|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
26th & 27th Meetings (AM & PM)
Past Trends towards Increasing ‘Criminalization’ of Irregular Migration Continue;
Migrants Face Racism, Abuse, Appalling Housing Conditions, Third Committee Told
Three UN Experts Address Migrant Issues; Others Speak on Extrajudicial Execution,
Right to Development, Judicial Independence; Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
United Nations experts charged with examining the human rights of migrants told the Third Committee today that over the past two years the trend towards the “increasing criminalization” of irregular migration had continued, with migrants facing racist attacks, abuse and “appalling” housing conditions throughout the world.
As the Committee wrapped up its first week devoted to the promotion and protection of human rights, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the chair of the monitoring body of the Convention on migrants’ rights and the expert on adequate housing all took the floor to point out the need to better protect migrant rights and ensure human rights principles, rather than just security and border concerns, were “mainstreamed” into government migration policies.
Jorge Bustamente, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, recalled how he had called the attention of the Human Rights Council in 2008 to the increasing criminalization of irregular migration and the abuses of migrants. “Two years later, I observe with concern that the trend towards criminalization continues,” he said. There had been insufficient progress on mainstreaming human rights into migration governance, despite the fact that “migration can be an essential component of development and prosperity in countries of destination, transit and origin in all regions of the world”.
Migration policies that aimed solely to address security and border control concerns not only lacked human and protection approaches, but also failed to deter irregular immigration or discourage migrants’ smuggling and human trafficking, he said. Criminalizing irregular migrants for the offence of being in a country without adequate documentation made all migrants — regardless of immigration status — vulnerable to potential racist or xenophobic acts, and disregarded migrants’ human rights, he added.
Abdelhamid El Jamri, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, said there were more than 200 million international migrants in the world today. They contributed to the wealth of destination countries, but despite the adoption in 1990 by the General Assembly of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, incidents of “terrible violence” and xenophobia had taken place recently. There had also been an upturn in discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuses. With only 43 States parties to the Convention so far, he appealed to other Member States to consider doing so.
Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, said that most migrants did not enjoy the right to adequate housing. “To the contrary, they endure appalling housing conditions,” she said. Many lived in metal containers with insufficient ventilation and electricity or water, while migrant domestic workers — often women — were forced to sleep in the bathrooms, kitchens or closets. She appealed to States and the international community to address the problem in a more comprehensive way, with a human rights approach.
The Committee also heard from Maggie Nicholson, the Deputy Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on behalf of the late Arjun Sengupta, Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development, who briefed delegations on the Working Group’s eleventh session and its discussions vis-à-vis the Millennium Development Goals.
In the afternoon session, the Committee heard from Christof Heyns, appearing for the first time in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions. He stressed the untapped potential of new information and communication technologies (ICT) vis-à-vis human rights. New technologies could, he said, enable real-time reporting of incidents, provide investigators with access to new types of data as supporting evidence of human rights abuses; and present new advocacy opportunities through social media such as Facebook or Twitter. He recommended that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) convene an expert group to delve further into the matter.
Gabriela Knaul then presented her first report to the Committee as Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. As she had done at the Human Rights Council earlier, she underlined the importance of the training of judges, magistrates, prosecutors and lawyers in international law and human rights, and the role of national judicial systems in combating impunity concerning violations of human rights. Impunity was the perpetrator of more crimes, she said, because without fair criminal penalties, further human rights violations would be committed. Impunity undermined democracy and confidence in the institutions of the State, she added.
Finally, the Committee heard from Marzuki Darusman, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. As he had officially assumed responsibility for the mandate on 1 August 2010, he had not yet conducted any visits or engaged with relevant stakeholders; he therefore focused on his proposed methodology. He said he saw the current transition as a fresh opportunity to begin renewed engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on protecting human rights. He would be visiting the region before presenting his first report to the Human Rights Council in March 2011, and pledge to make “an independent assessment of the situation” based on constructive engagement.
In the dialogue that followed, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea disputed remarks made by other delegations. “There is no systematic violation of human rights in my country,” he said, adding that it was his country’s principled position that it neither recognized nor accepted the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
During the dialogue with the Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, the representatives of Algeria, Morocco and the International Organization for Migration spoke.
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the representatives of Sudan, Iran, United States, European Union, International Organization for Migration and Algeria spoke.
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on adequate housing, the representatives of the European Union spoke.
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the representatives of Pakistan, Switzerland, Cuba, European Union, Canada, United States and Liechtenstein spoke.
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, the representatives of Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, European Union, Switzerland, Venezuela and Sudan spoke.
During the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United States, Republic of Korea, Japan, European Union, United Kingdom, China, Canada, Switzerland and Australia spoke.
The Committee will meet again on at 10 a.m. Monday, 25 October, when it will hear from the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children; the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
The Third Committee met today to continue its discussion of the promotion and protection of human rights. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3983 of 19 October 2010).
It had before it the Report of the Secretary-General on promotion and protection of human rights, including ways and means to promote the human rights of migrants (document A/65/156). The report contains a summary of replies concerning the implementation of General Assembly resolution 63/184 from Egypt, Guatemala, Qatar, Serbia and Spain, and resolution 64/166 from Belarus, Greece, Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey. It also provides information on the status of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and on the activities of the Convention’s monitoring Committee, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the universal periodic review of the Human Rights Council, and of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), with particular reference to activities and partnerships in the context of promoting the rights of migrant children.
The Secretary-General’s report concludes by urging Member States: to integrate the rights and participation of migrant children into the formulation, implementation and monitoring of all relevant legislation and administrative regulations; to end the criminalization of irregular migrants and first explore adequate alternatives to such detention, particularly for children; to adopt comprehensive national plans of action, informed by international human rights standards, to strengthen the protection of migrants; and to achieve policy coherence at the national, regional and international levels regarding issues associated with migration, including ensuring coordinated child protection policies and systems across borders.
It also had before it the note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/65/321). This report by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston focuses on the relevance of new technologies in tackling the challenge of extrajudicial executions and the rampant impunity that attaches to the phenomenon. The report notes that it is a cliché that new technologies, especially in the domains of information, communications, and weaponry, have transformed the world of the twenty-first century. In contrast, however, the human rights community often seems determined to remain firmly rooted in the twentieth century. It has failed to take adequate advantage of the opportunities offered by new technologies, whether for fact-finding, monitoring or supervision of States’ obligations. And it has been remarkably slow in coming to grips with the implications of new technologies in areas such as robotics.
In the report, the Special Rapporteur examines: new technologies and human rights fact-finding; targeted killings, such as those in recent years by the United States of America, Israel and the Russian Federation, and accountability; and extrajudicial executions and robotic technologies. He recommends the creation of two expert groups. One would examine the more effective use of emerging information and communication technology for human rights monitoring and protection, and the other would examine proactive steps to be taken to ensure that robotic technologies are optimized in terms of their capacity to promote more effective compliance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
Also before the Committee was a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (document A/65/274) The report addresses the need to establish, strengthen and develop a strong judiciary within the national criminal justice system, composed of independent and impartial judges and magistrates, as a fundamental tool in the fight against impunity. According to the Special Rapporteur, Gabriela Knaul, a human rights violation that goes unpunished is the source of the commission of other crimes or violations.
The Special Rapporteur examines the role that judicial actors play within the criminal justice system to ensure accountability for human rights violations, and provides examples to illustrate the relationship between national and international criminal justice systems. The Special Rapporteur examines and evaluates obstacles and factors that hinder the effective investigation, prosecution and adjudication of violations and addresses issues relating to enhancing the criminal justice system at its various levels. She also analyzes how national criminal justice systems can be structured using the human rights-based approach at the institutional and organizational levels to combat impunity.
In her recommendations, the Special Rapporteur calls on States to develop a human rights-based approach when developing an impunity strategy. The principles of participation and inclusion; apportioning the roles of duty-bearers and rights-holders; focus on vulnerable groups; legal empowerment; transparency and accountability and identification of obligations, should be taken into account. She recommends designing a mapping exercise; the creation of an appropriate database; and strengthening awareness-raising and participation. She believes that the work of truth and reconciliation commissions and other commissions of inquiry can be complementary to the role of judicial mechanisms in combating impunity.
Analyzing recent developments in the field of international justice, the Special Rapporteur also calls upon States to cooperate fully with the international tribunals, in particular with the International Criminal Court, and to implement in full their decisions and resolutions, as well as their arrest warrants. She also calls upon those tribunals to constitute a model in respect of due process and of the rights of detainees to a fair trial.
In addition, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing (document A/65/261). It analyzes as a specific theme to legal entitlements and protections granted to migrants with respect to the right to housing in international treaties and other international legal instruments. To shed light on the reach of the applicable legal provisions and their applicability to migrants, it examines the interpretation of the relevant human rights monitoring mechanisms. The report also assesses the challenges faced by documented and undocumented migrants in gaining access to adequate housing, paying particular attention to the situation of migrant workers in low-skilled and informal jobs, undocumented migrants, migrants belonging to minority groups and migrant women and children.
Additionally, it explores some regulations and public policies affecting the right to adequate housing of migrants and provides examples of good practices. Recommendations addressed to Governments on how to guarantee the right of migrants to adequate housing include: adopting a national housing strategy that establishes the objectives and available resources, time frame and responsibilities for the development of appropriate housing conditions; ensuring that laws, strategies and plans of action address discrimination by public and private actors regarding to the right to adequate housing; informing and advising migrants of their rights regarding housing; monitoring homelessness, inadequate housing, and the exclusionary effects of housing markets; and combating xenophobia by ensuring that no legislative acts reinforce discrimination against migrants with regard to housing.
Finally, the Committee had before it a report from the Secretary-General entitled Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/65/391), which provides an overview of continued human rights concerns and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country during the reporting period, from August 2009 to August 2010. The report also provides information regarding the level of engagement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea with the international human rights mechanisms. Further, the report highlights progress made by the Government in providing humanitarian assistance with the help of various United Nations offices, such as the World Food Programme, the World Health Organization, the United Nations Population Fund, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the United Nations Development Programme. Finally, the report contains specific recommendations, addressed to both the international community and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It also had a note by the Secretary-General on the Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/65/381) conveying a report submitted by the Special Rapporteur on the subject, Marzuki Darusman. It states that time constraints since his appointment in August 2010, limited the conduct of visits and his ability to engage with relevant stakeholders. The report primarily focuses on the broad methodology that he proposes to adopt while discharging the functions of the mandate. His approach entails, first, identifying an entry point or issue and then developing and building upon it, however insignificant it may be seen at the beginning. The approach could start with a humanitarian direction, without in any way diminishing the human rights dimension. Apart from endeavouring to engage with the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he will interact with other entities, such as civil society, the international community and the relevant bodies of the United Nations. He concludes by emphasizing the approach of constructive dialogue with the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the international community and civil society.
Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
The Committee first heard a statement from ABDELHAMID EL JAMRI, Chair of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. The world today had more than 200 million international migrants, he said. With globalization, labour mobility had become a key element of development and prosperity in all parts of the world. Economic data and research had demonstrated the positive impact that the protection of migrant workers had on national development and productivity. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, adopted 20 years ago by the General Assembly, was a road map for States in drafting and implementing policies relating to migrant labour.
Despite the Convention, however, incidents of terrible violence and xenophobia directed at migrants had taken place recently, together with a resurgence of discrimination, exclusion, exploitation and abuses. The Convention makes a distinction between documented and undocumented migrant workers, as one of its main objectives was to support efforts by States to combat irregular and clandestine immigration. The Committee was concerned to see, in some countries, policies detrimental to the rights of migrants. Under the Convention, States had an obligation to protect the fundamental rights of all migrant workers, including those in an irregular situation.
To date, initial reports from 13 States parties to the Convention had been examined, with gaps identified and recommendations formulated, he said. Such reports enabled the Committee to identify topics of common concern, or issues less frequently encountered, such as the need for legislative reforms, improved collection of data, and ensuring that undocumented workers were not deprived of the right of effective recourse. Domestic workers were a subject close to the heart of the Committee, which has been working on a “general commentary number one” that it expected to adopt shortly.
He recalled a number of forums relating to migrant workers in which his Committee had participated since November 2009. He also recalled the joint declaration of the Global Migration Group on the rights of migrants in an irregular situation, adopted on 30 September 2010. That document stated that, all too often, States dealt with irregular migration only through the lens of sovereignty, border security and law enforcement. It served as a reminder that fundamental rights applied to all persons, regardless of their migratory status.
There has been increasing debate on human rights and migration at the national and international levels, he said. More attention was being given to migration during the Universal Periodic Review. Migration issues had been raised in connection with 91 of the 112 States examined by the Human Rights Council through its session in February this year. The Committee, nevertheless, regretted the limited number of States that had ratified the Convention. With 43 States parties, the lack of ratification was a real challenge. Delays in the submission of initial reports was also a problem; to date, only 20 had been submitted and 31 were overdue, in some cases for more than five years. The Committee envisioned the possibility of examining the application of the Convention in the absence of reporting, a practice already employed by other treaty bodies. Given the benefits of the rights of migrants for all concerned, States which had yet to ratify the Convention were urged to consider doing so. It was the point of reference for the protection of migrants and their families, and its twentieth anniversary was an opportunity to strive for its universal acceptance.
Question and Answer Session
Mr. JAMRI, The Chair of the Committee on Migrant Rights then, fielded a number of questions from delegates.
Responding to the comment of the representative of Algeria regarding the need for objectivity when reporting on and providing conclusions about the situation of migrants in countries, the Chair stated that his Committee had examined Algeria’s report last April and considered it a positive step regarding the situation of migrants coming from Algeria and in host countries. He assured Algeria that his Committee was independent and all that recommendations made were completely impartial. There had been an exchange on some of its recommendations and, during the next session, from 22 November to 3 December, they would examine the memorandum of Algeria that was published on its website in Geneva and would examine the points raised by Algeria. He urged Algeria to continue engaging in dialogues with the Committee, as that was essential for the region, where migrants experienced difficulty, and he stated his desire to move towards closer cooperation.
The representative of Morocco, stating that there were over 200 million migrants around world, asked whether the hardening of positions focused on security issues would compromise efforts by the international community to cope with the situation of vulnerable migrants, as well as whether there were examples of good practices that could be taken into account regarding the needs of migrants. The Chair responded that, most of the 200 million migrants immigrated from south to north, but South-South migration was enormous too, constituting 750 million people; so, that phenomenon needed to be looked at such as through conducting studies to understand it. Economies today were contributing to creating new categories of migrants that were vulnerable, including regular documented workers and seasonal workers, to the detriment of more full-time workers. There were social agents that defended the rights of migrants, including trade unions, but during the economic crisis, some of those social bodies provided less defence — as seen through the “clause of national preference” in northern countries — so migrants had had a harder time protecting their rights.
They were seeing the beginning of efforts by immigrant workers to defend their own rights, such as immigrant workers who went on strike because they were not paid, he continued. However, host countries needed to conduct studies to understand their needs in the short term, and determine which issues could lead to a situation of disrespect for migrant rights. Regarding good practices, there were different reports regarding all countries that provided examples, including in the areas of education, health care and housing. There were also regional good practices noted by international organizations, such as the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the International Labour Organizations (ILO).
Concerning the question of the IOM about what more could be done to promote the rights of migrants by organizations like the IOM, which had been analyzing not just migration law but trafficking and trade law, he said the topic of migration had become very complex and that knowledge had to be developed on all levels. To implement good policies, all dimensions needed to be involved, including legal, social and educational aspects. It was necessary to act at all those different levels, to look at the issue in each country and to provide a progressive response. There was an initiative implemented by the European Union concerning the migratory profile of Member States. In thinking of immigration policies, it was important to look at the needs of countries of origin, which were losing qualified individuals like artisans and masons. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, was losing 50 per cent of its qualified people. They could do more by focusing on strengthening competencies with regard to the roles of each organization and their abilities to act in different parts of the world. A great deal of discussion and debate had also taken place concerning the move from the economic aspect of migration and the negative impact of “brain drain,” to a focus on the human rights dimension of protecting migrants.
Special Rapporteur on migrant human rights
JORGE BUSTAMENTE, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, noted his activities, such as recent visits to Senegal and Japan, and plans to visit South Africa, Albania and Greece, as well as his presentation of a thematic report to the Human Rights Council last June on the rights to health and adequate housing in the context of migration, which stressed that States must take concrete steps to realize the human rights of migrants at all stages of migratory processes in countries of origin, transit and destination. In 2008, he called the attention of the Human Rights Council to the increasing criminalization of irregular migration and the abuses of migrants. “Two years later, I observed with concern that the trend towards criminalization continues” In addition, insufficient progress had been made in mainstreaming human rights into migration governance. “Yet, migration can be an essential component of development and prosperity in countries of destination, transit and origin in all regions of the world, and migrant labour continues to be vital,” he said.
Migration policies that aimed solely to address security and border control concerns lacked human and protection approaches, and did not serve the purpose of deterring irregular immigration and discouraging migrants’ smuggling and human trafficking. Criminalizing irregular migrants for the offence of being in a country without adequate documentation made all migrants, regardless of immigration status, vulnerable to potential racist or xenophobic acts, and tended to disregard migrants’ human rights. Irregular migration was a complex phenomenon with multiple and interrelated causes, including the existence of restrictive controls in some countries of destination, restrictions on legal avenues for migration, a rise in unemployment and social exclusion in countries of origin, increased structural disparities within countries and pull factors in destination countries like increased demand in the informal sectors of the labour market. Reaffirming that managing irregular migration was a shared responsibility between countries of destination and of origin, he advocated for more data regarding the demand for the labour force in different sectors, in order to favour labour mobility through legal migration channels and adoption of regional rights-based frameworks on migration management.
He stated his regret that immigration procedures routinely included detention as the main, or even only, interim measure of migration control, as well as his concern that immigration detention was applied without any judicial oversight. “Administrative detention should be considered as a measure of last resort,” he said, stating that judicial safeguards should be provided for, as migrants were, first and foremost, human beings, entitled to treatment in compliance with international human rights law. Regarding migration-related detention of children, he stressed that it should be avoided and States should require alternative migration policies that included child-friendly measures facilitating regularization, access to social rights and family unity. The criminalization of irregular migration further limited victims’ access to justice and protection and decreased the likelihood that they would report abuse to authorities. Noting that migrants detained for using forged documentation or not having authorization were exposed to heightened risks of being smuggled or trafficked, he stated that victims of trafficking must be protected against criminalization and “double victimization” — first, as victims of human trafficking and, then, as victims of law enforcement policies.
He outlined a number of initiatives, activities and policies implemented by Governments, intergovernmental and civil society organizations and the private sector that indicated a genuine commitment to the realization of human rights while managing irregular migration. Creating opportunities for regular migration was a key strategy to address the root causes of irregular migration and discourage migrant struggling, human trafficking, and other forms of abuse and exploitation, especially child labour, he said. He also welcomed recent large-scale regularization programmes in some States, which had improved the enjoyment of human rights by migrants, particularly economic and social rights, and contributed to their integration in countries of destination. The enjoyment of human rights by migrants, regardless of immigration status, was a crucial means of ensuring equitable human development and migrant’s social development and justice. “Migrants can play an active role in the social and economic development of host countries and contribute to the development of countries of origin and transit, particularly when their human rights are fulfilled in a manner that ensures equal opportunities and gender equality,” he said.
Question and Answer Session
Mr. BUSTAMANTE then took questions and heard comments from a number of representatives, including that of Algeria who spoke of the migration of professionals, such as doctors whose qualifications were not recognized in the country of destination, and inquired about the detention of migrants in Canada. The Special Rapporteur replied that, while he had not visited Canada, he had insisted on visiting detention centres in those places that he had visited in his mandate. Were he to be invited to Canada, he would request similar access.
Responding to the representative of Iran, he said that, with regard to the Durban Convention, one of the most important elements of discrimination he had noticed had been with regard to child labour. Such discrimination of human rights should be taken into account by States, “including my own,” where child labour had been rampant and growing.
Responding to the representatives of Iran, Algeria and the International Organization for Migration, he suggested yearly statistical reporting on the actual demand for irregular migrants, divided by economic sector. Doing so would be good practice for destination countries and demonstrate how such migration contributed to their production of wealth.
Responding to the representative of the United States, he recommended “with due respect” a report by the Cardozo institute entitled “Constitution on ICE”; it would respond very clearly to practices “in which I will not go into detail” that involved the violation of the human rights of migrants.
Responding to the representative of the European Union, he said that recognition of the demand for irregular migrants in Europe was encouraging. On the other hand, a statement in the European Parliament about return migration was discouraging, as it induced the criminalization of migration. It was important to avoid “double victimization” — a situation in which a migrant was first a victim of trafficking, and then subjected to the enforcement of immigration law.
RAQUEL ROLNIK, Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context, then addressed the Committee on the right of international migrants to adequate housing, an “increasingly worrying” issue that she had come across in almost every activity undertaken in the framework of her mandate.
Large and growing numbers of people were migrating between countries; almost half of those migrants were women, and half of all international migrants were moving South-South, she said. While there were few restrictions to international flow of capital and goods, migrants faced obstacles and requirements which, while ineffective in reducing their numbers, contributed to their vulnerability. Despite the significant contribution that migrants made to destination countries, migration was seen as a security issue. With no housing policies to facilitate their integration, migrants often faced discrimination in the housing market. They were also likely to be housed in inadequate locations, and in overcrowded conditions, with poor or no facilities.
“As a result, most international migrants around the world do not enjoy the right to adequate housing,” she said. “To the contrary, they endure appalling housing conditions.” Many lived in metal containers with insufficient ventilation and electricity or water. Migrant domestic workers were forced to sleep in the bathrooms, kitchens or closets of their workplaces. It was necessary for States and the international community to address the right of international migrants to adequate housing in a more comprehensive way.
The general obligation of States to ensure non-discrimination and equal treatment to migrants in the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to adequate housing, was set out in international human rights law, the Special Rapporteur said. States were thus obliged to adopt all necessary measures to progressively ensure the right to adequate housing for migrants and to protect them from discriminatory, unfair and degrading treatment. This right applied regardless of the local status and documentation of the migrant.
While there were many “typologies” of migrant workers, Ms. Rolnik focused on those in low-skilled and informal work, as well as undocumented migrants, as they represented the largest proportion of migrants worldwide. Very often, migrants attempting to access private housing faced xenophobia, uncertainty about their income or lack of legal documents. In accessing social housing and subsidies, they faced discrimination in the allocation of dwellings or financial assistance, lack of information, inadequate advice and cumbersome bureaucracy. In many countries, only long-term residents, not migrants, were entitled to housing assistance. Very often, migrants had no choice other than substandard housing in overcrowded and unhealthy conditions, or in informal settlements that were often segregated in unserviced and unplanned areas. Segregation was reinforced by the need for undocumented migrants to be invisible. Migrants also found themselves paying exploitative prices, and in some countries, renting property to undocumented migrants was a crime punishable by detention.
For migrants housed by their employers, living conditions were very often incompatible with human rights standards, particularly in the case of undocumented migrants who risked becoming victims of trafficking or suffering slavery-like conditions, she said. Many migrant domestic workers, particularly women, lived in unsafe and unhealthy conditions; they were also vulnerable to domestic violence, sexual harassment or forced confinement. In addition, migrants — particularly from minority groups — were very often forcibly evicted to make way for urban renewal projects; often they subsequently found themselves homeless. In many European countries, the authorities had ordered the dismantling of illegal camps of travellers and Roma, making hundreds or thousands homeless.
The issue could only be reversed through a truly human rights based approach, she said. The obligation of non-discrimination was central to such an approach. It was a principle that required equitable allocation of resources and services, prioritizing the needs of migrants, and incorporating the principles of equality and non-discrimination in all legislation and policies. In addition, States had an obligation to protect migrants from human rights abuses by third parties. States should also adopt housing policies that specifically target the needs of migrants, and in such a way that ethnic, religious and cultural differences could be transformed into a source of innovation and creativity rather than conflict and tension. Migrants should be involved in decision-making and public life, and they should be informed by States of their rights and duties.
Question and Answer Session
The Committee was then invited to participate in a question and answer period, and the Special Rapporteur responded to questions posed by the representative of the European Union.
Regarding examples of policies that had been successful in combating discrimination in the context of housing in the public and private spheres, she pointed to practices that were adopted at the local city level and helped to overcome stereotypes and promote integration. She highlighted the example in Vancouver, Canada of city planning initiatives in the 1990s that included the participation of diverse cultural communities and migrant groups. One of the key elements concerning stereotyping, which was a complex issue, was the territorial position of communities inside a city and the importance of sending signals to the greater society about those communities, the role they played and how much they should be respected.
Segregation was a two-way process, as, on the one hand, communities tended to stay together in the same area, especially when they were abroad, in order to have communal protection, but, on the other hand, it could create a ghetto. If the communities were treated equally, it was fine. If they received the same types of services and maintenance as the greater society, then that affected the perception society had of them. However, if the opposite were true, and they were living behind settlements and not given the same amount of care, that reinforced discrimination. Therefore, State housing policies could address discrimination and bring about change in that way.
Concerning the sharing among States of policies regarding the homelessness of migrants, she said that it was a big issue to address. During a time of economic crisis, the phenomenon of homelessness was not restricted to migrants. Yet, the situation of migrants was more acute and vulnerable, because they lacked the family protection and social security that locals had when they were facing financial and economic crisis within their personal families. She noted that, in Spain, most of the people facing foreclosures were from migrant communities. Examples could also be used from her report, which pointed out initiatives in the Netherlands and Belgium to set up special transit shelters for migrant communities. In Belgium, the migrants were expected to return to their countries of origin, but, at least during the interim, they were not on the street and were treated with respect as human beings.
Regarding the private sector and frameworks for companies concerning providing housing, she said that practices discriminating against migrants and workers’ housing came from private sector providers. There was discrimination in the housing market, as a whole, by private landlords. Although that involved the private market, the State had the obligation to control measures, ensure that minimum standards were set, establish permanent policies and oversee those practices and developers, in order to see if they really complied with the standards, particularly as they applied to international human rights law.
Maggie Nicholson, Deputy Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, on behalf of the late Arjun Sengupta, Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Right to Development, who had served in that position since 2007, delivered a statement that was made 16 September at the fifteenth session of the Human Rights Council. The statement introduced the report of the Working Group’s eleventh session (document A/65/87). She said a task force of five independent experts presented three substantive reports for the Working Group’s consideration: suggestions for further work in realizing the right to development; the consolidation of the main findings over the past five years of its mandate; and a set of criteria and operational sub-criteria in contribution to the elaboration of a set of standards to implement the right to development. Two of the task force’s observations and findings were pertinent to the United Nations Summit reviewing the status of the Millennium Development Goals.
The first was Millennium Development Goal 8, with a focus on international cooperation, which was a framework consistent with international responsibilities outlined in the Declaration on the Right to Development, she said. The task force concluded that none of the twelve global partnerships it reviewed was established as a direct consequence of a commitment to Goal 8, even though the partnerships saw themselves as contributing to that Millennium Goal. The task force drew attention of the Working Group to the difficulty many development partners had in introducing right to development considerations in their policies and programmes. That, and other obstacles to progress in implementing the right to development, must be addressed by the international community for development practice to be informed by that right.
The second was that the achievement of the Millennium Goals would require an enabling environment at all levels, as would the full and effective realization of the right to development. All States must endeavour to take steps to establish, promote and sustain national and international arrangements that created such an environment. Not all delegations accepted that there was an adequate balance of national and international policy considerations. She echoed the strong urging of the chair of the task force for the regional groups to bridge differences to fulfil their commitment at the Millennium Summit, “to making the right to development a reality for everyone”.
Turning to the conclusions and recommendations of the Working Group’s eleventh session, she said the Group had, among other things, found that further work should be undertaken at the intergovernmental level to reflect adequately both national and international dimensions. Additional time was needed for consideration and pronouncement by Governments on the substance of the work of the task force and on the way forward.
Question and Answer Session
The representative of China stated that the international community should create an enabling environment for the right to development, through the removal of structural barriers in financial systems and the honouring of development assistance agreements, and expressed hope that the Human Rights Council would scale up efforts regarding the right to development. China asked about the next phase for the working group, and the Assistant Director of the New York Office on the High Commissioner of Human Rights answered that the work program would be released in due course, but that she did not have it now.
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions
CHRISTOF HEYNS, addressing the Committee for the first time in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, discussed how most of the current methodologies used in human rights fact-finding suffered from a variety of practical and logistical challenges. Difficulties arose in efforts to gather information, such as in situations involving extrajudicial executions, because some Governments were becoming more determined and skilled in blocking access to information, as well as because human rights groups had not taken advantage of the potential of new information and communication technologies (ICT). New technologies could: enable the reporting in real-time in order to increase and speed up awareness of incidents; provide investigators access to new types of data as supporting evidence of human rights abuses; and present new advocacy opportunities through social media like Facebook or Twitter.
The technologies, however, presented some obstacles, including: claims that reporting was gathered through unreliable methodologies or inexperienced fact-finders; issues of privacy and security; and high costs of accessing such technologies and control of such services by Governments. Noting the need for the “catch-up mentality” of human rights institutions to change, the report recommended that the OHCHR convene an expert group of information and communication technology experts, humanitarian actors and private sector representatives to discuss potential human rights applications of new technologies.
He drew attention to the annual report of the mandate holder to the fourteenth session of the Human Rights Council in June 2010, which analyzed activities over the past six years and addressed issues such as accountability for killings by police, election-related killings and targeted killings. A failure to demonstrate that the use of targeted killings complied with the applicable rules posed a growing challenge to the international rule of law, he said. Meeting the legal requirements of transparency for targeted killing need not impose an onerous burden upon States, and the starting point was disclosure by the States in question about: the legal basis for its conduct; placing and removing people’s names from the list; and safeguards to prevent unnecessary loss of life and accountability for the actions.
The number and type of unmanned or robotic systems deployed in armed conflicts and law enforcement had grown at an astonishing pace over the past decade, raising serious concerns that have been almost entirely unexamined by human rights actors, he said. Analysis showed that new robotic technologies had important ramifications in terms of the right to life and the fight against extrajudicial executions that needed to be addressed, and that there was no reason human rights considerations could not be proactively factored into the design of new technologies. Discussion had to address the adoption of a uniform set of definitions, the question of responsibility for civilian casualties or other violations of the laws of war, and safeguards for deployment in compliance with human rights.
Noting that he saw an important leadership role for the United Nations in that regard, he encouraged the Secretary-General to convene a group of military and civilian representatives from States, leading authorities in human rights law, applied philosophers and scientists and developers to advise on measures and guidelines concerning the moral implications and use of robotic technologies, particularly for warfare. He emphasized that the work of this group could address “the fundamental question of whether lethal force should ever be permitted to be fully automated.”
Noting that the Governments of Mexico, Turkey and Argentina had already extended him invitations for country missions, he shared his vision of the mandate for the next three years. He stated that his approach would be to seek opportunities for constructive collaboration with governments, intergovernmental organizations and civil society to promote protection of the right to life in the context where killings in violation of international human rights were at stake, through prevention or accountability. Regarding areas for possible future research, he noted interest in exploring the right to life of children, aspects of the protection of civilians in armed conflict and organized deadly crime. The death penalty and ensuring safeguards required by international law would remain an area of focus. The practice of doing follow-up reports would continue, and he would work towards ensuring greater regional representation. Additionally, opportunities for collaboration with regional and subregional human rights mechanisms, especially in terms of norm setting, would be explored.
Question and Answer Session
The Special Rapporteur then took questions and heard comments from a number of representatives.
Elaborating on his remarks about information and communications technologies, he said that they could bring the ability to monitor human rights violations more to the fore. One “appealing” possibility was their potential to resolve factual disputes.
In response to a suggestion from the representative of Switzerland that robotic systems could be created that were more ethical than humans, he replied that such a proposal could inform a lengthy debate. The human ability for compassion and decision-making would be excluded from such systems, for example. It would be necessary for experts to meet and address such issues. “If the decision to pull the trigger is taken automatically, that raises some red lights,” he said.
Returning to the use of information and communications technologies, he recalled how such technologies had been used in, for instance, monitoring wildfires in Italy and snow-clearing in Washington, D.C. Everyone was familiar with their use for the detection and prevention of ordinary crimes. In the humanitarian area, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) had used cell phones for reporting the distribution of aid. Such technologies could have a human rights application as well.
On the topic of targeted killings, he said it was natural that it be considered by his mandate. If a list existed of hundreds of people who should be executed, the human rights community would have to take note of it. The situations in which it would be used had to be envisioned: one of conflict, the other of no conflict at all. It was also important when direct participation in hostilities was stretched half-way around the world, and when non-military personnel, such as intelligence agencies and contractors, were involved. His mandate would engage in such questions.
Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers
GABRIELA KNAUL, presenting her first report as Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, began by discussing her first year of activities. She had presented a report to the Human Rights Council on the importance of the training of judges, magistrates, prosecutors and lawyers in international law and human rights; conducted three official visits to Colombia, Mozambique and Mexico on the invitation of those States; and taken part in numerous meetings of magistrates and judges and seminars in many countries. Her report reviewed the role of national judicial systems in combating impunity concerning violations of human rights and analyzed the role of actors in making sure the truth was made known, justice was applied and violators were punished. She noted that impunity was the perpetrator of more crimes, because if there were no fair criminal penalties, further human rights violations would be committed. Impunity undermined democracy and confidence in the institutions of the State. The report investigated causes of impunity and factors that stood in the way of prosecution and punishment.
Causes of impunity had various origins that went beyond judicial systems, she said, noting that impunity developed if there were structural weaknesses in judicial systems. Combating impunity meant identifying and bringing to trial those who were violators. Criminal justice systems were the only ones with the mandate to investigate facts and to subject violators to prosecution. For that reason, it was necessary to develop sound and effective criminal justice systems, which included impartial judges. Obstacles in the way of the effectiveness of investigations needed to be analyzed, as prompt and exhaustive police and judicial inquiries were part of a properly functioning system. Investigators needed to do their work in good conditions, with adequate resources and technical means, as well as training and skills in the field of criminal investigations.
Because combating impunity meant bringing those responsible before the courts, effective and impartial prosecutors and public ministries were needed, she added. Without evidence, criminal proceedings could not be established, resulting in the strengthening of impunity. Prosecutors and representatives of public ministries had to act in an objective manner and to do their work in secure conditions, free from pressure and threats. They had to have knowledge of international human rights law, and not allow the gathering of evidence by means of violence, torture, cruel or degrading treatment. Their power was not absolute, so they had to understand their limits in pursuing criminal proceedings and possibly shelving criminal investigations.
She continued by saying that impunity was perpetuated through interference by authorities in the functioning of the criminal justice process and restrictions on judicial power. Such interference could take direct or indirect forms. Under the principle of the separation of powers, the functions of executive and judicial power had to be differentiated. Bureaucratic or complex criminal proceedings also promoted impunity, as they could deter victims from seeking justice and the right to truth and compensation. States had to guarantee that the criminal justice process was accessible to all citizens, including the most marginalized, vulnerable and weak sectors of society. States had to guarantee that their judiciaries had sufficient technical and financial resources. However, in the past year, the Special Rapporteur noted that she had seen that resources allocated to the judiciary were minimal when compared to other public institutions, including with regard to the infrastructure of judicial premises.
The role played by lawyers was also a factor in combating impunity, she said, noting it was fundamental in guaranteeing trials. In some countries, there were undue limits on contact between lawyers and clients, or it was subject to supervision. There was no principle of equality between the prosecution and defence. The fight against impunity had to be focused on the rights of victims and families to obtain justice and compensation, she said, stating that victims must be guaranteed full access. There had to be a witness protection programs for victims, so that they did not fear bearing witness. There had to be protection for not just victims and witnesses, but magistrates and prosecutors who might have been threatened or attacked. However, protection was not sufficient; corruption also had to be tackled, as just one corrupt person jeopardized the entire system.
Her central thesis was that of restructuring the system of criminal justice to combat impunity, as well as to have global strategies to combat impunity, she said. It was necessary to take into account the interests of victims. Judicial actors had to be impartial, but also subject to oversight mechanisms. The conclusion of her report was that fighting impunity required an independent, sound and respected judicial authority comprised of impartial judges who could dispense justice without pressure or threat. Also, the criminal justice process must guarantee full access to marginalized groups, based on clear laws. States had to consider the degree of impunity in their own country, she said, recommending that every State undertake a review of their judicial and legislative framework. She urged all States to cooperate fully with international tribunals and become parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Additionally, she called for the liberation of a Venezuelan justice, Maria Lourdes Afiuni, who was jailed in December 2009 for ordering the release on bail of one her country’s citizens. She thanked the Government of Venezuela for supplying her with information in response to appeals, but considered that holding that judge in conditions that endangered her physical integrity would have an impact on the independence of judges in Venezuela, who could fear the same fate if they acted against government interests. It was an open attack against the principles of the United Nations.
Question and Answer Session
Ms. KNAUL then took questions and heard comments from a number of representatives.
Responding to some of the main questions, she said that a failure to apply the principles and standards of international law in the field of human rights at the national level was a reason why, in many countries, grave and systematic violations of human rights had gone on, year after year, despite socio-economic improvements. That was very often due to ignorance of international rule and standards. Judges and legal professionals had no access to the study of international human rights law, or to international law in general. Training in international law for all those involved in the judiciary was important.
The Human Rights Council had accepted her proposal and entrusted her with the task of presenting a global study on the matter in June 2012. That was a major undertaking, but she had only two part-time professionals to help with her mandate. Through the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), she was appealing for resources for a network of academics and experts on five continents who could help her establish what kind of training judicial actors were receiving and how training programmes were being developed.
Turning to questions about international courts, she appealed to all States to cooperate with international tribunals, including the International Criminal Court, and to fully comply with their verdicts. Such courts played an important role in combating impunity, and in completing national jurisdictions “in combating the scourge of impunity”.
Responding to a comment from the representative of Venezuela concerning a judge detained in that country, she thanked its Government for its replies to her urgent appeals about the case, in which she remained very much concerned. The judge in question had been detained a few hours after she ordered the conditional release on bail of a prisoner who had been in detention for two-and-a-half years awaiting trial, in application of an opinion handed down by the Human Rights Council Working Group on Arbitrary Arrest. The judge had been held since December 2009 pending trial, “thrown into jail with murderers and thugs”. Reports had been received about a serious decline in the health of the judge. There was nothing to prevent her from being tried. She went on to express concern for the status of other judges in Venezuela who might be concerned that they would be dismissed or imprisoned for applying a decision that ran counter to the interests of the Government.
Returning to impunity, she cited a number of examples of international jurisdiction. Courts in Belgium, France and Switzerland had initiated proceedings in relation to Rwanda in response to Security Council Resolution 978, and Italy and Switzerland had started criminal proceedings into extrajudicial killings and disappearances in Argentina in the 1970s and 1980s. It was a matter of utmost importance that national efforts against impunity be strengthened.
Elaborating on the work of States, she said that during her mandate, she had found a very high incidence of impunity in many countries. Fewer than 3 per cent of those responsible for grave human rights violations were convicted and had served their sentences, she said. Given that grave situation, the time had come for the United Nations and the General Assembly to give serious priority consideration to the reasons for such a situation. She concluded her remarks by speaking of the need to respond to the international threat represented by drug traffickers and organized crime. It should be a matter of serious concern and action for the United Nations; the actions of the mafia, drug traffickers and those who violated human rights were increasingly affecting the lives and organizations of states. Young and poor people were dying. Impunity was a major challenge to States; democracy and the rule of law were at stake.
The representative of Venezuela made a brief statement, in which she appealed to the Special Rapporteur to maintain her independence. It was deplorable that the Committee was being used for a clear political purpose, so as to present manipulated information. The charges being made against Venezuela were based on an isolated incident. A code of conduct governed the behaviour of Special Rapporteur’s and she wanted to draw attention to that point.
Ms. KNAUL thanked the Government of Venezuela, adding that she was open to dialogue with all Member States. The mandates of special Rapporteur’s allowed them to bring attention to particular cases when they felt a duty to do so. She had tried to do so in a manner that was as respectful and technical as possible.
The representative of Venezuela said that, while she did not want to engage in an interminable dialogue, she did want to say that she did not think the Special Rapporteur should engage in propaganda. Her comments had been political and accusatory in nature, and they would be conveyed to the Government. The Special Rapporteur should work in a technical and impartial manner.
MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said he had officially assumed responsibility for the mandate on 1 August 2010. This was his first interaction with the General Assembly and he had not yet conducted any visits or engaged with relevant stakeholders, so the report focused on his proposed methodology. The current transition was a fresh opportunity to begin renewed engagement and cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on protecting human rights, and he wished to concentrate the early part of his mandate on acquiring information and listening to relevant actors without making any hasty conclusions. He would visit the region and then present his first report to the Human Rights Council in March 2011. “While taking into consideration the work done over the years of my predecessor, Professor Vitit Muntharbon, I will be making an independent assessment of the situation,” he said.
However, he had already noticed several constructive points, such as the work of United Nations entities in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The country was also party to four key human rights instruments and had, by and large, reported to the various relevant committees; it had also participated in the universal periodic review process in December 2009, although the implementation of the recommendations and conclusions still needed close follow up. Those review process recommendations and conclusions were one of the key points for engagement with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said. Constructive dialogue with the Government, the international community and civil society would be his approach. He looked forward to the responsibility of the mandate, as well as positive outcomes in the field of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Question and Answer Session
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his country’s principal position was that it neither recognized the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, nor the resolution. As stated at several points, the resolution, adopted as a political plot to stifle his country’s system, was nothing more than a tool used to serve that purpose. The European Union had various contacts with his country in the field of human rights, including talks since 2001; however, upon his country’s withdrawal from the non-proliferation treaty in 2003, the European Union surprisingly enforced the adoption of the resolution on his country without prior notice or consultation at a session in April 2003, just two and a half months after withdrawal, in conspiracy with the United Nations and Japan. The promotion of human rights was only in words; in reality, what they pursued was to change the ideology and system of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was up to the Korean people themselves to select their ideals and system. His country would, in the future, develop its socialist system to protect human rights, in keeping with the aspirations of its people and the reality of the country.
The representative of the United States said that his country hoped the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would recognize the Special Rapporteur’s mandate and work with him to improve human rights in the country, as people there continued to suffer from human rights abuses. The United States asked the Special Rapporteur’s thoughts on what the international community could do to help the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and what the donor community could do to reach the population. The United States, noting the plight of returned asylum seekers and refuges, also asked about the Special Rapporteur’s insight into how countries could cooperate to advance the human rights issue in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Additionally, with regard to its December 2009 universal periodic review, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had received 117 recommendations from the international community, but had refused to identify those recommendations that it was willing to consider. So, the United States asked for insight into how the universal periodic review could be used to promote human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of the Republic of Korea, sharing concerns over the continuing reports of human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also expressed disappointment over the refusal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to accept the December 2009 recommendations by the Human Rights Council. Welcoming an approach based on dialogue and cooperation with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it said its greatest concern was the refusal of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the international community and to allow the Special Rapporteur to enter the country. He asked how the Special Rapporteur would address issues of access and if he could elaborate on his statement that his approach could start with the humanitarian dimension.
The representative of Japan said that his country would extend cooperation, but it was clear that serious violations of human rights still remained. The abduction of Japanese citizens also remained unresolved. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Japan had agreed on concrete objectives, but the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not translated that agreement into action. In November 2008, Japan heard that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was ready to launch its reinvestigation into the issue, but there was no concrete action. The Prime Minister of Japan stated last month before the General Assembly that, if the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took steps to implement the agreement, Japan was ready to respond in kind. To date, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had never granted the Special Rapporteur access into the county and dialogue had yet to be realized. Japan asked, based on the Special Rapporteur’s comment that he would submit a report in March next year and that approaches could start with the humanitarian dimension without diminishing the human rights dimension, how to translate such an approach into concrete ideas or action?
The representative of the European Union, noting that a broad range of human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to command international attention and that the Union would present a draft resolution during the Sixty-Fifth General Assembly to address outstanding issues, asked how the Special Rapporteur planned to implement a cooperative approach, as well as if he could share any preliminary results that had been achieved. Additionally, were there indications of an invitation to visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, considering that it had not acknowledged the resolution? The Union also wanted to know how the Special Rapporteur intended to deal with the issue that of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea participating in the review procedure, but still been unclear about what recommendations the country was willing to take.
The representative of the United Kingdom, expressed deep concern about reports of systematic human rights abuses within the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, but was encouraged by it’s communication with United Nations agencies, such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and agreement concerning joint food and agricultural cooperation and crop assessments. Unless the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea allowed access, it would be difficult to verify reports. The United Kingdom agreed with the Special Rapporteur that his appointment was a renewed chance for cooperation, but asked what areas he had in mind for initial engagement.
The representative of China said his country stood for dealing with human rights issues through constructive dialogue and was opposed to county-specific resolutions or mechanisms. Applying pressure could not have a positive impact human rights in a country and caused confrontation. China hoped for a constructive approach and a focus on economic and social developments in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, with effective humanitarian assistance. China noted the Special Rapporteur’s comment in his report that he would carry out work in manner of constructive cooperation, instead of confrontation. An objective, balanced and fair assessment of the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was necessary, as well as more efforts to promote stability on the Korean peninsula. China said it would cautiously deal with the issue of illegal cross-border immigrants, and had carried out active cooperation with the parties concerned.
The representative of Canada, calling on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur to allow entry into the country, implored for it to respect the fundamental rights of its citizens and to have a dialogue with the international community. Canada asked the Special Rapporteur for more details on his plans to engage civil society and the international community.
The representative of Switzerland, stating that improvement of the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a major issue affecting peace and security in the country and region, noted the Special Rapporteur’s comments about facilitating cooperation with Democratic People’s Republic of Korea authorities through entry points that could have a humanitarian dimension. He asked the Special Rapporteur how to ensure that these points could be followed up with a human rights approach, which was essential.
The representative of Australia, stating that the country would continue to address the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea regarding its concerns about the country’s human rights situation, asked if the Special Rapporteur had seen any signs that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was prepared to engage with him and, if not, how he would carry out his mandate under those conditions. Additionally, concerning the overall situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, had any progress been made following the universal periodic review or his predecessor’s final report? Also, did the Special Rapporteur have any view on concrete measures concerning how the international community could mobilize to promote human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea?
The Special Rapporteur responded by acknowledging the challenges he faced in fulfilling his mandate, and expressing appreciation for the deep concerns voiced. He stated that, given that he had only assumed his task in August 2010, the Committee would have to bear with him and that a substantive report would only be submitted in March, after he possibly, visited the area. He hoped to be able to access the country. In order not to keep the Committee “in the dark” as to the issue of whether or not it would be possible to visit the country, he informed the delegates his early gesture was to communicate with the Permanent Mission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Geneva and to seek a meeting with the Permanent Mission there, but, at the same time, to seek the possibility of entry into the country. He had made two submissions: to meet with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Mission in Geneva, which had been responded to in such a way that made it not possible at that time to meet with the Mission; and to be able to enter the country, about which he had not yet been able to receive a favourable decision. He was informing the delegates of the facts early on, so as to move forward from the existing situation. He hoped to be able to seek alternative ways to communicate with the country.
Merging some of the questions raised by the delegates, he said that, regarding the approach that he would seek to adopt, he had mentioned early signs of involvement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the work of several United Nations agencies, which had implemented intensified humanitarian programmes in the country, as well as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s participation in the universal periodic review. That, perhaps, contrasted with the situation previously, and his hope was that those signs would constitute an opening of possible approach. He continued to hope that the possibility lay open and that stating the overall approach in terms of cooperative dialogue would appeal to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, so that he would be able to discharge his mandate.
Regarding the humanitarian approach, as indicated in the full report, it was clear that humanitarian issues could not be a substitute for the implementation of human rights as a whole, even though he recognized that humanitarian rights were part of the whole human rights ideal. He noted that his predecessor had been prevented from visiting the country and, therefore, it would be his intent, while recognizing that there were ongoing human rights issues, to establish communication to make it possible to discharge his responsibility. That would initially be his focus — endeavouring as much as possible to engage in communication.
Addressing the comment of the United Kingdom that it was not easy to verify information if he was not allowed access to the country, he recognized that indirect approaches would also be necessary, through third countries, to convey his intentions to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of conducting cooperative dialogue. He concluded that, as mentioned, he would seek the Committee’s understanding at this point that he would not be in a position to comment on any substantive issues until he had been able to conduct a visit and assess the situation, which would be addressed in his report in March next year.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that he had closely followed the statements made by the Western countries and, in particular, the European Union, but could not agree with the assessment of the human rights situation in his country, which did not have “systematic violations of human rights.” People had asked why his country did not receive the Special Rapporteur, if it did not have violations. But, in fact, it could not accept the request, because of the discrimination against the country. As he noted earlier, it was not an issue of human rights. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had had close contact with human rights bodies and high-level talks with countries in the past, but the European Union had, surprisingly and secretly, “railroaded” through the resolution on his country. That was a serious political issue, he stated, which was why the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea could not accept the resolution, or requests for a visit.
Additionally, concerning the abduction issue, as stated earlier, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did its best to solve the issue and had agreed with Japan that it would investigate. Japan had also agreed to take measures to lift sanctions against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. However, his country had informed Japan of the results of the investigation team, Japan’s reaction was to reinforce sanctions. Additionally, Japan had not recognized the crimes against humanity committed against the Koreans, or discussed redress.
Japan said that, at present, out of the 17 Japanese citizens that had been abducted, only five had returned home, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had yet to provide information about the fates of the remaining 12. In August 2008, in working level consultations, both sides had agreed to an investigation on the issue. Japan believed the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should move forward on promises to establish an investigative committee and to investigate without delay. Action was essential in keeping to the agreement.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, then, said that there were only 13 people and his Government had provided information about their fate. According to Japanese reports, those who Japan said had been abducted had appeared in Japan already. As agreed in 2008, his country had already formed an investigation team and informed Japan of the results, but Japan had not taken measures to lift sanctions against country. If Japan did not apologize and redress the past, there would be no good relations between the countries.
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