State judicial sovereignty, the bounds of international law, and differing perspectives as to whether sexual orientation should be considered a human right, came to the fore during Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) discussions today, as delegates approved six draft resolutions on extrajudicial executions, the right to peace and the use of mercenaries.
Among the most debated of those texts was one calling for an end to extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, which the Committee approved by a recorded vote of 106 in favour, to none against, with 69 abstentions. By its terms, the General Assembly would demand that all States take action to eliminate all forms and manifestations of those practices. It would also note the continuing arbitrary deprivation of life resulting from “the imposition and implementation of capital punishment when carried out in a manner that violates international law” — a point with which several delegates took issue.
Jamaica’s delegate said that while he supported the draft resolution, pointed out that the death penalty was permitted under international law and the suggestion that it amounted to extrajudicial killing was problematic. The representatives of Sudan and the Russian Federation also took issue with the text’s reference to the International Criminal Court and its founding Rome Statute, noting that not all States were members of the Court or signatories to its founding instrument.
Many delegations also objected to a section of the text listing specific groups that were particularly vulnerable to extrajudicial killings, including those targeted on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. They argued that the reference was an attempt by some countries to impose their value systems on others. Uzbekistan’s representative proposed an amendment that would remove the contentious language, but the Committee rejected it by 60 recorded votes in favour to 84 against, with 27 abstentions.
In other action, the Committee approved a draft resolution on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right to self-determination, by 117 votes in favour to 50 against, with 6 abstentions. Among other things, it would have the General Assembly call upon States to take legislative measures to ensure that territories under their control were not used for — and their nationals did not take part in — the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries. Slovakia’s representative, speaking for the European Union, explained that the bloc had voted against the draft because it would add private security firms to the mandate of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group on those issues.
The Committee also put to a recorded vote a draft resolution on the right to peace upon the request of the representative of the United States, who described it as a veiled attempt to stifle human rights. Nonetheless, the Committee approved it by a recorded 116 votes in favour to 34 against, with 19 abstentions.
Having voted in favour of that text, Iran’s representative said the right to peace was a prerequisite for the enjoyment of human rights by all peoples. Other speakers, including the representatives of Canada and Japan, objected to the draft, pointing out the absence of legal consensus on the definition of the “right to peace”, and the lack of clarity on rights and duties thereunder.
The Committee also approved the following three draft resolutions without a vote: “Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond”; “Follow-up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing”, and “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights”.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 21 November, to continue its action on draft proposals.
The representative of Thailand drew the Committee’s attention to a typographical error in the draft resolution entitled “Follow-up to the twentieth anniversary of the International Year of the Family and beyond” (document A/C.3/71/L.6/Rev.1), noting that the words “in order” in one paragraph had not appeared in the draft submitted to the Secretariat.
The Committee approved the draft resolution without a vote.
By its terms, the General Assembly would call on the Secretary-General to submit a report to the Assembly’s seventy-second session, through the Commission for Social Development and the Economic and Social Council, on the implementation of the objectives of the International Year and its follow-up processes by Member States and the United Nations. The Assembly would decide to consider the topic “Implementation of the objectives of the International Year of the Family and its follow-up processes” at its seventy-second session.
The representative of the United States, speaking in explanation of position, welcomed the draft resolution’s focus on the work-life balance. The United States would have preferred that the resolution mentioned the diversity of families or various forms of families.
The representative of Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said family issues were of great importance. Underscoring the need to support families through inclusive policies, he said families had changed in response to social changes and that fact must be recognized. Policy discussions should continue to reflect that various forms of the family existed in different cultural, social and political systems. All references to the term “family” were understood to reflect that inclusivity. The European Union regretted that the term “family” was divisive. That should not be the case and the European Union would continue to engage with partners to find true consensus on that issue.
The representative of Mexico said he had joined consensus on the draft but would have liked to have seen the text reflect the various forms that a family might take.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution entitled “Follow-Up to the Second World Assembly on Ageing” (document A/C.3/71/L.7 Rev.1), approving it without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would call upon States to ensure the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for older persons, including through measures to provide social protection, food and housing, employment, legal capacity and access to justice, as well as to combat age discrimination and address social integration issues. The Assembly would also encourage Governments to pay greater attention to eradicating poverty among older persons and request the United Nations to support national implementation of the Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that although her delegation supported the consensus, it did not consent to changing the mandate of the Open-ended Working Group on Ageing, which had been defined by General Assembly resolution 65/182. The Group’s working methods, both procedurally and substantively, should not be amended.
The representative of Cuba then introduced a draft resolution on the “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination” (document A/C.3/71/L.42), explaining that by the text, the Committee would reaffirm that the use of mercenaries obstructed the exercise of human rights. He urged support for the draft.
The representative of Syria asked who had requested a recorded vote on the draft resolution, a question also raised by the representative of Cuba.
The Chairwoman said the vote had been requested by the representative of Slovakia.
The Committee then approved draft L.42 by a recorded vote of 117 in favour to 50 against, with 6 abstentions (Liberia, Mexico, Norway, Palau, Tonga, and Switzerland).
The Assembly would express alarm about mercenary activities and their impact. It would urge all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against that menace and take legislative measures to ensure that territories under their control were not used for — and that their nationals did not take part in — the recruitment, assembly, financing, training, protection or transit of mercenaries. It would request all States to exercise the utmost vigilance against any recruitment, training, hiring or financing of mercenaries by private companies offering international military consultancy and security services, and to impose a ban on such companies intervening in armed conflicts or actions to destabilize constitutional regimes. It would also call on States to investigate the possibility of mercenary involvement whenever and wherever criminal acts of a terrorist nature occurred and bring to trial those found responsible or to consider their extradition, if so requested, in accordance with national law and applicable bilateral or international treaties.
The representative of Argentina expressed support for self-determination, and to that end, underscored the importance of enjoying that right.
The representative of Slovakia, speaking on behalf of the European Union, thanked the mission of Cuba for its transparency in holding consultations, and the removal of an operative paragraph referring to foreign fighters. The content of the draft resolution, however, had remained the same, and the Union had concerns about the text. The Working Group should not consider private security groups under its mandate. Generally, the lack of clarity was detrimental to addressing legitimate human rights concerns emanating from the use of mercenaries and private security and private military companies. For such reasons, the bloc could not support the resolution in its current form.
The representative of Iraq supported the draft resolution given its importance for combating the use of mercenaries in terrorist activities.
The representative of Norway said his country’s vote had mistakenly been registered as an abstention and that it should be registered as “no”, in line with its typical position.
The Committee then took up a draft resolution entitled “Declaration on the Right to Peace” (document A/C.3/71/L.29), which would see the General Assembly adopt the Declaration on the Right to Peace and invite Governments, the United Nations and stakeholders to disseminate the Declaration.
The representative of Cuba, the resolution’s main sponsor, orally revised preambular paragraph 3 expressing hope of ending a more than 70-year “drought” in the United Nations regarding recognition of the right to peace. Describing the text’s approval as a moral imperative, he said doing so would send a strong message to millions of people. He urged its approval by consensus.
A vote had been requested by the representative of the United States.
United States said she did not agree with attempts to create a collective right to peace that would stifle existing human rights. As the text did not address that concern, she would vote no.
The representative of Iceland said the global community had reaffirmed its commitment to peace and security through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. There was no common legal understanding of the right to peace, or of its rights bearers and duty bearers. He would not support the draft.
The draft resolution was approved, as orally revised, by a vote of 116 votes in favour, to 34 against, and 19 abstentions.
Speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, the representative of Slovakia, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote on behalf of the European Union, recalled that there was no legal basis in international law for a right to peace. There was no internationally agreed definition of peace, nor was there clarity about the rights bearers or duty bearers of such a right. Underscoring the bloc’s commitment to human rights, international law and peace and security, he emphasized that the absence of peace should not permit failure to protect human rights.
The representative of Japan, speaking in explanation of vote, said he had voted against the draft because there was no legal consensus on the link between peace and human rights.
The representative of Canada said there was no agreement on the right to peace in international law, and because that right could be invoked to justify violation of human rights, Canada had not supported the draft resolution.
The representative of Iran said the right to peace was a prerequisite for enjoyment of human rights for all and, in its absence, the promotion and protection of human rights and development would be thwarted. It would be impossible to assure the right to peace so long as the threat of weapons of mass destruction remained.
The representative of Lichtenstein, on behalf of Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Estonia, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovenia and Switzerland, called on all States, particularly those who had supported the draft resolution, to ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Kampala amendment.
Syria expressed his support for the draft resolution.
The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, introduced a draft resolution on the “Enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights” (document A/C.3/71/L.34), which recognized that strengthening international cooperation was crucial to achieving the United Nations’ purposes. He voiced hope that it would continue to be approved by consensus as in years past.
The Committee then approved the text without a vote.
By its terms, the Assembly would urge all actors to build an international order based on inclusion, justice, equality and equity, human dignity, mutual understanding and respect for cultural diversity and universal human rights. It would also urge them to reject doctrines of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. International cooperation on human rights should be in conformity with the Charter of the United Nations and international law, and contribute to the urgent task of preventing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Assembly would urge States to enhance bilateral, regional and international cooperation aimed at addressing the adverse impacts of the global crises in finance, economy and food, as well as climate change and natural disasters.
The representative of the United States said she was pleased to have joined consensus. However, the draft resolution contained language on a food crisis that the United States considered inaccurate. The world was not in a food crisis, as United Nations agencies had stated.
The representative of Sweden, on behalf of the Nordic countries, presented a draft resolution entitled “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (document A/C.3/71/L.38/Rev.1), which stressed the importance of protecting individuals from extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and investigating and bringing perpetrators of such killings to justice. Negotiations on the text had focused on strengthening gender aspects and adding relevant language on Agenda 2030. He noted the proposed amendment to the text “with deep regret”, calling it unacceptable and urging the co-sponsors to reconsider its necessity.
The representative of Uzbekistan, on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, introduced an amendment (document A/C.3/71/L.53) to the draft, stressing that people were not inherently vulnerable. As it was impossible to list every type of vulnerability, it was better to change the language to ensure no one could be discriminated against. He cautioned against giving priority to certain individuals, and thus, contravening the principle of non-discrimination. He urged support for the amendment.
The representative of Sweden, in explanation of vote before the vote, said the sponsors of amendment L.53 had proposed to delete the whole list of vulnerable groups in operative paragraph 6 (b). Groups of individuals in a vulnerable position were more likely to suffer deadly violence than others, and more often victims of impunity. “For well over a decade, these groups have been explicitly mentioned in this resolution,” he said, emphasizing that among many others, he was referring to killings of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, or people killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The list was not exhaustive, but that did not make it irrelevant and those listed still needed protection. To maintain the list of vulnerable groups in the draft resolution, Sweden would vote against the amendment and he asked others to do the same.
The representative of the United States opposed the amendment to remove the list of vulnerable populations and would be voting no. The Committee must affirm that all human rights applied to everyone. The amendment was a veiled attempt to imply that people of some sexual identities did not have the same right to life as other people.
The representative of the United Kingdom said that as a co-sponsor of the resolution, his country shared the deep concerns expressed about the proposed amendment. The text referred to many groups and it was not a new list. For many States, sexual orientation and gender identity could be sensitive, but the text did not ask States to take a moral stance. Rather, it identified individuals needing special protection. The United Kingdom supported the language of the text and urged all to vote against the amendment.
The representative of Switzerland, also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Liechtenstein and New Zealand, opposed the amendment, adding that experience had shown that the obligation to investigate had not been respected in equal measure when it came to killings. That failure affected victims of racism as well as migrants and minorities, she said, stressing that the list of vulnerable groups could be expanded.
The representative of Costa Rica said she rejected the amendment. The paragraph in question recognized that some groups were more vulnerable than others and she urged others to reject the amendment as well.
The Committee then rejected the draft amendment by a recorded vote of 60 in favour, to 84 against, and 27 abstentions.
The representative of Australia, speaking in explanation of the vote after the vote, said it was important to acknowledge people who were particularly vulnerable. Killings for discriminatory reasons, such as sexual orientation, were not meant to create special rights or to prioritize some over others. It was important to recognize that some groups were more often victimized than others.
The representative of Uzbekistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that while he agreed that summary and arbitrary executions should not occur, he rejected attempts to undermine the international human rights system by seeking to impose undefined concepts pertaining to social matters. He called on Member States to abstain on the draft resolution.
The Committee then focused its attention on the draft resolution on “Extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions” (document A/C.3/71/L.38/Rev.1)
The representative of Egypt reaffirmed his commitment to combatting discrimination. However, he rejected attempts to impose norms on social matters that did not have international consensus. Egypt planned to abstain from the vote and called on others to do the same.
The representative of Sweden asked who called for a vote, stressing that the draft resolution was as good a compromise as possible and that he would support it.
The Chair informed the Committee that the representative of Uzbekistan had requested a recorded vote.
The draft resolution was approved by a recorded vote of 106 in favour, to 0 against, with 69 abstentions.
The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in explanation of vote after the vote, said she supported many of the positions in the document, but several elements gave cause for concern. The draft’s attempt to impose the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court on all States was unacceptable. She also did not support the excessively optimistic language regarding the Court’s activities, which were removed from reality. She had abstained from the vote.
The representative of Sudan said he had abstained because the draft resolution contained controversial ideas that were not enshrined in international law, particularly those pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity. He also rejected reference to the Rome Statute, to which not all States were a party.
The representative of Jamaica said he had reservations about preambular paragraph 11 and operative paragraph 5, which both implied that the death penalty amounted to extrajudicial killing, an opinion he did not share. He recalled that imposition of the death penalty was not arbitrary, nor did it contravene international law. He expressed concern that operative paragraph 6(b) was a “shopping list” of categories that was still not exhaustive. He would have preferred more broad and holistic language. Finally, the resolution should not impose one value system on others, he said.
The representative of the United States welcomed the draft resolution’s focus on gender equality and agreed that all States were obliged to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. She supported language condemning extrajudicial executions that targeted particular groups, such as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex individuals. She also recalled that there were two separate bodies of international law governing such matters: international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
The representative of Singapore said the death penalty was not prohibited under international law and it should not be placed in the same category as extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. She recalled that the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions had blurred the line between those categories.
The representative of Burundi said she wished to correct her vote, as she had intended to vote against the resolution, not in favour.
An official from the Secretariat said the change would be noted in the report of the meeting.
The representative of Italy on a point of order requested that action on draft resolution entitled “Strengthening the United Nations crime prevention and criminal justice programme, in particular its technical cooperation capacity” (document A/C.3/71/L.12/Rev.1) be deferred until delegations found consensus.
The Chair then deferred action on the draft until 21 November.