Delegates Consider Deadly Use of Drone Technology as Third Committee Hears More Presentations by Experts on Human Rights Obligations

25 October 2013
GA/SHC/4078

Delegates Consider Deadly Use of Drone Technology as Third Committee Hears More Presentations by Experts on Human Rights Obligations

25 October 2013
General Assembly
GA/SHC/4078
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

27th & 28th Meetings (AM & PM)

Delegates Consider Deadly Use of Drone Technology as Third Committee

Hears More Presentations by Experts on Human Rights Obligations

The lethal use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, came under scrutiny in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as a United Nations human rights expert argued that the internationally recognized rule against arbitrary killing also applied to extraterritorial attacks by such weapons systems.

Although “drones are not illegal”, said Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, “the core questions are about the law, policy and practices around their use”, especially in extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations by States employing or intending to employ such weapons systems.

Declaring that “global security requires that drones should follow the law”, he emphasized that there was no need to create new laws.  Human rights were the “default legal regime”, premised on the protection of life principle that life might be taken only in the absence of alternative ways to protect another life.

Regarding drone attacks, he argued that States were bound by that principle, even outside their own respective territories, since the right to life was recognized as part of international custom and general principles of law.  That was reinforced by the widely-held view that human rights treaties could in principle apply extraterritorially.  States should not be allowed to take life outside their own borders on a different basis from that upheld within them, he stressed.

Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, underlined the difficulty of defining “civilian causalities” when drones were used.  Noting that the technology was developed specifically for use in asymmetrical conflicts with non-State armed groups, he said civilians may provide varying degrees of voluntary or involuntary support, causing the issue of their location to be regarded as participation in hostilities.

In the ensuing dialogue, many delegates asked about accountability for the use of drones.  Mr. Heyns said that engaging in discussions with States possessing drones, and those developing them, could be an effective measure to ensure accountability for violations of the right to life through drone use.

Mr. Emmerson cited an example of transparent investigations carried out through the release of declassified information, and explanations provided by the United States regarding casualties in Afghanistan.  The difficulty, however, lay in holding accountable those who neither denied nor accepted responsibility, he cautioned.

Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, was among six other experts who briefed the Committee today.  He said that over the past decades, the right to information was increasingly recognized as crucial to promoting good governance and civil society participation in public affairs.  The right to truth had emerged during the same period, he added, noting that international human rights bodies recognized both as distinct individual rights.  The latter could be considered an “enabler” since it allowed access to other rights.

Raquel Rolnik, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, said rental and collective housing were often neglected, but could play a central role in realizing the right to adequate housing for the poor.  She called for a paradigm shift from policies that viewed housing as a financial asset, to a human rights-based approach that emphasized the importance of a home in which people found security and lived in dignity.

Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said that some States and intergovernmental organizations insisted on distinguishing between “trafficking in organs” and “trafficking in persons for removal of organs”, resulting in a failure to leverage the trafficking-in-persons framework against transplant-related exploitation.  The distinction was largely unjustified because such exploitation fell within the international legal definition of trafficking in persons, she said.

Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said justice too often “traded off” against short-term economic development, contravening legal obligations to fight impunity for human rights abuses.  A narrow approach to development that justice considerations would be neither human nor sustainable, he emphasized.

Anand Grover, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, pointed out that human rights law contained more specific obligations relating to availability, accessibility and quality of health services than international humanitarian law.   The right to health imposed certain core obligations upon States, including the need to ensure equitable distribution and access to health facilities, goods and services, he noted.

Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said hunger was a man-made calamity – the result of depriving food producers of access to resources, failing to protect workers’ right to a living wage, or failure to make progress on social protection and gender empowerment.

Participating in today’s interactive dialogue were speakers representing Austria, European Union delegation, Liechtenstein, United States, Brazil, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Montenegro, Maldives, Russian Federation, Bangladesh, Venezuela, Pakistan, Mexico, United Kingdom, Iran, China, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Angola, Germany, Indonesia, Romania, Argentina, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova, Sudan, Qatar, Ethiopia, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Iran, Bahrain, South Africa, Ireland, Cameroon, Food and Agricultural Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

The Third Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 28 October, to continue its discussion on the protection and promotion of the human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights, with eight experts expected to brief members throughout the day.  For background information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4076 of 23 October.

Presentation of Reports and Interactive Dialogue

Freedom of Opinion and Expression

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that his report (document A/68/362) emphasized the link between the right to information and the right to truth.  A particular portion was devoted to analysing the impact of mass surveillance technologies on the right to freedom of expression.  Over the last decades, the right to information was increasingly recognized as crucial to the promotion of good governance and civil society participation in public affairs, he recalled, noting also that the right to truth had emerged during the same period.  International human rights bodies recognized both as distinct individual rights, and the latter, in particular, could be considered an “enabler” since as it allowed access to other rights.

The link between both rights was particularly relevant when addressing access to information on human rights violations and when discussing permissible limitations on that particular right.  Victims of violations and their families often faced great challenges when demanding the release of State information, even after the fall of authoritarian regimes, he noted, adding that States should have an obligation to take proactive measures to ensure the preservation and dissemination of such information.  On the other hand, restrictions on any dimension of the right to freedom of expression must be defined by accessible, clear and unambiguous law, compatible with a State’s international human rights obligations.  National security should not be used as a justification for restricting access to information held by governmental entities, because that weakened public trust in State institutions, he stressed, suggesting that the Global Principles on National Security and the Right to Information provided a very useful tool for States to improve laws in those respects.

Outlining some recommendations in his report, he said they included calling on States to revise or adopt national laws that would guarantee the right to access information.  Such legislation should be based on the principle of maximum disclosure, and establish a clear list of exceptions.  The report also recommended creating simplified procedures for accessing information, and considering the appointment of a focal point, such as an information commissioner, to assist in the implementation of national norms.  Finally, the report underlined the importance of enhancing the capacity of public bodies and officials so the could respond adequately to requests for information by, among other things, changing or updating bureaucratic procedures, investing in the training of officials as well as in data management mechanisms.  “Only people who have the right to fully acknowledge their past can be truly free to define their future,” he said in conclusion.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked questions and made comments about ensuring the protection and safety of journalists; inexpensive measures for establishing open information structures, particularly by States with limited resources; international assistance to ensure the rights to information and to truth; sharing best practices and facilitating the right to information among States; linking the right to truth and the right to privacy; drawing the line between peace and justice when the disclosure of information could have negative consequences; guaranteeing the “right to non-repetition” in respect of human rights violations; ensuring a truthful basis for media reports rather than one of misinformation and/or fabrication; remedial measures to be taken when media circulated false news; and ensuring that media and States shared responsibility for disseminating accurate information.

Mr. LA RUE recalled that the debate on the right to truth had been initiated within the inter-American system following denunciations of enforced disappearances in many Latin American countries such as Argentina and Chile.  The European Court of Human Rights also recognized the importance of the right of victims and families to know the truth, as in a judgement relating to the Russian Federation.  Even when violations could not be legally investigated, the right to truth remained valid and intact because it was the foundation for other rights and had power in itself.  Unlike the right to truth, the right to information had always enjoyed the status of a “right”, and that was especially true in the case of human rights violations, he said.  However, exceptions were even fewer than in other cases, and should apply only where there was a risk of the harm arising from disclosure being greater than the overall public interest in access to the information, such as when children were involved or when information was provided on a confidential basis.

He emphasized that, while lack of access to information had been an important challenge in societies making the transition from authoritarian rue to democracy, the right to the truth was essential for every society, not only those in transition, and should be enjoyed by everyone, not only victims.  “Human rights violations can never be excused,” he added.

Responding to a question about privacy from the representative of Brazil, he said a related answer could be found in his report’s observations section, on the importance of ensuring the protection of whistleblowers.  They played an important role, particularly when denouncing gross and systematic violations of human rights.

In response to a question by the representative of Venezuela, he stressed the need for corporate responsibility on the part of media, pointing out that the latter were mainly self-regulatory.  However, any criticism of the media should come from the civil society and not from the State, otherwise that would become censorship, he cautioned.

He went on to agree with the representative of Austria regarding the need to protect journalists and possibly establish protection mechanisms, particularly for those investigating systematic human rights violations.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Austria, European Union delegation, Liechtenstein, United States, Brazil, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Montenegro, Maldives, Russian Federation, Bangladesh and Venezuela.

Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

CHRISTOF HEYNS, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, introduced his 2013 report (document A/68/382), stressing that its focus was the lethal use of armed drones from the perspective of the right to life.  It was widely accepted that drones were not illegal, he said, adding that they were “here to stay” since more States were expected to acquire them.  The core questions were about the law, policy and practices around their use, especially in extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations by all States employing or intending to employ such weapons systems.  “Global security requires that drones should follow the law,” he declared, adding that “the law should not follow drones”.  The right to life could only be secured if all the distinct requirements of international human rights law, international humanitarian law and the law on the inter-State use of force, as applicable, were met.

“New law is not needed,” he continued, arguing that the existing international framework should be applied, and attempts to lower the standards for the use of force in its various regimes or in their interplay resisted.  Human rights were the “default legal regime”, premised on the protection-of-life principle: life might be taken only in the absence of another way and thus when necessary to protect another life.  To be necessary, the danger to life must be imminent, he emphasized, pointing out that the rule against the arbitrary deprivation of life was to be found in customary international law, in the general principles of law and in human rights treaties recognizing the right to life.

Noting that drone attacks had been carried out largely against non-State actors in other countries, he questioned whether States were also bound by that rule outside their own respective territories.  Since the right to life was recognized as part of international custom and the general principles of law, “the answer must be yes”.  That was reinforced by the widely-held view that human rights treaties could in principle also apply extraterritorially.  States should not be allowed to take life outside their own borders on a different basis from that upheld within them, he stressed.  The prohibition on the use of inter-State force without the consent of the State concerned was an integral part of the protection of life – and the right to life – under Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter, he noted.

While States may use force in self-defence against an armed attack, its limits must be recognized, he said, adding that the force applied must be necessary and proportionate.  Anticipatory self-defence may be justified only against a truly imminent threat, and any purported exercise of the right to self-defence must be reported to the Security Council.  Expressing concern over the “drones only” approach reportedly mentioned by a former Secretary of State of the United States, he warned that increased reliance on that technology would lead to reduced emphasis on peaceful ways to resolve disputes.  Over-reliance might also lead to long, drawn-out and low-intensity conflicts with few geographical boundaries.  International norms protecting the right to life would be significantly undermined if States around the world claimed and exercised the authority to “right wrongs” anywhere in the globe as they perceived them to occur, with drones or any other weapons.

Protection of Human Rights While Countering Terrorism

BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, introduced his report (document A/68/298), recalling that a  Human Rights Council statement of June 2012 urged that his mandate focus on the use of drones in counter-terrorism operations by reference to international law principles governing the use of force, as well as international humanitarian and human rights law.  He identified three challenges, saying the first was clearly determining the meaning of “civilian causalities”.  Noting that drone technology was developed specifically for use in asymmetrical conflicts with non-State armed groups, he said that in such a context, civilians may provide varying degrees of voluntary or involuntary support, causing the issue of their location to be regarded as taking part in hostilities.

“Difference of view about the forms of activity that amount to direct participation in hostilities under international humanitarian law will almost inevitably result in different assessments of civilian casualty level,” he said, calling for clarity on the issue.  The second challenge was the lack of transparency in evaluating the civilian impact of drone strikes, which made it difficult to assess claims of precision targeting in an objective manner.  The third challenge was the uncertainty surrounding some of the key principles of international law and their relevance to modern forms of asymmetrical conflict.  There lack of consensus on the core legal principles engaged by drone technology, he pointed out, calling for international agreement on the correct interpretation of the law.

Turning to the report, he said its aim was to promote an informed international debate.  It emphasized four points, the first being that the particular suitability of drones for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations — so far used only by the United States, United Kingdom and Israel — had brought into sharp focus the evolving debate concerning the geographical boundaries of the battlefield.  The increasingly asymmetrical nature of armed conflict called for urgent consideration at the international level, he emphasized.  Second, if deployed in strict compliance with international humanitarian law, the use of drones could reduce the risk of civilian causalities in armed conflict, he said.  “The imperative is to achieve clarity about the existing legal framework and then to ensure that it is implemented.”  The third point was about the expression “targeted killing”, he said.

He went on to describe the term as potentially misleading because the key issue was not whether a killing was “targeted”, but whether it took place within or outside a situation recognized as armed conflict under international humanitarian law.  “In a situation qualifying as an armed conflict, the adoption of a pre-identified list of individual military targets is not unlawful,” he said.  “It is a paradigm application of the principle of distinction.”  Conversely, outside situations of armed conflict, international human rights law prohibited almost any counter-terrorism operation whose sole or main purpose was to inflict deadly force, he pointed out.  “So the key question is: When does a non-international conflict come into existence, and what, if any, are the geographical limitations to the application of the law of armed conflict in this context?”  The fourth point was that drones, if used in compliance with international humanitarian law, could reduce the risk of civilian casualties by improving the situational awareness of military commanders.  And if civilians were killed, the State responsible must conduct independent and impartial inquiries and provide a detailed public explanation.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked about the protection of the right to life, how to ensure accountability for alleged violations, the legality of drones and concrete measures to ensure their lawful use.  Others asked how transparency could be achieved in the use of drones, and how particular violations had occurred.  Yet other delegates asked about the effectiveness of drone use in preventing civilian casualties and about the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.  Overall, most delegates welcomed the discussion triggered by the two reports addressing the topic.

Mr. HEYNS said the protection of the right to life had two components, one relating to prevention and the other to accountability.  The latter was closely related to transparency, since it would be difficult to hold someone accountable without a transparent approach to violations.  As for ensuring accountability for violations of the right to life through drone use, he said that engaging in discussions with States possessing drones and those developing them could be an effective measure.  If self-defence was the justification for drone attacks, States could be held accountable for them, but if their scope changed, that should be announced in the Security Council, for example.  The principle of accountability must also be applied to States that supported the use of drones, he said.

Regarding the legality of such weapons systems, he explained that the principle of accountability would be compromised if drones were used without previous communication.  “Inherently they are legal weapons,” he said, citing his own statement before the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security).  On the need for concrete mechanisms to ensure that drones were used within the law, he said accountability and transparency were the first ways to do that.  However, it was equally important for the international community to continue monitoring respect for international humanitarian law and human rights law, he added, expressing concern over the proliferation of drones, especially “if they are used secretly and in the context of arguments”.

Mr. EMMERSON, citing the section of his report relating to the investigation of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, gave a concrete example of transparent investigations carried out through the release of declassified information and explanations provided by the United States.  “This example shows that transparency in the use of drones can be achieved in the appropriate circumstance,” he said.  However the difficulty lay in holding accountable those who neither denied nor accepted responsibility.  On particular cases in which there was evidence of significant civilian casualties, he said the occurrence of casualties triggered questions of accountability in itself, but that did not translate immediately into a violation of international law, especially if the State responsible had not provided their view.

Regarding the use of drones to reduce civilian causalities in armed conflicts, he quoted United Nations reports that showed a lower number of civilian casualties when drones were used.  He emphasized, however, that it was the use of drones outside an open armed conflict that was problematic.  “It is not the use of the drones that is the problem, but rather the circumstances determining when the use of force is legal.”

Responding to the question about the closure of the Guantanamo Bay facility, he confirmed that the detention of terrorists fell under his mandate and assured the Committee of his continuing engagement on the issue.  As for the facility closure, he said the current United States Administration had clearly indicated its interest in closing it down, but internal obstructions over the budget were ongoing and well-known around the world.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Pakistan, European Union delegation, Mexico, Norway, Brazil, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Russian Federation, Iran, Liechtenstein, United States, China, Cuba, Azerbaijan and Venezuela.

Adequate Housing

RAQUEL ROLNIK, Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, presented her thematic report (document A/68/289), noting that she had shed light on two crucial housing issues — rental and collective housing — which were often neglected these days but could play a central role in the realization of the right to adequate housing for those living in poverty.  She reiterated her call for a paradigm shift from housing policies that regarded housing mostly as a financial asset to a human rights-based approach which emphasized the social dimension — a home where individuals and households could find security and live in dignity.

Realizing the right to adequate housing, without discrimination, required a combination of effective planning and housing policies and State intervention in both direct investment and regulation, she said.  A mixture of tenure solutions, including private-public rental and collective tenure, was essential to ensuring access to adequate housing for all, and especially to shielding individuals and households from economic and financial shocks.  A combination of tenure arrangements could protect the urban poor, she said, underlining the importance of a well-functioning and effectively regulated rental sector that would include both private and social renting.

She went on to suggest that States encourage the development and maintenance of a private rental sector.  It could include incentives for small-scale landlords, while setting measures in place to support low-income households through rent allowances, a housing benefit and guaranteed funds to cover the costs associated with rent arrears and service payments.  Standardized rent contracts could have a far-reaching positive effect and must be available.  By the same token, cooperative, collective and communal forms of tenure deserved closer examination and far more attention than they currently received, particularly when the aim was to enhance mechanisms for the promotion of housing for the urban poor.

Such mechanisms would allow for joint-resource allocation and risk-sharing, and they could greatly enhance the situation of households and communities, she said, urging States to devote greater efforts to designing and investing in collective forms of tenure, ensuring legal recognition and protection of cooperative and collective ownership of land and housing in urban areas.  States should also support housing policy and financial mechanisms, including access to credit and State subsidies, and tax benefits for collective institutions.  They should provide technical assistance and make well-located urban land available for collective housing organizations, she added.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked about the informal rental sector, particularly in Africa; examples of sustainable practices related to the provision of housing for the poor by charities and non-profit organizations; community land trusts; practical steps  to secure rental arrangements for low-income households; and examples of tenure arrangements.

Ms. ROLNIK said in response that since she was unable to answer all the questions, she would take note of them and discuss them again at the next meeting in Geneva.

On informal settlements, she emphasized the importance of establishing a dialogue involving all stakeholders — self-help builders, the State and communities — when planning housing regulations.  Such a discourse should aim at putting basic rules in place to ensure safety and protection, among other things.  Examples of such cooperation had taken place in Colombia, Brazil, Thailand and Indonesia, where housing upgrades had been carried out in a participatory manner.

On another topic, she said the initiative involving “social landlords” had been very successful in countries like the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands.  However, the State was not to be considered a social landlord, even though State financing was a precondition for that kind of housing.  Moreover, social landlords were tasked not only with planning and establishing social housings, but also with maintaining and managing them.  Ultimately, the housing could be managed by cooperatives comprising the tenants themselves, but not without the subsidies provided by the State, she cautioned.

Responding to a question about why community land trusts were not spread out in all countries as they were in the United States, she said they were increasing gradually, as in the United Kingdom.

She agreed with the objection raised by the representative of the United States that regulation of the financial markets exceeded the scope of her mandate, but noted that financial institutions in general did not finance collective housings, so there was a high need for regulation in that respect.  She also underlined the importance of not dealing with housing issues in terms of supply and demand, as if housing were any other good.  As the representative of South Africa had rightly pointed out, the real question was not the number of houses built, but about the whole network of infrastructure accompanying them, she said, adding that she was advocating for improving people’s overall living conditions.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Brazil, Angola, European Union delegation, Maldives, United States, Germany and Indonesia.

Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children

JOY NGOZI EZEILO, the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said that while trafficking in persons for the removal of organs could occur within a single country, it commonly involved potential recipients travelling to another country for a transplant that would be unlawful or unavailable at home.  The practice was known as “transplant tourism”, she said, adding that her report stressed the difference between trafficking in organs and trafficking in persons for the removal of organs.  Describing the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children as the most significant treaty to date on the issue, she explained that it supplemented the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, which covered the removal of organs as a form of exploitation associated with trafficking.

Regional responses to trafficking in persons for removal of organs had been limited mostly to Europe, she said, noting that they included the 2013 draft Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking in Human Organs.  Concerning national responses, she said most States had incorporated international and regional standards prohibiting the buying and selling of human organs into national legislation.  The United Nations Convention and its Protocol on Trafficking in Persons required States parties to criminalize trafficking of persons for many purposes, including organ removal.

She said that among the principal reasons for the inability to leverage the trafficking in persons framework against transplant-related exploitation was the insistence of some States and intergovernmental organizations in distinguishing between “trafficking in organs” and “trafficking in persons for removal of organs”, she said.  The distinction was largely unjustified because the principal issue — “the exploitation of persons who are compelled by need or force to provide organs for transplant to people within their countries or foreigners” — fell squarely within the international legal definition of trafficking in persons.

She urged States to pay close attention to her recommendations, which were directed at States as well as medical and transplant professionals.  The report recommended that all States prohibit the removal of organs from executed prisoners as well as the “donation” of organs by persons in official custody.  States must work with the media and civil society, including the medical and transplant communities, to raise awareness of trafficking in persons for removal of organs among potential target populations.  She said that in the past six years, she had based her work on advocating for the implementation of anti-trafficking responses based on ‘5 Ps’ (protection, prosecution, punishment, prevention, promoting international cooperation and partnership); ‘3 Rs’ (redress, recovery and reintegration); and ‘3 Cs’ (capacity, cooperation and coordination).

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked about the distinction between “trafficking in organs” and “trafficking in persons for removal of organs”, while others sought an explanation as to why the Special Rapporteur had used the gender-neutral approach.  Still others wanted her to elaborate on preventive measures and ways to enhance cooperation.

Ms. EZEILO said she was particularly mindful of the gender issue.  As stated in the report, a study in 2000 had found that the flow of organs was believed to follow the modern route of capital — from South to North, from “Third World” to “ First World”, from poor to rich, from black and brown to white, and from female to male.  She said she had reviewed data that generally confirmed the key points of that assertion, except in relation to the gender aspect.

She said the distinction between “trafficking in organs” and “trafficking in persons for removal of organs” was largely unjustified because the exploitation of persons compelled by need or force to provide organs for transplantation into people within their own countries, or to foreigners, fell squarely within the international legal definition of trafficking in persons.  Commending the European Union for leading the way towards a high standard of implementation, she stressed the importance of legislation criminalizing such acts, taking into account their extraterritorial nature and adopting measures to discourage “transplant tourism”.

Also participating in the discussion were speakers representing the European Union delegation, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Russian Federation, Romania, Argentina, Nigeria, Republic of Moldova, Sudan, Qatar, Ethiopia and the International Organization for Migration.

Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence

PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said justice was too often “traded off” against short-term economic development, contravening legal obligations to fight impunity for human rights abuses.  A narrow approach to development that ignored considerations of justice would be neither human nor sustainable, he said.  As such, the “Tunisia test” should be applied to the post-2015 development framework in that the goals and indicators established should not foster the appearance of success in societies where large deficits in security, justice and human rights undermined development, he said, emphasizing that States were legally obliged to establish redress and prevention mechanisms in the aftermath of repression or conflict.

He went on to detail three ways in which the legacy of human rights violations hampered development:  a downward shift in preferences, the depletion of trust, and the undermining of capabilities.  Transitional justice measures could counteract negative preferences by providing recognition to victims as rights-bearers, promoting civic trust and generally protecting civil capabilities, he said, recommending the incorporation of goals on access to justice and remedy into the post-2015 development agenda.  Promoters of development should heed the lesson that without justice, neither security nor development could be fully achieved, he said, stressing that considerations of justice, including transitional justice, had a legitimate place in the post-2015 framework.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked and commented about the correlation between development and justice, its integration into the post-2015 development framework, human rights violations that undermined civic trust, the gender dimension of the correlation between development and justice, and the role of development actors in investigating unaddressed atrocities.

Mr. DE GREIFF, thanked the Governments of Tunisia and Uruguay for organizing regional consultations with him, and said he welcomed his upcoming regional consultations in Africa and Europe.  The link between justice and development was obvious, he said, adding:  “The retardant and hampering effects on development of insufficiently protecting women and children does not need additional empirical evidence, but it needs actions.”  There was also evidence of the need to implement truth, justice and reparations as well as to guarantee non-recurrence into a broader framework, rather than doing so in isolates instances.

Participants included representatives of Argentina, Czech Republic, Tunisia, Switzerland and the European Union delegation.

Enjoyment of Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health

ANAND GROVER, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health presented his report (document A/68/297), saying he had undertaken several activities to further develop his mandate while assessing, monitoring and reporting publicly on issues relating to the global implementation of the right to health.  He had also submitted a report on the right to health of migrant workers to the Human Rights Council.  He said that his latest report focused on the obligations of State and non-State actors towards persons affected by conflict situations, including internal disturbances, protests, civil unrest and occupation.

He reiterated that human rights laws continued to apply in situations governed by international humanitarian law and when the latter was disputed.  While both sets of laws shared the aim of protecting all persons under the principles of respect for life and human dignity, human rights law imposed more specific obligations concerning availability, accessibility and quality of health services than international humanitarian law.  The right to health imposed certain core obligations, such as ensuring equitable distribution and access to health facilities, goods and services on a non-discriminatory basis; providing essential medicines; and formulating national health plans that took the special needs of vulnerable populations into consideration.  Availability and accessibility of health facilities, goods and services were critical in times of conflict, he added.

The report considered a number of concerns in that respect, he continued.  Refusal to treat wounded people, or providing preferential treatment to those of similar allegiance occurred frequently during conflict.  Also, the availability of health facilities, goods and services was hindered by a number of physical barriers, such as arbitrary checkpoints and roadblocks.  In some cases, civilians had been prevented from accessing life-saving medicines and supplies.  He said he had also observed that some States had enacted laws and policies restricting or criminalizing the provision of medical care to people opposing the State, such as political protesters and non-State armed groups.  Similarly, doctors and health-care workers had been arrested or charged for acting with professional impartiality.  Expressions of concern also related to the destruction of health infrastructure by States, or their failure to protect against destruction by third parties.  Such attacks not only violated the right to health, but also crippled entire health-care systems.

Special attention should be paid to persons made vulnerable by conflicts, such as women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and displaced communities, he said.  While responsibility for implementing the right to health in conflict lay with the States involved in the conflict non-State actors also bore obligations, particularly stable and organized ones.  Non-State armed groups wielded significant influence on the enjoyment of the right to health in conflict, and, as such, should also be bound by international humanitarian and human rights obligations.  A final concern was that the monitoring of violations was often poor, incomplete and often focused on high-profile issues, such as attacks on international aid workers, rather than on more common violations like threats against local workers.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked about specific examples of protecting sexual and reproductive rights in conflict situations; specific examples of State responsibility in situations of conflicts brought about by non-State actors; how non-State actors could be bound by international obligations; how the Special Rapporteur evaluated the legality of sanctions, knowing their very negative impact on the human rights of the most vulnerable; the need for impartial and unbiased sources for information, while refraining from sensationalistic approaches; the need to define attacks on medical personnel and facilities, in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; the need to reduce child mortality of children under five; and the need for guidelines by the relevant United Nations entities and agencies.

Mr. GROVER welcomed all comments, “particularly the negative ones”, saying they gave him the opportunity to incorporate and consider things from a different point of view.  He welcomed, in particular, comments by the representative of Bahrain, saying his report was based on information provided by sources that had been checked both by himself and by his office.  It provided only examples and expressed no intention to single out any country, he emphasized.

On dealing with attacks on health-care workers, he said the report provided examples of that, particularly in the footnotes.  Turning to sexual violence, he stressed that it was exacerbated by conflict situations, but strictly related to gender relations in general.  The issue was, therefore, “hard to tackle” using legal tools exclusively.  New paradigms should be taught to schoolchildren, for example.  The responsibility of non-State actors was dealt with in paragraph 57 of the report, he said.

Responding to a question by the representative of Iran, about the legality of sanctions, he said they had a negative impact that in most cases, but could not be ruled out altogether.  It was a complex issue, he said, adding that he would gladly accept an invitation to visit Iran for further observations.

Agreeing with the representative of Sudan about the need for a comprehensive and participatory approach to health-related issues, he reiterated that the reliability of his sources was always double-checked.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Switzerland, European Union delegation, South Africa, Russian Federation and Ireland.

Right to Food

OLIVIER DE SCHUTTER, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said hunger and malnutrition were not natural calamities, caused by poor or unfavourable soil, but the man-made result of denying food producers access to resources, failing to protect workers’ right to a living wage, or failure to make progress on social protection and gender empowerment.  However, parliamentarians were pushing for the adoption of framework laws on the right to food, and for legislation defining benefits from public works programmes or subsidized foodstuffs.  Judges were striking down laws that discriminated against small-scale food producers in South Africa; protecting land users from illegal evictions in Uganda; and monitoring the implementation of public programmes aimed at protecting the poor from hunger and malnutrition in India.  Public officials were also combining efforts with other departments to address the cross-sectoral nature of measures demanded by community kitchens preparing food supplied by local producers for poor urban communities, and to cash-for-work programmes building rural infrastructure.

The right to food, hardly more than a symbol a decade ago, had now become an operational tool, capable of guiding food-security strategies, he continued.  The institutionalization of food policies had transformed benefits into legal entitlements, allowing those previously denied access to claim mechanisms to complain.  Furthermore, the adoption of framework laws ensuring the participation of civil society, and including farmers’ organizations in policy design ensured that policy would be better informed by the needs of the poor, marginalized and the most vulnerable.  Similarly, it was critical to take into account the needs of food producers in order to shift from supply- to demand-driven policies, he said, highlighting the advantages that followed when States adopted multi-year strategies based on the right to food.

Government action plans increased accountability and facilitated monitoring by independent bodies, including courts, national human rights institutions or food security and nutrition councils.  Such monitoring and evaluation of food security policies ensured permanent feedback, and thus learning experience.  To address what was increasingly seen as a violation of the human right to food, courts were stepping in, parliamentarians mobilizing for change, and citizens relying on the growing number of means to demand greater accountability.  To that end, Governments must support the realization of the right to adequate food through investment in trade, and take it into account in their development cooperation policies.  Stressing that eradicating poverty was not a simple task, and that there was no “magic bullet” to solve it, he said progress had been made in using the right to food as a means to identify obstacles, promote accountability and stimulate action.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, delegates asked about international efforts to raise awareness of the right to food, access to productive resources, and recognition of the role of women as well as fisheries in food production.  Others asked about the remaining challenges to implementing the right to food and its extraterritorial aspects.

Mr. DE SCHUTTER, addressing measures undertaken to promote the right to food, cited his collaboration with the Rome-based United Nations food agencies, as well as his work in regional consultations and in the Committee on World Food Security.  He said his work focused on taking stock of progress and encouraging States to take the right to food into account in crafting policy on trade and economic growth.

On access to productive resources ensuring the right to food, he said rural people lacked access to social security and job opportunities.  Therefore, their chances of producing their own food represented an essential safety net, especially when food prices were rising, making it vital to protect access to productive resources.

Regarding the importance of fisheries and women in food production, he cited two specific reports he had written on those issues, saying that “empowering women is the cheapest way as well as the secret weapon against malnutrition”.

As for the remaining challenges hindering the right to food, he identified climate change as extremely challenging, saying it could, however, be tackled by promoting food production through the recycling of waste and without relying on industrialization for its production.  He recommended building resilient and sustainable food systems — though avoiding monoculture — and reducing over-dependence on international markets.

Addressing the issue of extraterritorial obligations on the right to food, he warned that national measures would not succeed without international

recognition of that right because they needed a supportive international community.

Participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Sudan, European Union delegation, Switzerland, Norway, Cameroon, Cuba and the Food and Agricultural Organization.

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