Early warnings must trigger rapid responses to human rights abuses, the top United Nations human rights official told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it began its deliberations on the promotion and protection of human rights.
Speaking before the Committee for the first time as High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet said the importance of early warnings generated by human rights monitoring has been tragically and powerfully demonstrated by years of work by Special Rapporteurs on the situation of the Rohingya.
“However, the human rights system is not a Cassandra, correctly predicting crises yet unable to prevent them. It is a force for prevention”, she stressed. When backed by political will, it also mitigates and helps resolve conflict. To fulfil its reporting and monitoring mandate, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) requires proper assistance — and importantly — access. She emphasized that Member States are the primary actors delivering on human rights.
She also pointed out that the United Nations is facing a test. Multilateralism is eroding, and with it the values and norms that underpin a global commitment to human equality and dignity. Yet, peace, security and development can only be achieved through greater justice and equity. She urged Member States to safeguard a human rights-based multilateralism, lest all the United Nations’ pillars be undermined.
Responding to questions and comments, she spotlighted the large number of situations that the Human Rights Council has addressed in the past 12 years. But she acknowledged that it could improve its efficacy and deepen its cooperation with the Security Council, and suggested that its President be invited to brief the Committee.
Also making presentations today were the Chair of the Committee against Torture; the Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment; and the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 16 October, to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee met today to consider the promotion and protection of human rights. Before it were reports of the Human Rights Committee (document A/73/40); the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/73/48); the Committee against Torture (document A/73/44); and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (document A/73/56).
Also before the Committee were various reports of the Secretary‑General on: the Status of the human rights treaty body system (document A/73/309); the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/73/281); the United Nations voluntary trust fund on contemporary forms of slavery (document A/73/264) ; the Moratorium on the use of the death penalty (document A/73/260); the Human rights in the administration of justice (document A/73/210); Combating intolerance, negative stereotyping, stigmatization, discrimination, incitement to violence and violence against persons, based on religion or belief (document A/73/153); Globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/73/172); the Effects of terrorism on the enjoyment of human rights (document A/73/347); the Twentieth anniversary and promotion of the Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (document A/73/230); the Situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (document A/73/48); and the Situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/73/48).
The Committee also had before it the following documents A/73/282, A/73/207, A/73/140, A/73/314, A/73/161, A/73/138, A/73/139 and Corr.1, A/73/271, A/73/175, A/73/158, A/73/164, A/73/362, A/73/162, A/73/178, A/73/361, A/73/173, A/73/205, A/73/215, A/73/310, A/73/365, A/73/163, A/73/348, A/73/396, A/73/206, A/73/336, A/73/181, A/73/227, A/73/152, A/73/171, A/73/216, A/73/262, A/73/279, A/73/179, A/73/188, A/73/165, A/73/386, A/73/332, A/73/398, A/73/363, A/73/330, A/73/380, A/73/397, A/73/404, A/73/36, and A/73/399.
MICHELLE BACHELET, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noting that she will lead the Office as it enters a new programme cycle, from 2018 to 2021, called that timeframe a testing period for United Nations principles and institutions. “Multilateralism is eroding, and with it, the values and norms which underpin the shared global commitment to human equality and human dignity,” she said. The United Nations must ensure that all human rights remain a core focus of multilateralism. If not, the Organization’s pillars will be undermined.
Sustainable peace, security and development are attainable, she said, but only if the United Nations advances towards greater justice and equity. “There are many legitimate points of view on how best to achieve those common goals, but only one overriding way forward: Collective, cooperative work”. Member States are the primary actors in delivering on human rights. Steady, open dialogue can bring diverging views together and help achieve the systemic changes that will advance towards greater respect for human rights.
In addition, she said the strong value of early warnings generated by human rights monitoring has been amply demonstrated: years of work by Special Rapporteurs regarding the situation of the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar are a particularly “tragic and powerful” example of early warning. But, the human rights system is not a Cassandra, predicting crises yet unable to prevent them. It is a force for prevention, and when backed by political will, it mitigates and helps resolve conflict. Similarly, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development can only be achieved with a focus on human rights, seeking out and fixing the causes of insecurity, reducing inequality and ensuring transparent, inclusive institutions. “This is the essence of what we do,” she emphasized
Presenting her Office’s report (document A/73/36), she said OHCHR works in every region, across all three United Nations pillars and almost all mandates. Its efforts include technical cooperation and capacity building, as well as monitoring of human rights situations — notably through advocacy, standard setting, efforts to build legal and normative expertise and support for United Nations human rights mechanisms. She described the increasingly relevant role of the Human Rights Council in technical cooperation, drawing from 71 field presences, noting that the Office is leading work to integrate human rights in data collection. In Kenya, teams have monitored 25 groups at risk of being left behind in efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals — including indigenous people, those with disabilities, slum dwellers and women from the poorest regions. In 2017, Tunisia strengthened itself as a regional leader in women’s equality, with adoption of a landmark law eliminating violence against women and girls, following efforts by the Office and civil society in developing the bill. In Colombia, where the peace agreement is at a crossroads, the Office is supporting a victim-centred approach to transitional justice and working with the Prosecutor-General’s Office work to identify patterns of attack against human rights defenders.
Fundamentally, the Office’s success in protecting human rights is defined by the extent to which Member States meet their commitments, she said. To serve these aims, OHCHR requires the full support of the General Assembly, notably the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary), as well as the political support of Governments, with decisions at the Human Rights Council backed by both the Assembly and the Security Council.
In the ensuing dialogue, the representative of Morocco, on behalf of the African Group, expressed regret that over the last two years, separate reports have not been submitted. Separate and specific OHCHR reports covering a more recent period would have been better, he said stressing that politicization and polarization should be avoided and underscoring the need to respect cultural and societal specifics. He recommended extra budgetary resources and more geographical representation within the Office. Speaking in his national capacity, he underscored support for increased financing for OHCHR.
The representative of Cuba expressed concern over the growing politicization of human rights and denounced a 16 October meeting organized by the United States on the political situation in Cuba, which alongside another campaign, was an affront to Cuba’s sovereignty. The United Nations should not allow such aggression.
The representative of Romania reiterated her country’s strong opposition to the death penalty, asking if closer cooperation between United Nations bodies and Special Procedures and regional organizations could improve the promotion of women’s rights.
The representative of Argentina asked whether the international legal framework for human rights is specific and coherent enough to guarantee that older persons fully enjoy their rights.
The representative of Poland reiterated support for OHCHR’s work, recalling that his country is a candidate for membership on the Human Rights Council.
The representative of Germany, aligning himself with the European Union, asked what could be done to encourage the Security Council to more often seek OHCHR’s advice. Noting that Germany and Switzerland co-chaired a conflict prevention caucus in New York City, which would support the OHCHR agenda, he asked how human rights can be mainstreamed into the Secretary-General’s conflict prevention agenda and whether High Commissioner plans to return to Nicaragua.
The representative of the United States urged the High Commissioner to advocate for the voiceless and play a constructive role, rather than pursue political agendas and institutional biases. She expressed concern about the unchecked politicization of the Human Rights Council.
The representative of Spain said Geneva is considered the capital of human rights and all related information must reach United Nations bodies in New York.
The representative of Belarus expressed concern about the deeply politicized situation in certain States. On the situation of Cuba, he called for a review of existing human rights procedures, underscoring that political ambition and pressure should not replace dialogue.
The representative of Burundi voiced concern that some States were trying to transform the Human Rights Council into a tool for political pressure against countries of the global South, citing selectiveness, partiality and double standards. Artificial politicization, dividing the world into “the good” and “the bad”, must be replaced with dialogue and cooperation, with OHCHR playing its role in that regard.
The representative of Syria expressed regret over policies of confrontation that overlook positive aspects and magnify negativities, with States succumbing to double standards and lacking both credibility and objectivity. States should be prevented from using human rights as a political weapon to destabilize other States. He rejected attempts by the United States to make itself the standard by which the world measures human rights, especially as it commits heinous crimes in Syria.
The representative of Switzerland called on all Member States to reinforce OHCHR’s financial resources and asked about the High Commissioner’s role following reforms put in place by the Secretary-General.
The representative of Iceland, speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, stressed that an independent and nonpartisan leadership voice is needed. It is important to ensure cooperation and complementary efforts between Geneva and New York, he said, asking what more is needed by the United Nations to ensure that human rights are at the forefront of all Sustainable Development Goals.
Ms. BACHELET replied that she intends to engage with Governments to help them fulfil their own mandates and promote human rights, through technical cooperation and capacity-building. While stressing that OHCHR’s work must be based on facts rather than opinions, she recalled her Office requires access in order to consider various perspectives, while conducting reporting and monitoring activities.
To comments by Morocco’s delegate, she said that if Member States are not satisfied with the current format, she is open to reverting to the previous reporting model.
OHCHR is engaging with regional organizations to ensure the protection of women’s rights, she continued. Pointing out that mainstreaming at times leads to less visibility, she expressed her willingness to partner with United Nations agencies to integrate human rights in their work. There is also significant potential to deepen cooperation with the European Union and the African Union, as well as with language-based or cultural groups like l’Organisation international de la Francophonie. Acknowledging the importance of heeding warning signs, she stressed the need to take early action to avoid bloodshed.
In the past 12 years, the Human Rights Council has addressed a large number of situations, she said, preventing and mitigating several conflicts, including in Côte d’Ivoire. Acknowledging the need to improve its efficacy and effectiveness, she said the Council could also deepen cooperation with the Third Committee and the Security Council. The Human Rights Council President should be invited to brief the Committee, she added.
More broadly, she said the 2030 Agenda reinforces the connection between development and human rights, including the right to development, underscoring the need to foster data collection, capacity-building and proper reporting to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
In a second round of questions and comments, the representative of Eritrea said there is no human rights hierarchy: all are equal. More importantly, the Universal Periodic Review is the sole mechanism to address human rights in every country and he voiced concern about the reduced OHCHR budget.
The representative of Chile expressed hope that human rights will be reinforced, with a strengthened “prevention pillar” of early warning, particularly in conflict situations.
The representative of Greece voicing support for multilateralism, asked how to achieve a common understanding of human rights in addressing the Sustainable Development Goals and questioned the changes made in the OHCHR modus operandi.
The representative of Egypt expressed regret that separate reports had not been submitted and requested such a format for the next period. Cultural, social and religious differences should be respected, rather than used to advance political agendas.
The representative of China urged respect for sovereignty. Warning against politicization, pressure and confrontation, he advocated dialogue and cooperation within the Human Rights Council, as well as greater focus on the right to development and economic rights.
The representative of the European Union said countries violating human rights should be challenged and called to account. Expressing strong support for OHCHR’s work and independence, he underscored the importance of fully equipping it to fulfil its mandate through greater voluntary and non-earmarked financing. He asked about the main solution for realizing human rights instruments and suggestions for sharing best practices.
The representative of Mexico stressed the importance of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in vulnerable situations, noting that OHCHR recommendations from 28 official visits are essential reference points for his Government. On cooperation, points of agreements must be found. He asked about how to strengthen the human rights pillar.
The representative of Netherlands expressed regret that human rights have become increasingly politicized and polarized, asking how collaboration between the Human Rights Council and Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian & Cultural) can be strengthened.
The representative of Iran deplored unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States, negatively impacting the most vulnerable, including women and children, and amounting to collective punishment. Sanctions killed more children than any war or conflict. The United Nations has a clear responsibility to protect human rights.
The representative of Portugal said the death penalty is discriminatory and cruel, asking how to end its use. He also asked how the national human rights mechanisms are improving rights on the ground.
The representative of Guatemala noted that the High Commissioner is the first Latin American woman to lead the Human Rights Council. Citing women, youth and children among vulnerable groups, he reiterated support for strengthening the human rights pillar.
The representative of Ireland expressed concerns about multilateralism underpinning global peace, stressing that a strong focus on human rights is essential, and that the voices of civil society and human rights defenders should be heard.
The representative of Libya asked about human rights training offered by OHCHR, especially as related to the issue of illegal immigrants.
Ms. BACHELET said development and peace can be more effective and sustainable with efforts by the Office to promote a safe space, protection, monitoring and influence within the public discourse. Civil society participation in the Human Rights Council is quite high, with those representatives adding their views and expertise to discussions, she said, noting that the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to two human rights defenders who fight violence against women. Many delegates had outlined their preference that funding come from the regular budget, rather than voluntary funds, and she called for support in the Fifth Committee. Prevention is among OHCHR’s core activities. It should continue to work in this manner so that when the risk of conflict arises, the entire United Nations system can aim to prevent onset, rather than respond too late.
On development, she said the purpose is to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, and within that is the focus on prevention; it is a clear imperative to deliver on this promise. In an overall context, the Office made strides to anchor human rights into development work, including by bringing in human rights advisors. This ability of OHCHR must be retained. It is important to ensure the achievements are given a normative mandate and that country teams retain an explicit focus on human rights and gender equality. Rising inequality is among the biggest barriers to protecting human rights and progress is going the wrong way.
She noted a lack of sustained political will in some areas and said more can be done if the United Nations stands together. The seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights offers an opportunity for those efforts. While her Office will work with all other bodies to ensure harmonized efforts in promoting and protecting human rights, the public must be enlisted to a greater extent. Laws and frameworks must be built on the same norms. In terms of sharing best practices, she said it is important to share good stories as they demonstrate what is possible. As for the Human Rights Council, it is addressing its issues efficiently and not recycling old discussions. To alleviate its workload, she underscored the need for practical solutions.
The representative of Saudi Arabia stressed the importance of cooperation to promote the culture of human rights while taking differences into account. On the humanitarian situation in Myanmar, she expressed hope that the High Commissioner contributes to reducing people’s suffering.
The representative of the State of Palestine asked when the High Commissioner will brief the Committee on the status of the database, particularly the timing of its publication.
The representative of the United Kingdom noting that in Syria and “Burma”, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex people are attacked and women abused, asked how States can better defend human rights.
The representative of Azerbaijan asked the High Commissioner to focus on the issue of internal displacement.
The representative of the Russian Federation recommended that politics be removed from the discussion, noting that some countries, to achieve self-serving goals, drive other countries to the brink of collapse. He stressed the need for impartiality and independence while tackling the causes of rights violations and advocated that people’s national and cultural identity be observed.
The representative of Algeria reiterated that the High Commissioner’s Office should be independent, expressing regret that food products are rotting away in seas and oceans.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea deplored the growing tendency to misuse human rights, urging that the principles of non‑selectivity and impartiality be respected and that human rights instruments are not misused.
The representative of the Comoros asked how the High Commissioner will ensure that all mechanisms receive information on the situation of the Rohingya in Myanmar.
The representative of Ukraine stressed the importance of addressing issues around the Russian Federation’s occupation of his country and invited the High Commissioner to visit.
The representative of Bolivia called for the event on Cuba organized by the United States to be cancelled.
The representative of Pakistan asked how to achieve peace on religious and cultural issues.
The representative of Nigeria called for harmonizing State actions in promoting and protecting human rights, underscoring the importance of multilateralism and of technical assistance to the Human Rights Council.
The representative of Afghanistan asked how the High Commissioner will address the causes of conflict.
The representative of Myanmar said human rights issues should be looked into with political sensitivity, expressing his opposition to country specific mandates, which undermined Government efforts.
The representative of Venezuela asked when the High Commissioner will publicly condemn coercive measures and unilateral actions.
Ms. BACHELET said the enhancement of participation and civic space should be seen as a priority for development and security. When civil society and the private sector are at the table, policies are usually more sustainable and effective. She noted that jailing critics does not make things more safe; better policies are made when public policy is criticized. It is imperative for States to preserve civil society and allow children to participate as well.
She touched on the Office’s numerous initiatives to combat intolerance based on religion, suggesting that a resolution be submitted to the General Assembly on the issue. Regarding the digital space, States have a responsibility to protect privacy, and ongoing practices reveal inadequate protection. There is a discussion on how to place human rights into the digital world. Information can be helpful in terms of early action. Regarding the right to food, this requires a more robust human rights response and the Office is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on the issue. Turning to internally displaced persons, she said they are supporting the action plan for preventing displacement. Finally, she said there are numerous possibilities for ensuring a coordinated response to the situation in Myanmar, noting a fact-finding mission and a Special Rapporteur in that context.
Also speaking were the representatives of Qatar, Brazil, Albania, Japan, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Angola, Viet Nam, Canada, Bahrain, India, United Arab Emirates, Nicaragua and Indonesia.
JENS MODVIG, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said the Convention against Torture now has 164 States parties, as the Bahamas and Gambia ratified, and the Marshall Islands acceded to the Convention in 2018. He urged those that had not yet done so to become party to the Convention. The failure of some States parties to respect their reporting obligations had been addressed by the Committee in several ways. For the first time since its creation, the Committee reviewed a State party’s implementation of the Convention in the absence of an initial report. At its last session, the Committee’s decision to examine another country situation in the absence of a long overdue initial report prompted the submission of the report and — for the first time — with the participation of the State delegation via video conference. While video conference is not an ideal way to carry out constructive dialogue, it may be used in selected cases, he said.
Since 1989, the Committee has registered 885 individual complaints concerning 40 States parties, he continued, recommending that additional staff be provided to help the Committee eliminate its backlog of 160 such complaints. To make its work more effective, the Committee has established an inter-sessional working group to deal with communications. Some States have failed to implement the decision on individual complaints, while 45 per cent of the follow-up recommendations to State party reports have been partially implemented. Ten inquiries have been carried out since the Committee’s creation. Its working methods are under constant review to harmonize them with other treaty bodies to the extent possible, and to promote the Convention’s full implementation, he said, pressing States to support a resolution endorsing the conclusions in the Secretary-General’s report on the status of the Treaty Body system during the current session, namely the recommendation that resources be allocated to treaty bodies so they can address their increasing workload.
Given the floor for questions, the representative of European Union reiterated his strong support for the Committee’s work and asked about measures to decrease its workload.
The representative of the Russian Federation drew attention to the long-term negative trend in the Committee’s work. On solving intergovernmental issues, he rejected the idea that answering questions does not fall within the Committee’s competency, recalling that the Russian Federation had to repeat its information. He asked why members must spend resources to answer questions which had already been answered.
The representative of the United States said torture is contrary to the founding principles of the United States and more broadly called on Member States to fulfil their obligations.
The representative of Liechtenstein asked about the Committee’s General Comments in the context of international migration.
The representative of Denmark echoed calls for additional measures to be taken to decrease the Committee’s workload.
The representative of Morocco, citing a meeting focused on editing laws, underscored the need for national infrastructure aimed at ratifying conventions. He asked about the scope of such actions to allow for ratification.
The representative of France welcomed the new ratifications, noting that France remained mobilized to combat to torture and support victims of torture.
Also speaking were representatives of South Africa and Iraq.
Mr. MODVIG, in reply, said he aims to reduce the reporting burden, which is sometimes a considerable one if there is no coordination between treaty bodies and a need to report four or five bodies. The Subcommittee has discussed ways to reduce the workload or increase the Committee’s capacity, he said, noting that the body reviews 18 State party reports per year. He has given the matter thought, he said, noting that not all Committee members need to be involved with all aspects of all matters. As for non-reporting States, there are OHCHR funds that can help build capacity of smaller State parties.
On the question of migration trends, he touched on the procedures used to process vast numbers of immigrants when countries do not have proper refugee status procedures. Due to such issues, torture victims are not being recognized and they are not receiving the treatment needed.
MALCOLM EVANS, Chairperson of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment, stressed the need to implement United Nations mechanisms on torture. Preventive measures — as recommended by the Subcommittee and the National Prevention Mechanisms — reduce the incidence of torture. The establishment of a national prevention mechanism that is compliant with the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is essential. The creation of such mechanisms is facilitated if short visits are made to all newly ratifying States, but a lack of resources has prevented the Subcommittee from conducting them. Moreover, numerous countries do not show serious commitment to establishing a national prevention mechanism even though it is a central element of the Optional Protocol. Due to lack of resources, the Subcommittee had to reduce the number of visits undertaken by 20 per cent.
Too many States wrongly consider a visit a “hostile act”, he said. Yet, preventive visiting seeks to understand the nature of problems and make constructive recommendations, not investigate allegations or hold countries or individuals to account. The essence of prevention lies in the response to recommendations made after the visit. Rarely do the Optional Protocol and its mechanisms discover what is unknown, but they can be a real catalyst for change. While the last year has seen many positive developments, the Subcommittee has had to scale back its activities due to resourcing issues, he stated.
Given the floor for questions, the representative of Spain underscored the need for national prevention mechanisms to avoid torture in prisons, noting that Spain’s National Oversight Commission is autonomous, and the Ombudsman has a separate budget guaranteed by Parliament. On detentions centres, he asked when the recommendation will be made public.
The representative of the Czechia congratulated several countries on becoming State parties to the Convention, asking for the best examples of cooperation.
The representative of the European Union expressed concern that countries still have not formally complied with national prevention mechanisms and asked how to improve access so those mechanisms can fulfil their mandates.
The representative of Denmark expressed concern over the lack of access, especially when there is a legal mandate for such. He asked about specific and relevant trends hindering special procedures from doing their jobs.
Mr. EVANS, in reply, said that many questions relate to the functioning of the National Preventive Mechanism. Generally, the Mechanism must be independent and well resourced, but also must have a clear mandate enshrined in law if it is going to be as effective as it should be. Even then, what is important is an understanding of “preventive visiting.” Problems arise when that person visits a detention centre but is seen by the State as having influence over amendments to the law. The Mechanism also makes recommendations and holds discussions about detention in an independent capacity. One factor often inhibiting its work is a lack of openness in detention centres. Countries could do more to encourage National Preventive Mechanisms, which would ensure they receive the most benefit from their work. As well, Mechanisms should support and learn from one other. Early engagement is the best way forward.
NILS MELZER, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, described significant efforts made in the seven decades since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In particular, a sophisticated international normative and institutional framework was developed for the implementation of the universal, absolute, non-derogable and peremptory prohibition of torture and other forms of abusive punishment. However, torture and ill treatment continue to be practiced with impunity throughout the world. Noting that the global normative and institutional framework has been insufficiently adopted through treaty ratification, he said gaps also exist in national implementation. In addition, direct and indirect challenges exist to the prohibition of those practices; some political narratives are becoming increasingly violent and discriminatory and many States fail to provide sufficient protection against widespread and serious abuse committed by non-State actors.
Outlining several recommendations, he said States should ratify without reservations all international instruments aimed at prohibiting torture and ill treatment. They should ensure that national legislation meets the requirements of international law, at the minimum, and establish fully independent complaints and investigation systems. States should put in place preventive safeguards throughout all their institutions, mechanisms and procedures and abolish open-ended detention and forced institutionalization. All military, police and security officials must be trained with a view to avoiding the excessive use of force, he said, adding that prosecutors should move away from confessions-based investigations. Systematic legal reviews should be undertaken to determine whether the use of weapons, restraints and similar technologies or equipment would violate the prohibition on torture and ill treatment. Finally, he said, States should unequivocally reaffirm their adherence to such legal principles as human dignity and non-discrimination; prevent impunity; and discard any violent or discriminatory political narratives, policies or practices.
The representative of Brazil drew attention to human rights violations committed against migrants, stressing that all migrants must have the same rights as nationals so they do not fall prey to criminals. He asked how States can use data collection to support victims.
The representative of United Kingdom urged all States to consider signing and ratifying the Convention and the Optional Protocols. He asked about actions States can take to widen the Optional Protocol.
The representative of Cuba said his country has complied strictly with the Convention since 1995. He asked about a mechanism to achieve justice and compensation for torture committed in the United States, on naval bases and in Guantanamo.
The representative of Russian Federation said that due to political interests, some States violate the rule of law and do not allow access to legal measures, citing Guantanamo jail as an example of where the United States uses torture during interrogations. A similar situation is occurring in Ukraine. He asked the Special Rapporteur to draw attention to the use of extraterritoriality, drawing attention to the abduction of a Russian citizen by the United States in a third country.
The representative of Switzerland voiced concern over the outsourcing of torture and continued inequalities faced by women, children, elderly and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex communities. She asked about approaches envisioned to stop such outsourcing and about which group faces the highest risk of ill treatment.
The representative of South Africa said States do not often provide protection. While deplorable, domestic violence should not be equated with torture, she said, noting that hate crimes should be punished.
The representative of Czechia highlighted the need for international and national monitoring mechanisms, as well as a preventive mechanism to abolish torture. She asked how Member States supported the Special Rapporteur’s mandate in this regard.
The representative of Ukraine noted that since 2014, part of Ukraine has been temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation, pointing to the lack of access to places of deprivation and to occupied Crimea. Referring to Ukrainian political prisoner, Oleg Sentsov, he asked what could be done to establish access to persons illegally detained in the Russian Federation and in the temporarily occupied area.
The representative of State of Palestine said Palestinians and people in occupied Palestine are subjected to torture while in prison. On committing violence with complete impunity, she asked about measures that the international community must take to hold Israel accountable.
The representative of European Union agreed that multilateral cooperation is essential in addressing human rights violations against migrants. He asked for recommendations on the best starting point in this regard, as well as about best practices in data collection.
The representative of United States condemned all acts of torture. Describing violations in the Russian Federation, Syria, Iran, China and Venezuela, he called on all countries to uphold international obligations, asking about steps for involving civil society or non-State actors’ efforts to prevent torture.
The representative of Denmark asked how State leaders can best combat violence against girls and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex people.
The representative of Norway asked how to address the Convention’s lack of full implementation. The primary concern is the direct challenge to prohibition itself, she said, citing counterterrorism and national security.
The representative of Syria said Israel’s occupation practices — including of the Syrian Golan — should not be ignored. He denounced unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, saying they amount to collective punishment. He also deplored the collective punishment against refugees who are separated from their families.
Mr. MELZER, responding to delegates’ comments and questions, said he cannot speak to contexts in places he has not visited. He recalled that his role consists in reporting; it is up to the international community to respond to these accounts as it sees fit. Further, practices regarding data collection vary depending on the context.
On the rights of migrants, he underlined the need to ensure individualized assessment procedures for every person who may have been subject to torture. Officers interacting with alleged victims should be acquainted with the Istanbul Protocol, so the physical and psychological traces of tortures may be assessed through a scientifically recognized process. This speaks against fast-track procedures, automatic returns and deportation, he added. Identifying a single group that would be the most marginalized is difficult, as it depends on context. However, there is a clear pattern: marginalized groups are often more at risk of victimization. He cautioned against political narratives and discriminatory language that increase marginalization. Policies addressing those risks are needed.
He pointed out that there are various avenues to support independent monitoring, but the Subcommittee is among the most important mechanisms. Encouraging States to ratify the Protocol is important as it leads them to establish national prevention mechanisms.
Turning to the report on migration, he stressed the importance of developing sustainable patterns for safe and orderly migration. The lack thereof pushes millions of migrants into illegality, creating a vicious cycle marked by a high prevalence of ill treatment. He stressed the need to decriminalize irregular migration, without necessarily taking away States’ ability to control migration.