Special Rapporteur Expresses Concern over Nebulous Notions of Hate Speech Targeting Dissenters, Critics
States must do more to safeguard the rights of those facing intersecting forms of discrimination, experts told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as delegates discussed the human rights of persons with disabilities, as well as freedoms of opinion and expression.
Changing demographics are leading to an increase in older people with disabilities around the world, Catalina Devandas Aguilar, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said, adding that such populations face specific forms of rights violations, including denial of autonomy and intense stigma and stereotyping, which frame them as helpless burdens.
States should veer away from the present approach to older people with disabilities, which is geared towards institutionalization and medicalization, to one focused on their autonomy and broad enjoyment of human rights, she said. In particular, she highlighted the situation of older women with disabilities, who have a higher life expectancy, alongside lower expectations of life. They are prioritized less by public policy, and bear the brunt of abuse, neglect and marginalization at home or in institutions. “This requires urgent attention,” she stressed.
Meanwhile, David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, expressed concern about the curbs placed on free expression by Governments using legally nebulous notions of “hate speech” to go after lawful content, and to attack dissenters and critics. He went on to express concern about targeted surveillance, particularly of journalists, and to add that States should push Internet companies to protect free expression, instead of impelling them to develop filters that would pre‑censor lawful content.
Juan Pablo Bohoslavsky, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, drew attention to the often‑overlooked role of international financial institutions in prescribing economic reforms with foreseeable negative effects on human rights.
Also presenting his report today was Danlami Basharu, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with disabilities.
The Third Committee continued its general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights, with delegates taking to the floor to address issues ranging from trade barriers and xenophobia to climate change impacts.
Speaking in the general debate today were representatives of El Salvador (on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older People), Bahamas (on behalf of Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Pakistan, Viet Nam, Costa Rica (on behalf of 54 countries), Nicaragua, Canada, Cuba, Mexico, South Africa, Colombia, Singapore, Kazakhstan, Eritrea, Senegal, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Armenia, Kenya, Togo, Nigeria, Cambodia and India, as well as the European Union.
The representative of Syria spoke on a point of order.
The representatives of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea, China and Japan spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 22 October, to continue its consideration of promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights today (for background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4266).
Interactive Dialogues — Persons with Disabilities
DANLAMI BASHARU, Chair of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, presenting that body’s report (document A/74/55), said that over the last year, the Committee has brought to 180 the number of parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ratifications of the Optional Protocol have also advanced. The Committee held 18 constructive dialogues and adopted corresponding observations. However, several State parties maintain reservations or interpretive declarations entered into under the Convention and he recommended that States withdraw their reservations so as to expand the protections enshrined in the Convention. The Committee also carried out a confidential inquiry visit into alleged grave or systematic rights violations by the State party concerned. Despite progress towards universal ratification, “implementation of the Convention remains a challenge,” he said, noting that, around the world, persons with disabilities remain unrecognized as rights holders. There have been insufficient efforts to revise laws denying them equality before the law, liberty and physical and mental integrity on the basis of actual or perceived impairments. The Committee issued recommendations on the necessary legislative, administrative and other measures that States parties should take, he said.
From the countries reviewed over the last 12 months, the Committee understands that persons with disabilities are at heightened risk of violations of their rights, he said, including through violence. This is particularly the case for women and girls, those seeking asylum and refugees. He cited the lack of consistent measures for the collection of disaggregated data as a concern, noting more broadly that the Committee cooperates with a wide array of partners on various initiatives. Ahead of the 2019 Climate Action Summit, the Committee issued a joint statement with four other bodies — the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Committee on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families; the Committee on the Rights of the Child; and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. He also pointed to cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the right of persons with disabilities and the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. In addition, the Committee continues to implement the measures outlined in General Assembly resolution 68/268 on treaty body strengthening, he said, expressing concern over the United Nations’ current liquidity problem and urging Member States to ensure the provision of adequate resources.
When the floor opened for interactive dialogue, Japan’s delegate noted that country will be hosting the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo and asked the Chair for his thoughts on the role of sport in achieving an inclusive society. The European Union’s representative said that the bloc is committed to fully realizing all human rights of persons with disabilities through the adoption of new legislation, policies and programmes, as well as the review of existing policy measures.
The representative of Luxembourg highlighted his country’s national action plan for implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for 2019 to 2024 and asked the Chair how children with disabilities can best be integrated into decision-making processes that concern them. The United Kingdom’s delegate asked how States can ensure accessibility with regard to product and service design. The United States’ representative said her country is proud to be part of Security Council resolution 2475(2019) on the impact of conflict on people with disabilities, a ground-breaking resolution that is a significant step towards mainstreaming the rights of persons with disabilities across the United Nations.
Mr. BASHARU, responding, said his Committee is ready to support Japan’s efforts to include persons with disabilities, particularly through sport. To the European Union’s representative, he said Article 9 is the backbone of the Convention; accessibility and inclusion go together and one cannot be omitted. To Luxembourg’s delegate, he said integrating children into decision-making is important, and in many States, there are children’s Parliaments where they are fully involved in taking decisions. The decisions of children should be put into action, he said. The need for universal design cannot be ruled out and all persons must be able to access every area of life, he said, responding to the question posed by the United Kingdom’s delegate. He agreed with the United States’ representative on the importance of protecting persons with disabilities in armed conflict.
Also speaking were the representatives of Qatar, Nigeria and China.
CATALINA DEVANDAS AGUILAR, Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities, said demographic change is leading to an increase in older people with disabilities across all countries, especially lower‑income ones. Such populations face intense stigma and are stereotyped as helpless, unproductive and less worthy of services. In addition, older persons with disabilities, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, are vulnerable to abuse, and often experience the denial of autonomy and legal capacity, which is used to justify the curbing of rights, including to making decisions involving their marriage or will. Older people with disabilities are excluded from many forms of social protection, and face a higher risk of being consigned to long‑stay facilities. They often receive no disability pensions, mobility benefits or support to live independently, unlike their younger counterparts. Older women with disabilities, who live longer, are disproportionately impacted by these issues, she stressed, adding that they are less prioritized by public policies and receive lower quality services when there are resource shortages.
Urging an end to a focus based on medicalization and charity, she called for legal and policy measures to enhance and mainstream the human rights of older persons with disabilities, to facilitate their access to justice and to mobilize resources that will ensure the implementation of policies that foster autonomy and better access to social protections, including to personal assistance, palliative care and assisted living. Services must be made available within their communities; they should not be institutionalized to receive such services. Moreover, she said, States must adopt urgent measures to stop violence against older persons with disabilities, for which access to justice and monitoring systems are essential.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of Italy asked about concrete steps States can take to tackle stigma affecting mental and intellectual disabilities. New Zealand’s representative asked what must be done to address social exclusion and discrimination faced by older people with disabilities. Argentina’s representative meanwhile asked what could be done to tackle the perception that disabilities are a “natural process” of aging.
The representative of Finland, associating himself with the Nordic and Baltic States, asked how treaty bodies can fully reflect the rights of older persons with disabilities, in connection with technologies. Poland’s representative, aligning herself with the European Union, asked about the most effective way to include older people with disabilities in the decisions on policies concerning them, aside from general elections and public legislative initiatives. The representative of the United States, asked about the most effective ways to combat stereotypes, particularly those faced by older people with disabilities belonging to minority groups.
A number of representatives, including those of Brazil and Costa Rica, asked about the steps that could be taken to address the issue of legal shortcomings specifically protecting older persons with disabilities. The representative of the Republic of Korea asked about measures Governments can take to enhance older people with disabilities’ access to information and technology.
Several representatives, including those of Ireland and the European Union, highlighted the intersection between aging, gender and disabilities, and asked how older women with disabilities can be better protected from the heightened risk they faced of marginalization, poverty and abuse.
Ms. DEVANDAS, responding to the issue raised by Argentina’s representative, said the perception that disabilities are a “normal” part of end-of-life leads to a serious risk that people are denied rights and experience reduced investment and lower protection standards. She urged States to focus on a change in emphasis, and to turn away from institutionalization and medicalization, and focus on providing care within communities.
To questions on older women with disabilities, she said the issue requires urgent attention, as they face an intense risk of violence, abuse and neglect at home or in institutions. She noted that their needs are less likely to be met, though they would live longer, adding that they face a heightened risk of institutionalization.
To questions about legal shortcomings from the representatives of Brazil and Costa Rica, she emphasized the need for States to go beyond the standards set out in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, including articles 12 (equal recognition before the law), 14 (liberty and security of person) and 17 (physical and mental integrity). “We can go further than these standards, but we cannot go below them,” she stressed.
On the issue of tackling stigma and discrimination, which in turn ties into other questions about technology use and accessibility, she said that while there is greater diversity in support systems and products on the market, as well as in their accessibility, there is a risk that such technologies lead to further isolation, and end up depriving people of human contact.
Turning to participation, she stressed the need for older people with disabilities to participate in making decisions that affect them, adding that they are often denied support services, such as independent living, that are granted to those who are not yet aged.
Also speaking were representatives of Spain, Indonesia, Finland, Maldives, Australia, Algeria, China, Morocco, Mexico, China, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
EGRISELDA ARACELY GONZÁLEZ LÓPEZ (El Salvador), speaking on behalf of the Group of Friends of Older Persons, said the number of older persons is projected to reach 1.4 billion by 2030, an increase that will be the greatest and most rapid in the developing world. Globally, projections indicate that by 2030, older persons will outnumber youth, as well as children under age 10. These estimates are a reminder that older persons are not simply recipients of special care and social protections, but importantly, rights holders and independent agents. She expressed concern over the multiple, intersecting forms of discrimination that affect older persons’ full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, particularly those who are marginalized, face stigmatization, discrimination or exclusion. Designing and implementing policies and programmes, as well as devising adequate national, regional and international legal frameworks that promote full enjoyment of their rights will ensure their active participation in their societies, she said.
SHEILA GWENETH CAREY (Bahamas), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), reaffirmed the need for a holistic approach to addressing human rights matters where the nexus among peace and security, sustainable development and human rights is kept in mind. The countries of CARICOM remain absolute in defending universal values and the inalienable rights due to every human being, particularly as efforts continue towards achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and human rights for all. There are challenges with responsibilities such as reporting, implementation and engagement, which can be impeded by a lack of capacity and technical expertise. Stressing that climate change exacerbates any external crisis, she said CARICOM States are already vulnerable to economic shocks, which are in turn, aggravated by natural disasters. Past and recent environmental events demonstrate that climate change is a driving force affecting the pursuit of the full and equal enjoyment of human rights. The global environment is becoming more unpredictable, she said, noting that disasters are not limited to the Caribbean region.
QASIM AZIZ (Pakistan) said despite encouraging progress in building a normative framework, effective implementation is an uphill task. Universal respect for human rights cannot be achieved when millions of people are denied their fundamental freedoms. Expressing concern over growing xenophobia and anti‑Muslim sentiment created by extremist political parties in his region and beyond, he said nowhere are the ideals enshrined in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights more endangered than in Indian‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which has been suffering under a draconian lockdown for nearly three months. The Kashmiri people are being denied their basic rights and he urged United Nations human rights bodies to conduct their work in an objective fashion without double standards. He expressed support for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and treaty bodies in this context.
DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam) said the pursuit of international cooperation is an effective means of strengthening human rights commitments, recalling that Viet Nam completed the third cycle of universal periodic review in January 2019. Out of 291 recommendations, it accepted 241 — or nearly 83 per cent — covering a wide range of issues, from strengthening the legal system to better promoting and protecting civil, political, socioeconomic and cultural rights. In June, Viet Nam ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 98 on the right to organize and bargain collectively. It also joined the voluntary pledge “For every child, every right” and is in the process of endorsing the Safe Schools Declaration, he said.
RODRIGO A. CARAZO (Costa Rica), also speaking on behalf of Belgium and a group of 52 other countries, said the treaty body system is a key component of the United Nations human rights framework. Noting that these bodies help promote and protect rights while monitoring State compliance with their international obligations, he underlined the group’s commitment to reinforcing implementation of these obligations. Underlining the importance of preserving the unique value of the treaty body system, he said that, where needed, it should introduce more streamlined and coherent working methods. He welcomed the recent decision by the Human Rights Committee to move in 2020 to a predictable review cycle, shifting from an opt‑in to an opt‑out model of simplified reporting, and to align its work methods and lists of issues with other treaty bodies. Special attention should also be given to the reporting calendar, which should foresee that each States’ reporting obligations are spread evenly. Means should be explored to enhance consistency in the application of individual communications procedures, he said, voicing concern about reprisals against individuals cooperating with the treaty bodies.
JAIME HERMIDA CASTILLO (Nicaragua) said his country’s national assembly has adopted laws that ensure human rights for its entire population, while the national human development plan focuses on women and children. Nicaragua has been recognized as one of the safest countries in Latin America — and the safest in the Central American region. Its social and economic plan has led to significant achievements, including a reduction in extreme poverty between 2009 and 2016. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meanwhile has welcomed Nicaragua’s efforts to fight hunger, as it has reduced the percentage of people who are undernourished.
KAITLYN SHELAGH ELIZABETH PRITCHARD (Canada) described the shrinking space for civil society, with actors facing restrictions on their ability to carry out their work. Many, including journalists, have been directly targeted. Others face reprisals for cooperating with the United Nations to draw attention to rights violations and abuses. Canada is deeply concerned by such control and attacks. Civic space and those who stand up for human rights must be protected, she said. Building a sustainable future with human rights at its heart cannot be done in silos, but rather, with all stakeholders, including all marginalized voices.
HUMBERTO RIVERO ROSARIO (Cuba) objected to selective approaches and initiatives against developing countries, particularly those driven by political motivations and hegemonic interests, undermining cooperation on human rights issues. Cuba is against the certification of countries through unilateral lists, such as those published by the United States on alleged human rights violations. These practices are contrary to international law and the United Nations Charter, and only seek to justify aggression and unilateral coercive measures against developing countries. The Human Rights Council universal periodic review is the appropriate instrument to address the situations in all countries, without distinction or politicization, he said.
FLOR DE LIS VASQUEZ MUÑOZ (Mexico) said close cooperation with the universal human rights system has impacted transformations in her country, including those of a constitutional nature. She reiterated Mexico’s determination to continue to make progress on the international human rights agenda through open dialogue and the search for common ground. It is vital that States recognize the universal indivisible and interdependent character of economic, social, cultural and civil rights, she said, pointing to Mexico’s continued focus on initiatives that bring together national interests in multilateral fora.
MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa), associating herself with the African Group, said her country places a high premium on constructive dialogue and international cooperation aimed at assisting States to fulfil their human rights obligations. The United Nations Charter impels the international community to promote global solidarity and act towards one another in the spirit of cooperation, including towards the achievement of socioeconomic progress in the developing world. He pointed to the complementary nature between the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and the 2030 Agenda, for which a comprehensive, holistic and integrated approach towards their implementation is necessary.
ANDRÉS JOSÉ RUGELES (Colombia) said respect for human rights is at the centre of Government actions, as seen in the fulfilment of Colombia’s obligations. A comprehensive plan outlines conditions for the protection of human rights defenders and social leaders, anchored in preventing situations of risk so they can carry out their work. A humanitarian court seeks to establish the circumstances around people who have disappeared, for example in cases of armed conflict. Colombia also has a strategy for addressing migration from Venezuela, as well as a national system of information on trafficking in persons. Describing migration from Venezuela as a multidimensional crisis, he said Government authorities and citizens alike have shouldered the responsibility, with the protection of children’s rights and the prevention of statelessness in mind.
SHIRAH NAIR (Singapore) said that as a small city‑State with no natural resources, Singapore prioritizes maximizing opportunities for its people. Recalling that Singapore’s early years were wrought with racial conflict, she cautioned: “Today, the delicate social fabric Singaporeans have so carefully woven could unravel if we are not careful.” Singapore’s laws do not tolerate those fanning the flames of racial and religious tensions by abusing their freedom of expression. “Singaporeans have a shared understanding that individual rights and freedoms cannot be limitless and that individuals have to coexist peaceably and with due regard to the rights of others,” she added. Moreover, the Government must be held accountable to its people and uphold the rule of law to protect human rights. There is no “one‑size‑fits‑all” approach to human rights. To impose a particular view or ideology on another country without being accountable to its citizens would be counterproductive and irresponsible, she added.
Interactive Dialogues — Freedom of Expression, Opinion
DAVID KAYE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of expression and opinion, said that the subject of his report — online hate speech — is a short-hand phrase that conventional international law does not define. The phrase’s vagueness can be abused to enable infringements on a wide range of lawful expression, he said, noting that “many Governments use hate speech like fake news, to attack political enemies, non‑believers, dissenters and critics”, he said. Yet the phrase’s weakness — the idea that it is simply speech — also seems to inhibit Governments and companies from addressing genuine harms, such as those which incite violence, discrimination or the silencing of the marginalized. The situation frustrates a public that often perceives rampant online abuse. International human rights law provides standards to govern State and company approaches to online hate speech. Thus, the report explains how these standards create a framework for Governments considering regulatory options, and as well as for companies determining how to respect human rights online.
He expressed concern that State laws applying to hate speech, online and off, often fail to meet the standards of legality, necessity and legitimacy. They are often vague and leave excessive discretion to Governments to punish expression. Governments have been increasing pressure on companies to serve as the adjudicators of hate speech. Further, legislative efforts to incentivize the removal of online hate speech — and impose liability on Internet companies for a failure to do so — often push companies towards nearly immediate takedown of content, demanding that they develop filters that disable the upload of content deemed harmful. There is pressure for automated tools that would serve as a form of pre‑publication censorship. The push for such filters is ill‑advised, as it drives platforms towards the regulation and removal of lawful content. Instead, States should pursue laws and policies that push companies to protect free expression, and counter lawfully restricted forms of hate speech through a combination of transparency requirements that allow public oversight, and the enforcement of domestic law by independent judicial authorities. International human rights law should be understood as a critical framework for the respect of rights when combatting hateful or disfavoured speech. Online hate speech, when the phrase is abused, can provide ill‑intentioned States with a tool to punish and restrict speech that is entirely legitimate — and even necessary in rights‑respecting countries. But some kinds of expression can cause real harm, intimidating communities into silence, in particular, by advocating hatred in a manner that constitutes incitement to hostility, discrimination or violence.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the Netherlands’ delegate, associating himself with the European Union, said that while cyberspace has its dark corners, it is also an incubator for innovative ideas. He asked how the international community can ensure that regulation of online content addresses the dark corners of the Internet, while safeguarding democratic values and human rights. Switzerland’s representative said the space where journalists can work safely is being reduced in certain parts of the world and that online attacks particularly affect women journalists. She asked how to protect journalists working on hate speech from restrictions on the content they produce.
The representative of Ireland asked the Special Rapporteur about the impact of surveillance on human rights defenders, particularly those in vulnerable groups. The European Union’s representative meanwhile said all human rights that exist offline must also be protected online, in particular the rights to free expression and to privacy. He asked the Special Rapporteur about regulatory initiatives to develop human rights‑based standards of conduct and safeguard freedom of expression and opinion. Canada’s delegate expressed concern about restrictions on free expression online, stemming from measures taken by some Governments to censor or control digital technologies. He asked the Special Rapporteur about any best practices observed during the preparation of his report. Lithuania’s representative, on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, asked how the approach of private entities can be encouraged to promote human rights in their activities.
The United States’ delegate said that broad speech restrictions are ineffective and restrain democratic engagement. He asked how Governments should engage with social media companies. The Russian Federation’s delegate said restrictions on the rights of journalists are becoming widespread, for example in Ukraine, where authorities have totally cleansed the information space and routinely kick the Russian Federation’s media out of the country. Ukraine’s representative said propaganda and fake news are being unleashed by the Russian Federation against his country, aiming to influence public opinion and achieve military and political objectives.
Mr. KAYE, responding, said it is common to think about attacks on the freedom of expression as related to national law. Human rights law is about investigating State law and ensuring that it is legitimate. To the representative of the Netherlands, he said that to the extent that a Government imposes “hate speech” laws, it should be focused on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 20 paragraph 2. On the question raised by Switzerland’s delegate, he described a case in the European Court of Human Rights arguing that reporting on hateful content should be distinguished from incitement to discrimination itself. He said that while print media has editors of published work, social media does not have traditional editors. As Governments consider the regulation of hate speech, they should be clear about the distinctions between print and social media. Targeted surveillance is a global threat, he noted, adding that the targeting of journalists has a problematic effect on freedom of expression. States should consider a moratorium on the development of private spyware, as it is an industry that operates without standards.
Also speaking were representatives of the United Kingdom, France, Liechtenstein, Brazil, Iceland, China and Bahrain.
Effects for Foreign Debt on Human Rights
JUAN PABLO BOHOSLAVSKY, Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, highlighted the fundamental connection between finance and human rights. In his work, he has described the impact on human rights caused by debt crises and debt restructurings, vulture funds, illicit financial flows and labour reforms, stressing that Governments can respect their human rights obligations, while also addressing macroeconomic concerns. He also has shed light on issues rarely discussed from a human rights perspective: the crucial role of women’s unpaid, often disregarded, care work on the economic system; how austerity measures disproportionally impact women; and the relevance of repatriated stolen assets.
Recalling his visits to Bolivia and Mongolia, he underscored the importance of constructive interactions with Governments. His report focuses on the responsibility of international financial institutions for complicity in implementing State economic reforms that violate economic, social and cultural rights. Carrying out human rights impact assessments in the design of economic reforms by international financial institutions is essential. The systematic consideration of the human rights impact of such programmes is aimed at ensuring that harm is prevented, but if it cannot be avoided, then that it is duly compensated and there are guarantees of non-repetition put in place. Such assessments should be conducted in harmony with existing safeguards to foster informed decision-making.
While State responsibility for rights violations can be directly established, the role of international financial institutions is often overlooked, he said. By prescribing economic reforms with foreseeable negative effects on human rights, these institutions may thus be considered responsible for complicity, as economic reforms — adopted by States to implement conditionalities pushed by these institutions — are rarely accompanied by human rights impact assessments. While States remain the main duty bearer in this domain, these institutions can be held accountable for their complicity. He recommended that international financial institutions undertake independent, participatory, transparent and gender-sensitive human rights impact assessments of economic reform policies. “Human rights should always inform economic policy-making,” he asserted.
In the ensuing debate, the representative of China said her country follows the conditionalities of financial institutions. For its part, China follows the principles of equality, mutual benefit, financial sustainability of a country and State party cooperation, he said, pointing to the United Nations Peace and Development Fund aimed at helping other developing countries fulfil the 2030 Agenda. Meanwhile, Cuba’s delegate called for a new world order based on justice and peace. She asked about the impact of austerity measures on gender equality and about practical measures to determine the responsibility of financial institutions.
Mr. BOHOSLAVSKY replied that global trade policies have either negative or positive repercussions on economic and social rights. Assessing the impact of economic reforms on human rights must consider all economic policies.
He said the impact of austerity measures on gender equality is quite negative and efforts must be made to reverse this negative trend. Regarding practical measures to determine the responsibility of financial institutions, he said that at the domestic level, the issue of accountability should be dealt by national authorities and courts. International institutions are not beyond international law and must comply with recommendations, he assured.
SILVIO GONZATO, speaking for the European Union, said the United Nations human rights system must remain a platform for denouncing violations and abuses wherever they are committed. He disagreed that violations should not be addressed in international fora, or that socioeconomic development takes precedent over human rights. Full respect for all human rights is the foundation of prosperity and peace, he said, noting that development is not a substitute for human rights progress. In 2019, which marks the fortieth anniversary of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, it is important to give special attention to preventing and combatting all forms of sexual and gender-based violence. He called for an integration of the gender perspective throughout the work of the Human Rights Council, the General Assembly and other bodies.
ANEL BAKYTBEKKYZY (Kazakhstan) said that in 2019, her country experienced a peaceful and transparent transition of power. In his first public address, the newly elected President announced the concept of a “Hearing Government” that aims to be responsive to public criticism and constructive proposals. It also aims to establish efficient communication with the public and with businesses. This concept was affirmed in Kazakhstan’s strategic development plan through 2025 and approved by Presidential decree. The National Council of Public Trust was established to promote and protect human rights, as well as to engage civil society in the discussion of urgent national tasks. The Council includes well‑known human rights advocates, economists and independent experts, among others.
ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) said the promotion of human rights is a critical pillar of the United Nations. However, human rights are being assaulted by double standards, she said, urging States to respect the principle of non-politicization, based on transparency and constructive dialogue. No country has a moral right to point a finger at others, as no country has a clean human rights record. Eritrea focuses on food security, health, education and the rights of women in efforts to improve the quality of life and protect the dignity of its citizens.
MALICK FAYE (Senegal) welcomed the various reports showing progress made in the promotion of human rights, noting that they also describe persistent challenges: poverty, armed conflict and climate change, to name a few. The Secretary‑General’s report on the human rights of migrants finds that many migrants are the victims of xenophobia. It defines a strategy for making migration safe and facilitating the return of migrants. Pointing to the links between human rights and climate change, he called for mechanisms to protect human rights, noting that they are inseparable from the two other United Nations pillars.
NELLY BANAKEN ELEL (Cameroon), associating herself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group, said discussion of human rights offers an opportunity to examine ways to improve understanding and enhance common ground. The Third Committee is a platform for countries to present themselves as models for human rights. There is no country with zero human rights violations, and the universal periodic review is proof of that. No country should close its eyes to its own violations and focus on those taking place in other countries. Every country must be assessed.
YEMDAOGO ERIC TIARE (Burkina Faso) said peace, security and development cannot be envisaged without respect for human rights. Burkina Faso is committed to promoting and protecting human rights and has strengthened its cooperation with human rights institutions. It has also drawn up several reports to the Human Rights Council as part of its universal periodic review. In 2018 it adopted a policy on justice and human rights, outlining a vision to achieve credible justice that is accessible to all. In its quest to consolidate the rule of law, Burkina Faso has benefited from the work of civil society groups, he said, noting that victims can turn to them for help.
KIM SONG (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said human rights are not possible without national sovereignty, and that sovereignty is being violated due to “military invasions” in several parts of the world. Recalling Japan’s military occupation of Korea, which led to “A-class crimes against humanity such as 1 million massacred, 8.4 million forced drafting, and 200,000 sexual slavery for the Japanese army”, he went on to ask Japan to “mind its own business rather than finding faults with others’ human rights situation”. He went on to demand the immediate release and repatriation of 12 citizens, who he characterized as victims of a “group enticement and abduction” that occurred in 2016. The issue of human rights is being politicized, including through resolutions “forcibly adopted annually” on the situation in his country at the Human Rights Council and General Assembly.
MOHD OTHMAN (Malaysia) said his country welcomes any visits of Special Procedures mandate holders, pointing to a standing invitation to all such experts to visit his country. Malaysia has hosted numerous visits and engaged in dialogues with the mandate holders and regards them as an integral part of the human rights mechanisms. The mandate holders should maintain close consultation with States, adhering to the principles of objectivity, neutrality, independence and impartiality and using verifiable sources and factual information. He urged mandate holders to prioritize recommendations focused on technical cooperation and capacity building.
THILMEEZA HUSSAIN (Maldives) said her country charted a steady path towards a just society that promotes social inclusion and democracy, committed to human rights. President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih created the Presidential Commission on Deaths and Disappearances to investigate cases of murder and enforced disappearances committed under the past Government. The Maldives is currently identifying institutional gaps that led to human rights violations, and embarking on justice system reforms to safeguard civil and political rights. One of the first measures taken by the new Government was a repeal of the anti‑defamation law, which constricted press freedoms by inflicting disproportionate criminal penalties and jail terms on journalists. The Maldives envisages the creation of a transitional justice mechanism to find and investigate past abuses, with current efforts focused on the rights to adequate housing and clean water, as well as women’s rights, she said, stressing the need to mitigate the effects of climate change.
MOUSSA DOLLO (Mali), noting that promotion of human rights is a priority for the Government, said the Constitution guarantees the equality of all Malians without discrimination. Collaborating with various bodies and mechanisms is crucial in efforts to realize human rights. The Government has multiple mechanisms aimed at bringing about the desired change, among them, a recently adopted law on human rights defenders. He stressed the need to provide assistance to Mali in its efforts to fight impunity and ensure accountability.
MHER MARGARYAN (Armenia) said that since May 2018, his country has enacted reforms aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability, and ending corruption. A comprehensive reform of judiciary and human-centred inclusive models of development are also underway. A vibrant civil society and an inclusive civic space are vital to safeguarding an open, accountable environment where all voices are heard. It is now a well-established norm for non-governmental groups, human rights defenders and advocacy groups in Armenia to consistently engage in dialogue with authorities on human rights reforms. Armenia will continue to fully support the mutually reinforcing agendas of protecting human rights, and preventing crimes against humanity and mass atrocities. More must be done collectively to fight racism, xenophobia, hate crimes and gross violations of human rights, which so often represent the causes of conflicts and crises, he stressed.
JOHN KYOVI MUTUA (Kenya), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said torture and ill treatment are prevalent around the world, requiring concerted international efforts. Meanwhile, peace, security and stability cannot be enjoyed without the protection of human rights. Kenya is committed to playing an active role in mediation and conflict resolution, with the objective of nurturing ideal conditions for the promotion and protection of human rights. Outlining Kenya’s guiding principles of constitutionalism, along with free and fair elections, he said it is taking a human rights approach to implementing the 2030 Agenda — as well as Kenya’s own Vision 2030 — and strongly supports the universal periodic review as a unique peer-to-peer instrument that drives universal participation. Kenya has borne a heavy brunt of terrorist attacks and works to stem the challenge while fully respecting human rights.
KOKOU NAYO M'BEOU (Togo) said that protecting human rights is at the heart of Togo’s national concerns, which can be seen in its Constitution. On 26 July 2019, it submitted its third annual report to the Committee against Torture. Given the threats facing migrant workers and their families, Togo is ratifying the Convention on that subject, which it signed in November 2001. A human rights dimension is included in all Government programmes, protects and actions, he said, while other measures have been taken to offer girls and women education and training on an equal footing with men and boys.
SAMSON SUNDAY ITEGBOJE (Nigeria) said inclusivity is a unique feature of his country’s approach to ensuring human rights. In Nigeria, the “Federal Charter Principle” is a constitutional requirement that fosters national unity and ensures that the rights of every Nigerian are protected. Nigeria is not only a promoter of human rights within its own territory, but also a formidable advocate and defender outside, he said, pointing to its numerous peacekeeping and peacebuilding engagements, and participation in international human rights institutions and instruments.
CHANSORACHANA SIENG (Cambodia) said that with full peace and stability, her country’s economy has grown more than 7 per cent annually over the past two decades. Such growth has transformed Cambodia from a low-income to a lower-middle income country, she said, noting that such progress has contributed tremendously to the promotion and protection of human rights, efforts that must be carried out in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations. Politicization and double standards must be avoided, as it will result in conflicts and violence. Cambodia is concerned with the increasing use of economic and financial sanctions against developing countries. Together with indiscriminate trade barriers, these measures undermine economic growth, impinge on human rights and harm the welfare of global populations. Such unilateral measures should be ended as they contravene the Charter, she said.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) said that when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed global recognition of fundamental human rights 70 years ago, representatives from the global South, especially women, contributed significantly to making it a universally applicable charter to guide the pursuit of just societies. Nothing damages the credibility of the human rights cause more than its misuse as a decoy to divert attention from the real issues. Unfortunately, one delegation, in yet another such attempt, has referred to an internal matter for India. As far too many victims of terrorism around the world languish in trauma, terror networks enjoy patronage and safe havens. The international community is too familiar with this deceitful tactic and has rejected these attempts as desperate attempts to mask territorial ambition.
Right of Reply
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the European Union’s delegate disregarded the facts and made baseless comments about the human rights situation in China. The problem in Xinjiang is not religion or human rights; rather, it is about terrorism. The measures China has taken are no different than those adopted by European countries. In recent years, China has invited over 1,000 diplomats and media representatives to Xinjiang, who reported that what they witnessed was different from what was shown in Western coverage. “They saw happy faces”, she said.
The representative of Japan responded to comments made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which are based on errors and are groundless. Since the end of the Second World War, Japan has consistently respected democracy and human rights. Japan and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should bring peace to North-East Asia by deepening cooperation with each other.
The representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected accusations made by the European Union’s delegate, which reflect double standards and are based on forced testimonies. He pointed to xenophobia, racial discrimination and sexual violence as issues the European Union should address. Japan’s delegate, meanwhile, has no right to discuss the human rights of others, as it committed crimes against humanity in the past and has not apologized.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said his country will make efforts to continue addressing humanitarian affairs.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding, said that his country’s citizens were tricked and taken to the Republic of Korea because of the deception committed by that country’s intelligence agencies. These abductions are crimes against humanity.