|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
34th & 35th Meetings (AM & PM)
Third Committee Approves Draft Text Calling for General Assembly Plenary
Meeting to Launch International Year of Cooperatives 2012
Also Approves Text on International Literacy Decade;
Hears Final 19 Speakers in Continued Debate on Human Rights
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) took action today on two resolutions on social development, while postponing action on a third regarding efforts to end all forms of violence against women, after it concluded its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.
One of the draft resolutions, approved without a vote, would have the General Assembly hold a plenary meeting at its sixty-sixth session devoted to the launch of the International Year of Cooperatives, preceded by an informal interactive round-table discussion on theme among Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and civil society. The representative of Mongolia, the main sponsor of the draft resolution, said the plenary meeting would kick off the International Year of Cooperatives, which the Assembly has already proclaimed for 2012.
The other draft resolution approved today, also without a vote, and also sponsored by Mongolia, would have the General Assembly call upon Member States, development partners, the international donor community, the private sector and civil society to further scale up literacy efforts as the United Nations Literacy Decade draws to a close in two years’ time. They would also be called upon to consider a post-2012 strategy for addressing youth and adult literacy challenges, bearing in mind not only the end of the Decade, but also the target date of 2015 for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
Following a near hour break in proceedings, action on a draft resolution on intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women, sponsored by France and the Netherlands, was postponed to a later date. Amendments to the draft had been put forward by Malawi on behalf of the African Group.
Concluding its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, the Committee heard statements from 16 delegations and three organizations. Many representatives insisted that social, economic and cultural rights must not be overshadowed by civil and political rights. “An empty stomach does not have ears,” the representative of Benin pointed out. There was also criticism of Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts who, in the opinion of some delegations, were overstepping their mandates.
The representative of Iran drew attention to human rights concerns in the European Union, the United States and Canada, while his counterpart from Zimbabwe called for an end to sanctions imposed on his country after it undertook land reforms. The representative of Sri Lanka spoke of the need for countries emerging from conflict to have “space” to adjust their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Her counterpart from Mexico said it was disturbing to see the continuous adoption, using ethnic and discriminatory profiles, of laws that opened the door for abuses against migrants and other citizens.
Also speaking on human rights were the representatives of Guyana, Republic of Korea, Swaziland, Nepal, India, Barbados, Bangladesh, Argentina, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Botswana and Tunisia. Representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the International Labour Organization also spoke.
The representatives of Iran, Fiji, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Turkey, Sri Lanka, Japan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Cyprus spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, 1 November, to begin joint consideration of elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the right of peoples to self-determination. It will also hear statements and presentations by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its discussion of the promotion and protection of human rights. (For more information, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3983 through GA/SHC/3989.) They also heard the introduction of a draft resolution and took action on three others.
GEORGE TALBOT ( Guyana) called the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms “a work in progress for countries small and great”. No country could claim perfection; that fact should infuse a certain sobriety into a discourse often marked by the passion of favoured positions. International human rights instruments, starting with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, were solid benchmarks against which States could be held to account fairly and without rancour. A more balanced approach to human rights was needed, with more attention given to economic, social and cultural rights as well as the realization of the right to development. Too often, those rights were relegated to a second tier of international discourse.
In Guyana, progress in human rights was part of a national effort to strengthen democracy and the rule of law while promoting social cohesion and a sense of community. Considerable investments had been made by the Government vis-à-vis human rights. Constitutional commissions dealing with human rights, ethnic relations, indigenous peoples, children’s rights and the rights of women and gender equality had been established. A child care agency had been set up, and sexual violence legislation reinforced. On 14 October, the criminal law was amended by the National Assembly so as to introduce restrictions on the range of instances in which the death penalty could be applied. With no international consensus on the death penalty, however, Guyana opposed the imposition of a selective agenda on the issue. Having submitted its first report under the Universal Periodic Review process, Guyana was implementing the recommendations that had been made. Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts did valuable work, but some had been “wont to use the cloak of independence” to overstep their mandates, thus undermining the usefulness of their work to States.
KIM BONGHYUN ( Republic of Korea) said that the world had seen progress in human rights, but events had shown that society was still vulnerable to external shocks. Resolutions and treaties were meaningless unless implemented on the ground. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) was one of the vital tools for narrowing the implementation gap between human rights standards and the situation on the ground. By reviewing the situation of States, the Review had resulted in better standards on the national level. However, there was still room for improvement in the Review process, which should not end with just a review. It was very important that the State under review take the Review’s recommendations into account. It was also necessary to explore ways to ensure that the Review process was faithfully implemented.
Additionally, efforts needed to be renewed to address crisis situations, he said. As highlighted in reports, the human rights conditions in some countries remained poor and required assistance. A group concerned with the strengthening of the Human Rights Council had met in Korea, allowing for an exchange of views about situations of crisis. The group recognized the need to use the full means of early warning mechanisms. One human rights instrument that warranted consideration was the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rapid Response Unit, which by deploying personnel in the aftermath of a crisis stopped a further deterioration of the situation. As urgent violations could not be addressed using only one tool, that human rights instrument had to be closely interlinked with others, using more systematic cooperation between mechanisms to make human rights a reality. Lastly, he said that another principle worth mentioning was that human rights should extend to all vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrants, who were the hardest hit by external shocks and armed conflict. He thanked the mandate-holders for their work in taking an active approach towards vulnerable groups.
FARHAD MAMDOUHI ( Iran) presented two statements under separate agenda items. In the first statement, he said religious, racial and ethnic discrimination in the European Union had been on the rise. Muslims and certain ethnic minorities had been subjected to verbal and physical attacks, and denied the ability to wear religious dress in public. Moreover, in those same states, excessive use of police force was alarming. In the United Kingdom, the policy on the "war on terror" was predominantly anti-Muslim and anti-foreigner and the Government had been implicated in torture, unlawful detentions and rendition. As for the United States, according to reliable sources, 198 people were still being illegally detained at Guantanamo, without charge for seven years. Thousands of prisoners held in long-term isolation in super-maximum security prisons in the United States, where conditions often fell short of minimum standards for humane treatment. Further, tens of thousand of migrants, including asylum seekers, were routinely detained in the United States, and since June 2001, more than 334 people had died after being struck by police tasers in that country. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in May 2008 had expressed deep concern at discrimination against racial, ethnic and national minorities, especially Latinos and African Americans. Also, a climate of impunity for law enforcement officers had been created by the “war on terror.”
Turning to Canada, he said the same pattern of human rights violations was on display. Citing the same Committee, he said that minority groups, African Canadians and Aboriginal peoples faced discrimination in recruitment, remuneration, access to benefits, job security, qualification recognition, and in the workplace. Aboriginal peoples experienced a dramatic inequality in living standards, and serious acts of violence against Aboriginal women were a concern. The Committee had also expressed concerns about the disproportionate use of force by the police against African Canadians and a disproportionately high rate of incarceration of aboriginal peoples. The Union’s Anti-Discrimination Committee had expressed concern about the disappropriate number of Aboriginal women incarcerated and that they faced high rates of poverty. There was also concern that counter-terrorism practices in Canada did not conform to that country’s human rights obligations.
In his second statement, he said that in today’s multicultural atmosphere, some political and cultural views, convinced of the supremacy of their value-system, had been pursuing “a kind of cultural superiority in new and complex forms”. The advocates of cultural supremacy were presenting an imperfect and tarnished image of other cultural systems, with the aim of globalizing their own value system. Cultural superiority had led to unconstructive human rights trends, including selective approaches, dominance of political considerations, discriminatory and biased practices, and the instrumental exploitation of human rights. Overcoming that state of affairs would require genuine determination and collective action of the international community, notably through the United Nations human rights machinery. More dialogue, and greater bilateral and multilateral cooperation and interaction, was “the best way and the right way” to elevate human rights and help strengthen national and international processes.
Iran had always sought a convergence of Islamic and Western perceptions in international arenas, he said. In that regard, over the past 10 years, it had held 18 rounds of bilateral talks and various technical sessions on human rights and judicial issues with a number of interested countries in different regions. Misunderstandings could be avoided, and efforts to fulfil the purposes and principles of international human rights instruments could be expedited, through such international and bilateral cooperation. Iran was prepared to have constructive and active dialogues on diverse dimensions of human rights with other countries.
ZWELETHU MNISI ( Swaziland) said that fundamental rights and freedoms were enshrined in his country’s constitution and, while he did not claim it was a “perfect document”, he was convinced that human rights were balanced with human responsibilities. Every human being had a right to life and a right to food, shelter, and health care, among others. At the same time every person had a responsibility to respect and uphold the rule of law and respect the rights of others, as long as it was not at the expense of another person’s fundamental rights, offering as an example that the guaranteed right of freedom of speech could not be “coupled” with the defamation of people, culture, or religion. His country recognized the family as the fundamental basis of society, with the inherent right to determine the moral and intellectual upbringing of their children. In that regard, he was concerned by what appeared to be a growing trend of Special Procedure Mandate-Holders to impose controversial concepts that challenged social matters, among them, the idea of “sexual orientation”, “sexual rights” and “gender identity”, to name a few. Those, he said, fell outside the internationally agreed human rights legal framework and he hoped that the Special Procedures Mandate-Holder would adhere to the mandate and Code of Conduct.
Continuing, he said that his country pursued a policy of full respect for international law and the principles outlined in the United Nations Charter, the sovereign equality of all States, peaceful dialogue and non-interference in the internal affairs of others. Therefore, he did not support the adoption of or implementation of any unilateral measures that were not in accordance to international law and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States. Concluding, he said that his country supported the establishment of the Human Right Council and the engagement of Member States in the Universal Periodic Review Mechanism. As the Council reached its mandated five year review, he hoped that would build on its positive steps to support its further development.
DORA NATH ARYAL ( Nepal) said that the Human Rights Council had made considerable progress, including in the Universal Periodic Reviews, and he urged that the various stages of socio-economic and political development, as well as the diversity from region to region, especially in developing countries needed to be taken into account when conducting such reviews. He also noted that the realization of human rights needed to encompass poverty alleviation and social equity and, therefore, the right to development needed to be approached in a holistic manner. To that end, his country had adopted a right-based approach to development, which stressed the “mutually reinforcing interrelationship between human rights, democracy and development”. On a national level, his country had, in recent years, undergone a political transformation, establishing access to fundamental rights and freedoms for all its people, including indigenous people, ethnic groups, women and marginalized people. The mandate of Nepal’s National Human Rights Commission, an independent constitutional body, was to protect all human rights of its citizens.
Continuing, he said that other initiatives taken on a national level included a range of measures aimed at effective implementation of relevant laws of human rights treaties, and directives and recommendations by the Supreme Court and the Human Rights Commission, which resulted in a revamping of security bodies, among others, with funding and the formulation of commissions on disappearance and truth and reconciliation. The declaration of Nepal as a Federal Democratic Republic also added to fostering human rights and the Ministry of Home Affairs was currently executing a “Special Program for Effectiveness of Peace and Security, End to Impunity and Defending Human Rights, 2009” which included a code of conduct for security personnel and employees in law and order maintenance. The Nepal Police and the Armed Force now had central human rights units and human rights cells at the local level, as well. In conclusion, he called for cooperation from the international community in building and developing Nepal’s national capacity in its efforts to ensure the success of its goals of promoting and protecting all human rights in a “holistic and balanced manner.”
SHRI SHANTA KUMAR ( India) said the constitutional guarantees on human rights in his country were reinforced by a “fiercely independent” judiciary, a free and vibrant media and a proactive civil society. The remedy of public interest litigations was crafted to ensure that even the most vulnerable had access to courts and could seek justice. The system had proved particularly effective for improving the rights of detainees, children and other vulnerable groups. A Human Rights Act and a national Human Rights Commission had been in effect since 1993 to ensure that human rights legislation was enforceable, with similar mechanisms created at state levels. Also, a National Commission for Women had been established and a 2005 Right to Information Act enacted.
He said the process of monitoring and protecting human rights was not easy and the international community must continue to unify forces to fight those who committed gross violations. However, singling out countries for intrusive monitoring and for pointing out national failures was not productive. Rather, human rights abuses should be addressed in a comprehensive manner through cooperation, dialogue and consultation and through adherence to the principles of objectivity, transparency, non-selectivity, non-politicization and non-confrontation. Terrorism must be crushed in a collective endeavour that ensured the human rights debate was not misused for the pursuit of narrow political agendas. And finally, it was worth noting that “promotion is the best protection” of human rights.
GAIL RILEY ( Barbados) discussed the issue of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty with comments concerning regional initiatives in the Americas, specifically regarding the application of the death penalty and the legal regime of a mandatory death penalty in Barbados. She said the application of the death penalty in Barbados was not in violation of the American Convention, nor was capital punishment in countries such as Barbados incompatible with the Convention. Barbados reserved the most serious punishment for the most serious crimes; its criminal code allowed for the death penalty in cases of murder and treason, although it had been applied only after conviction for murder. Even with this provision, capital punishment had not been carried out for 26 years, since 1984.
She said Barbados had also been required to adopt legislative and other measures to ensure that the death penalty was not mandatory, so the country was taking steps to comply with the Inter-American court, out of respect for human rights. Barbados reiterated its position on the death penalty, stating that the retention of the death penalty lay within the jurisdiction of States. Each State had the sovereign right to make determinations about the death penalty, according to its social and legal needs, as well as obligations to instruments to which it was party. Capital punishment was, first, a criminal justice issue and must be viewed from that perspective, as it concerned the right of victims and communities to live in security.
MD. ABDUL HANNAN ( Bangladesh) said he appreciated the reports of the special mandate-holders but would put on record a reservation on the “very controversial concept” of “comprehensive sexuality education” which had been propagated by the Special Rapporteur. He said his country was fully committed to promoting and protecting human rights, which depended on the ability of the State to provide the right circumstances for that function through laws and institutions of the legal system, as well as enforcement mechanisms. Countries with a high level of development were better able to provide those elements, which meant that the right to development was another priority for Bangladesh.
As testimony to the country’s commitment to human rights, he said his country was party to most of the universal human rights instruments. Domestic legislation was constantly reviewed and updated for compatibility with human rights instruments and in June of this year, the Rome Statute had been ratified. Bangladesh had been a member of the Human Rights Council since its inception in 2006. A National Human Rights Commission had been established in 2008 and a National Human Rights Council Bill enacted in 2009. To date, 147 complaints had been lodged and 82 had been concluded. Finally, the United Nations Experts on safe drinking water and on human rights and extreme poverty had visited the country last December to help consolidate efforts on those issues.
YANERIT MORGAN (Mexico) agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights of immigrants that the lack of attention to human rights in efforts to manage migration has had negative consequences, not only for the protection of undocumented migrants, but for the migrant population as a whole and in general in host societies. It was necessary to prevent racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance against migrants everywhere. Thus, comprehensive strategies that promoted tolerance and fought stereotypes had to be considered; in that regard, civil society and the media had an important role.
In particular, she said it was disturbing to see the continuous adoption, using ethnic and discriminatory profiles, of laws that opened the door for abuses against migrants and other citizens. On the other hand, the vulnerability of migrants to be victims of extortion, sexual exploitation, trafficking or violence by criminal groups could not be ignored, and she called for strong and coordinated action by countries of origin, transit and destination of those migrants. Mexico would continue to work to strengthen cooperation, regionally and globally, in that regard. Her country, as host of the Global Forum on Migration and Development to be held in November, had promoted human rights of migrants as central to the discussions and open forums for dialogue with civil society actors who had extensive experience in the care of migrants. Also, Mexico had been a tireless promoter of human rights of persons with disabilities at the international level and she said she welcomed the universal support to the Convention.
GUSTAVO RUTILO (Argentina), stating that the guarantee of immunity constituted threats to citizens, said the United Nations should be united concerning the punishment of grave violations of human rights wherever they occurred. Argentina recognized the work of the Special Rapporteurs and supported contributions by human rights defenders. It urged Member States to intensify their efforts to guarantee the life, integrity and freedom of expression of those experts through national legislation and human rights standards. Questions such as homophobia and gender-based discrimination were among those needing urgent debate. Argentina was a plural state that was opposed to actions involving religious hatred and supported respect for religions and the prevention of xenophobia. The Government guaranteed the right to freedom of expression, only allowing limitations dealing with the protection of individual rights.
He said Argentina expressed satisfaction with the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. With France and Morocco, Argentina would sponsor a draft resolution on forced disappearances in order to ratify this instrument, so that it could enter into force. This draft resolution was a decisive step concerning human rights. Only one ratification was missing to enable it to enter into force.
Mr. Rutilo also noted the recent death of the country’s former President, Néstor Kirchner, who, through the programme of “Memory, Truth, Justice and Reparations”, had made contributions to judicial proceedings concerning the previous military dictatorship in Argentina.
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA ( Zimbabwe) said his country subscribed to an all-inclusive definition of human rights, with civil and political rights being indivisible from social, economic and cultural rights. A growing and unacceptable tendency of Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts to deliberately act outside of their mandates was a matter of concern. Some had been very hostile to countries they had visited, or not visited. If left unchecked, such a situation would result in fruitless exercises between Member States and Special Rapporteurs, to the benefit of no-one. Many developing countries had been left reeling from historical exploitation, underdevelopment due to an unfair system of international trade, climate change, the financial, economic, food and energy crises. In the case of Zimbabwe, economic sanctions imposed by the European Union and United States were also a factor. Zimbabwe was shocked by the double standards of those who separated civil and political rights from social, economic and cultural rights, in order to fan discord within and among States, particularly in the developing world.
Human rights, particularly in developing countries faced with poverty, food insecurity and diseases, were being eroded by the unregulated implementation of neo-liberal economic formulas, he said. Only a more humane and equitable international order could save humanity. Developed countries must honour their financial commitments, so that people in the South could realize the rights to life, food, education, development and self-determination. Zimbabwe rejected the manipulative and “intimidatory” attempts by some countries and regional blocs to subordinate its sovereignty to their hegemonic ambitions. Unilateral coercive measures ran contrary to international law, humanitarian law and the Charter of the United Nations. Zimbabwe had been a victim of such measures purely because its Government had undertaken the equitable distribution of land. If the European Union and its allies had the welfare of Zimbabweans at heart, they should lift sanctions. Crime rates in Zimbabwe were at normal levels, including that of rape; only the other week, in the European Parliament, some women had described how they had been raped in 1964 and 1975, in an era when British nationals were punishing the people of Zimbabwe who desired freedom. Zimbabwe was moving forward, addressing its challenges, and those who wished to help it were most welcome.
PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), noting that the most serious human rights violations lay in mass killings of civilians during aggression and war, such as in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine, said that the encroachment upon state sovereignty was a major obstacle to the promotion of human rights. An example of such encroachment was the “North Korean Human Rights Act” adopted by the United States in 2004, the objective of which was to bring about a change of system, by inducing discontent. It was up to the Korean people themselves to choose their political and economic system, and imposition of United States standards was interference in the country’s internal affairs. Politicization of human rights and double standards should not be allowed. Only some developing countries were selectively taken up as “trouble-makers” in the view of Western values and political objectives, such as the “resolution on the situation of human rights in specific countries” forcibly adopted annually in the Committee.
It was also important to properly settle past human rights violations, such as Japan’s extra-large-scale crimes against humanity through the 1 million person massacre, forcible drafting and abduction of 8.4 million people and drafting of 200,000 women and girls from Korea and other countries to force them into sexual slavery. Japan had not made a sincere apology, but continued to resort to all sorts of trickeries to evade its state responsibility. The Japanese authorities needed to follow the example of other countries that had been offering honest apologies and compensation since the end of World War II. He stated that, in the future, his country would further strengthen its socialist system centred on the popular masses, by embodying human rights principles and improving people’s livelihoods.
DHAMMIKA SEMASINGHE ( Sri Lanka) said that countries emerging from violent political convulsions needed to be given space, so they could restore and revitalize their regime of rights and freedoms. In that regard, the statement by the High Commissioner for Human Rights that the role of her Office was not to name-and-shame, but to help States improve its human rights situation, was welcome. Sri Lanka was a State Party to seven core human rights treaties and other international instruments, including the Geneva Conventions, and fundamental rights were guaranteed in its Constitution. Since political stability had been restored, it had taken many steps to improve life for all its citizens, adopting a human-rights-based approach to recovery from conflict. Within the space of years, it had scaled down provisions of its Emergency Regulations, resettled more than 90 per cent of the internally displaced persons, rebuilt infrastructure in conflict-affected areas, successfully rehabilitated and reintegrated child combatants, and established a commission to address reconciliation.
As a result of its engagement with the Human Rights Council during its Universal Periodic Review, Sri Lanka had formulated a national plan of action for the promotion and protection of human rights that assigned a thematic focus on torture, she said. Police skills, including interrogation techniques, were being upgraded. Changes to the criminal law to prevent instances of torture were being explored, such as allowing the audio-visual recording of statements that would be admissible in judicial proceedings. Regarding the scaling down of the Emergency Regulations, nearly all offences that addressed terrorism-related incidents had been repealed, including those pertaining to media freedom, and security institutions were investigating the murder of a senior journalist. The events of the last 28 years had created “a legion of clamouring critics” for Sri Lanka, but it remained willing to engage with the international community and United Nations agencies on the basis of constructive, fair, non-selective and objective assessments.
BERTIN BABADOUDOU (Benin) said that human rights, as one of three pillars of the United Nations system, was one of the most important matters that Member States had to deal with today and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was the foundation for that consideration. He stated that the international community talked about political and civil rights, forgetting that “an empty stomach does not have any ears” and that States needed to satisfy people’s basic needs. The obstacles included the barrier between the North and South, and between Islam and Christianity. Gender issues also needed to be discussed, including the right to abortion and the right to sexual education. Yet, most people in the world lived in poverty, and Governments were trying to provide basic healthcare and education. One of the aims in protecting human rights was to give people awareness of their role in creating wealth and the ability to make decisions pertaining to their lives. The full achievement of the universal principles of human rights was a solid foundation upon which sustainable programs could be established, including those related to the Millennium Development Goals.
Behind the establishment of the Human Rights Council was the idea of the need to depoliticize the machinery, but “when you try to chase away something natural, it comes back,” he said. Discussing the efforts of the Human Rights Council to promote human rights worldwide, he said the Council’s upcoming review would be an opportunity for the international community to make it more effective. It was important that, during the Council’s review, attention be paid to certain questions, such as the extent to which mandates contributed to human rights on the ground and the responsibilities of the person holding the mandate. The challenge was how to ensure that the principles of human rights accepted by all could affect the social conduct of individuals in communities. That should lead the international community to fundamentally analyse its whole approach.
O. Rhee Hetanang ( Botswana), stating that human rights remained a priority for his Government, said that Botswana was convinced that “no State can claim to have a perfect record on its situation of human rights.” Progress in the realm of human rights had been made, and modest achievements had been realized through a broad-based approach. Some strides in Botswana included, in 2008, the National Assembly adoption of the Domestic Violence Act to eradicate violence against women and the girl child, and, in 2009, the Children’s Act to promote the rights, development and well-being of children.
Recognizing that much more remained to be done, he said that Botswana welcomed the updates by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, saw the upcoming review of the Human Rights Council as a valuable opportunity to discover ways it could better deliver on its mandate and considered the Universal Periodic Review “a success story that deserves further improvement and preservation.” Regarding special procedure mandate holders, Botswana said there had been a worrisome trend to extrapolate their mandates to achieve narrow and sometimes personal agendas, and that some delegations gave credence to such unacceptable conduct. In the context of addressing human rights through constructive dialogue, Botswana also said that it viewed the resolution on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty as an unacceptable attempt to impose certain norms on others, and called for the rejection of such an approach by voting against the resolution when it came up for action.
GHAZI JOMAA ( Tunisia) said that, in his country, human rights were characterized by their globality, universality and complementarity. No distinction was made between civil and political rights, on the one hand, and economic, social and cultural rights, on the other. Such an approach was mainly based on the multidimensional policy that Tunisia had dedicated to democracy, pluralism and political participation.
At the international level, he underlined the importance of solidarity. For years, the President of Tunisia, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, had proposed the principle of world solidarity as a way to help construct a better future for all humanity. The international commmunity responded favourably to his initiative by creating, at the General Assembly in December 2002, the World Solidarity Fund. More than ever, the world today needed to make the principle of solidarity more dynamic, in the face of the digital divide and a development gap between States.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that despite acknowledgement by all States that human rights were the “sine qua non” for safe, secure and dignified migration, much work was still needed in order to turn rhetoric into action and to incorporate human rights into national and international migration policies, legislation and programming.
She said it was not disputed that national sovereignty meant that a State had the right to control its borders; however, that authority must be exercised in full respect of international migration law, with human rights law at the core of the protection of human rights of migrants. The majority of obligations under the United Nations Convention for the Protection of Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families constituted a consolidation for existing human rights obligations as applied to migrants, and therefore, was binding on most States, whether or not they had ratified the Convention. At the same time, migrants were obliged to respect the laws of host and transit countries.
She went on to say that while migrant workers were vulnerable to human rights abuses at all stages of their migration process, migrant domestic workers were among the most vulnerable. Isolation in private homes and lack of protection under labour laws left many of them trapped in situations where they were underpaid, overworked, heavily indebted and at risk of physical and sexual abuse. Perhaps worst of all, domestic workers faced particular difficulties in seeking redress in criminal justice systems. Therefore, her organization remained committed to working with Member States at all levels to help them ensure the human rights of all migrants. In that effort, the organization did research and disseminated information on International Migration Law, provided training for Government officials, and collaborated with the United Nations special procedures.
ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union, said that one of the main objectives of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in the field of human rights was to familiarize parliaments with the various human rights mechanisms and bodies that existed. More often than not, parliaments were unaware of the existence of those bodies, not involved in the preparation of national reports and were uninformed of recommendations. So if treaty bodies were not as effective as they could be, that had to do with the lack of parliamentary involvement. The Union carried out a two-year activity for parliaments in francophone Africa, however, that showed parliaments in this region were keen to get involved with treaty body and implement recommendations. With the establishment of the Human Rights Council and the introduction of the Universal Periodic Review, parliaments were an important stakeholder in the process.
The Union stated that, in June 2010, it launched a first study on parliamentary involvement in the Universal Period Review process, sending questionnaires to all parliaments. Only a small number of parliaments reported that they had contributed to national reports, such as Bahrain and Poland. Regarding the participation of parliamentarians in national delegations, almost all parliaments stated that there was no parliamentary presence, for reasons including financial means and supposed lack of institutional competence to deal directly with United Nations bodies. As to the question of whether parliaments were informed of the Universal Period Review recommendations, the picture was slightly more positive, as almost half were informed. Although parliamentary involvement in the review process is not particularly impressive at present, the majority of parliaments stated that they intended to take action to ensure their involvement in future Review processes.
ELENA GASTALDO, International Labour Organization, said migration served as an instrument to adjust the skills, age and sectoral composition of national and regional labour markets. It provided responses to fast-changing needs for skills and personnel resulting from technological advances, changes in market conditions and industrial transformations. Migration was also driven by globalization and the dynamics of development itself. The global financial crisis was having a huge impact on labour migration, and was changing the perceptions of migration and migrants. Data compiled by the International Labour Organization (ILO) confirmed multiple impacts of the crisis on migrant workers, who were disproportionately represented among those rendered unemployed or strongly affected by the worsening of working conditions.
Migrants in irregular situations were even more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, she stated, explaining that the experience of developed and developing countries showed that reducing exploitation and ensuring equality of treatment were essential elements for building prosperity, social cohesion and democratic governance. The ILO had developed guidance for development, strengthening, implementation, and evaluation of labour migration policies and practices based on international standards and good practice experience in member countries. Finally, she added that ILO research showed that a large part of domestic labour was performed by migrant workers. “The challenges of meeting labour needs, ensuring productivity and competitiveness and ultimately improving well-being in today’s globalized world necessarily lead to increasing migration and diversity everywhere”, she said, adding that how societies treated migrants would determine whether efforts to build societies of justice, dignity, democracy, and human security would succeed or not.
Rights of Reply
Representatives from several countries then spoke in exercise of the right of reply, following what the Chairman, MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE ( Cameroon), called a “mechanical breakdown” at the end of yesterday’s afternoon session.
Replying to the statements by his counterparts from New Zealand, Australia and Norway, the representative of Iran described his country as a land with diverse ethnic and religious communities that lived side by side. Under its Constitution, all citizens enjoyed human rights equally. During the past three decades, more than 32 multi-party elections had taken place. The Constitution ensured the freedom of expression, press and assembly. Every year, many demonstrations took place. Measures to stop torture and the ill treatment of detainees were in place, and those responsible for such acts faced punishment under the law. Capital punishment was not forbidden under international instruments; in Iran it was only used in cases of serious crimes. He then turned to the human rights situations in countries that were “self-proclaimed champions of human rights”. Since September 11, Muslim communities in New Zealand and Australia had felt victimized. In New Zealand, the Maori people had faced discrimination, as had indigenous peoples in the Northern Territory of Australia.
Replying to the statements by his counterparts from New Zealand and Australia, the representative of Fiji said they had put a “negative spin” on the framework set in place to return his country to sustainable democracy. He recalled the traumatic national events, coup d’etats and racially divisive Constitutions that Fiji had gone through since 1987. General elections would be held in 2014 under a Constitution that, for the first time since independence, ensured universal suffrage without regard to race. Fiji had not taken the floor to “poke sticks” at Australia and New Zealand, as they had done to his country yesterday. Visitor arrivals to Fiji this year were up by 20 per cent compared to the last two years, with the majority coming from Australia and New Zealand; “in the cause of positive engagement, these good citizens are voting with their feet”.
Replying to the statement made by Belgium on behalf of the European Union, the representative of the Democratic Republic of Congo took exception to his Government being called a “local authority”. Were his country to call the King of the Belgians a “traditional chief,” a diplomatic crisis would ensue. Referring to the Chebeya Affair, he invited the European Union to better acquaint itself with the Constitution of his country regarding the separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers. A trial in that case, while slow in coming, would be taking place. The human rights situation in the east of the country was the result of the breakdown of peace and security in the Great Lakes region since 1992. Did the European Union forget that it alone had refused to act on the recommendations of Special Rapporteurs, including concerning the creation of tribunals or assistance to the Congolese judicial system?
Regarding the mass rapes in Luvungi village, he said the Democratic Republic of Congo had expressed its indignation in the strongest terms. The Government has diligently investigated the incident, and five Mai-Mai militiamen have been arrested to date, including a commander turned over by the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). Noting that multinational corporations had contributed to destabilizing the Great Lakes region, he asked the European Union to study its conscience, fully assume its responsibilities and act accordingly.
The representative of Sudan said he wanted to address accusations levelled by the United States delegation with regard to arrests claimed to have been made by the Sudanese authorities, targeting certain individuals who had spoken with the Security Council delegation that recently visited. Sudan reiterated that the Security Council paid a visit based on the acceptance and approval of Sudanese government. Sudan was an open country that had nothing to hide and the content of the statement by the United States delegation was inaccurate. The delegation had been free to visit areas, including Darfur and Khartoum. As for the people with whom the delegation had met inside the displaced persons camps, under the supervision of the United Nations, none of them had been arrested. He reassured the United States and the Committee that the people mentioned were still within their camps, safe and free.
Information about the arrests that had been mentioned in some media campaigns had been provided by people accused of being instigators behind the conflict in Darfur, including particular organizations that were active the United States, but had no official status in Sudan, he continued. That information was not based on truth and could not be proven, and he asked the United States delegation to provide the evidence it had. The two people who claimed to have been arrested were, in fact, arrested by the police regarding murder crimes that had taken place, in accordance with laws and under the supervision of the judiciary, with full guarantees of adequate defence. It was unusual for the United States to set aside information provided by the United Nations, the African Union and the hybrid operation and to not use it to support their claims.
The representative of Turkey responded to the comments of Greece, stating that Greece had shown acollective loss of memory and stubborn denial regarding events from 1963 to 1974. Recalling the history of the situation in Cyprus, he said that, during that period, the United Nations had been deployed to stop Greek attacks on Turkish Cypriots. Those Turkish Cypriots were forced to live in small enclaves, and particular Turkish leaders were ousted at gunpoint. The Greeks developed an ethnic cleansing plan against the Turkish Cypriots, there was a military coup in 1974, instigated by the Greeks to annex the island and, to counter the coup, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power to prevent annexation. Turkish intervention was not the beginning of the problem, but a necessary consequence of Greek acts.
Human rights violations against Turkish Cypriots continued, even though they voted overwhelmingly for the United Nations plan. They voted for a solution, but lived in isolation and in inhumane conditions. Kofi Annan had addressed the unfair isolation of the Turkish Cypriots and said that efforts to end restrictions on them did not conflict with United Nations resolutions. Despite events to date, Turkey stated its readiness to look forward. Turkey had voted yes for the United Nations settlement plan and wanted to reach a lasting settlement on the basis of United Nations parameters and zonality. The removal of restrictions and the provision of equal treatment would help reach a settlement in Cyprus, to which Turkey was committed.
The representative of Sri Lanka said that the comments of Belgium were an ill-conceived approach at naming and shaming countries on a selective basis; while Sri Lanka sought to improve the human rights approach through dialogue. With reference to the eighteenth amendment in Sri Lanka’s Constitution, the absence of a two thirds majority made it impossible to undertake development schemes for the North and East. Political instability over 30 years had stifled development plans and kept Sri Lanka from reaching broad-based levels. Sri Lanka also emphasized that the removal of term limits would empower people and promote the will of the people with regard to the tenure of the head of State.
Being dependent on the will of the people was not unusual in parliamentary democracies, he said. Sri Lanka, being sovereign, had to determine its future. Those with contrary evidence had been invited to present it to the relevant commission, for a transparent review.
With regard to detainees, Sudan noted that 6,500 were undergoing short-term rehabilitation and 3,500 were undergoing long-term rehabilitation, and that no one would remain in detention indefinitely without trial. Detainees were held during the investigation, and not held in secret detention. Controls on media freedom had also been repealed, and the recent presidential pardon of a Sri Lankan journalist was a good harbinger for media freedom. Sri Lanka had invited members of the European Union to look at the country’s electronic media and print media, stating that debates were allowed by the Government, freedom of expression thrived at the local realm and that the European Union needed to broaden its perspective.
The representative of Japan, replying to the statement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea this morning, said that, with respect to issues of the past, he would not repeat Japan’s position here, because he had done so last week. However, he was obliged to respond to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s silence on the issue of the abduction of Japanese citizens, which the Japanese government and people deemed important with regard to human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He wished to set the record straight to prevent the delegates from being misled by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
In May 2004, he said, when the then Japanese Prime Minister made a visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, it was agreed with that country that an investigation into the abduction would be conducted. Yet, an analysis of some of the bones, which supposedly belonged to a 13-year-old abductee, showed that they contained the DNA of other people. There were also claims that the abductees were subject to gas poisoning and heart attacks, which was unnatural and lacked evidence. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had agreed to the investigation, but then informed Japan that it was suspended. Later, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea stated that it was ready to launch a reinvestigation into the issue, but from that time to the present, no actions had been taken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Japan called again to move forward to establish an investigation committee and commence the investigation without delay.
The representative of Cyprus said that, rather than acknowledging undeniable reliability, as would befit a member of the Security Council, Turkey had resorted to false accusations. Refraining from responding to the accusations one by one, Cyprus simply referred to the numerous Security Council and General Assembly resolutions that condemned the invasion and military occupation, as well as statements by the European Court of Human Right and the European Parliament. Turkey’s troops continued to occupy a sovereign part of the country and, for every statement of cooperation by Turkey, the rights of people in that area were violated. In order to restore human rights, Ankara should put forward solutions in accordance with United Nations resolutions. If they wanted stability, then foreign armies had no place there and they should let the people live in peace.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that his delegation repeatedly raised the issue of past crimes of Japan because it was heinous and large-scale, but Japan had not sincerely admitted to it. He noted various statements by Japanese Government offices regarding the question of “comfort women,” including, in 2009, that the San Francisco Peace treaty had resolved the issue and reparation to women depended on the country where they resided. Further, while Japan insisted there was no progress concerning the investigation into abductees, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had done everything it could. Japan, however, needed to offer sincere apologies and reparation for its crimes, as other countries had done after the Second World War. There could only be improved relations between Japan and Korea on the basis of the settlement of Japan’s inglorious past. With regard to the bones of the abductees, family members had been involved, and if this was not that bone of the appropriate person, then Japan should return it to his country.
The representative of Japan added that he would refrain from entering into a detailed rebuttal, but that it was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has not reacted constructively.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
The representative of Morocco then introduced a draft resolution entitled the role of the Ombudsman, mediator and other national human rights institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights (document A/C.3/65/L.27). Thanking delegations that had supported the proposal, and inviting others to follow suit, he noted how it encouraged Member States to consider creating or strengthening independent Ombudsman, mediator or other national human rights institutions. It also encouraged the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to support such institutions. The representative stressed that the proposal was not intended to force States that had not established such institutions to do so; rather, it would acknowledge the role that they could play in supporting human rights.
The Committee then took action on the draft resolution entitled Cooperatives in social development (document A/C.3/65/L.10/Rev.1), with the Secretary of the Committee reading an oral statement of programme budget implications.
Recalling the General Assembly’s proclamation on 18 December 2009 of the year 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, the draft resolution would see the Assembly convene, at its sixty-sixth session, one plenary meeting devoted to the launch of the Year, within existing resources. An informal, interactive roundtable discussion among Member States, observers, organizations of the United Nations system, cooperatives and non-governmental organizations would precede the plenary, in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council.
The representative of Mongolia, the main sponsor, said that last week, her delegation had postponed adoption of the draft resolution due to “a lack of coordination” between units of the Secretariat concerning programme budget implications, which had left it and other delegations in a state of confusion. It was hoped that such a situation would not arise again in the future.
The representative of Venezuela said that her country would join consensus; it fully supported 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives and the convening of a plenary. However, regarding operative paragraph five, which invited Member States to be represented at the Plenary by representatives of cooperatives, she said that no civil society organization could legitimately speak in the General Assembly. Only a governmental delegation could do so. Acceptance of such a paragraph should not set a precedent for the future, she said.
The Committee adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
The Committee then took action on draft resolution entitled United Nations Literacy Decade: education for all (document A/C.3/65/L.9/Rev.1), which the Chair said contained no programme budget implications. The representative of Mongolia, the main sponsor, said the agreed text was the product of informal consultations with Member States and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The draft resolution recalls that in 2001, the General Assembly had proclaimed the 10 years from 1 January 2003 as the United Nations Literacy Decade. Considerable progress had been made during the decade, as the Secretary-General of UNESCO had spelled out in a report. However, 796 million people still lacked basic literacy skills, while millions of young people were either out of school or left school with an inadequate level of literacy. With two years left to run, and the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals approaching, the draft resolution draws attention to the limited time left to achieve the objectives of the Decade and calls on Member States and others to scale up quality literacy efforts while considering a post-2012 strategy.
The Committee then adopted the draft resolution without a vote.
The Committee then began to take action on a draft resolution entitled Intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women (document A/C.3/65/L.17/Rev.1). The representative of France, the main sponsor together with the Netherlands, asked for a five minute suspension of proceedings, which the Chair, Mr. TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) granted.
Upon the resumption of proceedings, the representative of France asked for a postponement of action in order for informal consultations to continue.
The Chair acknowledged the request, saying that more time could lead to “a meeting of minds” on such an important subject. “It is always a good idea to go back again and again … so that at the end of the day, we have something that we can really take action on,” he said.
The representative of Iran said his country had been listed as a co-sponsor of the draft resolution, when in fact it had not signed the list of co-sponsors. The Committee Secretary acknowledged that a mistake had been made.
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