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GA/SHC/4146
29 October 2015
Seventieth Session, 33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)

Respecting Human Rights Was ‘Bedrock’ of Development, Experts Tell Third Committee as Speakers Call to End Impunity over Violations Cited in Country Reports

Renewed efforts and collective engagement by the international community were needed to ensure accountability for grave violations and to open space for cooperation with States to find remedies, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) heard today as it held interactive dialogues with experts on the human rights situations in Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea and the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 alongside findings presented on education and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Describing the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Special Rapporteur Marzuki Darusman regretted that the human rights situation there had more or less remained the same.  Indeed, he continued to receive reports about institutionalized discrimination, the widespread practice of arbitrary detention, unchecked acts of torture and ill-treatment of individuals in prison camps.

Recalling that the Commission of Inquiry report to the Human Rights Council in March 2014 had established that possible crimes against humanity had been committed in the country, he emphasized that the next step should be enforcing accountability.  With that in mind, he reiterated the call on the Security Council to refer the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court.

In a similar vein, Mike Smith, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, stressed that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations had been and were still being committed in that country, with no accountability for the main perpetrators, which included the armed forces, police and the President himself.  The Commission had also found that violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.

Likewise, Makarim Wibisono, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said there was a critical need for accountability for violations suffered by the people of Gaza.  Despite 2014 Commission of Inquiry findings ascertaining credible allegations of war crimes on both sides, meaningful accountability was still a distant hope.

During the day-long meeting, special rapporteurs said the accountability track must be pursued with resolve and coherence with a view to ease the general state of suffering of the populations.  One concern commonly expressed by the special rapporteurs was the lack of cooperation by concerned Governments, which had challenged the fulfilment of their mandates.  Engaging with mandate holders would demonstrate those Governments’ commitment to improve the human rights situation of their populations, some said.

Speakers and experts alike underlined the importance of the international community’s continued engagement with those countries to open space for cooperation, while keeping in mind that respect for human rights was the bedrock of successful development.

Also addressing the Committee today was Miklós Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, who expressed concerns that the right to freedom of opinion and expression had been stifled by the establishment of a system of media governance, which had rendered press independence impossible.

The Third Committee also heard today presentations on thematic reports by the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, who examined public-private partnerships, and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, who focused on the role of forensic science in the protection of the right to life and protections for foreign nationals who faced the death penalty.

The Third Committee will resume its work at 10 a.m., Friday, 30 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued today discussions under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further information, see Press Release GA/SHC/4139.

Statement

The representative of Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, reiterated its position on country-specific mandates, calling them a politicized use of human rights in contradiction with the principles of non-selectivity, sovereignty and constructive cooperation among States.  She recalled that the special rapporteurs had to strictly fulfil their mandate in compliance with the Code of Conduct for Special Procedures.

Interactive Dialogues

MARZUKI DARUSMAN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the international community had strengthened its collective engagement to resolve the dire human rights situation in that country.  In December 2014, the General Assembly had adopted a landmark resolution, paving the way for the consideration of the situation in the country by the Security Council, including a possible referral to the International Criminal Court.  In March 2015, the Human Rights Council had adopted resolution 28/18, reiterating its condemnation, in the strongest terms, of the systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and abuses committed in the country.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Seoul was fully engaged in discharging its mandate.  Undertaking a visit to the Republic of Korea in September, he had had very fruitful discussions with the team, he said.  The Office would enhance its engagement and develop its capacity-building efforts with Government agencies and civil society in order to maintain the optimum visibility of the problem of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s human rights situation.  However, he was concerned about the series of threats issued against the Office in Seoul by the authorities and media of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

He regretted that the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had more or less remained the same.  It was unfortunate that he continued to receive consistent reports about institutionalized discrimination, the widespread practice of arbitrary detention, unchecked acts of torture and ill-treatment of individuals in prison camps.  Further, the matter of international abductions and enforced disappearances committed by the Government remained an intractable issue, requiring the highest attention of the international community.  He also expressed concern that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had declined his repeated requests for meetings with delegates.  He believed that it was first and foremost in the interest of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage with the international community in a real and meaningful manner.

Having established that crimes against humanity had been committed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and continued to take place until now, it was now time for enforcing accountability for all actions resulting in gross violations of human rights, he said.  The accountability track must be pursued with resolve and coherence in parallel with sustained efforts to generate engagement with the authorities to ease the general state of suffering of the people.  In that regard, the Security Council should refer the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the International Criminal Court, as recommended by the Commission of Inquiry and subsequently reaffirmed by the General Assembly in 2014.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his delegation categorically rejected both the mandate and report of the “Special Rapporteur”, which constituted an extreme manifestation of politicization, selectivity and double standards and had no relevance to the genuine promotion and protection of human rights.  They were the product of political and military confrontation and a plot against his country that had been initiated by the United States and other hostile forces.  That long-standing campaign aimed at defaming the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and ultimately eliminating its ideology and social system under the disguise of human rights and in conjunction with the nuclear issue.

The mandate had originated in a politically-motivated country-specific resolution against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and subsequent reports were a collection of false allegations based on sheer lies from so-called “defectors” serving the interests of hostile forces.  The current report’s sole purpose was to attempt a regime change.  Country-specific mandates were pursuing anachronistic confrontation and resorted to stereotyped and unsubstantiated naming and shaming.  Confrontational approaches were contrary to the spirit of constructive dialogue and had been confined to developing countries.  There was indeed no mandate holder monitoring grave human rights violations in the West, he said, referring to the recent aerial bombardment of a hospital by the United States armed forces in Afghanistan, the refugee crisis in Europe and impunity for past crimes against humanity by Japan.

During the dialogue that followed, delegates raised concerns about systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations and urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with United Nations human rights mechanisms.  They inquired on how to change current dynamics and improve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s engagement with the international community, as well as on the role of regional organizations in that regard.  They also raised questions about mechanisms for ensuring accountability for crimes against humanity perpetrated in the country, including through the establishment of an international group of experts.  Other delegates rejected the politicization and application of double standards on human rights issues and opposed counterproductive country-specific mandates.

Responding, Mr. DARUSMAN said the Commission of Inquiry’s report had established the facts and the international community was not here to address the denial of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  The next phase in the efforts was to enforce accountability for all actions resulting in gross violations of human rights.  He believed that the accountability track must be pursued in order to generate engagement with the country and to ease the general state of suffering of its people.

Regarding the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said that actions had required prioritization.  Continued engagement of the international community was imperative to open space for cooperation with the country, he stressed.  Further, how the Security Council would take up the issue in the upcoming months was important in efforts to move forward.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of the Republic of Korea, Czech Republic, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Cuba, China, Myanmar, Syria, Russian Federation, Japan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Norway, United Kingdom, United States, Iran, Venezuela, Sudan, Maldives and Belarus, as well as the European Union.

MIKLÓS HARASZTI, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, pointed out that the Nobel Prize for Literature had been awarded to Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian writer whose books had not been published in Belarus, and that the “orchestrated” presidential election on 11 October had brought no progress in serving the people’s right to free and fair elections.  The country remained the only one in Europe with no opposition represented in Parliament.

For more than two decades, the exercise of the right to freedom of opinion and expression had been effectively stifled by the established system of media governance, Mr. HARASZTI continued.  Media pluralism was absent, with no privately owned national broadcasters, and a permission-based system of registration and arbitrary rules rendered media independence impossible.  Content deemed “harmful to the State” had been criminalized and journalists who had challenged the denial of their rights faced systematic harassment.

Amendments to the Law on Mass Media had practically put all online expressions, including comments, under government control, he said.  Independent websites had been blocked and bloggers harassed and fined.  In traditional media, publishers had to seek permission for each book they wanted to publish.  During the election, access to state-owned media had been given to contenders, but the incumbent was by far the most visible candidate due to extensive coverage of his presidential duties.  Seeing “no tangible signs of improvement” in the area of freedom of expression, he set out a number of recommendations and invited the authorities in Belarus to engage in broad reforms in the media sector and to acknowledge the role of the press in a democracy.

The representative of Belarus said the report on her country was politically motivated and openly biased.  The Special Rapporteur had distorted the human rights situation in the country and referred to sources containing “only negative information”.  It was unfortunate that double standards had been applied to her country.  Turning to the recent presidential elections, she underlined that they had been conducted in accordance with the Constitution and national legislation.  Special representatives, invited from abroad, had monitored the elections.  In conclusion, she said her country did not need a Special Rapporteur and rejected cooperation with him. 

During the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and concerns about country-specific mandates and the politicization of human rights.  They also asked about non-selectivity and objectivity, the protection of independent media outlets and civil society and the freedom of expression.

Mr. HARASZTI said that access to international media remained restricted in Belarus, which was a direct denial of human rights principles.  Laws that criminalized civil society and media activities were a violation of international law.  Television was still the main source of information in most countries and the Internet was not able to provide a unified source of information.  It could lead to a fragmentation of public opinion that could be as dangerous as monopolism.  Free elections were impossible without an informed population.  Continuing, he reiterated his commitment to fulfil his mandate independently and impartially and to engage constructively with the authorities of Belarus.

The representative of Belarus took the floor again to note that the Special Rapporteur did not have all the necessary information regarding her country.  She invited all delegations to visit Belarus in order to have an objective sense of the situation there and to see for themselves that everybody in the country enjoyed full access to the Internet, television and other media.

Participating in the discussion were representatives of Cuba, Ecuador, Syria, Switzerland, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe, Czech Republic, Kyrgyzstan, United States, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Sudan, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Russian Federation, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Iran, Eritrea, Uzbekistan, China, Viet Nam and Myanmar, as well as the European Union.

MIKE SMITH, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, began his presentation by reiterating concerns over the increasingly alarming refugee exodus from that country to the coasts of Europe.  That so many people had felt the need to flee their birth place in order to live a decent life free from fear was an extraordinary indictment of the Government that had controlled Eritrea since independence more than 20 years ago.  Every day, Eritreans were sent to carry out national services in remote locations and for an unknown number of years, were arrested for having expressed an opinion and had their dignity denied and their rights curtailed.  There had been no elections since 1993 and no independent press since 2001, while ongoing restrictions of the freedom of movement, expression, religion and association continued, along with arbitrary arrests, forced labour and torture.

Forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests of political leaders, journalists, church leaders, business professionals and thousands of ordinary citizens remained unaddressed, while surveillance networks had torn the fabric of society by planting suspicion and breeding mistrust within a community that no longer dared to speak up for fear of retaliation.  Intimidation campaigns had further fragmented civil society in the diaspora and undermined the resolve of individuals to claim their own rights.  Members of the Commission had even been followed in the streets and to their hotel in Geneva in June 2015, and were vilified online with comments twisting the content of their report.  Such practices were indicative of the authorities’ determination to control anyone they perceived as a critic.

In its conclusions, the Commission had found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations had been and were still being committed in Eritrea, with no accountability for the main perpetrators.  They included the Eritrean Army, National Security Office, police forces, ministries of information, justice and defence, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, the Office of the President and the President himself.  The Commission had also found that violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labour may constitute crimes against humanity.

Today, Eritrea was faced with a haemorrhage of its productive youth and a weak and underperforming economy in desperate need of international investment.  The Government was giving signals of preparedness to open up to the international community.  In responding to those positive indications, it was enormously important that the international community should keep in mind that respect for human rights was the bedrock of successful development and should be front and centre of any new agreements with Eritrea.

The representative of Eritrea expressed his delegation’s concerns over the report and rejected country-specific mandates.  The reports lacked professionalism, objectivity and neutrality and they were full of fabricated information with sweeping and outrageous conclusions that defied the United Nations Charter.  He presented Eritrea’s progress and challenges in its efforts to advance human rights.  Since its independence, he said, the Government had undertaken numerous measures to enhance good governance and the judicial system, to improve social and economic rights and to promote and protect women’s and children’s rights.  As a post-conflict country, Eritrea did not deny the fact that there was room for improvement.  The country was, however, willing to continue to enhance partnerships with all relevant stakeholders.

During the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and concerns about the fundamental human rights violations committed by the Government, non-selectivity and objectivity and the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry.  They also asked about the universal periodic review and politically motivated mandates.

Responding, Mr. SMITH said that, in light of his incapacity to enter the country, the information collected by the Commission came from 550 individuals in eight different countries outside Eritrea.  Those interviews were free of political considerations and represented an accurate picture of the situation on the ground.  The universal periodic review had led to no concrete improvement of the human rights situation in Eritrea.

For its second report, the Commission would update its findings regarding the situation in the country and would address the implementation of commitments by the authorities, including with regard to reductions of time for mandatory military service, he said.  The Commission would also continue to look at whether testimonies led to a belief that international crimes had been perpetrated.  He then regretted that Eritrea’s very good Constitution — which contained human rights provisions — had never been implemented.

The representative of Eritrea, taking the floor again in response to statements made by representatives of the European Union and the United States, said that they should trust their own embassies in Eritrea, and their findings vis-à-vis the real situation on the ground.  With regard to issues raised by the delegate from Djibouti, he said the Third Committee was not the appropriate forum.  In response to comments made by the delegate of Ethiopia, he said that that country was an occupying Power and should not get involved in Eritrea’s domestic affairs.

The representative of Djibouti regretted the distortion of facts from the representative of Eritrea and reiterated her concerns regarding the issue of prisoners of wars from Djibouti held in Eritrea.  The approach of denial and non-cooperation by the representative of Eritrea was not a solution.

The representative of Ethiopia said that the Eritrean delegate should not attempt to internationalize issues relating to the human rights situation in his country and to blame others for its poor human rights record. 

The representative of Eritrea said occupation was a human rights violation and that Ethiopia was therefore responsible for the human rights situation in his country.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Djibouti, Sudan, Australia, United States, China, Ethiopia, Venezuela, Nigeria, Norway, Cuba and the Russian Federation, as well as the European Union. 

KISHORE SINGH, Special Rapporteur on the right to education, presented his report, which examined public-private partnerships.  While involving the private sector was not always in the public interest, he said the report examined the ways in which public-private partnerships might act as an indirect mechanism to privatize education for profit.  Privatized education in the hand of for-profit providers, he stressed, violated the right of children to equal opportunities in education.  It also promoted disparities in society by providing better education to students of means, while excluding those who were most in need of a quality education.  Any State that had sought to promote social development, he underlined, must avoid such a path.

The report also focused on promoting partnerships that were enduring, successful, and rights-based.  For example, seeking religious and philanthropic foundations as partners had provided quality education in both developed and developing countries.  Such partnerships also ensured that scarce resources were reinvested into education and not diverted in for profit endeavours.  Governments must reject arguments that without profit, no private provider would wish to open a school.  Most of the finest and most famous private universities in the world were not-for-profit organizations.  “Partnerships must be based on meeting social responsibility in education, not the commercial interest of the private partner,” he said.

Public-private partnerships in education should be given very careful consideration in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, he continued.  Governments, to that end, needed to critically appraise the multi-stakeholder partnerships euphoria in the post-2015 era.  Before considering any partnership with the private sector, they needed to carefully analyse its implications on the right to education.  On international financial organizations and donor agencies, he noted that States should direct funding towards proposals that explicitly respected and protected the right to education, rather than supporting profit-based ventures.  In that regard, innovative partnerships needed to be established, respecting education as a public good that benefited all.

During the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions and concerns about the alarming number of children out of school, cooperation with private actors, innovations, girls’ equal access to education and best practices.  They also asked about States’ responsibility to ensure the right to education and the establishment of supervisory mechanisms.

Mr. SINGH said regulating public-private partnerships in education was a challenging task that required “strong public institutions” and a “sound regulatory framework”.  He stressed the need for creating a comprehensive framework that was prescriptive, prohibitive and punitive.  Such a framework was necessary to examine all aspects of public-private partnerships and to eliminate financial fraud.

On good practices, he underlined that plenty of philanthropic foundations existed, contributing to education and not making any profit.  He reminded all that the delivery of education represented one of the highest functions of the State.  It was also was a social responsibility for all.  Acknowledging positive developments, he said there were various measures taken by the international community to empower women and ensure their access to quality education.  Thanks to information and communications technology, it was possible to provide education as a public good, benefiting all.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Norway, United States, Maldives, Fiji, Russian Federation, Costa Rica, China, Mexico, Morocco, Qatar, Portugal and Iran, as well as the European Union.

MAKARIM WIBISONO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, said the human rights and humanitarian situation had been worsening.  The Palestinian death toll had been rising almost every day.  Excessive use of force by Israeli security forces was a serious concern.  Violent individual crimes against Israeli citizens were inexcusable, but measures adopted by Israel had to be in line with international human rights and humanitarian law.  When relative calm was restored, it was a matter of utmost importance not to forget the underlying issues of the conflict.

Noting a lack of formal responses from Israel to his requests to visit the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Mr. WIBISONO said his report to the Committee was based on meetings he had in Amman with civil society organizations, United Nations representatives, Palestinian officials and Palestinians living under occupation.  Reflected in the report were the continuing effects of West Bank settlement expansion and human rights deprivations stemming from inadequate water supplies, untreated sewage, obstacles to access health care, restrictions on the freedom of movement and settler violence.  The detention and treatment of Palestinian children was very concerning and it was striking how every aspect of life for Palestinians had been impacted.

Turning to the situation in Gaza, Mr. WIBISONO said there was a critical need for accountability for violations suffered by the people there.  Despite 2014 Commission of Inquiry findings ascertaining credible allegations of war crimes on both sides, meaningful accountability was still a distant hope.  Reconstruction efforts had been slow to reach the people in Gaza and the Israeli blockade — which collectively punished Palestinians, contrary to international law — had to be lifted.

Continuing, he said he had sought from day one to establish relations with Israel and Palestine, especially through their representatives in Geneva, but the lack of access could not be accepted indefinitely.  It was the general consensus, as attested by countless United Nations resolutions, that the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory was untenable and it was necessary to insist on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.  Peace began with respect for human rights, to which all peoples and persons were equally entitled.

The representative of the State of Palestine welcomed the report and presentation, reiterating support for the mandate.  A long list of the occupying Power’s violations of international, humanitarian and human rights laws against the Palestinian people and their land had been detailed in the report.  He asked the Special Rapporteur to brief the Committee on the urgent water crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, where Israel “without a doubt” had been using water as a weapon against the population.

With regard to accountability, he asked how the international community could address the culture of impunity vis-à-vis the Israeli occupying forces and their armed settlers.  His delegation shared the frustration of the Special Rapporteur.  As a Member State, Israel had an obligation to cooperate with the United Nations, he continued.  Every avenue, including the Human Rights Council and the Secretary-General, should be explored with a view to achieving Israel’s cooperation.

During the interactive discussion, several delegates raised concerns about the current situation in Gaza resulting from the existence and the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.  Some delegates regretted the impact of settlements on the territorial continuity of occupied Palestinian land.  To that end, substantive peace talks between Israel and Palestine must be urgently resumed, delegates stressed, expressing their support for the establishment of a Palestinian State that was sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous.  The representative of Brazil said the lack of concrete steps towards the end of occupation would only lead to a vicious cycle of human rights violations and violence.

Israel’s representative regretted to say that the representatives of the State of Palestine had continued to call for the destruction of his country.  Israel was committed to the goal of two-State solution, regardless of what the current situation.  The Palestinian leaders’ speeches at international organizations, unfortunately, did not help to achieve a solution.  He also said many countries had objected to the country-specific mandates except to the one on Israel.

Delegates then raised questions and concerns about the implementation of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, ending illegal Israeli occupation and settlement and the role of the Human Rights Council.  They also asked about the long-term effects of the lack of access to basic services on children and the human rights situation in the Palestinian territory.  Additional queries were made on the issue of violence against women and children, the increase of radicalism in the region and the disproportionate use of force.  The representative of Pakistan asked why the Special Rapporteur had not been granted access to the territory if Israel was not hiding anything.

Mr. WIBISONO underscored the importance of water for human life.  Water infrastructure destroyed during the July 2014 crisis in Gaza had not yet been fully repaired and, therefore, people had had to buy bottled water.  In the West Bank, there was an imbalance of allocation of water between settlers and Palestinians.  That had created a serious problem.  Sewage was also a concern.  The mayor of Wadi Fukin had told the Special Rapporteur how sewage had been flowing into what used to be a fertile growing area for fruits and vegetables.  Now nobody wanted to buy produce from that village, he said.

Turning to other queries, he said that without education, a generation would be lost.  Providing access to schooling was the responsibility of the occupying Power, which was expected to pay attention to the shortage of classrooms and facilities.  In Gaza, there was a need to rebuild schools.  With nowhere to go, children with no schools would become seeds for extremists.  For its part, the international community had several instruments at its disposal, including international humanitarian and human rights law.  However, such laws were not reflected in reality.  Violence would stop if respect for international law could be mobilized, he said.

Addressing the statement made by the representative of Israel, Mr. WIBISONO said advance copies of reports were always sent to countries concerned in order to ensure the accuracy of their contents.  He was open to any input to correct inaccuracies, but no response from Israel had been received.  The mandate of the Special Rapporteur was to improve the human rights situation, he said, and not to oppose Israel, which was encouraged to engage with the mandate.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives South Africa, United Kingdom, Indonesia, Venezuela, Norway, Iran, Sudan, Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Oman, Morocco and the Maldives, as well as the European Union and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

CHRISTOF HEYNS, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, drew attention to the two subjects of her report:  the role of forensic science in the protection of the right to life and protections for foreign nationals who faced the death penalty.  It was vital for forensic investigators to independently carry out their work, he said, adding that the capacity to undertake such work should be considered a development priority.  In that regard, she said she was undertaking a revision of the United Nations Manual on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.  Member States, national forensic institutions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were invited to participate in consultations on that process.

Turning to the death penalty, Mr. HEYNS said foreign nationals, including migrant workers from Asia and Africa, had been disproportionately affected in several States.  Such persons were often unfamiliar with the laws and procedures in the prosecuting State, had limited access to legal aid and were unable to understand the language in which proceedings were being carried out.  All reasonable steps should be taken by States that had abolished the death penalty to ensure their citizens did not face execution overseas and to not forcibly transfer anyone to States where they would face a genuine risk of the death penalty.  States that maintained the death penalty should meanwhile establish a moratorium on executions and consider abolition of the practice.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates raised questions about the abolition of the death penalty, law enforcement, cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and a State’s responsibility to ensure the right to life.  Additional queries were made on existing human rights mechanisms, individual sentencing, the humane treatment of prisoners and the prevention of extrajudicial killing.

Mr. HEYNS said good forensic science played an instrumental role in credible investigations.  It was becoming clear that the legal and forensic aspects of investigations of violations were not separate.

On human rights mechanisms, it was a positive development to see that the Commission of Inquiry had been increasingly used.  He regretted to say that the majority of people facing the death penalty had not committed the most serious crimes.  Further, such practice had undermined the right to life when it was imposed on minors, he said.

Participating in the dialogue were representatives of Switzerland, Norway, United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Brazil and Iraq, as well as the European Union.

For information media. Not an official record.