major actors were overseen by larger development corporation entities, some sort of mediating agent might be needed to support micro projects.
Australia had asked about further measures to support transgender persons at borders. He acknowledged the difficulties posed by identity documents and added that most security technologies at borders were insensitive to the difference between men, women, and between majority and minority groups. Increased sensitivity would be a great leap forward.
With respect to questions raised by the representatives of Sweden, Canada, Mexico, he said he had identified steps, with the Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee, on joint missions and best practices, and voiced hope that technical reference tools being designed by the working group would be a way to introduce gender assessment in measures taken by the Counter-Terrorism Committee.
To the representative of India, he said he could not provide the examples referred to by that representative owing to the shortness of time. But he hoped to engage with the Government of India in the future to answer that question. Many of those recommendations had dealt with women and their human rights in the fight against terrorism.
As for ending Israeli violations, he said his report contained several pertinent recommendations. As a lawyer, he knew they were small steps, and that bigger steps needed to be taken by various political actors.
To the representative of Finland on the effects of counter-terrorism measures on indigenous peoples, he said their negative experiences of being caught in conflicts between repressive governments and terrorist groups had often seen women being subject to various specific forms of abuse. To combat those situations, women needed to become empowered. At both the State and international level, Governments needed to take account of their interests in conflict situations, and in the design of political organization, means of livelihood and the design of societies in general.
Introduction of Reports
JESSICA NEUWIRTH, director of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the Secretary-General’s report on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/64/33) provided an outline of the human rights democracy developments in that subregion. Notable advances had been made toward peace, security and reconciliation, with political negotiations leading to peace processes in some countries. Yet, electoral processes were sources of tension in others. The Great Lakes region and nearby areas were also characterized by continued violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Chad and the Central African Republic. These situations highlighted the fragility of peace and the need for sustainable solutions that included accountability. The report also highlighted the Centre’s activities to support Governments and civil society in their efforts to uphold a culture of peace, human rights and democracy. It built capacity and provided advisory services, technical cooperation and public information and sensitization work.
She said the Secretary-General’s report on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/64/320) covered a range of activities undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to provide technical assistance in establishing and strengthening national human rights institutions and cooperation between national human rights institutions and international human rights mechanisms. These institutions had a key role to play in promoting the development of laws and practices consistent with international standards and in monitoring their implementation. They also had the potential to strengthen national protection systems, by translating international norms for national contexts.
She recalled that Members States were urged to develop international strategies and/or regional, national and local plans of action aimed at sustained human rights learning that was mindful of the World Programme for Human Rights Education. The Secretary-General’s report on the International Year of Human Rights Learning (document A/64/293) provided a sample of initiatives undertaken at various levels to achieve the objective of the International Year and to advance human rights education and learning more broadly.
The Secretary-General’s report on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/64/265) summarized views on the issue of globalization and its impact on all human rights from a few Governments and other United Nations departments and intergovernmental organizations. She said it provided focused insight into challenges being aggressed and initiatives being undertaken by States and United Nations entities to make globalization conducive to the realization of human rights. As such, it aimed to help frame and inform ongoing work related to globalization and human rights.
Turning to the Secretary-General’s report on the right to development (document A/64/256), she noted that it supplemented the Secretary-General’s interim report on the same topic (document A/Human Rights Council/12/219), which was submitted to the Human Rights Council last month. It provided information on the outcome of the tenth session of the Working Group on the Right to Development held in June 2009. It included the most salient elements of the consensus achieved at the Working Group on the need for its task force to shift focus to further developing and presenting a revised list of the right to development criteria and corresponding operational sub-criteria. This list should address the international community’s concerns beyond Millennium Development Goal 8. It should also cover the essential features of the right to development, as defined in the Declaration on the Right to Development, in a comprehensive and coherent way.
She said the Secretary-General’s report on combating defamation of religions (document A/64/209) considered the notion that defamation of religions had an impact on the realization of human rights. It examined the relevant legal framework, as well as the implementation of resolutions on defamation of religions. It also provided an overview of pertinent developments in the Office of the High Commissioner’s mandate, the Durban Review Conference and the United Nations human rights treaty bodies and special procedures. For their part, the treaty bodies had expressed concern about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination and acts of violence based on religions or belief, including the derogatory stereotyping and stigmatization of persons based on their belief or the negative projections and targeting of certain religious symbols. Relevant special procedures had emphasized a need to tackle the root causes of intolerance. They had called for a broad set of policy measures covering intercultural dialogue, as well as education for tolerance and diversity.
The Secretary-General’s report on the human rights of migrants (A/64/188) partly compiled Government submissions on that issue, as it did every year, and, this year, also flagged the High Commissioner’s strategic thematic focus on migration for 2010-2011.
She went on to say that current developments related to human rights and counter-terrorism were included in the Secretary-General’s report on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms wile countering terrorism (A/64/186). Among other United Nations offices, that report summarized activities in the Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force and its Working Group on Protecting Human rights while Countering Terrorism, the Counter-Terrorism Committee and that Committee’s Executive Directorate. It recalled that the General Assembly continued to stress that Member States must ensure that any measures taken to fight terrorism had to comply with international law. Nevertheless, definitions of terrorist offences in some countries remained vague, creating a possibility of misapplication against political dissent social movements and other acts unrelated to terrorism. Many States continued to apply exceptional criminal procedures in terrorism-related matters, raising concerns over infringements of the principles of necessity and proportionality and respect of non-derogable rights.
In that context, she said the report recommended, among other things, the total prohibition of torture, access by monitoring bodies to all prisoners in places of detention, the abolishment of places of secret detention and the adherence to the principle of non-refoulement. Further, States should ratify the Convention against Torture and its Optional Protocol, as well as the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
The update to the Secretary-General’s 2008 report of the situation on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/64/357) highlighted trends in that country since June 2008. It drew on contributions from internal and external United Nations sources, and surveyed various thematic human rights issues set out in General Assembly resolution 63/191. It also included up-to-date analysis of economic, social and cultural rights in Iran and included information on human rights concerns in the aftermath of the 2009 Presidential elections. Measures taken by the Government to prevent stoning and limit the application of the death penalty to juveniles are also highlighted, although the report notes that these steps had not always been enforced. The report urged the Government of Iran to implement without delay the recommendations of the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council, the Committee of Experts of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and by human rights treaty bodies.
She said the Secretary-General’s report on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/64/319 and Corr.1) highlighted the persistent human rights deprivations in that country that are commonly reported on by a range of sources. Using information from United Nations agencies with humanitarian programmes there, the report drew particular attention to critical food crises and other humanitarian concerns. It called on the authorities to urgently prioritize its resources to fulfil the right to adequate food and to address its humanitarian concerns. It also urged the international community to constrain humanitarian aid on the basis of political and security concerns. According to the report, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regretted that it had not succeeded in engaging the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in a substantive dialogue on human rights. It reiterates the Office’s offer of technical assistance as a form of constructive engagement with the country on human rights.
The representative of Iran referred to the report just introduced on the situation of human rights in Iran, saying that the General Assembly resolution that had given the Secretary-General a mandate to prepare that report had found its way to the Assembly through the political ambitions of Canada. That resolution and the report itself were unjustified. The United Nations’ human rights mechanisms continued to be abused by Canada to achieve its political goals.
He said that, in line with its principles, Iran had presented objective and comprehensive information to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The resulting report was not a faithful account of the actual situation of human rights in Iran, but a catalogue of outdated allegations projected with exaggeration and scepticism. It was not comprehensive. Attempts to describe recent developments had turned a blind eye to other positive developments. The report suffered from a lack of balance and had adopted a selective approach to the issue. It was far from accurate. The report had recommended that Iran submit its reports under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, but it had already submitted those reports to, and was waiting for those reports to be considered by, the relevant treaty bodies.
The human rights policies of Iran emanated from its particularities, he said, and emphasized a cooperative approach in the realization of the nation’s human rights obligations. It entailed measures to overcome obstacles to the full enjoyment of human rights, in line with the international treaties it had signed. It would continue the drive to promote human rights irrespective of the strong criticism levied against it by the Secretary-General’s report. Its commitment to human rights was genuine and deeply rooted in its beliefs and values, and was intertwined with hopes for a brighter future for all its citizens.
The representative of Cameroon referred to the report on the subregional centre for human rights in Central Africa, commending that body for its activities to strengthen the capacity of countries in that area in the field of human rights. She would have liked to have read more about difficulties faced in its work, recalling that the General Assembly had recommended providing the centre with more human resources. She welcomed the appointment of a new director, and paid tribute to his predecessor. She expressed satisfaction with exchanges by the subregional centre and Cameroon’s Government on future activities for 2009-2011. She asked to hear about follow-up to those meetings, and asked that the new director consider formalizing those exchanges. Since 2009-2011 was an election period, she said the Government wanted the centre to contribute to more awareness-raising on human and civil rights amongst civil society actors.
As for comments on the situation in Cameroon prisons and of the harassment of journalists, she said the Government was embarking on prison reform with the help of the European Union. On violations of the freedom of communication, said the Government was working to strengthen the capacity of the press. The centre had contributed to training journalists, and she would encourage that work to continue.
In response, Ms. NEUWIRTH said she would transmit the comments made by Member States to the High Commissioner for Human Rights. On the report on Iran, she emphasized that the report drew from sources within and outside the United Nations system. The report was also shared with the Iranian Government in order to include any comments they might have and to avoid any sense of bias.
On democracy in Central Africa, she said the staffing for the United Nations Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa stood at one senior human rights officer at the P5 level. There was also a P4 level position and two P3 staff. In addition, there were seven local staff members, bringing the Centre’s total staff to 11. She said that, in its strategic framework, the Centre had identified several priority areas for 2009, including building the capacity of indigenous peoples, combating human trafficking, supporting campaigns for women, undertaking human rights education activities, reducing discrimination of disabled people and building the capacity of journalists on human rights, among other things.
Statement by Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs
LYNN B. PASCOE, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, introduced the report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing elections and the promotion of democratization. He said electoral assistance was provided only at the request of a Member State or on the basis of a Security Council resolution or the General Assembly. As focal point for electoral assistance activities, he was responsible for ensuring organizational coherence, as well as political and technical consistency, in all United Nations activities.
Citing from the report, he said that demand from Member States for United Nations electoral assistance was high, and that the Organization had provided electoral assistance to 104 Member States and 4 territories over the last 20 years. During the reporting period, assistance was provided to 52 Member States, eight on the basis of a Security Council mandate. Over the years, the United Nations had developed significant expertise in the provision of electoral assistance, including through its roster of electoral experts and its institutional memory. It had a positive track record for effective delivery of electoral assistance, including in some of the most difficult post-conflict and geographical environments. Given that elections were political events, the Organization’s impartiality remained its biggest asset.
He said the report highlighted positive trends in Member States using elections as a peaceful means of discerning the peoples’ will. But, a number of challenges had emerged, including the potential for elections to be overshadowed by political discord or violence, especially after results were announced. There were also concerns regarding the cost of elections and sustainability. Following the increase of actors involved in electoral assistance both inside and outside the United Nations, there was a need to ensure coordination and cohesion, and to safeguard United Nations impartiality. The report reiterated the role of the focal point in that regard, and noted also that the United Nations must support efforts to ensure the rights of minorities and marginalized groups.
He said the United Nations continued to enhance cooperation with other international, governmental and non-governmental organizations, both in the field and at headquarters. It continued to work on electoral issues in collaboration with the African Union, European Union, the Organization of American States, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In the reporting period, the Secretary-General had dispatched a high-level panel of electoral experts to assist in the exercise of good offices during the conduct of elections in Bangladesh, the Maldives and Mauritania. In all three cases, the work of the United Nations complemented that of international and domestic observers, contributing to an increased level of confidence and the eventual acceptance of results and peaceful completion of the elections.
He noted elections were expensive, regardless of the way in which they were conducted. Some were more costly per voter than others, and some of the poorest countries in the world had chosen some of the most expensive electoral processes and technology. While the choice of electoral system and process was the sovereign right of Member States, he was concerned about techniques and systems that might cause a State to be financially dependent on donors, or technologically dependent on specific vendors. Well-run elections were a crucial investment, but experience throughout the world had shown that it was not the case that the more complex or expensive a system, the more successful the elections.
He said the report concluded by recalling that, while elections were technical processes, they were fundamentally political events. The true measure of an election was whether it engendered broad public support for the process and outcome. An honestly and transparent election respected basic rights, and was run with the effective and neutral support of State institutions and with responsible conduct by leaders, candidates and voters.
The United States representative asked what kinds of trends were being seen in the area of electoral assistance and what areas had the greatest need for further strengthening efforts.
Responding, CRAIG JENNESS, Director of the Electoral Assistance Division in the Department of Political Affairs, said that there was a concern over the potential for elections to lead to conflict or division, particularly in their aftermath or over the acceptance of their results. The report underlined some of the Secretary-General’s efforts to use his good offices in this particular area. Another important trend highlighted in the report was the concern over the cost of elections, especially in light of the global economic downturn. Some of the poorest countries in the world had chosen the most expensive electoral processes. Of course, this was their sovereign right, but his office was concerned that these decisions would leave countries dependent on donors or vendors. To that end, the report stressed that the United Nations should offer advice that encouraged States to balance their desire for fair and transparent, but possibly expensive elections with other goals. Moreover, there was also the continuing need with those providing electoral assistance to work in a coordinated fashion, working always at the request of Member States.
The representative of Djibouti, referring to the tendency for poor countries to choose elections that had exorbitant costs, asked what the explanations were for these decisions.
Mr. JENNESS said he could not venture guesses as to why these choices were made. But, the report stressed that, if the United Nations was providing advice to Member States, it should ensure that all possible options were presented. That advice should also account for sustainability and costs over the longer term. Advice on electoral systems should also consider costs, both now and in the future.
Noting the context of costly elections and the pressure put on Member States to deliver transparent and fair elections, South Africa’s representative asked if there was a link between the two. He wondered if Member States actually had a choice. He also asked if there was a close working relationship with regional organizations, such as the African Union, address shortcomings by Member States.
Mr. JENNESS said that he had recently talked to the head of South Africa’s electoral commission, who had underscored the issue by saying one United Nations official had recently recommended an election system that would cost roughly $60 million. She had asked Mr. Jenness how many schools could be bought with the $60 million.
He stressed that the report did not say that costs determined the ability to conduct transparent and fair elections. Indeed, some of the most important aspects of such elections, like transparency and impartiality, cost nothing. But the United Nations system needed to give advice on all fronts. Since one electoral system could not always be replicated in another, it was important for the United Nations to advise on the whole range of options, while elaborating the pros and cons of each one. In this, that advice must also seek to maintain the essential principles needed for conducting elections.
He noted that the United Nations was working with regional organizations such as Southern African Development Community (SADC), which had well-developed standards.
South Africa’s representative said he appreciated the answer, but noted that there was a cost to transparency. Further, some standards developed elsewhere were not applicable in some developing countries. Some areas in South Africa were inaccessible and the ability to transfer the information through communication technology was also costly. He raised this issue because of the norms that had grown up around transparency, such as television and radio broadcasting during the election. Just accessing such technology could have huge costs. Also, expectations regarding the timeliness of the outcome carried costs. He said that the differences between the electoral process, in the developed and developing world were not due to an intention to deny the electorate their rights. He hoped that future reports would reflect this issue in the future.
Mr. Jenness said that many of the points raised by South Africa were increasingly heard by his office and he thought the report’s comments on technology and accessibility addressed some of them. As Mr. Pascoe had said, the desired outcome was that the public trusted the process, as well as the outcome, and that goal could be achieved through a variety of means.
HENRY MACDONALD (Suriname), speaking for the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the unfolding global and economic crisis was having a devastating effect on the lives of many people across the globe, especially the poorest and most vulnerable. While people in developed countries were concerned about their declining living standard, people in developing countries where the crisis had not originated had to deal with increasing poverty and deprivation. Further, the pressure affected not only economic, social and cultural rights, but even political rights when the response to protests sparked by social tensions and widening economic disparities infringed on the right to freedom of expression.
While world leaders grappled to devise effective responses to the economic and financial crisis, he continued, it seemed that human rights were relegated to the back burner. The failure to reach consensus on a resolution regarding the impact of the crisis on the enjoyment of human rights in the Human Rights Council was regrettable. While it was up to Governments to guarantee the basic human rights and freedoms of their people, in accordance with international instruments, increased international assistance were required to counter the effects of decreasing revenues in the tourism, mining and financial sectors, restricted access to credit and the servicing of external debt.
Those challenges, he said, were compounded by geographical vulnerability. And while the region had made impressive strides in development, the irony was that countries were punished for “doing well” by arbitrarily being in higher ranked development categories that limited options for assistance. The Human Rights Council’s institution-building mechanism deserved support, as did the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its activities in the area of capacity-building and technical support, including through regional consultative briefings and workshops to assist countries in review processes.
Moreover, he said human rights education was an essential component in the realization of human rights. The 2005 proclamation of the World Programme of Human Rights Education reflected the growing recognition of that need, along with the growing commitment by Government to respect those rights. Enhanced partnership would lead towards achieving Programme objectives and those of the International Year of Human Rights Learning that had begun in December. The implementation of the Programme’s second half in January 2010 would be welcome. Finally, the fight against terrorism must always take place in accordance with international law, in particular, international human rights law and humanitarian law.
CLAUDE HELLER (Mexico), speaking on behalf of the Rio Group, focused his statement on the rights of migrants, saying the countries of the Rio Group were proud of its multiethnic and multicultural character. The richness of their culture and its manifestations in art, gastronomy and music was due to migration and its mix of cultures. Migration enriched societies by making them more diverse and plural, and promoting the exchange of ideas. Unfortunately, the contribution of migrants to the economic and social development of societies was not sufficiently recognized. The Rio Group regretted the abundance of laws and regulations that penalized undocumented migration. Member States were encouraged to end excessive detention periods faced by those that had committed no crime, and asked that States eliminate laws with political objectives that spurned unsafe migration that led to deaths, and to refrain from adopting measures that discriminated against, or stigmatized people.
He said migrants left behind their homes, cultures and languages to find themselves in unfamiliar environments. Society needed to promote policies and positive attitudes towards migrants, which would foster tolerance. There must be cooperation and dialogue among countries of origin, transit and destination of migrants, and to make good use of the benefits derived from migration. To start with, societies must recognize that migration involved human beings that could not be handled or managed in a mechanical way. There must be respect for human rights and dignity. Fighting racism and xenophobia, especially against women and children, was an important task that should not be postponed or avoided. In view of the importance of the human component of migration, the Rio Group was pleased that the World Forum on Immigration and Development had taken up the issue of human rights.
CHARLOTTA SCHLYTER ( Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Union was fully committed to the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms. The past sixty years saw the establishment of a wide-ranging, broadly encompassing normative framework, which had enshrined human rights as universal legal entitlements. This year marked the 30th anniversary of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention against Torture, and the twentieth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; thus, she urged determined action in implementing these landmark conventions.
These developments meant deeper understanding and a critical shift in the way the global community regarded human rights: they were universal, the obligation to enforce them was on States as duty bearers, and violations of them called for firm action. Human rights were not abstract legal concepts, but were safeguards vital to ensuring all individuals enjoyed their rights and freedoms. She was pleased to see an increasing number of countries had abolished the death penalty, but expressed concern that executions had increased in others. “The state, as the ultimate guarantor of human rights must not deprive anyone of his or her life,” she said.
Moving on to freedom of the press and expression, she said that governments had a duty to eliminate barriers to freedom of information. This was particularly relevant to the media, whose duty it was to scrutinize government actions. One challenge was in the realm of the Internet, as States could restrict the use of it, and other new technologies. She reaffirmed the protection of human rights defenders and the promotion of their work, which was invaluable to furthering the cause of human rights worldwide.
Touching on the issue of torture, she reiterated the European Union’s stance of absolute prohibition of it, and thus urged States that had not become members to the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to do so. “We are seriously concerned about instances where authorities have propagated misinformation about particular religious groups or communities which has led to instances of violence against individuals in these communities,” she said. Lastly, she touched on a few other topics of importance: the need to combat racism, greater respect for social and cultural rights, and the principle of non-discrimination on the basis of sex, age, religion, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or other.
CHRISTIAN WENAWESER ( Liechtenstein) said that, in reviewing the combined performance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and intergovernmental bodies, in particular the Human Rights Council, the gap between internationally agreed human rights standards and their implementation remained a formidable challenge. Further, although focus had been on implementation of existing standards, rather than the development of new standards, that is not the reality of the work. The High Commissioner had expanded its activities in capacity-building and technical assistance, as well as its field presence, but “a quantum leap is what is really needed,” he stated.
He said that, although promotion and protection of human rights was primarily the responsibility of States, when States did not implement their human rights obligations either by choice or due to lack of resources, it was the obligation of the international community act collectively. In that regard, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism was the most important new mechanism of the Human Rights Council. Yet, even with the serious participation of Member States in the review, he questioned if it would be able to meet its goals prior to its review in 2011. Further, he noted that the Council’s record of addressing systematic violations was “poor and one-sided.”
He called for an agreement of the division of work between the Council and the Third Committee, so that duplication could be avoided. The current approach was arbitrary and inconsistent, which lead to disputes about procedural matters. In order for the Council to be successful in its role, he said that it was essential to respect its capacity to make autonomous decisions -- which included times when there might be disagreement. It must give some Member States pause if the head of an investigation established by the Human Rights Council expresses the view that the follow-up report should have its primary place in the Security Council. That indeed, “is not what we had in mind” when resolution 60/251 was adopted. At the same time, he was afraid that the action taken by the Human Rights Council in the actual follow-up proved the point of those who did not believe it should be considered there in the first place.
AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) said her country’s approach to the promotion and protection of human rights was through dialogue and cooperation. The promotion and protection of human rights and the consolidation of democracy could only take place when an enlightened citizenry was cultivated through unceasing efforts to empower individuals. Japan was, therefore, working to strengthen the capabilities of every individual to realize his or her potential and live in dignity, based on the concept of human security. The protection and promotion of human rights and consolidation of democracy required the perseverance, courage and wisdom of vigilant people. Mainstreaming human rights should not only take place within the confines of the United Nations system, but all over the world.
Drawing attention to the discrimination against those suffering from leprosy and their families, she said that, although leprosy was a curable disease, discrimination against those who suffered from it and their families still existed. The Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council had drafted principles and guidelines for the elimination of that discrimination. Japan would continue to play a leading role in eliminating discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, among other things by promoting the principles and guidelines drafted by the Advisory Committee, which hopefully would be adopted by the Human Rights Council next year.
GALINA KHVAN ( Russian Federation) said the whole of next year would be marked by the sixty-fifth anniversary of the end of World War II, but attempts had been made to wipe from people’s minds that the United Nations was borne from the great victory during that war. That included a victory over the idea of Nazism, which had espoused racial discrimination. The Russian Federation fought any attempt to denigrate the significance of that victory. Meanwhile, the whole of last year was marked by the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That jubilee had afforded the chance to look back on the achievements made in furthering human rights, but revealed that the universal standards had not yet been fully implemented. The Russian Federation believed that was the partly due to the imposition of human rights under the guise of their universality. Indeed, the fundamental right of each society was that it could choose freely how to develop. It was hard to imagine working together without respect for human rights. They should be implemented, bearing in mind the peculiarities of different societies.
The Russian Federation considered the Human Rights Council to be the main instrument in promoting and protecting human rights, she said. Indeed, its establishment meant that human rights had taken on a new dimension in the United Nations, reflecting the new order of the international community. The Russian Federation believed that intergovernmental cooperation should be strengthened in this area, particularly in the area of the Universal Periodic Review. Work so far suggested that the mechanism was making a difference and the Russian Federation believed that its review was proceeding in a professional manner. She commended and saluted the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which should continue to strive toward depoliticized cooperation in the human rights arena. The overall goal of respect for human rights would further the establishment of a fairer world.
AMJAD HUSSAIN B. SIAL ( Pakistan) observed that the Vienna Declaration had helped establish the normative bridge between the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and all other human rights instruments. But, millions continued to endure conflicts sparked by scarcity, greed and exploitation, and millions of others continued to suffer under the yoke of foreign occupation and were denied their right to self-determination. While the international community reaffirmed the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights, in reality the existing international order continued to be led by selectivity, and economic and political exploitation. One-third of the world’s population lived in abject poverty, with 20,000 people dying every day from hunger, poverty and preventable diseases, aggravated by the food and financial crises. One way out of poverty was through the exercise of the right to development, but it was disconcerting that little progress had been made by the international community towards its realization.
He also drew attention to negative stereotyping or defamation of religion as a contemporary manifestation of religious hatred, discrimination and xenophobia. While freedom of expression was sacrosanct, it must not be exploited to defame religion and to incite violence against its followers. There was a need to arrive at consensus on how to jointly tackle that phenomenon. He went on to note that special procedures and mandate holders had the responsibility to carry out their mandates under carefully-crafted, intergovernmentally agreed mandates. Some of the reports of the Special Rapporteurs conveyed politically motivated perspectives and were inspired to please a particular point of view. That ran contrary to their mandates.
For its part, Pakistan was devoted to upholding human rights, and had various national bodies to monitor progress. Its democratically-elected Government had a citizen-centric vision of society, and its media was one of the freest and most vibrant in South Asia. Civil society was playing a key role in fostering a culture of accountability and transparency. The judiciary was taking wide-ranging steps to guarantee protection of the constitutional rights of its citizens. Noting that the region around Pakistan was facing the challenges of extremism and terrorism, Pakistan was determined to eliminate those evils from its soil, as it was “alien to its ethos”. It was grateful for the support of its friends and partners in that area.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said her country had continued to strengthen the legislative frameworks and policies for the protection and enjoyment of all human rights. The National Development Plan had allowed for progress in economic, social and cultural rights, and the strengthening of the rule of law, the reduction of violence through the Democratic Security Policy and the demobilization of more than 52,000 members of illegal armed groups had also had wide impact. Among other improvements, a clear division of roles among rights-related institutions ensured that violations were subject to the jurisdiction of ordinary courts; an independent system monitored the effectiveness of protections; and awareness of rights was promoted by the National Plan on Human Rights Education. Immediate, rigorous action responded to violations attributed to any State agent. She reiterated the Government’s deep concern over attacks against human rights organizations, mainly by illegal armed groups. To further strengthen rights protections, a sanctions regime for crimes against union leaders and new measures to protect human rights defenders had recently been instituted.
Open to cooperation and international oversight in human rights, her country since 1997 had an Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in-country and it had helped with the adoption of measures to address challenges related to the violence generated by illegal armed groups, she said. A mechanism to follow-up the Office’s recommendations had been established with the participation of civil society and representatives of many diplomatic missions. In addition, Colombia had developed a method to monitor the progress of commitments made through the universal periodic review process of the Human Rights Council, to which the country had submitted voluntarily in December 2008. As part of those commitments, the Special Rapporteurs on the situations of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders have visited the country; the Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary had been invited, as well.
ARCHBISHOP CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said that people were committed to upholding human rights in the name of dignity. The right to religious freedom was still widely violated. Unfortunately, no religion on the planet was free from discrimination. Speaking of numerous ways in which religious freedom had been violated, he said that more and more such cases had been brought before international human rights bodies. As religious intolerance rose, it had been well documented that Christians faced more structural discrimination than any other religious group. He warned that blasphemy laws had been used as a cloak to foment injustice and different forms of violence, and urged governments to tackle the root causes of religious intolerance and to repeal such laws.
He also called on States to refrain from adopting restrictions on freedom of expression, as those often silenced and led to the abuse of religious minorities. Freedom of expression could provide an opportunity to speak out against religious intolerance and thus promote equality. He called for more tolerance and respect for cultural and religious diversity through education. Religions had to join forces in order to transform society and to foster a culture of tolerance and peaceful coexistence. To uphold the advancement of human rights, he said it was crucial to adhere to the United Nations founding principles, to ensure that all people were treated equally.
LIU ZHENMIN ( China) said that human rights infractions in the world still included uneven global development, armed conflict, poverty, racial discrimination and xenophobia, and the United Nations mechanism concerning human rights needed to be improved. He went on to make a number of recommendations with regard to human rights, primary among them, a suggestion that member States “fully acknowledge the particularities of different civilizations” and accept that different countries have different challenges and priorities in the field of human rights. “It is not desirable to impose one single model for rights promotion and protection,” he said. Rather, Member States should adopt “an objective and dynamic approach” when viewing a country’s human rights situation.
The international community should seek to bridge the development gap between the North and the South, and the developed world specifically should scale up financial and technical support to developing countries, because a just and equitable global economic order ensured equal enjoyment of fundamental rights for all, he said. Furthermore, the international community should implement a “zero tolerance” policy towards racism and the General Assembly should adopt by consensus the outcome document of the Durban Review Conference. With regard to the Human Rights Council, he said that the Third Committee and the relevant human rights treaty bodies had yet to fully get rid of politics and double standards in their work. The severe under-representation of the developing countries on the treaty bodies needed to be urgently rectified. Finally, he said China had been considered at a Universal Periodic Review session in February, and it had conducted an open and candid dialogue with other countries. It intended to implement the recommendation “that we have accepted in conjunction with our political and economic development strategies and plans.” He added that a year or so from now the work of the Human Rights Council would be reviewed. He expressed hope that Member States would evaluate and improve the work of the Council, so that it might handle issues in a more “impartial, objective and non-selective manner”.
MOHAMAD LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said the United Nations’ legislative output in the past 60 years included international instruments that covered a vast gamut of human activities. Even so, much remained to be done. All Member States had contributed to the United Nations’ advances in human rights, which was the third pillar of the United Nations systems. But, progress would be insufficient without responsible commitment by States and without action in the field. Human rights should be promoted throughout the world without a second thought, and yet an ideological split ‑‑ which seemed to have gained ground in the Human Rights Council and General Assembly ‑‑ was making it difficult to hold a dialogue that would lead to mutual understanding. The rift had taken on a cultural nature, in a seeming split between civilizations, which could potentially disrupt the legal edifice established by the United Nations, which included rights that every human being enjoyed irrespective of race or religion.
To ensure more opportunity for regional dialogue, he said it was important to defuse the tension in certain debates. States must have the wisdom to acknowledge the cultural and religious diversity among civilizations. But, those difference should not be used as an excuse for not acting. Cultural realities should not lead to obstacles in realizing universal human rights. The defence of cultures and human rights should move in parallel, and be strengthened by one another. But, at times, those who engaged in such cynical and deplorable manoeuvres were merely trying to divert international attention away from their own failures. For its part, Morocco had embarked on several domestic reforms that advanced its work in human rights: it had engaged in work on truth and reconciliation, conducted initiatives on human development, and on community compensation. The scope and depth of those reforms, as illustrated during its Universal Periodic Review in April 2007, was providing it with the impetus needed to continue on its responsible path.
MADINA JARBUSSYNOVA ( Kazakhstan) said any crisis situation obviously affected the realization of human rights. While undertaking efforts to combat the financial crisis, the Government of Kazakhstan had taken human development as a major priority. It had also signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol. It had also ratified the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Convention for the protection of all persons from enforced disappearances. It had also submitted its initial report on implementation of the International Covenant on civil and political rights. Last November, the United Nations Committee against Torture had published its consideration of Kazakhstan’s country report under the relevant convention. The Special Rapporteur, Manfred Nowak, had visited her country and the Government had elaborated an action plan on the basis of his recommendations.
Nevertheless, she said Mr. Nowak’s supposition that the detainees to whom he spoke were substantively prepared for his visit was belied by the fact that his visits were unannounced. She also wondered how he could conclude that violence against women was a widespread phenomenon, if he only visited detention centres. She stressed that such violence could in no way be described as widespread, but noted that a special law on domestic violence was, nevertheless, due to be adopted by the Parliament during its current session. Kazakhstan was also determined to continue cooperating with the United Nations special procedures. Next year the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing would make a country visit and the Government had issued an open invitation to all special procedures mandate-holders.
She said Kazakhstan had adopted a national action plan for 2009-2012 to, among other things, raise the public’s awareness of their rights under the international human rights mechanisms and take the dialogue between the Government and civil society to new heights. To meet the Human Rights Council’s requirements, Kazakhstan had conducted a series of seminars to prepare for its Universal Periodic Review in February 2010. All the recommendations voiced during the consultations were given thorough consideration and were incorporated in the report due for submission in two weeks. Kazakhstan was also committed to making the human dimension a central pillar of in its work as chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It was well-known that one of the country’s most significant achievements was inter-faith accord, and as the first country of the Commonwealth of Independent States to chair the OSCE, it would promote intercultural cooperation and respect.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) recalled the statement by the Thai Prime Minister at the General Assembly general debate, in which he said there was no better political system than democracy to ensure people’s rights and freedoms. Thailand was party to seven of the nine core international human rights instruments, and the Thai Government had placed human rights high on its agenda. Its national human rights commission actively examined and reported on acts in the private and public sector that did not comply with Thailand’s international human rights obligations. It had translated the Universal Declaration on Human Rights into Braille and a child-friendly version, and had a human rights manual for the military.
He said Thailand was the current chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), and had been proud to inaugurate the first ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights at the recently concluded fifteenth ASEAN Summit. ASEAN was also in the process of establishing an ASEAN Commission on the promotion and protection of the rights of women and children. Once established, the mechanism would play an important role in enhancing and strengthening the ASEAN human rights framework, as a whole. Thailand was actively engaged in human rights discussions at the international level, and it supported the Universal Periodic Review as one of the most innovative mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. Thailand looked forward to the effective functioning of the new mechanism based on objective and reliable information and interactive dialogue. It hoped the mechanism would ensure the universality of coverage and the equal treatment of all States.
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