Human Rights Treaty Bodies Need Resources, Compliance by States to Effectively Fulfil Their Mandates, Briefers Tell Third Committee in Interactive Dialogue

GA/SHC/4172
18 October 2016
Seventy-first Session, 19th & 20th Meetings (AM & PM)

Human Rights Treaty Bodies Need Resources, Compliance by States to Effectively Fulfil Their Mandates, Briefers Tell Third Committee in Interactive Dialogue

The language of human rights treaty bodies could counter the fear, extremism and populist speeches diminishing human rights standards around the world, but the system was hampered by scarce resources and non-compliance by Member States, briefers told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today.

Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said 28 States had never submitted a report to the Committee – a violation of their obligations and an impediment to the Committee’s ability to perform its mandate.  The Committee also had a backlog of 175 complaints, due to limited staff resources. 

Malcolm Evans, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, reinforced that caution against backlogs.  In 2016, the tenth year of the Subcommittee’s operation, experts planned to take 10 country visits – the most yet – but the workload could not increase further without providing more resources.  That meant that, as ratifications continued, the group would fall further behind the hoped-for periodicity of visits.

Juan E. Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, presenting his report, also drew attention to increasing difficulties around country visits, which he said were an important element in carrying out his mandate and preventing torture.  But recent requests for country visits had been denied for such reasons as unnecessary access restrictions.  A decline in responses from Member States amounted to a crisis in international cooperation, he said, a point echoed by Fabian Salvioli, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, who spotlighted the perennial problem of non-reporting and late reporting.  He encouraged the 50 States which were at least five years overdue with their initial or periodic reports to submit them as soon as possible. 

For his part, Waleed Sadi, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the backlog of reports pending consideration was no longer an issue; instead, the problem was that 30 States were simply not submitting reports.

During the general debate on human rights, delegates described difficulties around compliance with their Governments’ obligations to treaty bodies and Committees, with the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noting that the bloc had limited human and financial resources for compiling national reports within the established timeframes.  Tunisia’s representative, however, took care to note that the country had presented its periodic reports on cruel inhuman and degrading treatment this year, and also had strengthened cooperation with human rights organizations.  Several Tunisian experts had been elected to treaty bodies, he observed.

The Russian Federation’s representative, meanwhile, expressed concern with treaty bodies’ “dubious” practice of holding meetings with civil society, and that the protection of human rights was morphing into a tool to promote the interests of certain States.  China’s representative, while recognizing civil society’s important role, said that non-Governmental organizations’ participation in treaty bodies should be contingent upon their compliance with relevant United Nations rules.

Also speaking today were representatives of New Zealand, Mexico, Cuba, Russia, Tunisia, Pakistan, Namibia, Iraq, Chile, India, Nigeria, Zambia, South Africa, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Japan, Mongolia, Iran, Tajikistan, China, Burkina Faso, Bangladesh, Ukraine, Fiji and Nicaragua, as well as a representative of the European Union.

The representative of Egypt also delivered remarks.

Ibrahim Salama, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented three reports on the human rights treaty body system (document A/71/118), the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/71/289), and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/71/272).

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 19 October, to continue its discussion on human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met to begin its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.  Before it were reports of the Human Rights Committee (document A/71/40), the Committee against Torture (document A/71/44) and the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/71/48).

Also before the Committee were several reports of the Secretary-General on:  the status of the human rights treaty body system (document A/71/118); the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/71/268); the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/71/272); and the  United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/71/289).

The Committee also had before it three notes from the Secretary-General:  the first transmitting the report of the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies on the implementation of human rights instruments (document A/71/270); the second transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/71/298); and the third transmitting the ninth annual report of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/71/341).

Interactive Dialogue

IBRAHIM SALAMA, Chief of the Human Rights Treaties Division of the Office of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), presented three reports, the first of which described the status of the human rights treaty body system and the support provided to Member States in their engagement with those bodies (document A/71/118).  The second report outlined the activities of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/71/289), he said, noting that more than 47,000 victims in 81 countries had been assisted by specialized practitioners. 

He said the Fund had helped to realize the right to rehabilitation for thousands of torture victims, a growing number of whom were children and adolescents.  Turning to the report on the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/71/272), he said it provided life-saving and reintegration programs for victims of slavery.  Despite the great need, resources in the Fund were “critically” low.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked about the status of capacity-building measures.  Some expressed concern about an increasing backlog, while others underlined the importance of better harmonization in the working methods of various treaty bodies; among them was the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of several countries including Luxembourg, Panama, Norway and Iraq, who warned against being complacent.

MR. SALAMA replied that one recommendation was to strengthen links between meetings held in Geneva and New York, as each location specialized in different and crucial aspects of the work of treaty bodies.  He acknowledged the African Group’s involvement in the capacity-building programme, singling out webcasting as an issue on which the General Assembly must take action.  The Secretary-General’s reports were a tool to adapt the meeting time to the workload and he agreed that there was no time to be complacent.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Egypt, Ghana (on behalf of the African Group) and Morocco.

JENS MODVIG, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said overall, his Committee had had constructive dialogue with States Parties to the Convention against Torture.  However, 28 States had never submitted a report to the Committee – a violation of their obligations and an impediment to the Committee’s ability to perform its mandate.  In the absence of such reports, the Committee had decided to review State parties itself and had established a simplified reporting procedure to facilitate compliance.  For the third time since its creation, the Committee had requested a special report – this time from Burundi on reported attacks on the opposition.  Although Burundi had submitted its report and sent a delegation to the first half of the dialogue with the Committee, the delegation did not attend the second half of the dialogue.

In an update on its follow-up procedure to Concluding observations, the Committee now encouraged States Parties to submit a plan for implementing the Committee’s recommendations, he said.  Pursuant to Article 22 of the Convention, the Committee continued to review individual complaints against States Parties.  However, the Committee had a backlog of 175 complaints due to limited staff resources.  The Committee had the mandate to institute a confidential inquiry into violations by States, and had undertaken nine such inquiries.  While States were crucial partners, the Committee also recognized the contribution of civil society organizations and he emphasized the need to protect those groups from reprisals.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked about the content of the interrogation guidelines, how General Comments could be revised, and how Member States would be involved.  Other questions centred on how to support victims after liberation and on the main obstacles to ratification of the Convention Against Torture.

Mr. MODVIG replied that interrogation guidelines were crucial in the prevention of torture and in the implementation of the Committee’s interrogation commitments.  The Committee was working to align its General Comment practices with those of other treaty bodies and hold consultations with Member States in that process.  Under the Convention’s Article 14, redress could be provided to victims in Iraq, including through the Voluntary Trust Fund.  The main obstacles to the Convention’s ratification included States’ fear that general legislative changes would be required before ratification, which was not always the case.  Another concern was that ratification would exceed national capacity.  On that front, assistance had been provided to help States build capacity and meet their reporting obligations.

Representatives of Denmark, Iraq and United Kingdom also participated in the interactive dialogue, as did a representative of European Union.

MALCOLM EVANS, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, presenting the ninth annual report of the Sub-committee, said the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture had been ratified by 83 countries, comprising half those States that were party to the Convention.  Welcoming initiatives for universal ratification of those texts, he emphasized the complementarity of the Convention and the Protocol.  Among other important areas of the United Nations’ work in combating torture, he said, was the Voluntary Fund for Victims, which he hoped, in the future, could present its activities to the General Assembly alongside his group.  He reported that in 2016, the tenth year of the Subcommittee’s operation, 10 country visits would be undertaken – the most yet – but the workload could not increase further without increased resources.  That meant that, as ratifications continued, the group would fall further behind the hoped-for periodicity of visits.  The international community must honour its commitment by adequately supporting such visits, which he called a valuable preventative mechanism.

He said that since the last report, the trend among some States Parties to question the scope of the Subcommittee’s mandate had, unfortunately, continued.  He underlined the importance of access to all places of detention at the time of the Subcomittee’s choosing, per the treaty, without rearrangements that would alter the normal operation of the facilities ahead of the visit.  There was good news to report in that the number of national preventative mechanisms continued to rise.  However, the Subcommittee’s capacity to advise on those mechanisms was inadequate, again, due to a lack of resources.  Another area in which the Subcommittee’s work required enhancement concerned dialogue with States following visits.  The next phase of work must include better engagement of States in the implementation of recommendations on prevention.  To assist States with that task, the Special Fund must be fully resourced, which was not the case at present.  With risk for detainee abuse increasing around the world, it was critical to apply what had been learned about preventing torture and ill treatment over the last decade.  “What is needed is a greater willingness to do it”, he said.

When the floor opened, delegates asked about aspects of how the establishment of national preventive mechanisms could be supported.  The United Kingdom’s representative asked how the Optional Protocol could complement national instruments already in place.  Denmark’s representative asked what should be focused on in a universal set of guidelines on interrogation.

Mr. EVANS, responding, expressed concern that many States had not yet designated a National Preventive Mechanism.  Every country had its own specificities, and what worked in one would not necessarily work in another, so the mechanism must be tailored to each country’s situation.  It was vital that the Sub-Committee met with States Parties swiftly after they acceded to the Optional Protocol to provide help in setting up the National Preventive Mechanism.  Responding to questions on how existing national mechanisms could profit from being made part of the international system, he said the Sub-Committee could provide practical support to national mechanisms that might be experiencing difficulties.  Peer-to- peer networks among national mechanisms were hugely beneficial for the mechanisms themselves and the work they did.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were the representatives of Switzerland and Czech Republic, as well as the European Union.

JUAN E. MÉNDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, presenting his report (document A/71/298), drew attention to what he called a crisis in international cooperation.  Responses by Member States had declined.  In addition, country visits were an important element in carrying out his mandate and preventing torture, as access to traditionally closed institutions, such as prisons and hospitals, provided important information.  However, he had often been uninvited.  Recent requests for country visits had been denied, or the Terms of Reference found unacceptable, for such reasons as unnecessary access restrictions.  Follow-up visits were required to assess whether his recommendations had been carried out.

He said the conversation on torture had broadened to include women’s and children’s rights, covering the unnecessary denial of abortion and detention of minors.  Neither history nor science had shown torture or ill-treatment to be effective.  Torture could lead to brain damage, and in turn, result in false statements.  He recommended the development of guidelines for more effective interrogations, and carrying out investigations based on international human rights law.  Interrogations should be non-coercive, evidence-based and likewise grounded in human rights law.  Moreover, they should not undermine the human rights of detainees, and he questioned the use of hypnosis and drugs in that context.  Rather, they should be conducted by trained professionals, with suspects informed of their rights and access to lawyers granted.  All information must be obtained legally, recorded and archived.  Vulnerable groups, especially refugees and children, deserved special safeguards.

When the floor opened, delegates focused their questions on the process around the elaboration of guidelines for interrogation.  The representative of Argentina asked about the obstacles to using a Protocol to prevent the use of torture in interrogations, and whether the Special Rapporteur felt existing mechanisms could be strengthened to increase awareness of human rights violations detected in that area.  The United States’ delegate asked how States could share best practices on improving law enforcement techniques, and about best practices identified by in that area.  Norway’s representative enquired about other ways and means toward the goal of empirical models of investigative interviewing than a universal Protocol.

Mr. MÉNDEZ replied that there were certain categories of crime for which some believed there were exceptions from the prohibition of torture, such as terrorism and organized crime.  However, international humanitarian law was clear and there were no exceptions to that ban.

On the elaboration of guidelines, he said there was no fundamental requirement to change national legislation, but instead, to change culture.  The model outlined in his report was an existing, practical model used in many countries, rather than something theoretical and unavailable.  He suggested using the guidelines as a way to compare practices.  He said he had in mind something similar to the Minnesota Protocol and the Mandela Rules, which were so-called “soft law” but referred to the hardest law extant - the ban on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment.  He underlined the need for a broad participatory process toward elaborating guidelines.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of the United Kingdom, Turkey, Liechtenstein, Indonesia, Denmark, Iran, South Africa, Switzerland, Bahrain and Chile, as well as of the European Union and the State of Palestine.

The representative of Egypt asked for the floor on a point of order.

A Secretariat representative explained that it was the Committee’s long-standing practice that delegations did not make points of order during dialogues with special mandate holders.

FABIAN SALVIOLI, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, underscored the need to provide a counterweight to worrying trends, such as the rise of extremism, the manipulation of public fear into two simplistic camps – “us and them” – and populist speeches aimed at diminishing human rights standards.  Reiterating his concerns over violence against women, torture, discrimination, lack of protection and the vulnerability of migrants, he said the language of human rights treaty bodies could provide that counterbalance.  Outlining examples of advancements in the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights over the past 50 years – which included fuller and more consistent engagement of civil society in many States, the payment of compensation to victims and amended legislation – he stressed that “we have good practices but we need much more commitment from States in the fulfilment of the Committee’s decisions if we wish to see real change on the ground”.

Noting that the Covenants’ fiftieth anniversary provided an opportunity to stress the indivisibility and interdependence of all rights – whether civil and political or economic, social and cultural – he went on to review the Committee’s recent work, which included its historic first joint meeting with the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.  Emphasizing the importance of follow-up procedures to ensure that States provided remedy to victims of rights violations, he also spotlighted the perennial problem of non-reporting and late reporting, and encouraged the 50 States which were at least five years overdue with their initial or periodic reports to submit them as soon as possible.  He expressed disappointment that not all countries had implemented the Committee’s decisions, and that some States Parties to the Second Optional Protocol had recently announced that they would reintroduce the death penalty.  Given the global trend away from capital punishment, such announcements represented a step backward in human rights protection, he said.

Delegations then took the floor to ask about the impact of the lack of resources on the Committee and what more could be done to avoid delays in the submission of documentation.  Further questions pertained to discussions on the right to life and inclusion of the aggressive use of force in the related General Comments, as well as strengthening collaboration among United Nations bodies.

Mr. SALVIOLI replied that the delay in report submissions remained a concern.  While States were reviewed in the absence of related documentation, it was a good practice to submit it.  States facing delays should receive technical assistance.  The impact of the lack of resources was a serious issue, as was the lack of document translation, which had led to a lack of understanding among members.  He urged States to provide the Committee with the resources needed.

He went on to describe progress made in developing a General Comment on the right to life during the first reading, noting that participation would be opened to all States.  He expressed hope of receiving inputs on that and related General Comments.  Underlining the importance of strengthening the treaty bodies, he said the Human Rights Committee was in regular contact with them, as well as holding meetings with other United Nations bodies and regional organizations.

Also participating in the dialogue were representatives of Argentina, Liechtenstein and Poland, as well as the European Union.

Egypt’s representative responded to comments made by another delegation, stressing the need to be impartial and non-selective, and to avoid politicization.  Those comments had referred to a case before an Egyptian court and he urged the Third Committee to respect national laws and due process.  He also noted that the non-Governmental organization cited in the case had not been registered as such.

WALEED SADI, Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said the Committee had held three sessions in 2016 and devoted most of its time to the consideration of 17 State reports.  The body had finalized its work in adopting Concluding observations on all the State reports considered.  The backlog of reports pending consideration was no longer an issue; instead, the problem was that 30 States were simply not submitting reports.  The body had sent reminders to those non-reporting States and was considering additional measures to ensure that they complied with their obligations.  The Committee had also considered six communications under the Covenant’s Optional Protocol, which would contribute to its jurisprudence and assist in clarifying the obligations emanating from the Covenant.

Recalling that the Committee had adopted two General Comments in 2016 on the right to sexual and reproductive health, and the right to just and favourable conditions of work, he said those efforts had not been equally welcomed by all States.  It had also adopted statements on public debt and austerity measures, and human rights defenders.  Expressing hope that both of those statements would be helpful to States Parties as they implemented their obligations under the Covenant, he recalled that the Committee had taken on board the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as their related targets and indicators.  “It is very important for all stakeholders to consider the obligations of States under the Covenant in the process of development of national action plans and other efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” he said in that regard.

In the ensuing dialogue, delegates asked about improving the Committee’s effectiveness in the context of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Several inquired about efforts to better protect and include human rights defenders and other civil society actors in the area of workers’ rights.  One speaker pointed to gaps between the General Comments on sexual and reproductive rights and their implementation, asking about how to close them.

Mr. SADI replied that efforts had been made to assess business responsibility, land rights and the environment in which to further the Covenant’s goals.  Discrimination and gender equality were core obligations and must be addressed in a cross-cutting manner “with no excuses”, he said, stressing that General Comments had been developed in those areas.  The need to simplify procedures was not the real problem; rather, it was the lack of interest.  A more effective follow-up process must be found, he said, underscoring the importance of having major powers on board.

He said the inclusion of human rights defenders was a delicate issue.  While they were essential to the promotion and protection of human rights, some States believed that General Comments added legislation beyond the scope of the Covenant.  General Comments therefore must be used with caution.  Citizens could use the Optional Protocol to claim their rights in court.  As States rarely referred to General Comments, the Committee had to remind them of such.  To address implementation gaps in sexual and reproductive rights, he said religious reasons must be taken into account.  He reiterated the need for a follow-up procedure, as traditional attitudes and beliefs were difficult to change, and the related General Comments were not sufficient.

Also participating in the interactive dialogue were representatives of Poland, Portugal and New Zealand, as well as the European Union.

WALTON ALFONSO WEBSON (Antigua and Barbuda), on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), stressed the importance of capacity building for the bloc, which had limited human and financial resources for compiling national reports within the timeframes established by the Treaties.  Natural disasters and other crises also presented challenges to their ability to comply.

CARICOM appreciated the webcasting service, which allowed members without permanent representation in Geneva to follow proceedings, he said, expressing concern that that pilot service would be discontinued if no funds were found to support it from the regular budget.  He stressed the need for the Office of the High Commissioner to receive dedicated financial resources from the United Nations’ regular budget.  Finally, he said he hoped the Secretary-General would put forth proposals to enhance States’ engagement with the treaty bodies, per resolution 68/268.

CHARLES WHITELEY, European Union delegation, said a worrying number of Governments had stifled the voice of human rights defenders and non-Governmental organizations.  The Union was therefore resolute in its support of human rights treaty bodies and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose work was an essential addition to that in and by the Human Rights Council.  He welcomed the appointment of several special procedures mandate holders during the Council’s recent session, including the first Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  The world ought not to accept that homosexuality was still punishable by law in several States.

He stressed the importance of human rights for women and girls, as well as the equality between women and men.  Women and girls continued to be disproportionately subjected to human rights violations around the world, and the Union would engage in all relevant United Nations fora in order to counter attempts to roll back commitments on gender.  He further encouraged all States that had not yet done so to accede to both Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) also speaking on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, and associating with Belgium’s statement, focused on the rights of persons with disabilities.  Noting that this year marked the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, he said it was an ideal time to reflect on the related successes and challenges.  While the Sustainable Development Goals contained references to persons with disabilities, more must be done to monitor how that population was being included in and benefiting from the 2030 Agenda.  Persons with disabilities were particularly vulnerable during complex emergencies, and too often, humanitarian responses did not reach them.

The next Third Committee resolution on the Convention would have a thematic focus on the situation of women and girls with disabilities, he said.  Too often, women and girls had been neglected by international and national legal frameworks and policies on disability issues.  He welcomed the adoption of General Comment No. 3 by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, relating to the Convention’s Article 6, and supported the Committee recommendations to States in that regard.  More broadly, he recommended greater efforts to ensure that United Nations facilities and information were accessible, including by making documents available in accessible formats.

JUAN SANDOVAL MENDIOLEA (Mexico) encouraged the universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Sharing his country’s contributions to the development of the international human rights mechanisms, he said Mexico had been open to scrutiny by the Special Procedures and international mechanisms, and thus, achieved greater accountability.  He stressed the need to clear the Committees’ backlog.  In addition, the rights of migrants must be protected against exploitation and racism.

Ms. THOMAS (Cuba) underscored the need to fully realize all human rights and strengthen the international human rights mechanisms.  Such efforts, however, should not lead to the creation of new obligations.  Treaty bodies should not create new legal obligations through their General Comments, as that would damage their original functions.  They must also avoid politicization and selectivity, as well as ensure equitable geographical representation.  All rights and all contexts must receive equal consideration, while States must receive as much information as possible about any organizational changes. 

Ms. ANACHINA (Russian Federation) called for Committees’ strict compliance with their mandates and constructive dialogue with Member States.  Regrettably, treaty bodies often deviated from their tasks and overstepped their authority.  She was concerned by their “dubious” practice of holding meetings with civil society, which breached their openness and impartiality.  There was a need for greater dialogue to strengthen trust between Member States and treaty bodies.  Cooperation was important to prevent human rights from being transformed into instruments of political pressure.  She expressed concern that the protection of human rights was losing its original purpose and morphing into a tool to promote the interests of certain States. 

KARIMA BARDAOUI (Tunisia) underscored the Government’s commitment to international treaties, noting that promotion and protection of human rights was a Constitutional principle her country.  Tunisia had presented its periodic reports on cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment this year, and had also strengthened cooperation with human rights organizations.  Several Tunisian experts had been elected to treaty bodies.  She underscored the importance of a multidimensional approach to human rights and welcomed the Sustainable Development Goals as a positive step in that direction.

Ms. ARSHAD (Pakistan) said that, while international human rights covenants and their optional protocols had laid down an elaborate normative structure and impressive achievements had been made in mainstreaming those rights, the dream of protecting the inherent dignity of every person and freeing mankind from basic wants had yet to be fully realized.  Millions still lived in abject poverty, countless others lived under the shadow of armed conflicts or suffered foreign occupation and blatant human rights violations, often amid impunity.  Underscoring the importance of the principles of equality and non-interference in internal State affairs, she said national and international safeguards against racial discrimination and xenophobia must be strengthened.  As a founding member of the Human Rights Council and a party to all seven core human rights covenants, Pakistan took its obligations seriously.  It had adopted comprehensive laws and policies to protect the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups, including several prohibiting rape, honour killings and workplace harassment.  In addition, it had created a National Commission on Human Rights and a National Commission on Minorities.

LINDA ANNE SCOTT (Namibia) said development hinged on the promotion of gender equality as a fundamental human right, and on the education and development of African youth.  As peace and security remained a cornerstone for sustainable economic development, women must be drivers of those conditions, particularly in post-conflict situations.  Noting that Namibia and sub-Africa had seen notable progress in the area of child and maternal mortality, he underscored the importance of increasing access to health care and clarifying its link to development.  The right to education was a Constitutional guarantee for all Namibian citizens, he said, citing the Government’s no-fee policy from grade one to grade twelve, with plans to expand it into tertiary education.

Mr. MEHMOOD (Iraq) emphasized that international human rights instruments must be accompanied by by-laws.  As ratified covenants were considered to have the same status as national laws, Iraq had developed national laws to match the treaties.

CRISTIÁN BARROS MELET (Chile) said his country had created a Vice Ministry of Human Rights to ensure the inclusion of human rights across all sectors.  It also promoted a safe space for civil society and encouraged those actors to contribute to human rights policies.  The protection of human rights defenders was also given consideration in national policies, he said, stressing that all social groups must be protected, without exception, especially detained persons, who deserved special protection.

VISHNU VARDHAN REDDY (India) said that, while all human rights were universal and should be treated without hierarchy, civil and political rights were often highlighted at the expense of socioeconomic rights.  Expressing concern over the politicization and selective use of the United Nations human rights machinery – a trend most evident in the Human Rights Council – he stressed that only adherence to the principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and objectivity could ensure collective ownership of the human rights agenda and deliver effective solutions.  Underscoring the need for a more inclusive approach to identifying the thematic priorities of the Office of the High Commissioner, he emphasized that States were the primary duty-bearers and that the best way to address human rights challenges was through strengthened national institutions and mechanisms.  Universality and equal treatment should continue to be the Universal Periodic Review’s guiding principles, he said, warning against the tendency to turn that instrument into a platform for pushing a selective agenda.

ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria) said his country had prioritized the protection and promotion of basic human rights.  As a democratic nation, protecting human rights was not only guaranteed by the Constitution but upheld by institutions such as the National Human Rights Commission, established in 1996.  The national action plan served as the institutional framework for the monitoring, assessment and implementation of the Vienna Declaration.  The Commission had proven itself as a credible implementation body, while the action plan had ensured the protection of social, cultural, economic, civil and political rights.  Further, a National Industrial Court heard and determined cases affecting the civil rights of workers, especially those for health and safety.

JOHN ZULU, Director of Child Affairs at the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Child Development of Zambia, said that to combat discrimination and inequalities, States must have a clear and consistent legal framework, as well as robust justice, security and human rights institutions.  Zambia had established a number of institutions to push reform, investigate violations and propose measures to prevent abuses.  For instance, a Constitutional Court, the Court of Appeal and the Specialised Courts of the High Court all aimed to enhance access to justice and reduce the backlog of cases.  The Government respected the independence of its judiciary, upheld the rule of law and had strengthened all governance institutions.  A referendum had been held to revise the Bill of Rights to include civil and political rights, and further, the protection of human rights for older people, and those relating to marriage and family, children, young people and persons with disabilities.  While the referendum had not met the threshold needed for amendment, the Government would continue to work to ensure rights for all.

NOKULUNGA ZANDILE BHENGU (South Africa) said the fiftieth anniversary of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development coincided with the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.  That Agenda underlined that no development could be achieved without the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  With the advent of democracy in 1994, South Africa had worked tirelessly to ensure the accessibility and provision of those rights and essential services to ensure a better life for all.  The Government had prioritised economic, social and cultural rights through it “National Development Plan:  Vision 2030”.

GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said terrorism and violent extremism challenged the principles of freedom and human rights in Afghanistan.  Nevertheless, the country’s people and Government were determined to preserve the gains made over the past 16 years.  A sustainable reform agenda had been developed which incorporated good governance in all sectors, with human rights at its core.  To curb corruption, the Government had taken steps to improve access to justice, enhance transparency and accountability and end impunity.  In order to amplify its voice in the global arena, and to share its experiences in promoting human rights, Afghanistan had presented its candidature for the Human Rights Council, he said, adding that support for its endeavour would be appreciated.

MIRGUL MOLDOISAEVA (Kyrgyzstan) said the Government guaranteed equality between men and women, freedom of speech and the press, peaceful assembly and freedom of conscience.  The national sustainable development policy prioritized human rights and freedoms.  Moreover, the Government had signed numerous human rights conventions and created conditions for the development of civil society, with platforms for dialogue and cooperation.  She underscored the need for treaty bodies to engage in constructive dialogues with Member States so that consultations were in line with conditions of countries, responded to their goals and interests and were achievable.  For its part, Kyrgyzstan had cooperated with several United Nations rapporteurs and taken on more than 70 per cent of the recommendations proposed in the second cycle of its Universal Periodic Review in June 2015.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA, Special Advisor, Japan, called human rights the cornerstone of a stable international society and protecting them was the responsibility of every nation.  The Human Rights Council and other treaty bodies played an important role, as did the Universal Periodic Review, in encouraging States to improve their human rights situations through dialogue and cooperation.  Japan had introduced new measures to empower women and had submitted periodic reports to both the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.  Further, Parliament had adopted a bill to combat hate speech, and to that end, the Government would raise awareness of the importance of embracing diversity.  Human rights bodies would be even more effective if they simplified their reporting procedures.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said his country had adopted a second national plan to implement recommendations as part of the Universal Periodic Review follow-up process.  The Government was undertaking legal reforms to harmonize national legislation with international human rights norms and standards, and a newly adopted action plan would improve the judiciary.  Mongolia would continue to engage with the United Nations mechanisms to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.

GHOLAMHOSSEIN DEHGHANI (Iran) said the right to development was mentioned 12 times in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, despite that some countries had tried to rename that right as an individual rather than a collective one.  The High Commissioner’s report reiterated that the right to development was interlinked, interdependent and mutually reinforcing with the 2030 Agenda.  He said he expected the Office of the High Commissioner to operate within the framework of accepted principles of human rights instruments and mechanisms, and to avoid insisting on issues that had not yet been internationally recognized as human rights norms and standards. 

BAKHTIYOR MUHAMEDJANOV (Tajikistan) said his country prioritized the promotion and protection of human rights and recognized the role of the Human Rights Council for dialogue and cooperation to that end.  Tajikistan’s priorities within the Council included strengthening international protection mechanisms, enforcing commitments and expanding multilateral cooperation.  While he welcomed the United Nations’ work in combating human trafficking, he urged greater attention to the rehabilitation of victims.  The Government worked closely with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which had assisted it in preparing reports for treaty bodies and in implementing the State programme on human rights education.  Tajikistan also had begun implementing the recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review.

SHANG CHENGLIN (China) said all actors should engage in full consultations and promote the implementation of resolution 68/268 on strengthening the human rights treaty body system in an open, transparent and balanced way, rather than taking a selective approach.  Some elements of the San Jose Guidelines against intimidation or reprisals did not conform with treaty provisions and created additional obligations on States Parties.  She stressed the need for consensus before implementing the Guidelines and for treaty bodies to uphold the principles of objectivity, impartiality and independence.  Finally, while recognizing the important role of civil society, she maintained that non-Governmental organizations’ participation in treaty bodies should be contingent upon their compliance with relevant United Nations rules.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso) said the Government placed human rights at the centre of its development policy.  It was strengthening its legal framework by adopting and revising texts that guaranteed the protection of collective and individual rights.  Burkina Faso also had implemented several policy documents to promote human rights, made provisions for legal assistance, incorporated human rights education into curricula and was raising awareness about human rights.  As part of its international and regional commitments, the Government had submitted several reports this year, including three to treaty bodies, and was strengthening cooperation with civil society.

MASUD BIN MOMEN (Bangladesh) said his country’s Constitution embodied the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. While constitutional and statutory laws provided for the protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights, special laws were also in place to ensure the rights of women, children, minorities and other vulnerable groups.  Bangladesh’s National Human Rights Commission, launched in 2008, worked as an independent body.  The country had completed its second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in April 2013, he said, noting that 97 countries at the Human Rights Council had made 196 recommendations, of which Bangladesh had accepted 164.  It was now preparing in for the third cycle Review in 2017.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, underscored the importance of effective human rights monitoring in light of the Russian Federation’s ongoing aggression.  It was critical to record violations of human rights and international humanitarian law by occupying authorities in Crimea, as well as crimes committed by the Russian regular army and Russia-controlled illegal armed groups in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.  Implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was a priority.  Further, as cooperation and transparency were crucial for the promotion and protection of human rights, Ukraine had cooperated with the Office of the High Commissioner and its Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, as international scrutiny of the occupied eastern territories and in Crimea remained an open issue amid the mission’s mandate.

SWASTI SUBHA CHAND (Fiji), recalling that her country had ratified the Convention against Torture in March, said the Government had identified several priority areas for its implementation.  The first was the reform of police interrogation procedures and implementation of an effective right to counsel.  Representatives of Fiji’s legal profession had met with the Geneva Bar Association and the Legal Aid Commission in the United Kingdom to develop a pilot “First Hour” programme ensuring the presence of a solicitor at the police station within the first hour of custody.  With the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the British High Commission, Fijian police officers had attended trainings in the United Kingdom on video recording of police statements, while Fiji’s Chief Justice was working on a draft Practice Direction to guide both judges and prosecutors on the expected requirements for the admission of videotaped statements.  This month, Fiji would co-host a regional meeting for the Pacific Island States to discuss and encourage the Convention’s ratification.

MARÍA CLARISA GOLDRICK (Nicaragua), associating herself with CELAC, pressed the international community to ensure respect for human rights.  Nicaragua promoted the enjoyment of all human rights for its people, as reaffirmed by the national development plan, which aimed to strengthen human rights across the territory.  Nicaragua respected its commitments, she said, and had submitted its reports in compliance with the Universal Periodic Review.  Unilateral or biased measures taken against countries were unacceptable, she said, adding that developed countries must cooperate with less developed countries in respect of the right to development, and stressing the need for debt relief in that context. 

For information media. Not an official record.