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GA/SHC/3872
13 November 2006

THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION CONCERNING CONVENTION ON ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES; HEARS INTRODUCTION OF 17 TEXTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES

13 November 2006
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3872
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-first General Assembly

Third Committee

45th Meeting (PM)


THIRD COMMITTEE APPROVES DRAFT RESOLUTION CONCERNING CONVENTION ON ENFORCED


DISAPPEARANCES; HEARS INTRODUCTION OF 17 TEXTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES


Drafts Introduced Include Texts on Racial Discrimination, Self-Determination,

Protection of Migrants, Use of Mercenaries, Defamation of Religion, Right to Food


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved by consensus a draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which would have the Assembly adopt that treaty and open it for signature, ratification and accession.  In addition, the Committee also heard the introduction of 17 draft resolutions on the elimination of racial discrimination, the right to self-determination, and several other human rights issues.


The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which had been co-sponsored by 103 Member States, would recognize the right of persons not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, regardless of circumstances, and the right of victims to justice and reparation.  It would commit States party to criminalize enforced disappearance, to bring those responsible to justice and to take preventive measures.


The representative of France, the main sponsor of the draft on the Convention, said that the instrument was an extremely important one that had been adopted by the Human Rights Council by consensus at its first session in Geneva in June.  The eyes of thousands of families who had experienced the loss and forced disappearance of loved ones were now on the United Nations and the Third Committee.  He noted that the Convention would be opened for signature at a ceremony in Paris in February and called upon Member States to send representatives of the highest level.


While the draft was adopted by consensus, several delegations took the floor to clarify their understandings of its provisions.  The representative of the United Kingdom said that he considered that the definition of an “enforced disappearance” included several specific elements.  He also understood that relevant provisions of international humanitarian law took precedence over any other provisions contained in the Convention.


The representative of the Philippines said, while the declaration was premised on the assumption that the definition of enforced disappearances extended only to States, States could still criminalize such acts in accordance with national legislation.  They could also assign responsibility to their agents and to non-State actors outside of their effective control.  She added that she would have preferred the Convention to reflect the reality that a significant portion of such disappearances were committed by non-State groups.


India’s representative said he was not convinced of the need for a separate Convention or the creation of a new monitoring body.  An optional protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights would have been preferable.  He had joined the consensus on understanding that the Convention would allow national jurisdictions to criminalize enforced disappearance in accordance with their legal systems and constitutional procedures.


The Committee today also heard the introduction of 17 draft resolutions, including texts on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination; the implementation of the Durban Programme of Action; the right of people to self-determination; the protection of migrants, and combating defamation of religions.


The representatives of Russian Federation, Belgium, South Africa, Pakistan, Cuba, Azerbaijan, Peru, Rwanda and Mexico made statements introducing the various draft resolutions.


Following the approval of the draft on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the representatives of Canada, United States, New Zealand, Denmark, Venezuela, and Japan made statements in explanation of position.


The representative of China also spoke.


The Committee will meet again on Wednesday, 15 November, at a time to be determined, to hear the introduction of remaining drafts and take further action on draft resolutions.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to take action on a draft resolution and to hear the introduction of 17 others.


The Committee was to take action on a draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (document A/C.3/61/L.17), which would have the Assembly adopt the treaty and open it for signature, ratification and accession.  The Assembly would recommend that the Convention be opened for signature at a signing ceremony in Paris.


The Convention recognizes the right of persons not to be subjected to enforced disappearance and the right of victims to justice and reparation.  It states that no exceptional circumstances, whether a state of war, internal political instability or any public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.  It would commit States, party to the Convention, to criminalize enforced disappearance; to bring those responsible to justice and to take preventive measures.  The Convention also would establish a Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which would monitor the compliance of States party with their obligations under the Convention, consider individual complaints and have the power to undertake field inquiries.  The Committee would have the ability to bring to the attention of the General Assembly situations of widespread and systematic practice of enforced disappearance, which the Convention notes is defined as a crime against humanity in applicable international law.


Draft resolutions to be introduced today included the following texts on: inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to funding contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/C.3/61/L.48), the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (A/C.3/61.L.49), global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/C.3/61/L.53), the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/61/L.46), and 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.3/61/L.50).


The Committee was also to hear the introduction of draft resolutions on missing persons (document A/C.3/61/L.19), human rights and extreme poverty (document A/C.3/61/L.21), the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/61/L.22), the composition of the staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/C.3/61/L.23), the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/61/L.24), respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification (document A/C.3/61/L.26), the right to food (document A/C.3/61/L.27), combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/61/L.28), protection of migrants (A/C.3/61/L.29), enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (A/C.3/61/L.33), the right to development (A/C.3/61/L.34) and human rights and unilateral coercive measures (A/C.3/61/L.35).


Action on Resolution


The Secretary of the Committee read an oral statement regarding the draft resolution on the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Forced Disappearance (document A/C.3/61/L.17) concerning its financial implications.  Subject to the priority that Member States gave to the speedy entry into force of the Convention, it was possible to envisage its entry into force during the biennium 2008-2009, with a total net estimated biennial requirement of $1,880,000.


The representative of France recalled that the Convention, an extremely important international instrument, had been adopted by the Human Rights Council by consensus.  The eyes of thousands of families, who had experienced the loss and forced disappearance of loved ones, were now on the United Nations and the Third Committee.  It was hoped that, subject to the resolution’s adoption by the General Assembly, the convention would be opened for signing at a ceremony in Paris on 6 February 2007.


The representative of China drew attention to technical errors in the Chinese translation of the draft; Chinese numbering, for instance, had not been used.  If not corrected in a timely fashion, the errors would affect the Convention’s ratification and implementation in China.  The Chinese delegation had presented the Secretariat with a revised version, in the form of a note-verbal, and it was on that basis that it would join consensus.


The Secretary took note of the Chinese statement and confirmed that the note-verbal would be transmitted to the appropriate competent services.


The Committee then adopted the draft by consensus.  A number of delegations applauded.


Statements After Approval of Draft


Speaking after adoption, the representative of Canada said his country had long been committed to combating enforced disappearances and had actively participated in negotiating the Convention.  It would have preferred for monitoring to have been allocated to the Human Rights Council, but it would join consensus.  He went on to set out a number of statements of understanding that he asked to be placed on the official record.  It was hoped that the Convention would contribute to preventing enforced disappearances and to ending impunity for such a grave human rights violation.


The representative of the United States said that his country, as an active participant of the Working Group on the Convention, had already provided its understanding on a number of core issues.  Those had been set out in its statement presented to the Human Rights Council in June (document A/HRC/1/G/1), which it asked to be made part of the official record of the General Assembly.


The representative of India said his country was not convinced about the need for a separate Convention or the creation of a new monitoring body; an optional protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights would have been preferable.  Certain drawbacks remained in the text; for instance, it would have been preferable if “intent” had been more clearly incorporated in the definition of “enforced disappearance.”  Nevertheless, India would join consensus on the understanding that the Convention would allow national jurisdictions to criminalize enforced disappearance in accordance with their legal systems and constitutional procedures and on the understanding that the Indian judiciary and the National Human Rights Commission of India regularly granted remedy and compensation to victims of human rights abuses.


The representative of the United Kingdom said that he wished to place on record several understandings on certain provisions of the draft instrument.  He considered that the definition of an enforced disappearance, in article 2, comprised the following elements;  an arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty; that such acts were committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State; that the act was followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person; and that the disappeared person was placed outside the protection of the law, i.e., that the person’s deprivation of liberty or detention was not within the scope of relevant domestic legal rules, or that those rules were not compatible with applicable international law.


He said that he understood that article 20 applied to all situations where a person was not “outside the law” but within the State’s domestic legal rules governing deprivation of liberty or detention.  It was understood that article 43 operated as a “savings clause” in order to ensure that the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law took precedence over any other provisions contained in the Convention.  In relation to article 25(4), it was understood that the article did not entail an obligation to provide a legal procedure, which would lead to an automatic review of the adoption, nor did it require the automatic annulment of an adoption, which stemmed from an enforced disappearance.  He interpreted the article to require States parties to have a procedure or procedures providing a possibility to apply for a review of an adoption covered by the article.  Whether a review or annulment was ordered would be an issue to be determined, according to the applicable legal procedures in the State concerned.


The representative of the Philippines said the Convention represented a significant development in humanitarian law, responding to substantial gap.  While the declaration was premised on the assumption that the definition of enforced disappearances extended only to States, States could still criminalize such acts in accordance with national legislation.  They could also assign responsibility to their agents and to non-State actors outside of their effective control.  Her interpretation did not derogate the responsibility to protect from the State.  She would have liked to see the Convention reflect the reality that a significant portion of such disappearances were committed by non-State groups.  Her support assumed that for liability under command responsibility to exist, all elements in section 1(d) of article 6 must concur.


The representative of New Zealand said that she had supported the draft instrument on the basis of several understandings.  New Zealand interpreted the relevant principles of international law contained in the Convention consistently with established international law, both customary law and law contained in major international instruments to which it was party, including the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  It was her country’s understanding that nothing in the Convention should be seen to undercut or reinterpret already existing international law.  In article 5, the definition of enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity differed from established international law.  New Zealand would interpret the article consistently with its understanding of already existing international law.


Despite language, which again differed from established international law on command responsibility of civilian superiors and military commanders, article 6 could be read consistently with that law.  It was regrettable that there were no specific provisions setting out standards of responsibility relating to military commanders.  New Zealand understood the clause in article 6(2) as acknowledging the higher standard of responsibility applicable to military commanders under existing international law and as applying those standards to military commanders also in respect to acts of enforced disappearance.


The representative of Denmark said he was not sure if his country could ratify the Convention.  It must first analyse the connection between the Convention and article 3 of the European Convention On Human Rights.


The representative of Venezuela said he welcomed the adoption of the draft.  Venezuela was party to the Inter-American Convention on Enforced Disappearances.  Family members of the victims remembered the enforced disappearances of their loved ones and wanted to do everything possible to do away with the abominable crime.  It was a shameful violation of human rights, so Venezuela was committed to eliminating the abominable crime, as well as other crimes that accompanied it.  In 2005 it had set up a special commission to investigate the murder, torture, and disappearance of Venezuelans in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s during the rule of a regime that was democratic in name only.  He called for universal respect for all human rights on the historic occasion of the adoption of the Convention.


Japan’s representative said she associated herself with the United Kingdom’s interpretation of “enforced disappearance” as consisting of four elements.  No one should be subjected to enforced disappearances, and adopting the convention should not be an end but a beginning.  She hoped that all people subjected to such disappearances would be released and returned to their families.


The representative of France thanked Member States for adopting the Convention by consensus.  He had deep feelings for the mothers of the victims of enforced disappearances in Argentina.  He thanked non-governmental organizations for their help, and offered special thanks to the International Committee of the Red Cross.  He requested that Member States be represented at the highest level for the Convention signing on 6 February 2007.


Introduction of Drafts


The representative of the Russian Federation introduced a draft resolution on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (A/C.3/61/L.48).  He said he wished to amend operative paragraph 1 to add in the third line, after “nationalists”, the phrase “ideologies based on racial and national prejudice”.


He said he was alarmed at the rise of groups, such as skinheads that derived inspiration from ideologies the United Nations had been set up to combat.  It was unacceptable to make heroes out of those who took part in Nazi crimes, including the whitewashing of former members of the SS and the Waffen SS.  He expressed concern about ceremonial unveilings of memorials to Nazis.  The resolution was not calling for a look into the past, but for the addressing of a present-day issue.  The aim of the resolution was not States; it was a thematic one aimed at cooperation and dialogue.


The representative of Belgium introduced a draft resolution on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (A/C.3/61/L.49).  He said the Convention played a crucial role in combating racism, and that its approval by the Committee would underline the need for its universal ratification.


The representative of South Africa then introduced the draft resolution entitled Comprehensive implementation of, and follow-up to, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (A/C.3/61/L.53), on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.  She said that there had been a lack of political will to advance the anti-racism agenda and that the sponsors were concerned that that had resulted in a resurgence of racism in many parts of the world.  The draft resolution called for a Durban review process to be implemented by 1999, and requested that the Human Rights Council act as the preparatory committee.  The aim would be to ensure an effective follow-up to the Durban commitments.  The Group of 77 and China hoped that a cooperative spirit would prevail and that the draft would be adopted by consensus.


The representative of Pakistan introduced a draft resolution on the universal realization of the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/C.3/61/L.46).  He said that the right to self-determination was the core principle upon which the international system was based.  It was an essential condition for the human rights of the individual and had been confirmed by numerous forums to apply in situations of foreign occupation and alien domination.  The realization of self-determination had aided in the liberation of peoples from apartheid, colonialism, and alien domination.  The current draft was similar to the one last year.  In operative paragraph 1, it reaffirmed that the universal realization of the right of all peoples, including those under colonial, foreign and alien domination, to self-determination, was a fundamental condition for the effective guarantee and observance of human rights and for the preservation and promotion of such rights.  Due to the universal character of that right, it had traditionally been adopted by consensus.  He hoped that that would be the case during the current session.


The representative of Cuba 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.3/61/L.50).  He said that some States had continued to use mercenaries with the purpose of overthrowing Governments of United Nations Member States, especially those of developing countries and those which had been fighting for just causes.  The resolution would urge all States to be vigilant and ensure that their territory and nationals were not used for the recruitment, financing, training and transportation of mercenaries.  They would also be urged to bring individuals connected with mercenaries to justice, in line with their obligations under international law.  Consensus adoption would show the international community that the use of mercenaries impeded on people’s right to self-determination.


The representative of Azerbaijan introduced a draft resolution on missing persons (document A/C.3/61/L.19).  The draft drew attention to a critical issue that had yet to be given due prominence at the international level.  Armed conflicts in many parts of the world often resulted in serious violations of international humanitarian law.  Many people remained missing, which had a negative effect on efforts to end armed conflict.


She called on States to take all appropriate measures to resolve such occurrences.  The current resolution placed a stronger emphasis, than in prior years, on the situation of families and their right to know the situation of their relatives.  New elements included an acknowledgement of national and regional efforts, as well as the need for data.  It requested States to pay the utmost attention to cases of children reported as missing.  It invited States to fully cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross and invited human rights mechanisms to engage in the issue in their forthcoming reports to the General Assembly.  She noted that several revisions to the draft were being circulated in the room.


The representative of Peru introduced a draft resolution on human rights and extreme poverty (document A/C.3/61/L.21), saying that the eradication of extreme poverty was the biggest challenge facing the world, especially for developing countries.  The resolution would reaffirm that extreme poverty and social exclusion were violations of human dignity and that their eradication would need coordinated and continuing international action.  It would reaffirm the commitments made in the Millennium Declaration and at the World Summit in 2005, and it would welcome initiatives made by some States on a voluntary basis to set up mechanisms to raise funds to meet the Millennium Development Goals.  Texts on the draft had been continuing, but it was hoped that, as in past years, the draft would be adopted by consensus.


The representative of Rwanda introduced a draft resolution on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa (document A/C.3/61/L.22).  Central Africa had been the subject of major concerns of the international community for many years because of the tensions and conflicts that were tearing the region apart.  Recurring violations of human rights had resulted in a flood of refugees and internally displaced persons.  Central African authorities were trying to face up to the challenges and resolve the conflicts.  Peace processes had been implemented.  The subregional centre’s activities were part of the broader objective of stability, peace and development in the region.  He thanked Member States for their unfailing support of the Centre and hoped that would continue in the future.  Adoption of the draft by consensus would send a strong signal in that respect.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the composition of the staff of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/C.3/61/L.23).  He said that the universality of human rights could not be applied without respect for diversity.  Such diversity had to be present in all United Nations forums dedicated to protecting human rights.  The defunct Commission on Human Rights had adopted resolutions calling for geographic balance in the Office, but rather than being corrected, the imbalance in the Office had grown.  In her recent dialogue with the Third Committee, the High Commissioner, Louise Arbour, had recognized the problem and referred to limitations of the present mechanism for selecting staff.


The representative said that, in view of the fact that the Commission had been replaced by the Human Rights Council, Cuba had taken the initiative to introduce the draft resolution that aimed at considering, within the Committee, the question of equitable geographic distribution of staff at the Office.  The draft resolution drew attention to the fact that the imbalance could diminish the effectiveness of the Office if it were perceived to be biased; the General Assembly would give support and guidance to the High Commissioner to overcome the imbalance.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order (document A/C.3/61/L.24).  He said that the draft’s purpose was to draw attention to the close relationship between political, economic and social situations at the international level and their impact on the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.  The draft urged all actors and stakeholders to promote an order, based on inclusion, equality, mutual understanding and the promotion of respect for cultural diversity, while rejecting any doctrine of exclusion based on racism, racial discrimination, or intolerance.  He thanked a number of delegations for their support, which he hoped would continue.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on respect for the right to universal freedom of travel and the vital importance of family reunification (document A/C.3/61/L.26).  He recalled that the family had been widely regarded as the basic unit of society.  By drawing attention to the free flow of remittances, the resolution would urge States to abstain from promulgating laws that would violate the right of legal immigrants to send money back to their countries of origin.  The issue was a matter of extreme importance to the work of the Third Committee, in light of its connection to international migration.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the right to food (document A/C.3/61/L.27).  He said that the text had received valuable support from the Special Rapporteur.  It drew attention to the various implications for the full enjoyment of the right to food of the worsening environment and need to find ways to overcome drought and to promote development in rural regions.  It appealed for full implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in countries affected by serious drought and desertification, particularly in Africa.


As in previous years, the draft referred to the difficulties of indigenous peoples in ensuring enjoyment of that right, the representative said.  It also appealed for a satisfactory conclusion to the Doha Round of negotiations of the World Trade Organization.  Development of the agriculture sector was essential for combating hunger and ensuring the right to food.  If it was possible to produce food for twice the world’s population, it was unacceptable that every five seconds a child under the age of five died from hunger or related diseases and that approximately 854 million individuals lived in a state of malnourishment.


The representative of Azerbaijan introduced a draft resolution on combating defamation of religions (document A/C.3/61/L.28) on behalf of member States that were members of the Organization of Islamic Conference.  She said the draft resolution echoed concern at an increasing number of acts of defamation.  It underlined the importance of more contacts, at all levels, to deepen dialogue and reinforce understanding, with education and awareness-raising being used to combat defamation.  The draft resolution, which built upon a related General Assembly resolution last year, called upon the international community to initiate a global dialogue towards a culture of peace.  At the request of the Chair, the representative read aloud a number of amendments that she said had been made to the draft resolution.


The representative of Mexico, also speaking on behalf of Mali, introduced a draft resolution on the protection of migrants (document A/C.3/61/L.29).  She said that the text made particular reference to the High-Level Dialogue On International Migration and Development, recently held by the General Assembly, where there had been a broad recognition for human rights and migration.  The draft also placed emphasis on the global nature of the migratory phenomenon, which must be dealt with through international cooperation and dialogue.  It was important to avoid partial or unilateral approaches, which would bring out negative elements for societies and migrants.  The text reaffirmed that States must apply migratory policies and border patrols with full respect for international law and for migrant workers.  Migrants were entitled to human rights, regardless of their condition as migrants.  In any discussion on migratory flows, including stemming such flows and border patrols, priority should be given to rights of migrants.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the enhancement of international cooperation in the field of human rights (document A/C.3/61/L.33), on behalf of Member States that were members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.  He said the draft resolution reaffirmed the commitment to cooperation in human rights in line with the Charter of the United Nations and relevant provisions of the Vienna Programme of Action.  It was clear that international cooperation in human rights could only be enhanced if there was an international order based on such principles as inclusion, justice, mutual understanding, respect for cultural diversity, and the rejection of racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance.


The draft resolution appealed to the Secretary-General, in cooperation with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to consult States regarding cooperation and dialogue within the United Nations human rights machinery, including the Human Rights Council, by ensuring respect for the principles of universality.  He said it was the hope of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries that the draft resolution would be adopted by consensus, and all Member States were being asked to express support for the initiative.


The representative of Cuba, on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, introduced a draft resolution on the right to development (document A/C.3/61/L/34).  He said that the initiative was another attempt to implement the contents of the Declaration on the Right to Development of 1986, as well as the Vienna Declaration, by declaring the right a universal, inalienable one.  There should be equal opportunity for development for nations and individuals within nations.  Eradication of poverty was one of the key elements in ensuring the right to development.  Poverty was a multifaceted problem that required a multifaceted response.


In particular, in the context of the Millennium Development Goal to reduce the number of individuals living on less than a dollar a day, the draft endorsed the recommendations of the Working Group on the right to development at the seventh session.  He said it supported the Working Group’s mandate and the resumption of its meetings.  It asked for the high-level team on the right to development to meet in the future to look at relevant measure suggested at the seventh session of the working group.  It was important to put the right to development on equal footing with other fundamental rights in the Human Rights Council.


The representative of Cuba introduced a draft resolution on the human rights and unilateral coercive measures (document A/C.3/61/L.35) on behalf of Member States that were members of the Movement of Non-Aligned Countries.  He said the draft resolution recalled that the World Conference on Human Rights, in Vienna in 1993, had called upon States to refrain from any unilateral coercive measure not in accordance with international law and the United Nations Charter.  Such measures impeded full enjoyment of economic and social rights in affected countries.  The draft resolution would ask the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give priority to the issue in her annual report.


The Committee then adjourned until Wednesday, 15 November, with the Secretary announcing that the time and programme of work would be made available early in the afternoon of Tuesday, 14 November.


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