In Third Committee, Special Rapporteur on Torture Calls on States to Seriously Reconsider Whether Death Penalty Amounts to Cruel, Inhuman Treatment

23 October 2012

In Third Committee, Special Rapporteur on Torture Calls on States to Seriously Reconsider Whether Death Penalty Amounts to Cruel, Inhuman Treatment

23 October 2012
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

20th & 21st Meetings (AM & PM)



Also Hears from Chairs of Committee against Torture; Prevention Subcommittee;

Disabilities Committee; Monitoring Committees for Civil, Economic Rights Covenants

The Special Rapporteur on Torture called on States in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today to seriously reconsider whether the death penalty amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, or even torture.

Presenting his report, Juan Méndez cited a global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment, as well as new forensic evidence and discussions among experts concerning the various forms of executions and the situation of persons sentenced to death and awaiting execution, as he recommended a legal study be carried out on the emergence of a customary norm prohibiting the use of that practice in all circumstances.

Mr. Méndez said several execution methods – such as stoning or gas asphyxiation – had been explicitly deemed to violate the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment by international and domestic judicial bodies.  The “death row phenomenon” also produced severe mental trauma and physical deterioration.  Solitary confinement, for example, in combination with the knowledge of death and uncertainty of when an execution would take place, contributed to the risk of irreparable mental and physical harm.

He argued that a new approach was needed to frame the debate over the legality of the death penalty within the context of human dignity and the ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  He also called on States not to expel, return or extradite a person to a State where there was a substantial danger of being sentenced to death or detained on death row.

A number of delegates took issue with the report’s findings, arguing that the suggestion that a customary norm prohibiting the death penalty was emerging was deeply flawed, as was the approach to analysing execution methods.  The United States’ delegate urged that more attention be paid to preventing human rights violations that resulted in the imposition of capital punishment, while Egypt’s delegate pressed Mr. Méndez on the merits of conducting a legal study in the absence of a customary norm.

Responding, Mr. Méndez said that a legal study should be commissioned because the joint study, conducted with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, had uncovered issues that needed consideration.  A special procedure related to capital punishment could embark on such a study.  His reports were intended to raise questions.  International law was in constant movement.

Following his remarks, five other senior United Nations officials briefed the Committee on torture, issues related to persons with disabilities, and political and economic rights, as part of a broader human rights discussion, which included efforts to strengthen the Geneva-based treaty bodies charged with monitoring implementation of the core international human rights treaties.

Claudio Grossman, Chair of the monitoring body for the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said that as a result of dialogue with his Committee, States parties had worked to incorporate the definition of torture within their domestic systems, exclude from consideration confessions extracted under torture and punish the crime of torture.

But there were serious reporting delays and there was a backlog of more than 115 cases pending before the Committee.  “This severely weakens the system, as justice cannot be provided to States and individuals within a reasonable time, thus diminishing the credibility of a system that was created by the Member States of the UN,” he said.

The Committee was working to find new ways to assist States parties in fulfilling their obligations, he said, most notably through an optional reporting procedure, by which questions would be transmitted to States and responses would be considered as part of the State party’s report.  That procedure, also used by other treaty bodies, had been very successful.  Only three States had expressly agreed not to report under the procedure.  Adequate resourcing was also needed for ongoing support of the treaty body system.

Next, Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said his Subcommittee could best conduct its work – which involved visiting all places of detention in States parties – with an increased number of shorter visits, fewer members and more targeted focus.  Citing gains, he said he was heartened by the continued increase in National Preventive Mechanisms – 36 had been established – and the Subcommittee had contacted all of them to learn about their work and gauge the assistance it would offer.  Through the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, those mechanisms had become the “front line” for such work.

Ronald McCallum, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said that in just four and a half years, 125 countries – including the European Union – had ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, likely the fastest pace of ratification of any United Nations convention.  The Committee was young, but “we’ve been victims of our own success”, he said, noting that there were already 31 reports in arrears.

Without more time for the Committee to meet, there would be an eight-year wait before countries received a response.  He requested two more weeks in pre-sessional working group time.  With that, the Committee should be able to review 10 reports a year in five weeks.  “We’d like to be dealt with equitably among the spectrum of United Nations human rights treaty bodies.”

At the afternoon session, Ariranga G. Pillay, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the granting of additional meeting time by the Economic and Social Council would allow the Committee to consider more reports and reduce its backlog.  He had discussed treaty body strengthening with other chairs at the 25 to 29 June meeting in Addis Ababa, and would do his utmost to contribute to a sustainable solution.

Zonke Zanele Majodina, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, which monitored the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two Optional Protocols, said that to date, the Committee had registered nearly 2,200 complaints and examined over 900 cases on their merits.  But the current backlog meant that reports received today would be considered until March 2015.  It had adopted a new procedure for examining reports, which should reduce the burden on States parties, as well as the Committee and Secretariat.

In other business today, the Committee heard the introduction of draft resolutions concerning trafficking in women and girls, ending obstetric fistula, and the transfer of illicit assets, which were introduced, respectively, by delegates of the Philippines, Senegal and Colombia.

Speaking in general discussion today were the representatives of Egypt (also on behalf of the Arab Group), European Union, Venezuela, China, Saudi Arabia, Montenegro, Japan, Algeria, Thailand, Nicaragua, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Qatar, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Mongolia, Bangladesh, Iran and Kyrgyzstan.

The Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate also spoke.

The representatives of Egypt, Myanmar, Nigeria, Iraq, Syria and Libya spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, 24 October, to continue its discussion on human rights.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

For its discussion, the Committee had before it a number of reports.  The Report of the Human Rights Committee (documents A/67/40 (Vol. I), A/67/40 (Vol. II)), which monitors compliance within the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, covers the period from 1 August 2011 to 30 March 2012 and the 103rd and 104th sessions of the Committee.  Since the adoption of the last report, Tunisia had become a State party to the Optional Protocol, which entered into force for the State on 29 September 2011.  In total, there are 167 States parties to the Covenant, 114 to the Optional Protocol and 73 to the Second Optional Protocol.

During the period under review, the Human Rights Committee considered eight States parties’ reports — Iran, Jamaica, Kuwait, Norway, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Turkmenistan and Yemen – and adopted concluding observations on them.  The Committee also considered the situation of civil and political rights in Malawi and Cape Verde in the absence of reports, adopting provisional concluding observations on them, the report says.

So far, 2,144 communications have been registered since the entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the Covenant, including 68 since the writing of the previous report, the report says.  The Committee’s procedure for following up on concluding observations, initiated in 2001, continued to develop during the reporting period.  The Special Rapporteur for follow-up on concluding observations, Christine Chanet, presented progress reports and the Committee noted with satisfaction that the majority of States parties had continued to provide it with additional information pursuant to its rules of procedure, and expressed its appreciation to those States parties that had provided timely follow-up information.

The Human Rights Committee again deplored the fact that a large number of States parties did not comply with their reporting obligations under article 40 of the Covenant.  46 States parties, not including 2 States parties that had accepted the new optional reporting procedure, were currently at least five years overdue with either an initial or periodic report.

During the period under review, the Human Rights Committee continued applying this procedure and sent reminders to several States parties that will be considered in the absence of a report in future.

Also before the Committee was the Report of the Committee Against Torture (document A/67/44), which says that as of 1 June 2012, the closing date of the forty-eighth session of the Committee against Torture, there were 150 States parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  The Report covers the two sessions since the adoption of the previous annual report; the forty-seventh session was held at the United Nations Office in Geneva from 31 October to 25 November 2011, and the forty-eighth session was held from 7 May to 1 June 2012.

The thirteenth meeting of the States parties to the Convention against Torture, which took place in Geneva on 18 October 2011, held elections to replace five members whose terms of office expired on 31 December 2011, the report says.  At the forty-eighth session, on 7 May 2012, the Committee elected Claudio Grossman as Chairperson, Essadia Belmir, Felice Gaer and Xuexian Wang as Vice-Chairpersons and Nora Sveaass as Rapporteur.

The Report of the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant workers and Members of Their Families (document A/67/48/Corr.1) contains information on organization matters such as the Committee’s meetings and sessions; membership and attendance; presentation and adoption of reports; cooperation with bodies concerned; and reports by States parties under article 73 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.  It covers the fifteenth session, from 12 to 23 September 2011, and the sixteenth session, from 16 to 27 April, of the Committee.

Also before the Committee was the Status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/67/281), which contains a list of signatories, ratifications or accessions to the Convention and the Optional Protocol thereto.  The report also presents an overview of the progress made by entities of the United Nations system towards implementation of the Convention and describes relevant activities by non-governmental organizations.

Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General’s report regarding the status of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/67/269).  The Fund receives voluntary contributions from Governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals, and provides aid to individuals whose human rights have been severely violated through contemporary forms of slavery.

The report notes that the Fund received 318 applications for grants from 77 countries in 2011, but the Board of Trustees was only able to recommend 52 grants amounting to $497,000, representing approximately 10 per cent of the total amount requested.  To meet applications for 2012, the Fund will need at least $1.5 million in new contributions prior to the December 2012 session of the Board of Trustees.  Past donors were urged to increase their contributions, and those who have yet to donate to do so.

The Committee also considered the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/67/264), which receives voluntary contributions from Governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals, and provides grants to non-governmental organizations for medical, psychological, social, financial, legal, humanitarian or other forms of assistance to victims of torture and their families.

The Fund received more than $8 million in contributions in 2011-2012, however, faced a shortfall as it considered requests for new grants amounting to $19 million for more than 280 projects providing direct assistance to victims of torture and members of their families in 2012, as well as requests for 15 projects amounting to $397,388 for training and seminars for professionals assisting victims to exchange information on experiences and best practices.  The Fund expected $12 million in requests for 2013, and urged past donors to increase their contributions, and those who have yet to donate to do so.

The Committee also had before it the note by the Secretary-General on effective implementation of international instruments on human rights, including reporting obligations under international instruments on human rights (document A/67/222), which concerns the twenty-fourth meeting of the Chairs of the United Nations human rights treaty bodies (“treaty bodies”), which was held in Addis Ababa from 25 to 29 June 2012.  Recommendations included a comprehensive calendar to ensure reporting compliance with treaty obligations, a simplified reporting procedure, and stronger guarantees for independence and competence of elections and terms of treaty body members.

Next, the Committee had before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/67/279), which addresses issues of special concern and recent developments of the mandate.  The report details country visits by Special Rapporteur Juan E. Méndez, highlights his presentations and consultations, and focuses on the death penalty, exploring whether States can guarantee that execution methods or conditions of persons sentenced to death do not inflict illegitimately severe pain and suffering.  Taking new developments and State practice into account, the report explores if there is an evolving standard to consider the death penalty as running afoul or the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment.

The report concludes there is a clear trend towards abolition of the death penalty informed by a stated conviction that capital punishment is cruel, inhuman and degrading.  A new approach is needed, as there is evidence of an evolving standard to frame the debate about its legality that way.  Death row is a violation of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as article 1 and article 16 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, depending on the length of isolation and severity of conditions.  Anxiety created by the threat of death and other circumstances surrounding an execution inflicts great psychological pressure and trauma on persons sentenced to death, the report said.

The report calls upon all States to reconsider whether use of the death penalty respects the inherent dignity of persons, or causes severe mental and physical pain.  The Special Rapporteur also calls upon retentionist States to abolish use of the death penalty for juveniles, persons with mental disabilities and pregnant women, and give further consideration to abolishing the death penalty for persons over the age of 70 and recent mothers.  States should also establish that there are no more humane alternatives available, justify the use of particular methods of execution, and refrain from carrying out executions in public or secret or any other degrading manner.

Finally, the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/67/36) provides an overview of the activities of the Commissioner’s Office in the past year.  It notes how developments in the work of the Human Rights Council, universal periodic review and initiatives to harmonize the methods of treaty bodies offered opportunities to strengthen the international system of protecting and promoting human rights.  A critical issue which gained greater visibility during the reporting period was the disturbing trend of reprisals and campaigns targeting civil society representatives attending the Human Rights Council.  The report also gives an overview of the work of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the field through thematic priorities, such as countering discrimination; pursuing economic rights in the context of the economic, food and climate crises; human rights in the context of migration; combating impunity; and strengthening human rights in situations of armed conflict.

The report notes that over the past year, the crisis in Syria, difficult political, economic and social transitions, and the situation in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa might have been mitigated had protection of people prevailed over political considerations.  The report concludes that the increasing number of requests to the Office revealed a growing awareness that addressing human rights issues was essential in all societies.  However the Office needed adequate political and financial support if it was to fulfil its mandate in a timely and meaningful manner, with a view to contributing effectively to the protection of human rights everywhere.

Statement by Special Rapporteur on Torture

JUAN MÉNDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, presented his report findings, which showed the “increasing dilemma” of international jurisprudence and national courts with regard to the actual application of the death penalty, and its contradiction with the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

Despite the global trend towards the abolition of capital punishment, some States continued the practice, as the death penalty did not violate – per se – the right to life if imposed and executed in line with severe restrictions and safeguards provided by international and domestic law.  In practice, executions could violate the absolute prohibition, either because of the “death row phenomenon” or because the methods applied involved unnecessary suffering.

In light of new forensic evidence on various forms of executions and situations of persons sentenced to death, he called on States to seriously reconsider whether the death penalty amounted to cruel inhuman and degrading treatment, or even torture.  Several methods of execution – such as stoning or gas asphyxiation – had been explicitly deemed to violate the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment by international and domestic judicial bodies.

The “death row phenomenon” was a relatively new concept that had become the subject of international jurisprudence, he said, involving various circumstances that produced severe mental trauma and physical deterioration.  Solitary confinement was among the most common practices used on death row, which - in combination with the knowledge of death and uncertainty of when an execution would take place - contributed to the risk of irreparable mental and physical harm.  While human rights bodies had yet to take the step of holding the death penalty to be going against the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, there was a clear trend in that direction at the regional and national levels.

Especially relevant to the debate over whether the emergence of a customary norm to consider the death penalty as contravening the prohibition of torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment was developing, was the substantiation of a consistent practice by a vast majority of States that reflected the view that the imposition of the penalty, in breach of recognized standards, was a violation per se of the prohibition.  He said that finding was reinforced by the fact that international law did not attribute different values to the right to life of different groups, such as juveniles or pregnant women.

He said a new approach was needed to frame the debate about the legality of the death penalty within the context of the concepts of human dignity and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.  Even if the emergence of a customary norm that considered the death penalty as contravening the prohibition was still underway, most conditions under which capital punishment was actually applied rendered it tantamount to torture.  It could, theoretically, be possible to impose the death penalty without it being against the absolute prohibition, but the rigorous conditions that States must apply for that purpose made retention of capital punishment costly and “not worth the effort”.

Turning to his report, he said a number of recommendations pertained to retentionist States.  He also recommended a more comprehensive legal study on the emergence of a customary norm prohibiting use of the death penalty under all circumstances.  Finally, he called on all States not to expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there were substantial grounds for believing there was a danger of being sentenced to death and subsequent detention on death row.

As for the status of his country visits, he said he had conducted a nine-day visit to Tajikistan, from 10 to 18 May 2012.  The country had introduced some “encouraging” changes in the normative framework.  At this stage, it was difficult to assess their actual impact on citizens’ abilities to enjoy their rights to physical and mental integrity.  They would require sustained commitment from the highest levels of authority and a pledge to “zero tolerance” of torture.  At the moment, he feared that most authorities were satisfied that normative changes were all that was necessary.  If there was no recognition that there was a problem with mistreatment, such abuse would not disappear.

He described other visits to Morocco, from 15 to 22 September and Laayoune, Western Sahara.  Describing that last trip, he said: “I can state that a culture of human rights is emerging.”  At the same time, he also had received credible testimonies of undue physical and mental pressure on detainees in the course of interrogations and charged events, such as large demonstrations, which were perceived as a threat to national security.  He had communicated his preliminary findings in press statements at the end of each visit.  He would present his full reports at the twenty-second session of the Human Rights Council in May 2013.  He also thanked Uruguay for its invitation to conduct a follow-up visit, which he would undertake in early December.  He also thanked Kyrgyzstan for its participation in a round table on torture prevention.

He had a number of visits planned for 2013, he said, including to Bahrain and Guatemala, while he was also in discussions with Thailand and Iraq.  He remained engaged with the United States on the situation of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and hoped to visit in the near future.

Question and Answer Session

Norway’s delegate said her country opposed the death penalty under all circumstances and supported the recommendation for a study of a customary norm prohibiting its use.  She asked for details on State developments since 2009 that underpinned the need for a study.

Singapore’s delegate reaffirmed his Government’s commitment to preventing torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.   Singapore did not condone such abuse.  Its legislation prohibited injuring the body with criminal intent.   Singapore had supported past General Assembly resolutions on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Because of that stance, Singapore had strong reservations on the Special Rapporteur’s report, in which he had tried to draw a link between the death penalty and the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

The Special Rapporteur’s reliance on the “supposed evolving standard” among States that considered the death penalty as running afoul of the prohibition was deeply flawed, he said.  The State conduct in his report supported the view that the death penalty - per se - was not contrary to international law.

In addition, he said Singapore found the approach of analysing individual methods of executions flawed, as the Special Rapporteur had assumed that a given method could categorically violate the prohibition.  The examples he relied on to conclude that execution was “frowned upon” did not aid his analysis, as they did not show that execution violated the prohibition.  There was no evidence that the practices he referred to had been accepted by all States.  It was clear that there was no international consensus that the death penalty violated the ban on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Every country had the sovereign right to decide on its criminal justice system.

Switzerland’s delegate said the legal analyses in the Special Rapporteur’s report would help the development of behaviour with regard to the death penalty.  The death penalty had been reviewed as regards the right to life, as well as regards torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  She supported that approach.  She asked for the Special Rapporteur’s view on establishing special procedure on capital punishment.  She supported the recommendation for a legal study on the emergence of a customary norm and requested his recommendations on that topic.

The European Union’s delegate asked for information on the victim-oriented approach to fighting torture.  He asked if there was a way organizations such as the European Union could help him overcome any obstacles.

Liechtenstein’s delegate asked about the legal consequences of the prevention of torture.

Morocco’s delegate asked how the Special Rapporteur could reconcile the different views on his report.  Thanking him for his visit to Morocco and noting that his Government had welcomed him in a spirit of openness, he reassured the Special Rapporteur that “this is only one of the first stages of our cooperation.”   Morocco would ensure that his recommendations were implemented.

The United States delegate said the report noted that the death penalty could only be carried out pursuant to the judgement of competent courts and applied only to the most serious crimes.  The United States had a number of exhaustive protections to ensure that the death penalty was undertaken with the best safeguards and only after multiple layers of judicial review.  Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stated that the death penalty - per se - could not be considered a violation of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

He recognized there was intense debate on the death penalty and respected the views of those seeking to abolish capital punishment.  However, the United States did not share the views on a customary norm and urged that more attention be focused on preventing human rights violations that resulted in the imposition of capital punishment.  He asked for an assessment of United Nations efforts to help victims of torture, including through the Trust Fund.

Russian Federation’s delegate called for a study on the use of torture in combating terrorism, as she was concerned at its use during military operations abroad, beyond domestic jurisdiction.

Tajikistan’s delegate welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s visit, having given him full cooperation in implementing his mission.  His Government was ensuring practice of the highest standards to protect and broaden human rights in his country.  Those efforts were reflected in the changes Tajikistan had made to its legal code, vis-à-vis the unacceptability of torture.  It would submit its report on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and continue to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.

Egypt’s delegate said his Government was committed to combating torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  Yet, there was no customary international law that categorized the death penalty, or the implications of death row, as contravening the prohibition on torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  The Special Rapporteur recognized that, outside the second Optional Protocol, there was no legal prohibition.

The attempt to draw a link between the death penalty and torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment was alarming, he said.  It attempted to “de-legalize” the death penalty.   Egypt recognized the existence of the second Optional Protocol, but efforts could only be made within the recognized international legal framework.   Egypt also recognized its obligations to uphold international human rights instruments, including due process and combating impunity.

In that context, he underlined that States had the sovereign right to determine their own legal systems.  He asked the Special Rapporteur to evaluate the psychological impacts of life sentences on prisoners.  Also, if there was no customary norm, how would a legal study contribute to a discussion on that topic?  He reaffirmed the need for studies highlighting the use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment as a way to prevent freedom of assembly and other such freedoms.

Responding, Mr. MÉNDEZ said his reports were intended to raise questions.  International law was in constant movement.  A legal study on an emerging or existing customary norm on the death penalty as contradicting the prohibition against torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment would be useful.  There was a trend towards abolition of the death penalty.  Many countries that had abolished the death penalty had said it had been done precisely because it violated the ban.  Countries that did not participate in the emergence of the norms were free to reject them.  He agreed that a country that was a persistent objector to a customary international law norm was not bound by it.  Regional bodies, like the Council of Europe, had emphasized the need to restrict the death penalty and called on States to ratify an Optional Protocol to abolish it.

He went on to say that a legal study should be commissioned, because the joint study, conducted with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, was somewhat limited.  It also had uncovered measures that needed consideration.  A Special Procedure related to capital punishment could embark on such a study.

Further, a victim-oriented approach would also be helpful.  “I’m not saying their views should be decisive,” he said, but studies should be more than just analytical.  Even retentionist States had abolished certain forms of execution, as they had determined them to be unusually cruel.  How States could cooperate in overcoming the challenges faced by the Special Procedures was difficult to say.  “We’re always asking for invitations to visit,” he said, and sending notes on a variety of cases.  He asked to have a more consistent stream of responses to those communications, as the current rate of response was around 40 per cent.  Complaints procedures only worked if a clear, honest dialogue with States was established.

As for ways to help victims of torture, he cited the Fund for the Victims of Torture, as well as cooperation among Special Representatives.  “We do our best to engage in conversations with victims,” he said, urging increased contributions to the Fund.

To the query posed by the Russian Federation, he said many of his communications were about forms of torture occurring in the context of war.  He communicated often with the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights while Combating Terrorism.

To Egypt’s query, he said part of his mandate obliged him to engage in cases where an excessive use of force had been used in curbing protests and if that constituted torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.  He was committed to engaging in those circumstances.

Statement by Chair of Committee against Torture

CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Chair of the Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, said his address coincided with a special occasion, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the subsequent establishment of his Committee.  He underlined cooperation between the Committee, the Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and the special procedure of the Human Rights Council, and noted that the Convention against Torture now had 153 States parties.

Recalling the scope of the Committee’s work, he said dialogue with States parties had resulted in adopting effective measures to prevent torture and ill-treatment throughout the world.  As a result of the dialogue with the Committee, States parties had, for instance, implemented measures to incorporate the definition of torture within their domestic systems, exclude from consideration confessions extracted under torture, investigate and punish the crime of torture, and develop extensive training.

However, he said, the body continued to have serious concerns about reporting delays.  Despite the substantial increase in the examination of cases from additional meeting time granted by the General Assembly, there was a current backlog of more than 115 cases pending before the Committee.  “This severely weakens the system as justice cannot be provided to States and individuals within a reasonable time, thus diminishing the credibility of a system that was created by the Member States of the UN,” he said.

“Despite an impressive international legal framework and numerous mechanisms to prevent torture, this abhorrent practice continues to take place in States parties to the Convention as well as in the 40 Member States of this Organization that have yet to ratify the Convention,” he said.  Deeply concerned by the situation, the Committee was engaged in finding new means to assist States parties fulfil their obligations.  The most relevant was adoption of an optional reporting procedure consisting of transmitting a list of questions to States and considering their responses as the State party’s report.  This procedure, now also used by other treaty bodies, had been very successful and, since 2009, 113 States parties had been considered under it.  Only three States had expressly not agreed to report under the procedure, he said.

However, despite its cost, time and procedural effectiveness for States, the procedure placed an additional burden on the Secretariat, as well as on all members of the Committee, which with only 10 members, had one of the smallest memberships of the human rights treaty bodies.  Combined with an already heavy workload, continued implementation of this measure was creating serious difficulties for the Committee due to lack of meeting time.

The Committee had requested the General Assembly to continue to provide necessary financial support to remain four weeks per session.  Further efforts to strengthen the treaty body system, including through adequate resourcing, were necessary for ongoing support of the system.  “We sincerely hope that the General Assembly will soon bring additional resources to our under-funded system,” he said.

Concluding, he said that creation of the Committee, comprised of independent experts, had been an important choice by Members, as other possible forms of supervision existed, including political supervision.  The value of the choice was recently confirmed in a decision by the International Court of Justice in the case of Belgium v. Senegal, where the Court relied on a decision by the Committee against Torture in reaching its final judgement.  “We have not yet achieved a world free from torture, but we believe that this goal is achievable, that rights and duties need to be taken seriously, and that supervisory organs with independent experts are an essential component to achieving that goal,” he said.

Question and Answer Session

The representative of Switzerland asked whether this dialogue would be clustered with other presentations.

The Chair responded that each presenter would have 30 minutes to speak.

The representative of Switzerland said she would speak later.

The representative of Cuba asked what the Committee was doing to implement the principle of objectivity and impartiality, and what principles governed the Committee in terms of positions it used to consider States’ information.

The European Union’s representative noted the Committee had depicted a grim picture on compliance among States, and asked for an elaboration on some of the general trends of torture.

Responding, Mr. GROSSMAN said, in regards to objectivity and impartiality, there must be transparency through public events.  For instance, he said, when States submitted their reports, they were webcast so the public could judge for themselves the material and response.  Another important point was that the Committee had norms of impartiality and decisions were taken by a vote among its 10 members.  Those who had a conflict of interest had to excuse themselves from the decision.

As for trends, he said very important goals had been achieved in the struggle against torture; more countries now penalized serious crimes, and there was now cooperation between men and women presenting reports.  The issues involving gender were crucial in the Committee, he said.  One key trend was the work in prevention, and also cooperation between mandates.  Participation of civil society and rejection of discrimination needed improvement, but more than ever he saw men and women who would not accept the situation.

Statement of Chairperson of Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture

Presenting the fifth annual report of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, MALCOLM EVANS said during 2011 the Subcommittee conducted three full visits, to Ukraine, Brazil and Mail.  Since the Subcommittee had recently expanded to 25 members, the size of delegations and scope and complexity of these missions was considerable.  It also coincided with the Organization’s decision to introduce a maximum length on reports from visits.  That led the Subcommittee to conclude it could most effectively conduct its work with an increased number of shorter visits, with fewer members and a more targeted focus.  Thus, at the end of 2011 it announced it would conduct six visits in 2012.

There were now 64 States parties to the Optional Protocol, he said.  The Subcommittee wished to visit all State parties in a reporting cycle similar to other treaty bodies, which would require doubling its workload.  Refinement and innovation in its working practices would be essential to realizing that goal, and the Subcommittee looked to States parties to offer their support.

A Subcommittee visit was designed to set in motion an ongoing preventative dialogue, and it was heartened this year by the quantity and quality of replies received to its visit reports.  It was seeking ways to discuss and facilitate implementation of recommendations; four replies remained overdue, and though that hampered its work, it did not prevent discussion of issues with authorities in other ways, he said.

Over half the Subcommittee’s visit reports had now been published, and one of the benefits of that was it enabled applications to be made to the Special Fund for the implementation of the Subcommittee’s recommendations and educational programmes of the national preventative mechanisms.  The Special Fund showed that preventative work could be quickly translated into real, practical and tangible protections and improvements for those at risk of ill-treatment while in detention, he said.

The Subcommittee was heartened by the continued increase in national preventative mechanisms; 36 had been established, and the Subcommittee had made contact with all of them in order to learn their work and gauge levels of assistance to offer.  However, 23 States parties had yet to establish the mechanism within the time frame, while others existed more on paper than in practice.  The Subcommittee would continue to work closely with States parties, with the major goal of seeing effective mechanisms established in accordance with Optional Protocol criteria as swiftly as possible.  It considered that to be the most potent means of preventing torture and ill-treatment.

The Subcommittee’s own programme remained a vital element of overarching architecture of prevention, but through the Optional Protocol, mechanisms became the “front line”.  That was efficient and effective.  Change generated as a result of the Optional Protocol within its first six years was quite remarkable.  There remained much to be concerned about, but the Subcommittee believed that working in collaboration with colleagues at the Organization – in particular the Special Rapporteur and Committee against Torture – and elsewhere, it could continue to make steady progress erecting safeguards to help prevent torture and ill-treatment, and it looked forward to more States parties joining the journey.

Question and Answer Session

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, Switzerland’s delegate said preventing torture was important for her country, and it would work to reinforce the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and put forward a candidate for its Subcommittee.  She asked about measures being taken to ensure complementarity between the Special Rapporteur and national mechanisms.

The European Union’s delegate asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on the treaty body strengthening process.  He hoped all his recommendations would be made public and asked for any lessons learned that could be shared, outside of those referred to in the report.

The representative of the Czech Republic said his Government would contribute to the budget of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, but unfortunately, it could not contribute with candidatures to the Subcommittee.  It had withdrawn one of its candidates.  He asked whether members of special mechanisms were eligible to be candidates on the Subcommittees.  He also asked about announced visits to detention facilities.

Denmark’s delegate drew attention to a side event, to be held today, that would focus on reprisals and intimidations.  She said the General Assembly and Human Rights Council adopted resolutions on torture and asked whether those texts had been useful to the Special Rapporteur in his work.

Responding, Mr. EVANS said the global forum in Geneva last year commemorated the work of the Optional Protocol on the Convention against Torture in its first five years.  All those present had felt it was a humbling event, as 300 people were now working in the front lines of torture prevention, largely through national mechanisms.  It also showed the need to use that network in a way that was complementary and effective.  The Subcommittee had tried to organize into teams that followed national preventive mechanisms closely.  It had invited States to submit annual reports.  In addition, many national preventive mechanisms had invited the Subcommittee to visit their countries for formal or informal discussions about their work.  That painted a comprehensive picture for forming a view on how to deploy resources to assist their work.

As to the European Union’s query, he said treaty body strengthening was a “very major” opportunity for a structural reappraisal of what had worked well and how to enhance those initiatives, not only through additional resources, but also by looking for synergies that allowed for mutual benefit.

As for disseminating the Committee’s recommendations, he said findings in country reports were often confidential.  But, once the reports were made public, it became easier to debate the findings with the broader public.

As to membership, he said members of national preventive mechanisms were members of the Subcommittee, which enhanced the Committee’s understanding of those mechanisms.  At the same time, he urged caution, so that their presence did not intrude on the independence of the Subcommittee’s discussions.  On other matters, he said the Subcommittee visited on an unannounced basis.  It conducted six visits per year to 60 States parties and he hoped that number increased to 12 times per year.  He also had found the General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions very helpful.

For his part, Mr. GROSSMAN said it was important that the debate before the adoption of resolutions be informed by the reports by the Special Rapporteur, among others.  That was a common technique of parliamentary diplomacy.  Also, everything should be made available on the web.

Rounding out the responses, Mr. MÉNDEZ said annual resolutions were valuable to his work, especially in bolstering an argument.  He also cited them in his State communications.  The fact that they were annual resolutions and States could see evolution was important.  The resolution process was as close to a serious discussion on substantive issues as could happen.  He encouraged Denmark to continue its exemplary leadership on that issue.

Statement by Chair of Committee on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

RONALD MCCALLUM, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, said the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was already making a difference.  In just four and a half years, more than 125 countries - including the European Union - had ratified it, which had likely been the fastest level of ratification of any United Nations convention.  

About 15 per cent of the world population would experience disability in their lifetimes.  “There are almost 1 billion of we persons with disabilities living with you,” he said.  Most lived in poverty and the Convention was a clarion call to countries and persons with disabilities alike to uphold social, political and economic rights.

The Committee was young, he said, “but we’ve been victims of our own success.”  Last year it had only met for three weeks.  There was a constructive dialogue with Peru and it had finalized its first complaint under the Optional Protocol.  In September, the Committee held its first two-week session in which it dialogued with China and Hungary, among others, finalized its second complaint and dealt with a number of others.  It also had held a number of side meetings.  “It was a busy time,” he said.

Pointing to one difficulty, he said there were 31 reports in arrears.  Without more time, there would be an eight-year wait before countries received a response.  On top of that, disabled persons groups were asking when the Committee would increase its momentum.  The Convention had helped persons with disabilities.  They wished to play their part in engaging in constructive dialogues and resolving complaints under the Optional Protocol.

Against that backdrop, he requested two more weeks in pre-sessional working group time.  “If we can get this, we should be able to do 10 reports a year in five weeks,” he said.  “We’d like to be dealt with equitably among the spectrum of United Nations human rights treaty bodies.”  The Committee comprised 18 members, 15 of whom had disabilities.  After elections in January, the Committee would comprise 17 persons with disabilities.  With that, he thanked States parties for showing such faith in persons with disabilities in electing them to the Committee.

Question and Answer Session

The representative of China said his delegation believed paying attention to persons with disabilities was a sign of greater social progress and his Government attached great importance to defending their rights.

New Zealand’s representative, also on behalf of Mexico and Sweden, noted the Committee had only three weeks meeting time in total and asked how he regarded the ongoing sustainability of the Committee with its allocation.

The European Union’s representative said the equality and accessibility provisions deserved particular attention, and he asked what issues the committee would elaborate and how it was working to further elaborate on recommendations to strengthen treaty body systems.

Responding, Mr. MCCALLUM said it was a great honour to have a constructive dialogue with China, as well as Argentina, Hungary, Peru, and last year with the then interim Government of Tunisia and also Spain.  All dialogues were successful and he recognized that all States parties that had dialogues with him, or reported, were concerned for people with disabilities.

But, no country was perfect, and he was struck in his dialogues by the good will.  He would make them constructive, not just diplomatic, exercises, and he saw the process as one of working together.

The honest truth was that if not given further meeting time, then within a couple of years the waiting time would blow out to 15 years, he said.  That would be unsustainable.

The purpose of the Convention was to safeguard the human rights and inherent dignity of all disabled persons, but article 12 of the Convention was central, because it said that human rights would be given to all with disabilities, he said.  Throughout the world there was deprivation of liberty of persons with disabilities, particularly those with intellectual or psychosocial disabilities.  He would recommend doing away with the old fashioned systems of guardianship, in favour of assisted decision-making for persons with disabilities.  The Committee had established a working group to write a comment on article 12, and had called for submissions and hoped in a few years to have it done.


OSAMA ABDEL KHALEK (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said, “Respect for human rights cannot be achieved without preserving international peace and security, and achieving development, in particular all […] international and sustainable development goals…”  Since 1946 international efforts in human rights had led to the adoption of an integrated framework defining specific rights and responsibilities.  Today, the international community should continue its efforts in accordance with the principles, priorities and commitments it accepted within the framework of the two International Covenants on Human Rights and other relevant conventions.  Cooperation must be based on mutual understanding and respect, while avoiding double standards, selectivity and politicization.

All human rights were indivisible, he continued.  Political and civil rights should not be made a priority at the expense of economic, cultural and social rights.  The sense some had that their values, cultures, social and justice systems were superior to others, and their attempts to impose those standards on the international community with disregard for the cultural, social and religious particulars of peoples, must be confronted.  The international community should support national efforts to enhance and develop national human rights capacities, while refraining from intervening in domestic affairs and infringing on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States, using the justifications of human security or the “responsibility to protect”.

To consolidate democratic principles, the right to development must be recognized as a basic human right, he said.  Further, the role of the Human Rights Council must not be undermined by resorting to the Security Council to handle human rights situations.  Arab countries respected a freedom of expression that was not used to incite hatred, but also stood against the use of violence in expressing objections to such obscenities.  Tolerance must be promoted through proper dissemination of knowledge, correcting misperceptions and addressing cultural and religious ignorance.  To that end, the international community should identify best practices in using modern technology to address international ignorance of cultures and religions and to promote human rights education.

Speaking next in his national capacity, he said it was necessary to uphold democracy and the rule of law to ensure an effective development process and that all human rights were an integral part of that process.  This was affirmed by the Arab revolutions, which demanded economic, social, cultural, political and civil rights on an equal footing.  Those revolutions also confirmed that democracy originated within peoples based on their realities and value systems.  The international community should respect those values.   Egypt was proceeding on the road to democratization through elections; demonstrated respect for the independence of executive, judiciary and legislative powers; and holding those responsible for human rights violations during the 25 January revolution accountable.

Legislation was being enacted on political rights to combat discrimination, protect religious freedom, and confront practices fuelling religious hatred and incitement to violence, he said.  Arrangements were currently under way to host the Regional Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  In that context, he noted that Egypt was committed to its obligations under international human rights instruments, particularly with regard to the death penalty.  On that issue, he asked the Secretary-General to scrutinize the information in his report on the death penalty (A/67/226), which indicated that capital punishment had been handed down in Egypt to children under 18 at the time of the alleged offenses.  Egyptian legislation prohibited the imposition of life sentences and the death penalty on those under the age of 18, in accordance with its responsibilities under the Child Rights Convention, he said.

RAFAEL DE BUSTAMANTE, of the Delegation of the European Union, said 2012 had been marked by some further advancement towards the universal ratification of the core human rights treaties by Member States, a key objective set out by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Beyond that trend, the European Union also encouraged the withdrawal of reservations that were incompatible with the objectives and the purposes of the treaties.  Nonetheless, effective implementation at the national level of the various provisions of human rights treaties remained the key challenge.  Also, a key component was the obligations of States parties to genuinely and sincerely cooperate with treaty bodies, he said.

The Union strongly supported the multi-stakeholder process of treaty body strengthening, and welcomed and encouraged the work by treaty bodies to enhance and improve their methods of work.  The participation of all stakeholders in the General Assembly process was necessary for the process to be transparent and effective, he added.  Free and unhindered contact and cooperation with individuals and civil society were also indispensable in enabling the United Nations and its mechanisms to fulfil their mandates.  For that reason, the Union echoed previous calls to stop any act of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperated with the United Nations, and instead called on States to facilitate and encourage such cooperation.

METROPOLITAN HILARION, Chairman of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church Relations, noting that he represented the largest local Orthodox Church, said Christians were the most persecuted religious group on the planet, with one Christian killed every five minutes for his faith.  Deep social transformations in the Middle East, Asia and Africa were upsetting the inter-religious balance established centuries ago and that allowed different confessional communities and religious groups to coexist peacefully.

Pointing to examples, he said that Christians comprised 10 per cent of Syria’s population last year.  Today, tens of thousands of Christians had been victims of religious intolerance, with their Churches destroyed and homes in ruins.   Egypt’s 8 million Coptic Christians were facing a mass exodus due to systematic persecutions.  In Iraq, more than 1.5 million Christians lived in the country until 2003.  Today, just one tenth of them remained.  In Pakistan, Sudan and Algeria, Christians were deprived of legal protection from violence and persecuted.

JOSÉ LAUTARO DE LAS OVALLES COLMENARES ( Venezuela) said his country adhered to the indivisible concept of universal human rights.  Recently, Venezuela signed three new instruments – the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment; the International Convention on Protection of the Rights of all Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families; and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.   Venezuela implemented policies that sought political, economic and social equality, he said.  Human rights had to take into account the diversity of the world’s cultures and political and economic social systems.

In recent years, Venezuela had developed a participatory and grass-roots democracy where political freedom was enjoyed, he said.  The Venezuelan State guaranteed the right to life, prohibiting the death penalty.  It also valued freedom of expression without censorship, and those exercising that freedom had to be responsible for what they said.  No one was prosecuted for political motives and there were no secret prisons where extrajudicial killings took place, he said.  He concluded with a quote from Simón Bolívar:  "The most perfect system of Government is that which produces the greatest amount of happiness, the greatest amount of social security and the greatest amount of political stability."

LI XIAOMEI ( China) said treaty bodies faced a heavy workload and large backlogs.  Reform should promote constructive dialogue between treaty bodies and States parties, with a view to ensuring objectivity and impartiality, and avoiding politicization and selectiveness.  Discussions on the reform process within the General Assembly should focus on improving the efficiency of treaty bodies, reducing burdens on States parties, enhancing the role of the conference of States parties and formulating codes of conduct for treaty body experts.

He went on to welcome recommendations from treaty bodies and other stakeholders whose participation followed the provisions of General Assembly resolution 66/254 (2012) and the Assembly’s Rules of Procedure.   China had acceded to 26 international human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  It had fulfilled its obligations under all the human rights treaties it had joined and had worked hard to ensure that their provisions were incorporated into domestic legislative, judicial and administrative systems.  Under the principle of “one country two systems”, China had supported the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions in fulfilling their treaty obligations.  This year, China had submitted its combined seventh and eighth report on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, he added.

SAAD SALEH ( Saudi Arabia) said that his country’s efforts in the field of human rights continued at both the local and international levels, while it remained committed to implementing the “tolerance Islamic sharia”, which called for preserving the life and dignity of human beings at all stages of their lives.  His country had acceded to many international protocols and conventions that contributed to the promotion of the concept of human rights.  At the national level, in 2005, it had established the first Government human rights body, as well as the National Society for Human Rights.  Those two bodies had contributed to the promotion of a culture of human rights in many regions of the country; the activation of monitoring mechanisms; and the following up on any attack on human rights, among other things.  The Government had also convened a Special Emergency Summit in Honorable Makkah in August 2012, he said.

Although Saudi Arabia had suffered from terrorism, its actions taken to protect internal security had not affected human rights, the administration of justice or the procedures taken to ensure the balance between freedom and security requirements.  In that context, his Government had consistently declared that “the doors are open to anyone with a desire to return to the path of truth and righteousness”; however, it would continue its efforts in the fight against terrorism and extremist ideologies.  In addition, he said, it was with deep sorrow and pain that Saudi Arabia presented its sincere condolences to that nation “which is burning and its people under annihilation” – the Muslims in Myanmar.  He announced, in that context, Saudi Arabia’s grant of $50 million to the Myanmar Muslims.

Introduction of Draft Resolutions

In the afternoon, the Committee heard the introduction of three draft texts.

In the first, the representative of the Philippines introduced the draft resolution on Trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/67/L.20), saying her country was committed to bringing to light one of the most heinous crimes.  It was a manifestation of vulnerability that violated the most basic human rights.  The resolution called on governments to discourage, with a view of eliminating, trafficking of women and girls, and encouraged preventive measures to eliminate sex tourism demand, promote responsible use of media, and criminalize trafficking.  The draft resolution puts the focus on persons vulnerable to trafficking, addressing the need to strengthen labour laws and devise and enforce systems and mechanisms to expedite measures against trafficking.  The international community must end that growing global scourge and strengthen cooperation for that purpose, she said.

Senegal’s representative then introduced the draft resolution on Supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/C.3/67/L.22), saying every day almost 800 women died from complications from pregnancy, and up to 20 per cent of those came from injuries – many from obstetric fistula.  The victims of obstetric fistula were usually rural, poor and unable to reach even the most basic health care.  They faced stigma, ashamed and alone.  The draft resolution called for renewed focus, through additional programmes, to save women’s lives.

Lastly, Colombia’s representative introduced the draft resolution on Preventing and combating corrupt practices and transfer of assets of illicit origin and returning such assets, in particular to the countries of origin, in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Corruption (document A/C.3/67/L.18), saying his country had made meaningful progress developing public policies that promoted transparency and accountability.

Despite progress, it was thought that only 2 per cent of illicit assets were returned to countries of origin, he said.  The text called for countries to use the widest possible cooperation and give timely consideration to requests on criminal and civil matters.  It also addressed capacity development in the fight against trafficking and in recovering illicit assets, and recognized the importance of denying safe haven to corrupt officials.  The fight against corruption and its harmful consequences was a goal of all the Members of the Organization, and he hoped the draft resolution would pass by consensus.

Chair of Economic, Social Rights Committee

ARIRANGA G. PILLAY, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, drew attention to a decision taken by the Economic and Social Council on 27 July, granting the Committee additional meeting time, and thanked States for supporting that request.  The annual report submitted to the Council contained the Committee’s decision to reduce the number of meetings for the consideration of periodic reports from three to two meetings (from nine hours to six), on a provisional basis.  “I can assure you that it has not been easy for the Committee to take this decision,” he said, as it placed great importance on dialogue with States parties.  It would do its utmost to maintain the quality of its work and ensure that the limited time available for dialogue did not impact negatively on the quality of discussion or the outcome.

The report contained the Committee’s repeated requests to the Council for additional meeting time, as well as information on the forty-sixth and forty-seventh sessions held in 2011, he said, and other issues discussed.  One area of concern was the effects of the global economic and financial crisis on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, he said, noting that he had sent a letter to States parties in May recalling their obligations to protect those rights.  Taking “retrogressive” steps contravened State obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

With that in mind, he urged States parties to consider the Covenant’s relevance in the context of the post-2015 development agenda, as the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights was the foundation for achieving the key issues related to discrimination, education, health and social protection, to name a few.  He also emphasized that the Committee strongly encouraged States to consider ratifying the Covenant’s Optional Protocol, as only two more ratifications were needed for it to come into operation.

As for treaty body strengthening, he said granting two weeks of additional meeting time would enable the Committee to consider more reports, and thus reduce the backlog.  He had discussed treaty body strengthening with other chairs at the 25 to 29 June meeting in Addis Ababa, stressing that he would do his utmost to contribute to a sustainable solution.  The Committee would discuss how it could foster implementation of the recommendations in the High Commissioner’s report at its session in November.

Question and Answer Session

When the floor was opened for questions and comments, China’s delegate said she supported the Committee’s greater role in ensuring economic, social and cultural rights in all countries.  Economic, social and cultural rights, and civil and political rights were equally important in the context of the global financial crisis.  She urged addressing the imbalance between developed and developing countries, in that regard.  China attached great importance to the Covenant and had fulfilled its obligations.  Her Government looked forward to a constructive relationship with the Committee.

The European Union’s delegate welcomed the Committee’s functions to monitor the complaints and to produce general comments, which had guided States in implementing the Covenant.  He asked about the topics discussed in the Committee’s drafting of admissibility criteria for complaints.  He also asked about the Committee’s work on the economic, social and cultural rights of women, as well as on how to better ensure access to quality education for those facing multiple forms of discrimination.

Responding, Mr. PILLAY said he could only hope that China would consider ratifying the Covenant’s Optional Protocol.  “That’s the next step forward,” he said.

He said the Rules of Procedure to be adopted in November were similar standard provisions applicable to the adoption of Optional Protocols of other Committees.  Perhaps the European Union’s delegate was thinking of the “disadvantage provision”, but that provision would not come into play at this stage.  The Committee had discretion over applying it, if it found it was flooded with too many applications.  Such a flood, however, was not envisaged.

He said promoting women’s rights was an ongoing challenge.  Women numbered among the marginalized, vulnerable individuals and groups in any country.  The Committee’s efforts continued to ensure women’s rights.  As for educational access, he said that access to health, water and sanitation was also important and the Committee sought to ensure those issues were treated as rights.  Targets should be set for their enjoyment.  A High-level delegation of experts might not consider those issues as the Committee would, which was why the Committee was considering drafting a guidance statement on its reasoning on the issue.

Statement by Chairperson of Human Rights Committee

ZONKE ZANELE MAJODINA, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, said since 1977 it had been interpreting and monitoring the implementation by States parties of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its two optional protocols.  The Committee had adopted thousands of concluding observations, thus guiding States parties on implementation of their human rights obligations.  To date, it had registered nearly 2,200 complaints and had examined over 900 cases on their merits.  States had implemented many of the Committee’s recommendations, which had led to commutations of the death penalty; early release from prison; receipt of residents’ permits and other important reforms.

The Committee also guided States parties in the interpretation of Covenant rights through the adoption of general comments, for example adopting a general comment in July 2011 that constituted the most authoritative commentary on the rights to freedom of opinion and expression – currently one of the most controversial topics in international human rights law.  The Committee had also begun preparations for a general comment which provided for the right to liberty and security of the person, she said.

The Committee was proud to have been the first treaty body to conceptualize follow-up procedures, she said.  The practice of requesting interim measures of protection, to avoid irreparable damage to persons claiming to be victims of a violation of their Covenant rights was another important procedural development advanced by the Committee that had contributed to saving lives.  Recognition of the seriousness of the Committee’s work was taken globally, demonstrated by increased references to the work, even by the International Court of Justice.  “Given such recognition, the Committee finds it difficult to comprehend the sometimes negative reaction from States parties to its recommendations and views,” she said.

Despite its achievements, the Committee faced many challenges.  There were currently 55 States parties which were at least five years overdue with either an initial or periodic report, and the Committee’s workload continued to grow.  “States parties who undertake the task of submitting reports to the Committee quite rightly expect a timely review.  However, given the current backlog, reports received today will be considered in March 2015,” she said.  The Committee was concerned that it had an insufficient number of staff, and requested additional temporary resources to deal with a backlog of 140 individual communications ready for decision by the Committee.  “You will recall that requests for additional resources have been rare for this Committee,” she said.

To reduce costs and ensure targeted reports, the Committee had adopted a new procedure for the examination of States parties’ reports, involving adoption of lists of issues prior to reporting.  Those efforts should reduce the burden on States parties, as well as the Committee and the Secretariat, and should result in more targeted reports to the benefit of all, she said.  The Committee also supported the treaty body strengthening process, including through receipt of sufficient and sustained resources, without which many proposals could not be realized.  Concluding, she said despite current challenges, members of the Committee were determined to maintain their relentless dedication to its mandate and said they needed Members’ help to ensure they had the means.

Question and Answer Session

South Africa’s representative commended the scope and activity of the Committee’s work building on an international body of jurisprudence.  Her delegation was aware of budgetary and resource issues facing the Committee, and reaffirmed its commitment to working with other Members’ in strengthening the treaty bodies, assured the Chair of South Africa’s continued support in her important work.

The representative of the European Union welcomed the Chair for the first time to the Third Committee.  He asked to comment, which parts of the simplified reporting procedures would have the most impact on Committees?  And, why was it important for treaty bodies to be fully involved in devising the code of conduct on the work of the treaty bodies?

Responding, Ms. MAJODINA thanked the representative from South Africa for acknowledging the work of the Committee.  However, she said she must chide her South African compatriots for their considerable delay in presenting their first report.  Of course, referring guidelines on impartiality and independence, she noted she would have absolutely no role to play in ensuring the report reached the Committee, but was concerned it had not yet been submitted.

In regard to budgetary constraints, she said her Committee, like other treaty bodies, indeed faced them.  “We certainly don’t have enough staff to work on these individual communications,” she said.  “We don’t often make requests of the kind I made today, but we’ve been pushed to the limit.”  The delay of three years between communication meant justice delayed, which meant justice denied, because people came to the Committee as a last resort -- the delay placed the whole idea of an international treaty body such as this into question, she added.  The backlog kept growing, so budgetary constraints hampered its work, and in the economic climate today it was difficult to see how the Committee could survive.  But, she added she was optimistic, and there was a high level of commitment on the Committee that she never experienced before in her years of work.

On the European Union questions, she said the list of issues prior to reporting was the same procedure as the simplified reporting process.  If a State party adopted that procedure, the reporting burden would be eased considerably, because there would be no need for a report.  In the long run, it would pay dividends, because the State party would have less work and still answer to a list of issues.  But, it was up to States to decide whether more comprehensive reports were necessary – a post conflict country, for example, may want a more comprehensive report.  For the time being, the procedure was being launched as a pilot to find out whether it would ease the reporting burden.  There were no fixed answers at the moment; it was only examining the first five countries next year.  The Committee had very long discussions and came to the decision in 2009 that this was the way to go, she said.

The treaty bodies strengthening process was about the Committee, a treaty body, so logically it should be involved.  The bottom line was that the Committee should enhance rights holders, so they could enjoy their lives.  The Committee still had to consider fully what the recommendations meant for it, but as long as the process respected its independence, it would play its part.  Some of the recommendations in the High Commissioners report were some of the practices of the Committee; however, it also felt it needed to look more critically at other proposals.  On the subject of a code of conduct for treaty bodies, she said they had already drafted one in June in Addis Ababa.

MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said since his country regained independence in 2006, it was taking a more active role on the international scene in striving for universality and indivisibility of human rights.  Montenegro had established several working bodies to monitor and control the implementation of policies for protection and exercising of human rights and freedoms, as well as implementation of Conventions and recommendations of treaty bodies.  Montenegro successfully underwent the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review in 2008 during its reporting cycle, and prepared the report for the second reporting cycle, to be under review in January 2013, he said.

As a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2013 – 2015, Montenegro continued to improve its legislative and institutional infrastructure for human rights protection and promotion.  Montenegro was strongly committed to fully cooperate with, and support, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and its activities, as well as contribute to the active promotion and protection of human rights worldwide, he said.

YAEKO SUMI ( Japan) said her country was faithfully implementing international human rights conventions.  This year, it had submitted a report on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and had withdrawn certain reservations to Article 13 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  She expressed appreciation for the role of the Human Rights Council in promoting human rights universally.  Stressing the importance of the Universal Periodic Review in encouraging the improvement of human rights situations in Member States through dialogue and cooperation, she said her country had made a voluntary follow-up in 2011.  It would continue its cooperation during its second review scheduled for later this month. 

She said her country had signed the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007 and was currently preparing for its conclusion, while taking into consideration the views of people with disabilities and their families.  Her Government had also amended the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities in July 2011 and established the Board on Policies Regarding Persons with Disabilities in May of this year.  The new Basic Act stipulated that necessary and reasonable consideration should be provided to implement the removal of social barriers in order to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities.  It was the first provision within its domestic law that introduced the concept of reasonable accommodation, reflecting the spirit of the Convention.  The Board, whose members included persons with disabilities, made recommendations on the national policy’s basic plan and monitored its implementation. 

MOURAD BENMEHIDI ( Algeria) said his country was party to almost all international human rights instruments and was working to implement them through constitutional norms.  In April 2011, the Government had agreed to vast reforms that should culminate in a new constitution.  A series of laws had been adopted on the rule of law.  Citing examples, he said one law placed the electoral process under the auspices of magistrates.  A law on political parties had reinforced democratic pluralism, while a law on associations had deemed civil society as a fundamental actor in pursuing democracy.  The law on information sought to open audio-visual activities to the private sector. The Law on women in elected assemblies guaranteed a 30 per cent presence of women in those assemblies.

He went on to say that Algeria had increased its assistance to help young people integrate into the labour market.  More broadly, the recognition of the universality of human rights did not mean there was only one model for social and political organization.  He underlined the principles of sovereign equality and non-interference in that regard.  The improvement of human rights should respect each country’s particular situation and accession to international human rights instruments should not be selective.  In closing, he underlined the importance of the right to self-determination of peoples living under foreign occupation.

CHONVIPAT CHANGTRAKUL ( Thailand) said her Government was striving towards people-centred policies, especially for health, and was enhancing equal opportunities for vulnerable groups.  Indeed, social and economic inequalities should be constantly addressed and she pointed to a development fund for rural women, which showed Thailand’s dedication to those women.  The Government would improve its policies on ageing.  On other matters, Thailand had been among the first signatories to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and amended its laws.  It would provide capacity-building assistance to other countries for the implementation of the Convention.

Continuing, she said that, as a member of the Human Rights Council, Thailand would help build common ground and deliver on its pledges.  In May, Thailand had withdrawn its reservations to articles 6 and 9 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, regarding the death penalty for persons below 18 years old, another sign of its commitment to adhere to international human rights standards.  Finally, she said Thailand cooperated with special procedures.  The Special Rapporteur on human trafficking had visited in August 2011.

MARÍA CLARISA SOLÓRZANO-ARRIAGADA (Nicaragua) said her country’s Charter set forth certain declarations, pacts and agreements at the constitutional level, and her Government had established poverty eradication as a constitutional right of its people, who were denied it for 16 years by the previous neo-liberal Government.  It had a National Human Development Plan that set tasks for an effective fight of poverty, which needed to happen to realize many fundamental rights.  Nicaragua reiterated its commitment to implement rights in order to achieve social justice and respect for life.

Her country had moved forward with a legal and administrative framework and created institutions that had developed national and international standards for human rights.  The public prosecutors for defence of human rights also had special offices dedicated to other vulnerable groups, such as women, children and indigenous persons.  Legislative efforts had also been made in such areas as a public defenders office.  Further, she said, in Nicaragua there had been significant, collective work to collaborate with treaty bodies that had been neglected by previous administrations.

SAMIRA ALAMIN ABUBAKAR ( Libya) said her people had suffered for decades at the hands of a dictatorial regime.  Thousands of young people were victims of torture and other abuses.  The tyrannical Muammar al-Qadhafi had suppressed his people, depriving them of their most fundamental rights.  While other regimes had exerted political efforts to prevent his fall, his downfall marked a turning point for Libya.  Her Government was now determined to press ahead in carrying out human rights reforms and would investigate all violations that might have occurred during the war.

In its new era, Libya was determined to respect its human rights obligations, she said, noting that for the first time, there was freedom of press, assembly and demonstration.  The same was true for the forming of civil society groups.  Citing other gains, she pointed to the establishment of a human rights council to monitor violations and accept complaints, as well as preparations for an integrated action plan to promote investigations into human rights breaches on 17 February by revolutionaries.  Investigations were under way.  Moreover, Libya was trying to facilitate the entry of human rights groups into Libya to assess women’s rights.  In sum, she said Libya was keen to try those charged with crimes in accordance with human rights criteria, stressing the independence of the judiciary and separation of government powers, in that regard.

YAHYA IBRAHEEM FADHIL AL-OBAIDI ( Iraq) said his country had turned a difficult page in its history.  Some terrorist groups had joined the political process, setting down arms, and the Government had consolidated movements towards peaceful co-existence.  Since 2003, Iraq had strengthened its Constitution and international commitments, translating these efforts into a human rights programme based on recommendations of the Human Rights Council.  The national plan for human rights sought to implement efforts through 2014, making sure the country adhered to the Convention against Torture, as well as the draft law on terrorist financing and Convention on disabled persons.  It was also moving to withdraw its reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and other instruments.  All the reports on implementation of instruments were being sent to civil society groups, so they could weigh in on methods.

A good many legislative measures were also being taken, including rights to access information, a right on political parties, a law against trafficking, and a law on labour unions.  After 2003, Iraq had much to tackle, and many people had been killed.  He called on the United Nations to help address the negative impact that arose with the passing of the previous regime.  Much help was needed in finding mass graves and supporting forensic research to cast light on the past regime.  Another concern was the impact of terrorism on civilians, which still required cooperation between his Government and the United Nations, and he urged continued support in that area.

MOHAMMAD IBRAHIM ELBAHI ( Sudan) said fostering human rights was among the major principles of Sudanese society and was reflected in Sudan’s ratification of all human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  It also had signed accords with South Sudan and would try to complete its transitional structures of authority.  More broadly, Sudan was seeking the voluntary return of thousands of people to their homes and reduction of violence.  An independent human rights commission had been set up and a prosecutor general appointed.  In Abyei, Sudan had signed the status of forces memorandum, he said, and its cooperation with the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) allowed for free movement.  The child law was enacted in 2010, while family, women and children protection units had been set up in the armed forces and the police.

Citing other gains, he said a unit for combating violence against women and children had been created and a law for disabled children elaborated.  There was no law that objected to the freedom of expression.  The Human Rights Council had renewed the mandate of the expert in Sudan, whose cooperation was “highly welcome”.  Reiterating Sudan’s commitment to cooperating with human rights machineries, he hoped to avoid politicization of such matters.  He called for promoting tolerance in a manner that fostered dialogue among religions and cultures, and ending attempts to impose values on others.  The family was a fundamental pillar of society and he was dissatisfied at involving “gender concepts” that had nothing do with religious and cultural particularities.  Also, the freedom of expression should not be used to incite hatred.

Ms. AL-AMIRI ( Qatar) said socioeconomic and political changes had led to increasing human rights as a means to sustainable development.  Qatar’s Constitution safeguarded fundamental human rights, as it had acceded to numerous international and regional Conventions; Qatar had also submitted to the Universal Periodic Review and implemented a number of its recommendations.  The country’s interest in human rights was apparent in its formulation of a number of governmental and non-governmental human rights institutions.

In regard to the framework of reform policies, Qatar hosted the United Nations training for regional human rights activities in May 2009.  But, given the increased demand for services, it was clear the Human Rights Committee could not undertake its mandate effectively unless it was allocated sufficient resources in a sustainable manner from the United Nations budget.  That would guarantee the credibility and independence of the Committee, and Qatar would be submitting a draft resolution on that issue, she said, calling on other Members to support the effort.

EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) reiterated his support for the treaty bodies, agreeing that they constituted a system with multiple stakeholders.  Any change to the system should improve compliance with obligations and increase the protections that treaty bodies granted to rights holders.  The system offered people more effective mechanisms to protect their rights.  Costa Rica supported the calendar, simplified procedure for report submission and page limits, among other proposals.  He requested more information on the technical criteria for proposals related to individual communications.  The measures proposed were those most necessary for compliance with treaty obligations and the financial resources were those originally set forth by the treaties.

With that, he said States should ensure financial resources for a long-term solution.  Some measures in the High Commissioner’s report should be implemented by the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, in step with their legal remit.  He urged independent experts to continue working along those lines.  Costa Rica had worked to strengthen treaty bodies and hoped to soon offer a comprehensive solution.  That should not be an obstacle to the General Assembly speaking to the urgent measures required, so that treaty bodies did not enter into greater crisis.  The independence of treaty body members was essential for their functioning and he was pleased the Chairs had endorsed the “Addis guidelines” in that regard.

BERNADETTE CAVANAGH ( New Zealand) said the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was a significant step in ensuring that disabled people could live in societies where they were valued, and continuous efforts were made to ensure their full participation.  New Zealand welcomed the widespread support the Convention had received, and called on States which had not yet ratified it to do so.  Positive progress was being made in the Convention’s implementation, but much remained to be done, particularly putting into practice international cooperation.  “In developed and developing countries alike, persons with disabilities are, on average, poorer than those without disabilities.  They are often amongst the most vulnerable members of society.  “We must not mistake vulnerability for inability or dependency,” she said.

The World Bank estimated that global annual loss of Gross Domestic Product due to disabilities was between 5.35 per cent and 6.97 per cent – both a challenge and an opportunity that reinforced the need to ensure disabilities were mainstreamed into development planning.  There was also a need to produce disability disaggregated data to support the planning and monitoring of efforts to make the post-2015 development framework inclusive and accessible for them.  Her country was also deeply concerned that the Committee was not able to consider periodic reporting in a timely manner, and she urged the adoption of the request for two weeks’ additional annual meeting time and two weeks of pre-sessional meeting time to help ensure the effective establishment of the Committee.

OD OCH ( Mongolia) said today the world community was witnessing an unprecedented international quest for effective implementation of human rights treaties.  Effective enjoyment of human rights, real development and prosperity were interlinked and mutually reinforcing.  “There is an impressive record of accession to and ratification of international human rights instruments, as well as establishment of national human rights machinery by many countries.  At the same time, we see weak implementation or reluctance to implement human rights due to lack of capacity, expertise, democratic deficits and corruption,” he said.  States needed more substantive support from the international community to address those issues through enhanced technical assistance and advisory services aimed at capacity-building and human rights education.

Mongolia also attached great importance to the reporting obligation under human rights treaties, and considered the Universal Periodic Review a unique mechanism for promoting human rights worldwide.  Earlier this year, his Government submitted its first report on the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and was confident consideration of the report would be an instrumental and important measure to advance those rights.  Recently, the Working Group on Human Rights and Business visited Mongolia to examine the human rights impact of business activity and make recommendations on how to address them.  Mongolia was grateful for its important findings and recommendations, which corresponded to the Government’s policy of providing an effective remedy for citizens when their human rights were affected by business activities.

ABULKALAM ABDUL MOMEN ( Bangladesh) said his country was committed to building a society free from exploitation, where fundamental human rights and freedoms, equality and justice were secure.  “All citizens are equal before law,” he said, noting that his government’s position on human rights was based on the principles of universality, non-selectivity and objectivity.  The constitution embodied the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, irrespective of religion, race, caste or sex.  Last year, Bangladesh ratified the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

At the national level, he said Bangladesh regularly updated its laws to ensure their compatibility with human rights instruments.  It had ensured freedom of speech, expression and freedom of thought, among others.  Legislative measures to promote the rights of children and women had been enacted.  Legislation was also in place to address persons with disabilities.  Independent national mechanisms were the best safeguards against human rights violations, and Bangladesh’s national human rights commission was empowered to inquire suo moto any complaint.  In sum, he said human rights should be addressed through an integrated holistic approach.

ASADOLLAH ESHRAGH JAHROMI ( Iran) said in the nearly two decades since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration, many concerns remained unaddressed.  The international community must give equal attention to economic, social and cultural rights as well as political and civil rights, together with the binding right to development.  It was also of high importance to consider seriously the religious and national particularities, as well as cultural diversities to decelerate the growing trends of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances which were threatening some societies around the globe.

“We note with regret that the majority of these instances are occurring against one specific religion and its followers, namely Islam and Muslims,” he said.  The most recent, among many bitter developments of that kind, was the release of an offensive and injurious film insulting the Prophet Mohammad, which was produced in the United States.  There was a dire need to take collective and preventive action against fast-growing and disgusting religious intolerance.  While Iran reaffirmed universality, interdependence and equality of all human rights, unfortunately the existing international order continued to be led by selectivity and economic and political exploitation.

NURBEK KASYMOV ( Kyrgyzstan) supported the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, explaining that his Government had committed to more than 40 international human rights documents, most recently the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Further, the Constitution, adopted in 2010, placed the highest value on human rights.  It abolished the death penalty and prioritized international human rights treaties over the norms of other instruments.  Kyrgyzstan was a member of the Human Rights Council, and in 2010, underwent its Universal Periodic Review, having received over 100 recommendations.

He went on to say that the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment had visited the country twice.  Kyrgyzstan welcomed the intergovernmental process to strengthen treaty bodies and planned to contribute to discussions.  Treaty bodies should take into account all stakeholders views and the opinions of States parties.  Their recommendations should take into account countries’ specific conditions and meet their interests.  He underlined the importance of increased assistance for developing countries, and a reorientation of human rights mechanisms towards the achievement of economic and social rights.

Right of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Egypt said his delegation was alarmed at the inaccurate allegations regarding Egyptian Christians in the statement of the Moscow Patriarchate, which did not present evidence in support of such unfounded claims.  Egypt rejected the allegations and would like to point out that Egyptian Coptic Christians had been an integral part of Egyptian society for thousands of years and had not been subject to any form of discrimination before or after the democratic revolution last year.

Furthermore, the Egyptian Constitution guaranteed equal rights and freedoms of religion or belief for all, while the Government ensured that every Egyptian had the right to freedom of religion.  It hoped that such freedoms would also be used by the Russian Federation for the Muslim minorities in their territories, as well as the Chechen people.

Also in right of reply, Myanmar’s representative said he would like to respond to the Saudi Arabia delegate’s reference to his country.  Religious freedom in Myanmar was well-known throughout the world, and the Government provided equal treatment to all faiths.  The Constitutional right to religion was evident in the fact that Buddhist pagodas, Christian churches, Muslim mosques and Sikh temples were seen side-by-side throughout the country.

In the cases of followers of the Islamic faith, traditional pilgrimages were being facilitated annually by the Myanmar Government.  The violence in Rakhine State was triggered by two communities in May and June this year, and both lost lives and property, and the government had taken necessary measures with great care and magnanimity, including an independent investigation commission.  The Government was also cooperating with religious and community leaders to resolve the issue, and there had been a number of visits by United Nations officials and other dignitaries to the region.  The overall situation was returning to normal, and the violence that broke out in Rakhine State was neither a conflict between two religious groups, nor a humanitarian issue.

Nigeria’s representative said he would like to respond to comments made by the Moscow Patriarchate that the radical Islamist movement Boko Haram continued to exterminate Christians in Nigeria, and he wished to inform him that the Government of Nigeria was working against Boko Haram.  He said he would also like to inform the Moscow Patriarchate that the group did not just target Christians, but also all religions, including Muslims.  Indeed, all well-meaning Nigerians had condemned the activities of Boko Haram.  He invited the representative to seek accurate information, which his delegation stood ready to provide at any time.

Iraq’s delegate said the Moscow Patriarchate had mentioned religious minorities in Iraq.  The Christian element had been exposed to the same influences as all Iraqis:  blind terrorism perpetrated by groups like Al Qaida.  Iraq had taken measures to protect religious minorities through enhanced protection in places of worship, and the guarantee to exercise religion in safety.

Further, Iraq had taken steps to ensure the safety of churches, he said, and an order had been given to create a Christian affairs office that would report to the President and have full knowledge of all unjust acts taken against Christians.  Article 7 of the constitution banned all forms of racism that were ethnically motivated or would glorify such behaviour.

Syria’s delegate said lies had been levelled at her country by Saudi Arabia.  The roots of radicalism that offended Islam were anchored in Saudi Wahhabi thought, which injured Muslims around the world and contravened Islam.  It was civilizationally backward.  Moreover, Saudi Arabia hosted thousands of “provocateurs” against her country.  The Salafi philosophy incited the Syrian street and sowed the seeds of sectarian sedition.

She wondered how the Saudi delegate could claim his country had succeeded in combating terrorism and radical thinking.  Saudi demonstrators had laid siege to Saudi areas where protests had been organized.  There were more than 30,000 political prisoners in Saudi jails, in addition to a travel ban on those who had peacefully expressed their opinion and peacefully assembled.  The Saudi hypocrisy allowed in Syria was actually banned in Saudi Arabia.  Saudi leaders repressed their people and their evil hands extended weapons to people in Syria.

Libya’s delegate responded to the Orthodox Patriarchate who had mentioned Christians living in Libya.  Her country was a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  There was an allegation of persecution, which did not accurately reflect the situation of Christians living in Libya.  Libyans were known for their tolerance and peaceful coexistence.

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