Twenty-Six Years after UN Treaty Aimed at Absolute Prohibition of Torture Adopted ‘We Have Not yet Achieved That Goal,’ Third Committee Told

19 October 2010
GA/SHC/3983

Twenty-Six Years after UN Treaty Aimed at Absolute Prohibition of Torture Adopted ‘We Have Not yet Achieved That Goal,’ Third Committee Told

19 October 2010
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3983
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Third Committee

20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)

Twenty-Six Years after UN Treaty Aimed at Absolute Prohibition of Torture Adopted,

‘We Have Not yet Achieved That Goal’, Third Committee Told

 

Hears from Two UN Experts — Chairs of Monitoring Body for Convention

Against Torture; Subcommittee on Prevention, Created by Optional Protocol

More than a quarter-century after its adoption, the objectives of the Convention against Torture had yet to be achieved, and the entire human rights treaty body system was slowed under a backlog of reports from Member States, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.

The Committee began its discussion on human rights by focusing on international efforts to prevent the use of torture, in the absence of Manfred Nowak, the Special Rapporteur on the issue since 2004, who was unable to be present due to other commitments.

Claudio Grossman, Chairperson of the Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, noted that 147 States were now party to the Convention.  (That instrument notably states that “each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction”; it adds that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”.)

But, he said that the promise of a world free of torture remained elusive.

“Twenty-six years ago, member States of the United Nations adopted the Convention against Torture,” Mr. Grossman said.  “It was an important act to imagine and help shape the world in which we want to live.  Unfortunately, we have not yet achieved that goal.”

Saying it was as if the world had accustomed itself to living with brutality, he added:  “We should not allow ourselves to become accustomed to torture.  We must say no to torture, no to torture during emergency situations, no to torture by any means.”

Examining initial and periodic reports from States parties was a core activity of the Committee, which had been exploring ways to do its work more effectively.  But 32 States parties had yet to present their initial reports — a third of them had been overdue for more than a decade — and periodic reports from another 82 States were late as well.  “We all know that law needs to be taken seriously, and that the Convention’s obligations have been voluntarily assumed by States parties,” he said.

As for reports that have been submitted, Mr. Grossman said his Committee — like other treaty bodies — was hard-pressed to keep up.  “The treaty body system as a whole is facing serious challenges due to the backlog of reports,” he said.  “In addition to the lack of sufficient meeting time, we are experiencing an inadequate capacity of [United Nations] Conference Services to process and translate documents in a timely fashion, as well as insufficient human resources within the Secretariat in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”  He invited Member States to consider the implications if the treaty body system was not assigned “significant additional resources”.

The same concern was expressed by Victor Manuel Rodríguez Rescia, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the smallest of the treaty bodies, which has a mandate to visit places of detention and to assist States parties in the implementation of national measures to prevent torture.  Ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture by Switzerland triggered the expansion of the Subcommittee from 10 to 25 members, but Mr. Rodríguez said it lacked the funding needed to carry out its mandate, including field visits.   Universal ratification of the Optional Protocol remained some way off, he added, while signs of “stagnation” had been seen in countries that had signed, but not yet ratified, the Optional Protocol as they encountered difficulties in putting national preventative mechanisms into place.

In the general discussion that followed, the representative of Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, appealed to all States that had yet to do so to become parties to the Convention against Torture and to accede to the Optional Protocol.  All countries had to confront racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, he added.  His counterpart from China said his country took its reporting obligations seriously; doing so enabled a stock-taking of its human rights activities and an opportunity to improve its work.  The representative of Egypt underscored the right to development as a fundamental right, while the representative of Cuba said his country had attained “excellent results” in the Universal Periodic Review.  The representative of India said that a comprehensive debate on human rights was only possible if the world understood the importance of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and their links to civil and political rights.

The representatives of New Zealand, Sudan, Japan, Qatar, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates, Kyrgyzstan, Zambia, Syria, Iran, United Republic of Tanzania, Republic of Korea, and Algeria also made statements.

The Committee also heard the introduction of draft resolutions on the advancement of women, which addressed violence against women, obstetric fistula, trafficking in women and girls, and a proposal for 23 June every year to be International Widows’ Day.

The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 20 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, during which it will hear from Navanethem Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Gay McDougall, the Independent Expert on minority issues, Tomas Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, and Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its discussion on human rights.

The Committee had before it the Report of the Committee against Torture (document A/65/44).  The report contained information regarding:  organizational matters such as membership and attendance at sessions, election of officers; agendas; participation of Committee members in other meetings and rules of procedure; submission of reports by States parties under article 19 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; consideration of reports submitted by States parties under article 19 of the Convention; follow-up to concluding observations on States parties’ reports; activities of the Committee under article 20 of the Convention; consideration of complaints under article 22 of the Convention; future meetings of the Committee and adoption of the annual report of the Committee on its activities.

Also before the Committee was the Report of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/65/48).  The report contains information including:  organizational matters such as the Committee’s meetings and sessions, membership and attendance, election of officers, days of general discussion, and presentation and adoption of reports; cooperation with bodies concerned and reports by States parties under article 73 of the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  Within the consideration of reports by States parties in accordance with article 74 of the Convention, the document offers numerous suggestions and recommendations.

The Committee also had before it the report of the Secretary-General regarding the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/65/265), which receives voluntary contributions from Governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals, and provides grants to non-governmental organizations for medical, psychological, social, financial, legal, humanitarian or other forms of assistance to victims of torture and their families.  The Fund received more than $11.6 million in contributions in 2009, but its Board of Trustees is expecting a shortfall of some $3 million in 2011 if current levels of requests from grantees continue.  The biggest single contributor has been the United States, which provided $7.1 million dollars in 2009; it has pledged a similar amount for 2010.  Past donors were urged to increase their contributions, and those who have yet to donate to do so.

Additionally, the Committee had before it the Note by the Secretary-General on effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights (document A/65/190).  The report concerns the twenty-second meeting of the chairs of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies (“treaty bodies”), which was convened on 1 and 2 July in Brussels.  The meeting was held for the first time outside of Geneva, in order to bring treaty bodies closer to the implementation level and raise awareness at the regional level of their work, so as to strengthen linkages between international and regional human rights mechanisms and institutions.  The chairs met with institutions of the European Union and of the Council of Europe, and with representatives of civil society organizations and academia, to discuss the applicability of the United Nations human rights treaties to European Union actions and the role of the European Union in implementing the treaty body suggestions.

Recommendations included encouraging the European Union to mainstream international human rights law and the suggestions of the treaty bodies into its policies and laws; to align its development, trade and aid policies with international human rights law and take into account relevant recommendations of the treaty bodies; to facilitate the implementation of the recommendations of the treaty bodies in European Union member States; and to encourage ratification by its member States of all core international human rights treaties.

The recommendations also encouraged the European Court of Justice to refer to international human rights law and the recommendations of the treaty bodies, when appropriate; as well as suggested cooperation and periodic meetings between the treaty bodies and the European Court of Human Rights relating to procedure, methods of work and jurisprudence; an institutional link between the Petitions Section of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Court’s secretariat that would allow the electronic exchange of information on related procedural matters; and additional efforts by the treaty bodies and the Court to consider their respective jurisprudence in order to seek coherence and avoid fragmentation of international human rights law.  Additionally, the meeting suggested that civil society organizations based in Europe should continue to enhance their cooperation with human rights treaty bodies, and that future meetings of the chairs be held every other year at the regional level.

Also before the Committee was the report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/65/94), which extends humanitarian, legal and financial aid for those whose human rights have been violated as a result of modern-day slavery.  At its meeting in Geneva from 14 to 18 September 2009, the Fund’s Board of Trustees recommended 63 project grants worth a total of $726,090, which would assist non-governmental organizations in 44 countries.  The amount of funding, however, was far below the more than $3.81 million that had been requested in 2009 via 274 applications.  The Board estimates that, to better fulfil its mandate, the Fund would need new contributions totalling at least $4 million before the Board’s next meeting in December 2010.  Donors and potential donors were thus encouraged to further their support and allow the Fund to expand its crucial assistance to victims of slavery.

The Committee also had before it the Note by the Secretary-General on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/65/381).  The report contains information on the status of the Special Fund, including its financial situation and the process of making a contribution.  At the time of writing, the following contributions to the Special Fund had been received: $10,000 from the Czech Republic, $5,000 from the Maldives and $55,492.54 from Spain. The report concluded by recommending that Governments contribute to the Special Fund, in order to provide it with the resources required to carry out its mandate.

The Committee also had before it a note from the Secretary-General relaying a report from OHCHR containing an evaluation of the use of additional meeting time by the human rights treaty bodies (document A/65/317).  It discusses how the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Committee on the Rights of the Child have been using their approved additional meeting time, in the context of the growing workload of the entire human rights treaty body system.  It notes how the backlog faced by some treaty bodies has reached the point where consideration of report from a State party could be delayed by up to three years, by which time its contents have become outdated and extra information has to be requested.  More secretariat support is required; in addition, with their limited resources focussed on dealing with backlogs and on a growing number of cases and reports, treaty bodies have little or no time left for other aspects of their work and to interact with their partners.  While there has been improved compliance by States parties with their reporting obligations, the present system is able to function because there still remains a significant level of non-compliance; if all State party reports were submitted on time, most treaty bodies would have to double if not triple their current meeting time.  A long-term solution had to be found based on a comprehensive study of meeting time, staffing levels, conference facilities and documentation, the report concludes.

There were also documents – A/65/40 (Vol. I) and A/65/40 (Vol. II), concerning the Report of the Human Rights Committee – that were yet to be issued.

Finally, the report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/65/36) provides an overview of the activities of the Commissioner’s Office in the past year.  It notes how developments in the work of the Human Rights Council, universal periodic review and initiatives to harmonize the working methods of treaty bodies offered opportunities to strengthen the international system of protecting and promoting human rights.  The upcoming review of the Council by the General Assembly would enable Member States to strengthen the protection of human rights everywhere and to maximum the Council’s “critical potential”.  Ways to make the periodic review mechanism more effective should also be explored, the report says.

The same report gives an overview of the work of OHCHR in the field, highlights the interdependence between human rights and the Millennium Development Goals and discusses ongoing efforts of the Office to consolidate its partnerships with Governments, civil society, other parts of the United Nations system and regional organizations in the context of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development and humanitarian work.  By way of conclusion, it says that while the protection of human rights was first and foremost the responsibility of States, “a cooperative global effort” was needed in the face of such challenges as conflict, natural calamities, democratic deficits, impunity, poverty and discrimination.  Effective and sustainable protection of human rights was the fundamental objective of OHCHR, and so too should it be the primary concern of the Human Rights Council and Member States in general.  In that regard, the High Commissioner urged that the momentum of the upcoming review of the Council and the high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals be fully exploited.

Finally, the Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/65/36) provides an overview of the activities of the Commissioner’s Office in the past year.  It notes how developments in the work of the Human Rights Council, universal periodic review and initiatives to harmonize the working methods of treaty bodies offered opportunities to strengthen the international system of protecting and promoting human rights.  The upcoming review of the Council by the General Assembly would enable Member States to strengthen the protection of human rights everywhere and to maximum the Council’s “critical potential”.  Ways to make the periodic review mechanism more effective should also be explored, the report says.

The same report gives an overview of the work of OHCHR in the field, highlights the interdependence between human rights and the Millennium Development Goals and discusses ongoing efforts of the Office to consolidate its partnerships with Governments, civil society, other parts of the United Nations system and regional organizations in the context of peacekeeping, peacebuilding, development and humanitarian work.  By way of conclusion, it says that while the protection of human rights was first and foremost the responsibility of States, “a cooperative global effort” was needed in the face of such challenges as conflict, natural calamities, democratic deficits, impunity, poverty and discrimination.  Effective and sustainable protection of human rights was the fundamental objective of OHCHR, and so too should it be the primary concern of the Human Rights Council and Member States in general.  In that regard, the High Commissioner urged that the momentum of the upcoming review of the Council and the high-level meeting on the Millennium Development Goals be fully exploited.

Statement by Chairperson of Committee against Torture

The Committee then heard from CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Chairperson of the Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, who said that, due to pre-existing work commitments, the Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, could not be present today.

Informing the Third Committee about new developments in the work of the Committee, he said it was considering ways to improve the examination of reports from States parties so as to facilitate a richer dialogue and sharing of information.  It had serious concerns about reporting delays and deeply regretted that 32 States parties had yet to submit initial reports; one third of those States parties were more than a decade overdue.  It was also very concerned that 82 States parties had overdue periodic reports.  In an effort to assist States parties, a novel optional reporting procedure had been introduced in 2007, in which a list of issues was transmitted to States prior to submission of a report.  That procedure, also adopted by the Human Rights Committee in October 2009, simplified procedures, as States had to submit a single report; assisted States in preparing timely and more focused reports; enriched the dialogue; and resulted in more specific recommendations.  States parties had reacted favourably and, to date, the Committee had transmitted 39 such lists to States parties, with reports due in 2009, 2010 and 2011.  Next month, the Committee will consider the first reports submitted under the new procedure.

The treaty body system as a whole has been facing serious challenges due to a backlog of reports.  Sufficient meeting time was lacking, Conference Services had inadequate capacity to process and translate documents in a timely fashion, and the Secretariat of OHCHR had insufficient human resources available.  Member States should reflect on the implications for the treaty body system if significant additional resources were not allocated.

The Committee regretted that, so far, only 64 of the 147 States party to the Convention had declared its competency in examining individual complaints under article 22.  The individual complaints procedure, which enabled victims of torture to put their cases before the international community, was an important tool and enabled the Committee to apply the Convention to real-life situations.  Of the 420 registered complaints to date concerning 30 States, the Committee had adopted final decisions on the merits in 164 instances and found Convention violations in 49.  To improve its working methods, the Committee has established four working groups to address various aspects of its work.  New initiatives and working methods have not, however, been met with a corresponding increase in resources, meeting time or composition of the membership of the Committee, which with ten members was the smallest treaty body in the UN system, yet responsible for one of the broadest mandates.  Such a small membership meant that solutions introduced by other treaty bodies to reduce the backlog of reports, such as meeting in dual chambers, were not possible.

Further, he said, the Committee against Torture meets for six weeks, while other bodies with similar workloads - Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the Child Rights Committee – meet for 14 weeks and 12 weeks, respectively.  It had been argued that the small membership of the Committee was grounded in the specificity of the treaty, but that viewpoint was no longer consistent with the number and nature of activities carried out by the Committee, including examination of prison conditions when torture or inhuman treatment or punishment was suspected.  The Committee has requested that the General Assembly approve one additional week of meeting time in 2011-2012; while that would not be a long-term solution, it was an indispensable interim measure.

Concluding, Mr. Grossman said 26 years ago the Convention against Torture was adopted; an important act aimed at imagining and helping shape “the world in which we want to live.”  Unfortunately, the goal had not been achieved.  He referred to the novel the Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargos Llosa, the 2010 Nobel Laureate in Literature, which he said told the story of a politician who, in an attempt to win the favour of a dictator, offered his own daughter to be raped.  The most striking thing about the story was the way in which the events took place; a distorted reality where it appeared normal – as it did to the politician – that one would offer a daughter to be raped.  It showed how “we can become accustomed to a distorted reality, to brutality and to depravation”.  Unfortunately, “we live in a world where, despite the absolute prohibition of torture, torture continues to exist,” he said.

“We should not allow ourselves to become accustomed to torture,” he added. “We must say no to torture, no to torture during emergency situations, no to torture by any means, no justification whatsoever for torture… It is our shared legal duty to implement the absolute prohibition of torture.”

Question and Answer Session

The Chair of the Committee against Torture then took a number of questions from delegates.

Responding to the representative of Costa Rica regarding new working methods adopted by the subcommittee and possible incentives for civil society to offer ideas on questions put to Member States, he said that there needed to be a transparent process and dialogue in which civil society had the opportunity to ask and submit written questions.  That dialogue also needed to be made public on the Committee’s website.  States needed to engage with civil society in the formulation of public policy, with prior consultation that fed into their reports. They were always thinking and would continue to look at better methods of improving dialogue.

Responding to the representative of Switzerland regarding requests for additional resources, he said that the improvement of working methods was an ongoing issue and that there was no international institution that was not concerned with the use of resources.  Regarding the effectiveness of work, communication with the States was of fundamental importance, and the Committee would continue to look to States for their suggestions, because dialogue consisted of being open to ideas for improvement.

The representative of the European Union asked three questions:  How would the Committee’s efforts regarding the efficiency of working methods, particularly the innovation of providing a list of issues, make an impact?; to what extent has the Committee made use of measures such as reviewing a country without a report and was there concern that this would require more meeting time?; and could the Committee outline the main trends regarding both measures to protect against torture and follow-up, including which states had responded through the follow-up feature?

Mr Grossman said that the idea to provide a list of issues ahead of time developed because, in the past, States’ initial reports were presented, after which the Committee drew up a list of questions that was sometimes longer than the actual report and then States ended up having to present a second report to answer the questions.  For reasons of procedural economy, the Committee decided, where it was possible, to draw up a list of issues prior to that exercise.  To economize, States had been cooperating with the procedure in their reporting. The list should not be regarded, as a “straight-jacket,” to which States had to reply, but as fostering a constructive and fluid dialogue with States and a mechanism to help States.

He said 32 States had never presented their reports, and the Committee had engaged in informal consultations with them, but the Committee had not yet established measures for reviewing countries with no prior results, other than continuing dialogue, various trends for the future might include incentives, technical assistance regarding how best to respond, and the use of missions.  Regarding the prohibition of torture, he said that States had not adopted a uniform approach.  There was jurisprudence towards strengthening the prohibition, such as articles about non-forcible return, as well as answering questions of reparation and rehabilitation.  However, even though follow-up was critical to the effectiveness of the system, there was nothing to oblige States to do it, unless they had signed as a party to the convention.  Some States had followed-up and others had not, so an obligation to follow-up on the requirements should be put forward.

Responding to the representative of Chile regarding civil society’s participation in the preparation of reports, the apparent lack of financial and human resources in the Committee, and the possibility of looking for greater efficiencies in the Committee’s operating structures, he underlined the importance of consulting civil society and said that the Committee would continue to think about how it could improve working methods.  He also noted that more could be cone by way of publishing the Committee’s decisions on case law.

The representative of Denmark asked what resources were needed to keep the momentum of the Committee going with regard to the new reporting procedures; whether complete consistency was possible concerning treatment of States when violations were not consistent; and whether the Committee could clarify the difference between “torture” and “cruel”.  The representative of Mexico asked if working methods used by other committees could be adopted, as well as whether there could be a comprehensive approach among committees regarding dealing with the backlog of reports and strengthening instruments.  The representative of the Maldives also asked what could be done to encourage the timely reporting of States with regard to the new reporting process mentioned.  Additionally, the representative of Algeria asked about opportunities in the new reporting procedure for States to follow up on recommendations made by the Committee in their next reports.

Responding, Mr Grossman said that the point of the new working method was for the Committee to avoid sending out additional questions that would lengthen the presentation of results, which on average was two and a half years.  Regarding the understanding of “torture” vs. “cruel”, he said that torture was a higher level of inhuman treatment, and that criteria was indicated in the Committee’s report in order to provide guidance to states.  He added that they could not solve all problems, but could extend protection, concentrate on partial solutions and be as efficient as possible.

Additionally, responding to the question from the representative of India about the new reporting procedure, he said that it was an optional procedure, which referred to follow-up reports.  The Committee did not dictate anything to the States, but in the run of its work, the reporting procedure became a part of its process of dialogue with States, and was well received as a mechanism that helped States. It allowed States to know what the Committee was thinking.  The role of the Committee was not to impose, but to think innovatively about how to improve methods.

Statement by Chair of Prevention Subcommittee

VICTOR MANUEL RODRÍGUEZ RESCIA, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, then briefed the Committee on its work.  There had been “a cyclical increase” in the number of States that were parties or signatories to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  There now were fifty-seven States parties and 67 signatories.  While universal ratification was still a long way off, progress so far pointed to a new generation of treaties that were preventative and pro-active in nature.

He drew attention to the “paradigm shift” in addressing torture and noted that challenges involved.  The preventative approach could be applied more widely, there could be improved coordination with other parts of the United Nations, and the findings of the Subcommittee could be given wider public circulation.  Five countries – Honduras, Maldives, Mexico, Paraguay and Sweden – had published the Subcommittee’s reports; other States were urged to follow suit, as doing so would help raise awareness.  The Subcommittee has been involved in “proactive prevention” field visits, advising States on national preventative mechanisms, cooperating with United Nations and regional bodies and providing advice on funding available through the Optional Protocol.

Reviewing the work of the Subcommittee during the reporting period, he said that visits had been made to Cambodia in December 2009, Lebanon in May and June 2010 and Bolivia in August and September 2010, along with a first-ever follow-up visit to Paraguay in September 2010.  States parties were obliged under the Optional Protocol to create national mechanisms to prevent torture, but in the majority of cases, doing so has not been easy due to political and institutional factors and the organizational structures of States.  Regional trends had emerged, however, with an ‘Ombudsman Plus’ model taking root in Europe.  In cooperation terms, the relationship between the Subcommittee and the Committee against Torture had been strengthened, with a recognized need for their agenda to be more pointed and less open-ended.  The nomination of Juan Méndez as Special Rapporteur on torture was welcome, and it was certain that his predecessor Mr. Novak would be pursing the fight against torture on other no less important fronts.

The Subcommittee was involved in ongoing process of harmonizing the work of human rights bodies.  Three States – Spain, Maldives and Czech Republic – had contributed to the Special Fund overseen by the Subcommittee and it was hoped that others would increase their cooperation, as well.  The Subcommittee would shortly be enlarging to 25 members; it was hoped that, in electing members, they would bear in mind such considerations as equitable geographic distribution, gender balance, interdisciplinary expertise, different forms of civilizations and judicial systems and the independence of members in carrying out their duties.

Question and Answers

Mr. Rodríguez then took questions from a number of delegations.

In response to the representative of Switzerland, he said it was that country’s ratification that made it possible for the Subcommittee to expand from 10 to 25 members, and the expansion had complicated the existence of the Subcommittee.  How could it fit 25 members in its premises in Geneva?  Its real purpose, of course, was field visits, but did it have the necessary funding? “No, we don’t.”  Europe alone had 47 countries, but the Secretariat had only 23 officials.  Denmark had been providing support and it was hoped that others would consider following suit.  It was the intention of the Subcommittee to grow effectively, and build the capacity to do work in a complicated context.  Prevention was difficult, because it meant culture change.  It was not enough to issue reports that condemned things, when the goal was to bring about change; that often involved running up against resistance to change.

In response to the representative of Denmark, he said that the Subcommittee had been going beyond mere follow-up, in order to identify the reasons behind torture.  It was gratifying that some countries had announced a visit by the Subcommittee; doing so demonstrated a constructive approach and the building of trust and dialogue that could lead to reform.  It was not just a question of drawing attention to problems, but to ensure that States were actively involved in processes.  The most effective way for States to support the Optional Protocol was to encourage its ratification and the introduction of national preventive mechanisms.

Responding to the representative of Brazil, he said the Subcommittee had been following legislative initiatives in that country on the state level.  The support of civil society for legislative or institutional changes was necessary; it was a question of collective dialogue.

In response to the representative of the European Union, he addressed the challenges of an enlarged Subcommittee and the availability of resources.  Inducting and training new members, so that they would understand what the prevention of torture meant in more than theoretical terms, would be expensive.  Creativity and personal effort would be needed to provide advice and assistance.  It was possible that universal ratification had not yet been achieved because the full implications of prevention had not been understood.  Countries had signed the Optional Protocol, but then stagnation would set in when difficulties were encountered in establishing national mechanisms.  The Optional Protocol represented an “experiment” on the part of the United Nations, more frequent field visits in support of mechanisms to prevent torture and to create a culture of preventing torture.

Responding to the representative of Chile, he said the Subcommittee had been working with regional organizations, and trying not to duplicate efforts, but rather improve coordination with other United Nations agencies.  Finally, to the representative of Czech Republic, he pointed to the “excellent work” of civil society organizations, whose support was vital when the Subcommittee carried out a country visit.

THOMAS LAMBERT ( Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said States were obliged to respect and enforce human rights.  Diverse cultural or historical backgrounds should in no way be invoked to “relativize” what was clearly humanity’s common patrimony.  The incorporation of the Charter of Fundamental Rights into the European Union’s framework, and the Union’s accession to the European Convention of Human Rights, currently being negotiated with the 47-State Council of Europe, would no doubt strengthen the Union’s protection of human rights.  While pleased that a growing number of countries had applied a moratorium on executions or abolished the death penalty, the number of executions remained “very high” in some States during the past year, and he regretted that executions had been resumed in three countries.  Those countries retaining the death penalty should establish a moratorium.

Moreover, he called on all States that had not yet done so to become Parties to the Convention against Torture and accede to its Optional Protocol.  All Governments had a duty to eliminate barriers to freedom of expression and information, including in the framework of new technologies like the internet. That was especially relevant for the media, which had a key role in scrutinizing Governments, and for human rights defenders obliged to expose abuses.  Similarly, discrimination based on religion or belief must be tackled by States in line with their international obligations.  The Union had presented a resolution to that effect, and would strive to achieve a balanced text.

All countries had to deal with racism, discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance, he continued, stressing that the Union had repeatedly rejected and condemned all such behaviour, and used all instruments at its disposal, including legislation and funding mechanisms, to combat it.  Further, no one should be discriminated against on the basis of sex, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation, and he again called on States to both decriminalise same-sex relationships and uphold the full enjoyment of human rights by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons.  More efforts also were needed to ensure better implementation of economic, social and cultural rights and he urged Parties to the Covenant on those rights to implement their obligations.  In closing, he reaffirmed the Union’s strong position on protecting human rights defenders, whose work was invaluable to advancing that field.  A wide gap continued to exist between the promise of human rights and their reality in the lives of people on the ground.  Making all human rights a reality was indeed a challenge, but it was also a collective responsibility.

TARA MORTON (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Canada and Australia, said two and a half years on from the entry into force of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, that core international human rights treaty had some 147 signatories and 95 ratifications, making the Convention the most quickly embraced Convention in the history of international human rights.  However, work was far from over.  States that had not yet ratified the Convention needed to do so as a matter of priority, and all States must fully implement it.

She said the three countries were pleased to see appropriate recognition of the needs of the persons with disabilities in the Millennium Development Goals Summit Outcome Document.  She took the opportunity to highlight the need to produce disability disaggregated data to support the planning and monitoring of efforts to make Millennium Development Goals-related policies and programmes inclusive and accessible for persons with disabilities.  She further reaffirmed her ongoing strong support for the rights of persons with disabilities, and for the Convention, observing that Canada was pleased to have ratified the Convention earlier in the year.  Having chaired the negotiations on the Convention to its adoption, New Zealand had enjoyed the opportunity representing The Western European and Other Group on the bureau of the Conference of States Parties, and looked forward to again running the resolution on the Convention jointly with Mexico at next year’s General Assembly and on the Human Rights Council.

Continuing, she also looked forward to the Committee beginning its respective dialogues with those States that had presented their treaty body reports.  Consideration of those early reports would pave the way for the future work of the Committee in tackling emerging issues affecting persons with disabilities.  In a year that had seen so many natural disasters, she welcomed the adoption by the Inter-Agency Support Group for the Convention, and the United Nations Development Group, of the guidance note for the United Nations country teams and implementing partners, and encouraged its wide dissemination among all the country offices of the Organization’s agencies, programmes and funds.  In line with the Convention’s article 11, she highlighted the urgent need to revise the policies, programmes and standards that the United Nations, States and non-governmental organization applied in the areas of emergency relief and reconstruction as well as disaster management, in order to ensure that the rights of all persons, including those with disabilities, were fully considered.

ZHANG DAN (China) outlined the various international agreements that the country had acceded to, noting that it had begun a process of legislative reform in line with the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.   China strictly fulfilled all such international treaties and treated its reporting requirements with seriousness, given that reporting was not only a good way to take stock of China’s activities, but also provided an opportunity to improve its work.   China listed the numerous reports it had submitted or was in the process of developing, relating to the rights of the child; social, economic and cultural rights; the rights of persons with disabilities and elimination of discrimination against women.  With regard to Hong Kong and Macau and the principle of “one country, two systems”, China also supported those regions in fulfilling their agreements.   China paid attention to and participated in rule setting regarding human rights.  It had participated in the first session of the working group to explore an Optional Protocol concerning a communications procedure for rights of the child convention.

Commending the active role of treaty bodies, China said that it had recommended Chinese experts to those bodies, maintained good communication with them, respected their recommendations and worked hard to implement them.   China noted that work had to be conducted with fairness, objectivity and neutrality, but some treaty bodies had gone beyond their mandate in the exercise of their duties and there had been cases of abuse of power by individual members.  Stating that they had to abide by treaty mandates and procedures, she hoped that conclusions would be carried out in the sprit of cooperation and fairness and made with consideration to the conditions specific to state parties.  Also, recommendations needed to be targeted to avoid politicization in treaty monitoring, and she expressed support for necessary reforms of treaty bodies in light of changing circumstances.

MAGED A. ABDELAZIZ ( Egypt) said the Third Committee was at the centre of collective efforts towards ensuring an effective international approach to human rights issues.  There were a few countries, however, that attempted to impose ownership over human rights situations worldwide, without any international jurisdiction and in contradiction to the concept of good governance.  In that regard, the international community must confront that growing sense of superiority some States had, based on the assumption that their individual values, cultures, and social and legal justice systems were superior to others.  More attention must be paid to the “the right to development” and the “right to food” as fundamental rights interrelated with others, he said. 

Further, the international community should aim at reinforcing the voice and participation of developing countries in international and economic decision-making, particularly in Bretton Woods institutions.  Five years after the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the adoption of its institutional building package, it was the Committee’s responsibility to ensure the package’s full and objective implementation.  He pointed out that the protection of human rights was the primary responsibility of national Governments, calling upon the Committee to work within the Assembly to promote a comprehensive international understanding of that responsibility, linked with the notion of sovereignty.  Finally, he stressed the need to combat all forms of violence and discrimination, as well as the need to promote respect for cultural and religious diversity.  He added that Egypt this year had completed its universal periodic review with the the Human Rights Council and “has successfully demonstrated its commitment to protect and promote all human rights.”

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

The Committee then passed in its human rights debate to hear the introduction of a number of draft resolutions.

The representative of the Netherlands, also on behalf of France, introduced a draft resolution on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/65/L.17).  This was an omnibus resolution that recalled General Assembly resolution 61/143 of 19 December 2006 and subsequent resolutions that would provide UN Women with a firm road map in combating violence against women.  A number of recommendations and best practices were included in the draft resolution.  Open informal discussions had been underway in a constructive spirit and the main sponsors were working towards its adoption by consensus, with as many co-sponsors as possible.  China had been listed in error as a co-sponsor at this stage, but it was hoped that eventually it would support the draft resolution.

The representative of Malawi, on behalf of the African group, then introduced a draft resolution on supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/C.3/65/L.18).  Recalling that, according to the Secretary-General, the fifth of the Millennium Development Goals (maternal health) had made the least progress, she said fistula was a devastating condition, once common worldwide, that continued to affect two million women in Africa, Asia and the Arab region.  It was a signal that health systems had been failing to address the health needs of women.  Its victims were typically poor, illiterate and, in the case of girls, living in remote areas.  A similar resolution was adopted two years ago with co-sponsorship from 140 countries.  To save women’s lives and end maternal mortality, support had to be given to the latest draft resolution.

The representative of Gabon then introduced a draft resolution that would have 23 June every year declared as International Widows’ Day (document A/C.3/65/L.19).  Motivating the draft resolution was the fact that the social conditions of widows around the world had not been addressed at the United Nations.  They faced discrimination, prejudice, social isolation, HIV/AIDS and poverty, as well as abuse and suffering.  International Widows’ Day would be an opportunity to express solidarity with widows everywhere in the world.

Finally, the representative of the Philippines introduced a draft resolution entitled Trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/63/L.20).  It was intended to update a similar resolution that was adopted at the sixty-third session of the General Assembly calling upon governments to put a halt to the trafficking and exploitation of women and girls, she explained.  Expressing serious concern that a growing number of women and girls from some developing countries were being trafficked to developed countries, and that men and boys have been victims as well, the draft resolution calls on governments to discourage and eliminate the demand that fosters trafficking in women and girls for all forms of exploitation.  Among other measures, it encourages preventive actions to eliminate sex tourism, the criminalization of all forms of trafficking in persons and appropriate measures to ensure that victims of trafficking were not penalized.

Statements

HASSAN ALI HASSAN ( Sudan), while praising human rights instruments, said that their implementation was not satisfactory, in many cases not due to the lack of will, but because of factors such as the financial crash, economic recession, conflict and the continuing threat posed by climate change.  Those challenges to human rights could only be alleviated by a serious engagement between north and south and between developed and developing countries.  Condemning attempts to politicize human rights, he said, “This attitude has been practiced by some of those that used to be called ‘superpower,’” used their wealthy resources to mobilize political parties and activists and influence the media.  The human rights mechanism lacked efficiency, as demonstrated in incidents where others were rejected based on colour, race and religion.  Stressing the importance of promoting values of mutual respect, he said: “Many people are still suffering torture and violation to their basic rights in particular in the aftermath of 11 September, 2001 where thousands of people are still in prison without trial or under investigation in secret detention.” 

Sudan promoted the principle of respect for human dignity and human rights and was committed to the major declarations on human rights, he said.  The Sudanese Constitution confirmed political, social and economic rights for the Sudanese people, and the constitutional court safeguarded human rights at the highest judicial level.  Such institutions as the Advisory Council on Human Rights (ACHR) protected human rights, and the Government and political parties were discussing the establishment of the National Commission on Human Rights, and civil society was playing a great role in promoting human rights.  One of the remarkable events in the country that showed political will towards democratization was the accomplishment of national and presidential elections, which included different political parties, resulted in a fairly chosen president, showed the highest number of participants in the history of elections in Sudan and promoted freedom of expression through different political newspapers.  Sudan had also exerted great efforts to tackle issues in the post-conflict areas in the South and in Western Sudan (some parts of Darfur) in order to secure the safety of the population and protect their rights.  The Government incorporated its efforts with the United Nations Mission in Darfur African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), and declared the new strategy on Darfur, according to which the people of Darfur would freely determine their political will for the region.  His Government was fully committed to the referendum for self-determination in the South.  Sudan called upon the international community to reject the practice of imposing unilateral sanctions, as well as rejected the attempts of some Special Rapporteurs to exceed their mandate.

PABLO BERTI (Cuba) recalling that, before 1959, Cuban reality had been characterized by hunger, illiteracy, disease, corruption, election fraud and theft of national wealth, said today Cubans could show significant gains in the enjoyment of all human rights, the most important of which was that to self-determination. Achievements in healthcare, education, and scientific and technical research had been possible because Cubans owned their political destiny. Hundreds of thousands of Cubans had travelled to the furthest villages in 157 countries to share achievements in health care and education.  The country’s comprehensive record of international cooperation in the field of human rights showed its willingness to hold a frank and open dialogue.  Cuba was party to 42 of the most important human rights treaties and complied with its obligations.

By way of example, he said Cuba was the eighth country to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2009, and the fifth country to ratify the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  In the Commission on Human Rights, as well as the current the Human Rights Council, Cuba had championed the need to prioritize economic, social and cultural rights on the same level as civil and political rights.  Cuba was among the first nations to receive the High Commissioner for Human Rights, just one year after the creation of that post, and had welcomed missions of various thematic procedures of both the Commission and the Council, in line with its commitment to cooperate with universal human rights mechanisms.  Recalling that Cuba had attained “excellent results” in the Universal Periodic Review, he expressed hope that sanctions taken against countries of the global South, which granted impunity to the countries of the North did not recur in the United Nations human rights system.

AZUSA SHINOHARA ( Japan) expressed hope that the review of the Human Rights Council would enable the United Nations to take a comprehensive approach to human rights issues, as the Organization must not cease its efforts to make changes to existing mechanisms to further its effectiveness and efficiency.  Through the Human Rights Council’s new reporting procedure, for example, State parties’ written responses to issues raised by the Committee would be considered as the periodic report required under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  That new reporting procedure, to soon come into effect, would allow the Committee to conduct a more focused dialogue with States parties and reduce parties’ reporting obligations.  For its part, Japan had been implementing all international human rights treaties to which it was a party.

Regarding gender equality, she said Japan would establish the third basic plan for gender equality this year, which included measures to publicize the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, recommendations of the monitoring Committee and an explanation of how Japan was responding to those recommendations.  Japan also had twice amended its law for the prevention of spousal violence and the protection of victims.  Moreover, Japan had reformed systems relating to the rights of persons with disabilities and planned to promote international cooperation in that area.  Finally, her Government attached great importance to the United Nations’ role in establishing universal normative standards, and considered the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which Japan ratified last July, an extremely important legal framework. She expressed hope that all States would ratify that instrument.  Japan fully supported efforts to reform international frameworks to promote and protect human rights and was committed to engaging in those discussions.

Mr. AL-MESALLAM (Qatar) said his country attached great importance to human rights at all levels, in keeping with the overall reforms put into place under the Emir.  Qatar’s attachment to human rights was reflected in its Constitution, which enshrined fundamental economic, social, cultural, civil and political freedoms.  A number of laws had been enacted in that regard, including the criminal code, which had been amended in line with United Nations conventions against torture and other degrading and inhumane treatment.   Qatar had acceded to conventions regarding the elimination of discrimination against women, preventing the trafficking of persons and combating organized crime.  The country had joined a number of other regional conventions, such as the Arab Charter of Human Rights, all of which carried the force of law in Qatar.  At the government level, an office for human rights was created within the ministry of the interior, the ministry of foreign affairs and the ministry of labour.

He stated that offices for the protection of children and to fight trafficking of persons were established, promoting the country’s work with regional institutions and cooperation with other Arab nations.  To defend journalists, an institution for the promotion of journalists’ rights was established.  Regional centres were set up to document human rights issues and to build capacity through information-sharing, awareness-raising and training.  The efforts of Qatar to promote human rights were enshrined in its foreign policy, which was based on settling international disputes peacefully and through international cooperation. Qatar hosted international conferences on development, human rights and peace, as well as on financing for development and on interfaith dialogue with the Muslim world.  Qatar had also participated in the Human Rights Council, adding to the international community’s efforts to promote human rights.

GRIGORY LUKIYANTSEV ( Russian Federation) quoted the President of his country on the need for human rights standards to be applied universally.  To do so would ensure that they could not be applied selectively.  Too often, human rights were seen as an instrument of foreign policy, and a problem that only emerged in other countries.  Such a perspective had been seen in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council.  This year marked the 65th anniversary of the most important event ever in human history, the victory over the Nazis after a war that had claimed millions of lives.  It was at that time that the United Nations had been formed, and it must be remembered that it was as a result of that victory that an international modern system to protect human rights had been born.

Four years after its creation, it could be said that the Human Rights Council had proven its usefulness, and that it was worthy of the responsibilities and duties assigned to it, he said.  It did not need to be reformed; rather, it was the spirit of cooperation in the Council and in the realm of human rights, as a whole, that needed to be reviewed.  A review of the status of the Human Rights Council was not expeditious at this point in time.  Focus should be put instead on resolving the division of labour between the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly, particularly the Third Committee.  New criteria for election to the Human Rights Council were unnecessary.  An important indicator of the importance that Russia attached to human rights would be the visit next year by the High Commissioner for Human Rights; it would surely give new impetus to cooperation between the Russian Federation and the Human Rights Council.

AAREF ABDULLA ALTENAIJI ( United Arab Emirates) said that his country had endeavoured to include principles of human rights in its constitution and its regional legislation included principles such as equality, social justice, freedom of expression, the right of association and prohibition of torture.  The United Arab Emirates had joined 15 international instruments regarding human rights including eliminating all forms of discrimination, combating organized crime, preventing trafficking in women and children and promoting basic labour rights for workers and had ratified the Arab charter on human rights.  It also promoted measures to accede to the convention against torture, and had acceded to the optional protocol regarding the rights of children, including preventing the sale of children, and child prostitution and pornography. 

He said the United Arab Emirates had developed machinery for protecting human rights and had adopted special measures to enforce that machinery, such as establishing a national committee to combat trafficking in persons, to promote social rights and to implement labour rules and the rights of workers.  More than three million workers from more than 100 countries were in the United Arab Emirates, many on special contracts, and the Government tried to protect their rights, facilitate their work and solve their problems.  Special measures on domestic labour regarding girls and women from other countries had been established.  The United Arab Emirates was also studying the first law of its kind in the region, which regulated the work of domestic workers and housewives and aimed to prevent all forms of discrimination against women.

His country established associations of human rights, as well as a special administration to provide psychological and legal assistance to those who were abused and charity associations were set up to help victims who were trafficked.  An awareness of human rights principles was promoted by training people in the field of law and in international regulations regarding human rights.  The country also participated in the protection of human rights in all parts of world in its position as a principle donor.  The largest part of its assistance sought to meet basic needs like food, housing, medicine, education and infrastructure through financial grants and development projects.

TURDAKUN SYDYKOV ( Kyrgyzstan) said that 2010 had been a turning point for his country.  It was the year that its people had, in reaction to corruption and lawlessness, chosen the path of true democratic development.  Radical forces in the south, trying to get revenge, provoked a conflict between ethnic groups in which more than 400 people had lost their lives, many more were wounded, and many buildings destroyed.  It had been noted by the United Nations that the conflict had been provoked on purpose, in order to destabilize the political situation.  Kyrgyzstan did not believe that those bloody events were the result of ethnic strife; rather, they went back to economic and political sources.  The Government was trying to stabilize the situation and to address the origins of the conflict; an international independent committee was doing likewise, with the support of the United Nations, the European Union and others.  A new ethnic policy was also being elaborated, based on the difficult experience in the south.

Kyrgyzstan was striving to build a Government for which the rights and well-being of its citizens would be the priority, he said.  A new Constitution had been approved, establishing a parliamentary form of government and eliminating capital punishment.  Human rights were an integral part of the work of the Government, which had taken on the obligations of around 40 international documents on human rights.  The global initiative against torture was welcomed by Kyrgyzstan, as were international efforts towards the universalization of human rights.  Of the 160 recommendations directed at the country during the Universal Periodic Review, 127 had been adopted voluntarily.  Recommendations from the Human Rights Council would be taken into account in a national plan of action that was now in development.  Kyrgyzstan was firmly committed to fulfilling its human rights obligations, and in cooperation with the Human Rights Council it was prepared to promote and protect human rights. 

MIYOBA MUZUMBWE-KATONGO ( Zambia) said his country continued to take legislative, administrative and other measures to implement the various international and regional human rights instruments to which Zambia was party.  To that end, the final draft constitution, adopted by the National Constitutional Conference, contained a Bill of Rights that recognized economic, social and cultural rights, which would build upon the civil and political rights previously outlined in Zambia’s draft constitution.  Other notable progress, he explained, included the enactment of the National Prosecutions Authority Act, 2010, which would provide the framework for a fair and equitable criminal justice system, and the Immigration and Deportation Act, 2010, to protect persons seeking asylum in Zambia.  In addition, the Anti-Gender-Based Violence Bill, introduced by the Zambian Government into Parliament, was a step toward ending violence against women and implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Further, acknowledging the pivotal role respect of the law plays in realizing human rights, he said the Zambian Government created the Public Interest Disclosure Act (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2010, which would allow people to disclose misconduct of officials without fear of reprisal.  In addition, it created a Disaster Management Act to ensure preparedness and mitigation of relief in the face of natural disaster, which could threaten the people’s basic rights to food, shelter and sanitation.  A Sex Crimes Unit and the Victim Support Unit, to protect persons from sexual assault, rape and other forms of violence had also been created.  In keeping with its commitment to promote and protect the rights of children, Zambia took measures to mainstream human rights education, particularly children’s rights, in the high school curriculum.  In closing, he said while Zambia recognized the need for the States to monitor the implementation of human rights, his country continued to face material and technical challenges in the timely submission of its State party reports.  Finally, he expressed his gratitude for continued support by partners in Zambia’s effort to promote and protect human rights.

MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) said that human rights had always been at the crux of history, and related to ensuring daily bread, safe water and the right to housing. It was essential to consider that issue with regard to each individual country, as they were shaped through the passage of time.  Syria had accorded special attention to ensuring human rights relating to civic, political, social and cultural issues.  Those rights had been stipulated in the country’s Constitution and laws, which said that state institutions should defend them.  Syria had endorsed more than 25 instruments of human rights, including the seven main instruments.  The last two decades of the 20th century had witnessed an acceleration in political developments, reflecting satisfaction and hope in some categories, but frustration in others.  There were mixed feelings and confusion, in spite of great progress.  Local and international disputes had caused human disasters and the most heinous crimes, including murder and ethnic cleansing.  In spite of resolutions that included promises of peace and security, politicization and foreign aggression occurred.

She stated that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for taking international measures to ensure the implementation and monitoring of human rights regarding people under the yoke of foreign occupation.  Foreign occupation was a violation of human rights and, therefore, to put an end to that violation, an end to occupation itself was needed.  Syria called upon the international community, more than ever, to show solidarity without any selectivity or double standards and to accord priority to the most heinous and cruel crimes of occupation, which were reflected in the grave human rights violations of Israel.  Those violations included Israel’s policy of torture, collective punishment, embargo, and displacement of the Arab population from its houses and territories.

MOJTABA ALIBABAEE ( Iran) said the Human Rights Council was the premiere global forum for human rights and stressed that its practice of addressing differences through dialogue and flexibility should continue.  His country had submitted a detailed and substantiated national report to the Council in February.  In addition, Iran had submitted a third periodic report on the basis of article 40 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as a second periodic report on the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  With regard to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he noted that the Iranian Minister for Foreign Affairs had signed the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict on 21 September. 

Continuing, he said Iran was preparing its third and fourth reports for submission to the Committee on the Rights of the Child later this year.  More recently, Iran had defended its eighteenth and nineteenth periodic reports in the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  His country viewed the treaty body system for monitoring international human rights instruments as “one of the most important achievements of the United Nations human rights mechanism”.  Barriers such as embargoes, unilateral coercive measures and foreign occupations could potentially hinder a country’s natural development.  Therefore, the principles of universality and indivisibility, as well as the interrelatedness of all human rights, should be fully respected.  All countries should respect the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and take into account national and regional particularities, he stressed. 

SHASHI THARDOOR ( India) said human rights were inalienable rights afforded every person – inalienable meaning absolute, sacred and incapable of being surrendered.  Thus, the significance of those rights could not be overstated and they were the cornerstone of the United Nations Charter. The United Nations mission of promoting and protecting those rights began with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and had been reinforced over the past 60 years with a series of international instruments, the most recent being the Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  That Convention was a reminder that human rights consisted not only of civil and political rights that the world media tended to focus on.  A comprehensive debate on human rights was only possible if the world understood the importance of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, and their links to civil and political rights.

Since the multiple treaty bodies had imposed several constraints on effective and timely submission of country reports, India welcomed the streamlining of the reporting process, which had preserved scarce resources and also assisted the Committees of the Treaty Bodies to make assessments and practical recommendations that strengthened domestic legal regimes.  Treaty bodies played an extremely valuable role in various developing countries, but had to acknowledge development, democracy and human rights were interrelated issues if they were to fully promote fundamental freedoms.  The Indian Government would continue to fulfil reporting obligations under various treaties, but had concerns about the delay in examination of country reports by treaty bodies. He supported every initiative to speed up the process, including holding additional meetings to optimize the number of reports that the treat bodies can consider and urged the OHCHR to take all necessary measures to deal with the existing backlog of country reports.  He went on to commend the effort made by all participating States and civil society as well as OHCHR to make the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process a success.  UPR was a positive, unique mechanism that enhanced the commitment to improve human rights on the ground.  As a founding member of the United Nations and as a liberal, secular democracy, India would continue to play its part to contribute to realization of the ideas enshrined in the International Bill of Human Rights.  It attached the highest importance to the work of human rights institutions, and would continue to play a role making them work.

RAJAB GAMAHA (United Republic of Tanzania) noted the conductive environment between his Government, Tanzanian civil society and the media in which to promote and protect human rights.  Such protection, he said, was not only guaranteed by institutional and legal mechanisms, such as the courts, but by regional and international instruments as well.  His country had mainstreamed human rights as indicators within its National Development Vision 2025 for mainland Tanzania and its Vision 2020 for Zanzibar.  Further, the country was incorporating methods of good governance, access to justice and the advancement of women, among others, into the second stage of its National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (NSGRP).  In 2009, his country presented its fourth International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Periodic Report before the Human Rights Committee and was already implementing the Committee’s recommendations.  The only constraint to full implementation was his country’s limited resources and, to that end, he hoped that the international community would assist in achieving the goals of the review. 

He said that other strides towards ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights included, among others, its report to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR); the preparation for submission of the consolidated seventeenth and eighteenth report on the International Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD); and, in domesticating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a comprehensive policy and legal framework to guarantee children’s rights in their entirety.  He also noted his country’s progress in its ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Peoples with Disabilities, which was now being mainstreamed into Tanzania’s National Strategy.  However, here too, he said, this “Herculean task” was facing resource constraints and he welcomed assistance for that as well.  On a regional level, the implementation of the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights recommendations was progressing and his country had just completed the African Peer Review Mechanism scrutiny.  Concluding, he said that a National Human Rights Plan of Action was being developed, but as with other initiatives, the main concern facing his country was the limits of its financial resources.  To that end, he welcomed the support of the international community, so that his country could fully realize human rights. 

KIM BONGHYUN ( Republic of Korea) regretted the persistent violation of human rights in many parts of the world.  The gap between norms and practices was long-standing and daunting.  Stronger efforts had to be made by all stakeholders.  States needed to lend more support to treaty bodies and to cooperate with them.  Universal periodic review and country visits were useful tools to ensure that States were meeting their treaty obligations.  The failure of some States to cooperate with Special Rapporteurs was a matter of serious concern.  As a State party to seven core human rights treaties, the Republic of Korea had sought to cooperate with all treaty bodies.  Its Government took its recommendations seriously, making serious efforts to implement them in good faith.

That the procedure of universal periodic review had been taking root was welcome, he said.  Hopefully, that would lead to changes on the ground.  Universal periodic review was a valuable tool for monitoring implementation and States should pay more attention to recommendations.  The process of universal periodic review should not be used for defending human rights violations.  OHCHR was encouraged to keep playing a significant role in promoting human rights, in close cooperation with various stakeholders.  Its report to the General Assembly demonstrated its far-reaching engagement, and it was hoped that it would continue to play its important role with independence and impartiality.  The credibility of the Human Rights Council should be further enhanced by the upcoming review process.  Ways should be found by the Council to enhance the way it addressed emergency human rights situations and to increase the impact of its work.  The Republic of Korea had been a member of the Council since its establishment and it would endeavour to contribute to the review process by participating in its discussions.

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said his Government’s recent ratification of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, among others, showed its will to maintain a high level of engagement on human rights issues.  In line with relevant norms of the United Nations and the Paris Principles, the National Consultative Commission was an independent body placed next to the President, guaranteeing the public’s fundamental rights and liberties. Reform of the educational system had emphasized human rights education through an obligatory course and review of scholastic manuals teaching the principles of tolerance, dialogue and the culture of peace. Algeria promoted and protected human rights without distinguishing among civil, political, economic, social or cultural rights.  The revision of various codes and legislative texts aimed to ensure the best framework for the protection of human rights.

Among Algeria’s advances, he noted placing in the constitution the promotion of women’s political rights, facilitating women’s access to and representation in elected assemblies and their participation in decision-making at all levels.  Adherence to international human rights instruments must not be selective. Algeria’s implementation of the migrant workers Convention was weakened by the fact that industrialized countries had not ratified that accord.  Countries that had ratified that instrument were mainly countries of origin for migratory flows.  No developed country among those welcoming the Convention had ratified it.  Human rights today were maintained by an inequitable global order that marginalized the ideals of peace, progress and prosperity.  The right to self-determination for people living under foreign occupation was a prerequisite for an international order based on respect for human rights.

Speaking on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, MOJTABA ALIBABAEE ( Iran) said that its adoption marked a turning point in the promotion of human rights.  To promote the common objective of the Declaration, equal attention must be given to the economic, social, as well as political and civil rights, together with the binding nature of the right to development.  The reality was that the existing international order continued to “be led by selectivity and economic and political exploitations” and he emphasized that political considerations should not impact upon the promotion and protection of human rights.  The religious and national particularities, as well as the cultural diversities, needed to be considered when working towards international harmony, he stated, and the majority of xenophobic instances seemed directed at Islam and Muslims.  The most recent, “Burn a Koran Day” was, he observed, met with reproaches, but there needed to be clear actions against such movements. 

One third of the world’s population was currently living in abject poverty, which undermined basic human rights and impeded access to justice by those affected.  Thus, he said, poverty alleviation should be a “central theme of the human rights machinery” and that the burden of such efforts should by carried by States that utilized labour forces of other countries.  Continuing, he pointed out that his country had supported improving the coordination, efficiency and effectiveness of the Organization’s human rights agencies and organs.  Iran had also initiated a number of human rights dialogues through its involvement with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and the Organization of the Islamic Conference Members, among others and was host to the NAM Centre for Human Rights and Cultural Diversity, whose activities were focused on realizing the objectives of the Tehran Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights and Cultural Diversity.  Concluding, he said that the Vienna Declaration’s emphasis on the right to development, which was an inextricable component of human rights, remained “as urgent today as it was in 1993”.  Its twenty-fifth anniversary in 2011 offered an opportunity to realize that right for all.

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