Governments Must Regulate Extra-Custodial Use of Force to Prevent Torture within National Jurisdictions, Special Rapporteur Tells Third Committee

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) discussed the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment with mandate-holders and treaty body representatives today, as it opened broader debate on the promotion and protection of human rights.

Overcoming obstacles to States’ ratification of treaties was a common topic addressed by several treaty body chairpersons, with Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, noting that several States were holding back from ratifying the Optional Protocol because they could not determine how to implement some obligations. Such obstacles could be overcome by talking with the Committee. Answering questions about trends in extra-custodial use of force, he said it was towards pre-process or pre-custodial detention, where custodial forces often took people and questioned them before they were admitted to the formal system.

Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, also took up extra-custodial use of force, saying States must regulate it to prevent any torture and other ill-treatment within their jurisdiction. Answering questions from delegates, he observed that as torture in traditional custodial settings had decreased, ill-treatment in extra-custodial contexts had increased. The tighter the custody net became, the more likely abuse would move outside of that context, and extensive cases of abuse were occurring in the wilderness of extra-custodial settings, including at border crossings, which was also relevant in the migration context.

The particularly vulnerable situation of migrants was taken up by Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture, who expressed concern over the safety of asylum seekers, especially those who had been subjected to torture and had no reliable status of assessment. Torture victims were treated like asylum seekers with no particular attention to the fact that they were indeed victims.

In the broader general debate on human rights, Belgium’s representative, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, said reporting procedures to treaty bodies were too varied, with some bodies still implementing pilot reporting mechanisms, while others used different modalities. She called for the adoption of calendars with clear deadlines for report submission to clarify State responsibilities. The representative of the Russian Federation similarly said the treaty body system must implement programmes with due consideration of every State’s cultural particularities.

Also addressing the Committee today were Maria Virginia Bras Gomes, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Yuji Iwasawa, Chair of the Human Rights Committee; Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and Daniela Bas, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Also speaking in today’s general debate were the delegations of Japan, Iraq, Cuba, Iran, New Zealand (on behalf of a group of countries), Saudi Arabia, India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Ukraine, Nigeria, China, Rwanda, Bangladesh, Algeria, Eritrea, Viet Nam, South Africa, Nepal, Kazakhstan, Burkina Faso, Zambia, United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Mongolia. A representative of the European Union also spoke.

Russian Federation, Myanmar and Ukraine spoke in exercise of the right to reply.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Monday, 16 October, to continue its general discussion on the promotion of human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to begin its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights. Before it were reports of the Human Rights Committee (document A/72/40), the Committee against Torture (document A/72/44), the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/72/48), the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (document A/72/55) and the Committee on Enforced Disappearances (document A/72/56).

Also before the Committee were several reports of the Secretary-General on: the situation of women and girls with disabilities and the Status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocols thereto (document A/72/227); the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/72/229); and the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/72/278).

The Committee also had before it three notes from the Secretary-General transmitting the reports of: the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies on the implementation of human rights instruments (document A/72/177); the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/72/178); the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/72/168); and two notes of the Secretariat, the first referring to the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/72/36), and the second, to the Secretary-General’s report on the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/72/273).

Interactive Dialogues

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that a minimum $500 million was required to guarantee functioning of the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and even then, resources were severely lacking. He called on Governments, non-governmental organizations and other entities to provide increased assistance. Pointing to the Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture as a mechanism working towards eradicating that practice, he said that of the 50,000 victims assisted by the Fund, two thirds were migrants and refugees, which highlighted the need to help people on the move.

He said the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Contemporary Forms of Slavery was a unique victim-oriented and cost-effective mechanism. It supported projects in 32 countries, providing assistance to those affected by a wide range of slavery practices. Efforts were being made to link the Fund to the Sustainable Development Goals. Despite the importance of the mandates of all such funds, their impact on the ground suffered from continuous lack of resources and he appealed for increased contributions to meet the needs of victims.

DANIELA BAS, Director of the Division for Social Policy and Development of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the report on the situation of women and girls with disabilities provided an overview of the status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, along with conclusions and recommendations. It noted that while Member States had developed plans to implement the Convention, standalone policies to address specific needs of women and girls had been limited, including in the mobilization of resources.

She said the focus of programmes to assist women and girls with disabilities must be on inclusion, education, the right to sexual health services, employment and violence. Increased data collection to guide sound policy decisions was also needed. To address cross-cutting approaches, gender perspectives must be incorporated into policy making, she said, while women and girls with disabilities must participate in decision making and access leadership positions.

JENS MODVIG, Chair of the Committee against Torture, described what the Committee had accomplished in the past year and what it would do in the coming years, stressing that implementation of fundamental legal safeguards was an effective means to prevent torture. The Committee therefore focused on legal rights and on the practical enjoyment of those rights. Dialogue with States Parties must focus on the core provisions of the Convention, he said, such as the implementation of safeguards upon deprivation of liberty and the obligation of judges to dismiss evidence obtained using torture, among other things. 26 States had never submitted a report to the Committee, he said, and 38 States parties had overdue periodic reports, leading the Committee to begin reviewing States Parties in the absence of an initial report.

He said the Treaty Body Strengthening Process had helped the Committee develop more effective ways to undertake its work, while another important initiative was the simplified reporting procedure. Other key tools of the Committee were its ability to carry out confidential inquiries, and the competence to review individual complaints alleging violations of the Convention by a State Party. The Committee had also issued General Comments on specific articles of the Convention, and maintained close collaboration with civil society organizations, among many other actors. Unfortunately, reprisals against those cooperating with the Committee did occur. Nonetheless, it sought to strengthen its working methods to promote full implementation of the Convention, he said, adding that the prevention of torture was an obligation on all, which included the provision of redress to those who had been tortured because their State failed to protect them against that crime.

The delegate of the European Union, stating that she firmly supported the work of the Committee against Torture, asked how to ensure timely submission of reports from Member States and best handle the increasing number of complaints. The representative of Liechtenstein asked what reasons existed for late reporting and how information received by the Committee could best be used.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked for thoughts on issues preventing full ratification of the Convention against Torture, while the representative from the Russian Federation expressed concern over the Committee’s work methods which he said distorted State obligations and international law. Such documents could not impose obligations on States.

The representative of the Republic of Korea, calling human rights treaty bodies indispensable, said they must work in greater harmony with relevant international mechanisms and asked how the Committee addressed special procedures of the Human Rights Council.

The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked for recommendations to ensure full protection of civil society organizations when providing information to the Committee.

The representative of Denmark asked about trends regarding extra-custodial use of force amounting to torture.

Also speaking were the representatives of Egypt and Mexico.

Mr. MODVIG, responding to a question on the reasons for non-reporting to his Committee, speculated that for some countries it was a political choice, and for others fear over the resources required. Regarding constraints to universal ratification, he said non-State Parties should be asked directly what their reasons were for not ratifying the Convention, and what would make them ratify. The Russian Federation had mentioned the General Comments, he said, agreeing that those should not increase States Parties obligations. Noting that critical remarks on follow-up procedures had been heard, he said it was not a huge burden of work. The new feature of inviting States Parties for an implementation plan was not an obligation, he stressed.

To a query on how his mandate cooperated with Special Procedures, he said the most obvious partner was the Special Rapporteur on torture, adding that the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders was also a natural cooperation partner when it came to questions of reprisals. One area of concern was the safety of asylum seekers, especially those who had been subjected to torture and had no reliable status of assessment. Torture victims were treated like asylum seekers with no particular attention to the fact that they were indeed victims. As for Egypt’s confidential inquiry, he referred to the resume published in the annual report, adding that several sources were the basis for the Committee’s assessment. The rules of procedure were strictly followed, he emphasized, adding that Egypt should resume a regular dialogue with the Committee and submit regular periodic reports, so the interaction could be a regular dialogue.

MALCOLM EVANS, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, presented that body’s tenth annual report, stressing that while the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture had been ratified in 83 countries, the pace of ratification had been slow. It was time the issue be accorded equal priority by the General Assembly as during the universal periodic review. It is very difficult to understand why States ought to be reluctant to become party to a mechanism that is entirely focused on working cooperatively and collaboratively with States and in confidence at the international level in order to prevent torture from happening, he observed.

The Subcommittee had learned that the first, essential step to addressing torture and ill-treatment was to express genuine commitment, he said. It was not its role to pass comment on States that appeared complacent about such practices if they were not part of the treaty system. Its primary focus was on States that had demonstrated their commitment to prevention by being part of the system. He expressed concern that a small number of States had failed to establish an independent National Preventive Mechanism against torture, even several years after their obligation to do so had expired, noting that Lebanon had been removed from that list earlier this year.

He disagreed with claims that confidential reports would simply be ignored. More than half of the 60 reports transmitted to States following the Subcommittee’s visits had been made public, recalling that States were legally obliged to permit such visits whenever we wish. Tackling torture and ill-treatment was not to be restricted to when it was convenient; it was exactly when it was inconvenient that it was most needed, an aspect of the mandate on which we cannot and will not yield, as to do so would compromise the integrity of the entire system. We take our commitment to working confidentially with States very seriously, he said. All we ask is that States do likewise.

He said 10 visits were planned for 2017, with those to Bolivia, Hungary, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Mongolia, Niger and Panama having been made. It was unlikely that visits would continue at that pace next year, as the secretariat had reduced in size, and the promise of expanded support had not been sustained. States serious about preventing torture should provide help. Also, having an additional week of plenary meeting time would allow the Subcommittee more time to meet with States Parties in Geneva, prepare for visits and advance its links with the National Protection Mechanisms. While the new arrangements for the Optional Protocol Fund were working well, it was a matter of grave concern that so few States had contributed to the Fund.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked how State and non-State parties could enhance ratification of the Optional Protocol of the Convention against Torture.

The representative of the European Union welcomed efforts to promote national preventive mechanisms in countries that had none, asking for preliminary views on those efforts and about how existing efforts could promote the establishment of new mechanisms.

The representative of Switzerland asked about obstacles preventing States from implementing mechanisms and how to better assist the Subcommittee against Torture.

The representative of Denmark asked about trends regarding the extra-custodial use of force amounting to torture and the related implementation gaps.

Also speaking were representatives of the Maldives and Mexico.

Mr. EVANS replied that having worked with many preventive mechanisms, his mandate had become aware of the practical challenges, as well as the value of the work they could do. He understood that several States were holding back from ratifying the Optional Protocol because they could not determine how to implement some obligations. Obstacles to ratification could be overcome by talking with the Committee for it to explain indications of the models being presented, and he welcomed the opportunity to do that more particularly with States establishing mechanisms. Regarding what could be done to promote and support National Preventive Mechanisms, he said his Subcommittee’s engagement with them was to facilitate their work, adding that there were peer-to-peer national mechanisms supporting each other daily.

To the comment that establishing a National Mechanism was necessary but not sufficient in order for the system to work appropriately, he said the solution was in the hands of States themselves: If National Preventive Mechanisms had functional independence, they could be firm and frank and States could be confident in what they were doing. While there were 162 States Parties to the Convention, the number of States Parties to its Optional Protocol was 50 per cent, which was good but should be higher. States should ratify the Optional Protocol as a matter of priority. Regarding trends in extra-custodial issues, he said the reach of National Preventive Mechanisms extended beyond official sites within the criminal justice system, to all places where persons might be deprived of liberty, such as unofficial places of detention. There was a trend toward pre-process or pre-custodial detention, he said, where custodial forces took people and questioned them before they were admitted to the formal system.

NILS MELZER, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, addressed the Third Committee for the first time since assuming the mandate. Since January, he had made 29 requests for country visits, receiving positive responses from just Argentina, Serbia, Spain and Ukraine. His mandate had sent 100 urgent appeals and other communications to States on behalf of individuals at risk of torture, and some of that prioritized activity had yielded positive results for the people involved. Resources allocated to his mandate had not allowed him to carry out his tasks effectively, however, and he appealed to the General Assembly to fund a third staff member as would be the normal state of affairs for his mandate.

Turning to his report, he said he had consulted with a broad base of stakeholders on whether and in which circumstances the extra-custodial use of force by State agents could amount to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report’s conclusions included an answer to that question: States must regulate the extra-custodial use of force to prevent any torture and other ill-treatment within their jurisdiction. The most important conclusion was that excessive, unnecessary or otherwise arbitrary use of force by State officials violated the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. That prohibition might well constitute the most fundamental achievement in the history of mankind, he said.

The representative of the United States disagreed with the premise that the Convention against Torture applied to extra-custodial situations. He expressed serious concern over references to soft law documents never intended to be State obligations. He asked what more could be done to hold rogue States such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea accountable for their actions.

The representative of the European Union asked what possibilities existed to foster synergy between work by States and the Special Rapporteur.

The representative of Denmark asked for thoughts on possible overlapping efforts to prevent the extra-custodial use of torture, notably in early stages of police detention.

The representative of Switzerland asked about the scale of torture outside the custodial context.

The representative of the Czech Republic asked how the Special Rapporteur would engage with States refusing to host country visits.

The representative of South Africa requested clarification on the intersection between female genital mutilation and domestic violence in light of the Convention against Torture, and how to deal with non-State actors committing torture in that context.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked how the international community could support the work of the Special Rapporteur over the next year.

The representative of the Maldives asked about best practices for training law enforcement officials.

Mr. MELZER replied that his mandate was not confined by a treaty definition. Instead, it was a mandate to observe torture and cruel treatment in a generic sense. The prevention of torture was a customary norm and general principle of law confirmed in international jurisprudence.

As torture in traditional custodial settings had decreased, ill-treatment in extra-custodial contexts had increased. He said the tighter the custody net became, the more likely abuse would move outside of that context. Extensive cases of abuse were occurring in the wilderness of extra-custodial settings, he said, including at border crossings, which was also relevant in the migration context.

Regarding methods to streamline his work with that of Member States, he underscored the need for clear criteria to determine if interrogation tools were inherently cruel and must be prohibited. His ability to act was currently limited to suggesting agenda items, he added.

He said female genital mutilation and domestic violence were on his radar, adding that State consent to those actions could amount to torture. Accountability for torture was of paramount importance. The matter would be addressed in future reports, he said, adding that the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment in armed conflict also considered non-State actors.

Also speaking were the representatives of Norway and the Russian Federation.

Statements

CHARLES WHITLEY, European Union delegation, reiterated support for the Vienna Declaration and Plan of Action adopted at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights, which reaffirmed States’ primary duty to promote and protect human rights. Noting that the international community had the right to denounce and investigate abuses and violations of human rights, establish special procedures and seek accountability, he condemned attacks on human rights defenders, and urged States to work on early warning and conflict analysis. He advocated including the Responsibility to Protect principle on the Assembly’s agenda, calling on States to promote international criminal law and universality of the Rome Statute.

YASUE NUNOSHIBA (Japan) said the Human Rights Council’s universal periodic review was an important function in the protection and promotion of human rights, but also in the implementation of States’ human rights treaties. It provided a unique opportunity for countries to engage in constructive dialogue and receive valuable feedback from the examination of reports. After receiving recommendations from the Review and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Japan had amended its penal code to include acts that constituted rape, and increased the minimum punishments, while removing provisions that required formal complaint from the victim.

Ms. BUSHRA (Iraq) said her country had joined and ratified eight of nine international conventions and treaties, and had adapted its national laws and codes to international commitments. Iraq had also included in the Constitution several articles reflecting the wish to lay down the basis for justice and equality, and to promote a culture of diversity guaranteeing equal rights for all. Iraq had submitted all required international reports, and hoped to submit its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 2018, she said. It would continue to support all human rights institutions and conduct its comprehensive reviews in accordance with its commitments.

ANAYANSI RODRA�GUEZ CAMEJO (Cuba) said treaty bodies could not leave room for politicization, which could occur if guidelines that generated polarization among States were adopted. She reaffirmed Cuba’s respect for the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, whereby all States complied with observance of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, in conformity with the United Nations Charter and international law. That document also reaffirmed the right to development as an inalienable right, and endorsed the principle that democracy was based on people’s will to determine their own regime. Cuba would continue to defend truth, justice, universality, and non-selectivity in the treatment of human rights.

ANNELIES VERSTICHEL (Belgium), speaking on behalf of several countries, underlined the importance of the sustained implementation of relevant resolutions guided by inclusivity, transparency and non-politicization. All stakeholders should be given due consideration. Recognizing that late and non-reporting could harm effectiveness of the treaty body system, she urged all Member States to submit reports in a timely manner and welcomed the crucial roles taken by stakeholders to streamline their work and align priority areas.

She expressed deep concern over all reprisals against individuals working with treaty bodies, noting the recommendations made in the Guidelines against Intimidation or Reprisals (San Jose Guidelines). A clear issue was inconsistencies in simplified reporting procedures. Reporting procedures were too varied, with some treaty bodies still implementing pilot reporting mechanisms, while others used different modalities. She called for the adoption of calendars with clear deadlines for report submission to clarify State responsibilities.

MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said a number of Member States were pursuing their own political ambitions under the guise of human rights. Abuse of human rights platforms to advance national agendas was a flagrant violation of the concept of universality. Several States continued to impede the realization of human rights through unilateral, coercive measures, which harmed the collective right to development. The international community must embrace cultural diversity, he said, stressing that no obligations other than those expressed in conventions should be expected of States.

YUJI IWASAWA, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, said that in 2010 the Committee had adopted simplified reporting procedures, making it one of the first treaty bodies to do so. It was benefiting States with limited resources as they could draft reports by replying to the list of issues sent by the Committee. He encouraged all States to opt for that procedure. Recognizing the difficulties faced by States in living up to reporting mechanisms, he said programmes were being implemented to increase State capacity to meet obligations. Turning to communications under the Optional Protocol, he said the large influx of registered cases and lack of resources had resulted in a backlog of 220 cases. The Committee’s limited resources had seriously compromised its abilities.

Several measures had been taken to maximize the Committee’s time allocated to communications, he said, such as expediting the decision-making process for addressing individual communications. The Committee also had adopted guidelines on measures of reparation, which highlighted criteria on measures and ensured consistency in the Committee’s jurisprudence. He noted that the Committee had begun the process of drafting comments on the right to life, with the participation of relevant stakeholders. Still, the extra meeting time the Committee had received was not matched by its human resources. Other challenges had been caused by staff rotation, as legal expertise built up over time was being lost. He concluded by urging States to heed the Secretary-General’s recommendation to provide resources to the United Nations treaty body system.

The representative of Japan asked Mr. IWASAWA about the challenges the Committee faced in implementing its measures.

The representative of the Russian Federation said the treaty bodies had imposed actions that went beyond their jurisdiction and that temporary reporting had increased the work and cost of the treaty bodies.

The representative of the United Kingdom asked the experts for solutions to the issue of non-compliance.

The representative of Maldives asked how human rights mechanisms could be tailor-made for small States.

The representative of the European Union asked about measures that would encourage implementation of the Committee’s recommendations at the national level.

Mr. IWASAWA replied that the Human Rights Committee had adopted a simplified reporting procedure in 2010 and feedback from State parties had been generally positive. It was evaluating the effectiveness of the repetitive communication procedure and constantly improving and reviewing its work methods.

On the issue of overdue reports, he said States should tap into the capacity-building programme to help them meet reporting requirements. He highlighted an example of a State programme that had achieved satisfactory results. The State had submitted written replies to issues raised by the Committee which was considered as a report.

He said the Committee was mindful of its treaty obligations under the Covenant. Likewise, it was crucial that State Parties be made aware of the Concluding Observations and implement them at the national level.

MARIA VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that body had held three sessions in 2017 and considered reports by State parties to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It also had adopted General Comment 24 on State obligations in the context of Business Activities, which sought to clarify State duties in that regard. It also had adopted a Statement on duties towards refugees and migrants, which he hoped would contribute to the Global Compacts on Refugees and on safe, orderly and regular migration in 2018. As the Committee had dealt with its backlog, it focused its efforts on non-reporting States and States with overdue periodic reports, having organized a meeting with them and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in February. It had received three reports thanks to those efforts, and two more were on the way.

Turning to the Working Group on Communications, she said the Committee had considered seven communications, of which four had been declared inadmissible, two had been discontinued and views on the merits had been adopted on one case. The Committee had adopted a guidance note on a procedure for follow-up on recommendations made in its views. Review of work methods had been a cross-cutting issue, as had efforts to harmonize them with those of other treaty bodies. She underscored the need for a rethink and review of pension systems, social services and long-term care measures to provide a dignified life for growing numbers of old and very old persons. Economic recession, unemployment and underemployment had particularly affected women, young people, and persons with disabilities, among others. The challenge of making a public/private welfare mix work for everyone must be tackled, she said, stressing the need for innovative work-life arrangements and noting that the many faces of development had not always led to progress.

The representative of the European Union said not all human rights required identical approaches. The failure to submit reports had not been resolved and he asked how non-reporters could be engaged and how a possible backlog could be managed.

The representative of South Africa expressed disappointment at the inaccessibility of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights’ report online and asked for views on integrating the right to development into the Covenant.

The representative of Morocco said the discussion was taking place in a global environment of violence and denial of human rights. She commended the Committee’s engagement with all relevant stakeholders and requested information on its working methods.

Ms. GOMES said the Committee wished to pursue further engagement and renew dialogue with non-reporting States. Efforts were being made to ensure all States understood the spirit of the Committee’s work, promote reporting and bridge the gap between periodic reports. In the event of a backlog, work would depend on access to administrative resources, a lack of which would exacerbate any future backlog.

Substantive assistance to States would be guided by dialogue, she said. Ongoing dialogue was needed to assist States between reports and to address pressing issues. The Committee also planned to rethink its list of issues to reduce the burden of reporting.

She said the Committee’s General Comments were interpretations of a right or conditions necessary to promote a right. What was true for the Covenant several decades ago was not today. Therefore, General Comments sought to ensure the Covenant reflected current issues; they were made to guide State actions.

Also speaking were representatives of Mexico and the Russian Federation.

CRAIG JOHN HAWKE (New Zealand), speaking also on behalf of Australia, Canada, Iceland, and Norway, acknowledged progress under the disabilities Convention but said there was still a lack of reliable data on the persons it covered. He urged use of the Washington Group Short Set of Questions to compile better statistics. Because women and girls with disabilities still faced greater challenges, he called for a focus on their situation this year. Noting also an implementation gap in provisions on independent living, he said that for progress in that and in other areas, gains must be made in accessibility. Further steps were necessary to make the United Nations fully accessible for all people, he said, which was a matter of priority.

Mr. ALASIM (Saudi Arabia) said the country had introduced workshops and programmes to train personnel on human rights law and international law. Executive institutions ensured that women were granted full rights to employment and education, while restrictions on their participation in commercial activities had been lifted. Further, women were involved in national dialogue. They had the right to vote and to run in local elections. Saudi Arabia had also prioritized the protection of children’s rights with laws to prevent child trafficking and abuse, and organized workshops to teach children how to combat sexual harassment.

MAYANK JOSHI (India), outlining the modern history of the concept of human rights, said that in recent decades global discourse on the topic had been informed by the momentum to eradicate poverty and achieve sustainable development on the one hand, and to prevent gross violations during armed conflicts and terrorist attacks on the other. Fundamental contradictions remained, as the relative prioritization of the individual versus the State, national sovereignty versus international norms, and universal versus culture-specific approaches evoked differing opinions. Citing other various areas of contention, including constraints on national capacities to implement rights, instances of politicization of human rights as a foreign policy tool and perceived intrusiveness beyond mandates, he underscored the primacy of national responsibility and stressed that human rights must be addressed fairly, objectively, and with respect for the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, non-interference in the internal affairs of States, non-selectivity and transparency. In addition, all States must fulfil their treaty obligations and the emphasis of such bodies as the Human Rights Council and Special Procedures should not be confrontational but instead focus on achieving desired results through dialogue and capacity-building.

ROMAN KASHAEV (Russian Federation) said human rights rhetoric was often used by States to achieve political goals and interfere in the internal affairs of others. The arbitrary use of human rights was undermining the United Nations. Often, international mechanisms went forward without State approval and the work of relevant committees was being politicized. Calling for the observance of equality, he said universality was greatly significant. The treaty body system must implement programmes with due consideration of every State’s cultural particularities. Committees sometimes exceeded their reach and contradicted one another. He said it was unacceptable for States to depart from international agreements and called for improvements to the work of the treaty bodies.

INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia) said her country appreciated the work of all treaty bodies and was committed to dialogue with those it was party to. Enhancing implementation of each State’s human rights capacity through holistic approaches must be the goal. Welcoming ongoing efforts to enhance the work of the treaty bodies, she said constructive engagement among relevant actors was the key to promoting human rights. Indonesia’s own efforts involved streamlining approaches to promoting human rights, including those of persons with disabilities. Ministries, agencies and local governments were now able to implement human rights initiatives in line with their own mandates.

SARFRAZ AHMED GOHAR (Pakistan), noting the commitment to universal human rights enshrined in his country’s Constitution and its accession to international instruments, said that significant legislative and policy reforms had been undertaken to uphold women’s rights and counter rape, honour killing, forced marriage, workplace harassment and acid attacks. A number of measures had been adopted to ensure minority rights, including the Christian and Hindu marriages bill and measures to prevent misuse and abuse of blasphemy laws. Among human rights mechanisms was a National Commission on Minorities. Such measures and institutions were bringing change on the ground and, challenges notwithstanding, the country was moving in the right direction, he stated. He pledged that Pakistan would not spare any effort to promote and guarantee the rights of its citizens in accordance with its religious, national and international obligations.

IHOR YAREMENKO (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union, said the country was committed to implementing reforms in human rights and had established a strong network of civil society organizations. Stressing that transparency in human rights monitoring was crucial, he said Ukraine had welcomed visits by eight human rights mandate holders and three more visits would be made by 2018. He noted that despite denial of access to the Crimean Peninsula, monitoring officials used other sources of information to report on human rights violations in the territory. He said physical violence, police brutality, arrest and unfair trials and prosecution by Russian officials was taking place in Crimea. He said Ukraine had filed a case against the Russian Federation in the International Court of Justice and urged the Russian Federation to adopt the decision and provision measures issued by the Court.

AHMED INUSA (Nigeria) said the National Human Rights Commission, an independent statutory entity created in 1996, had adopted a national action plan on human rights to serve as a roadmap for the effective fulfilment of human rights obligations. The Government had also set up a National Consultative Forum with the mandate of fulfilling recommendations that had come about from reviews. It had also enhanced the administration of criminal justice in line with international best practices through the enactment of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act of 2015. The Act was enhanced with the establishment of the national committee on reforming the Nigerian police and prison (correctional) authorities and a national committee concerning the death penalty. The country had also focused efforts on fighting trafficking in persons and introduced the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Act of 2015.

SHAO WU (China) said her country had ensured that its domestic legislation and policies were aligned with human rights treaties, submitted implementation reports as required by the treaties and offered a full account of achievements and shortcomings in China’s implementation of the treaties. The Government had supported the Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau in honouring their treaty obligations and protected the human rights of their residents. Since the beginning of this year, China had submitted its combined fourteenth through seventeenth reports on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and reports on the follow-up to the review of the Convention of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the review of the Convention Against Torture. It had also submitted a report on the follow-up to the review of the initial report submitted by the Special Administrative Region of Macau on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, she noted that the General Assembly resolution still fell short of its goal to strengthen and enhance the effectiveness of human rights treaties because of problems such as uneven implementation of different provisions, lack of transparency and inadequate attention to the views of State Parties.

Mr. KAYINAMURA (Rwanda) said human rights had to ensure the equality of all human beings. Efforts to ensure and enhance the promotion and protection of human rights must continue. Rwanda’s Constitution protected the rights of all citizens, with no distinctions and stipulated that the promotion and protection of human rights was the responsibility of the State. Rwanda’s reporting on all relevant treaty bodies was up to date and a standing invitation to all mandate holders had been issued. The National Commission for Human Rights was tasked with the protection of human rights and with advising all relevant Government bodies regarding compliance with international human rights instruments. Civil society was playing an active role in fostering a culture of accountability and was assisting victims of human rights violations.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), affirming high respect for human rights in his country and noting its candidature for a further term in the Human Rights Council, said that universal parameters formed common standards but it would be unjust to each Member State to attain and implement them in their entirety. Parameters must be adjusted to conform with country specificities. Bangladesh had successfully completed two cycles of the universal periodic review and had accepted several of its recommendations. It was important that national mechanisms be respected and strengthened in order to transform the resulting commitments into positive developments on the ground. Noting that Bangladesh had extended as much support as possible to forcibly displaced Rakhine Muslims who had fled Myanmar due to serious human rights violations, he underlined the obligation of the international community to ensure that that their rights were upheld.

ZOUBIR BENARBIA (Algeria), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said human rights were enshrined in the country’s various Constitutions and given practical expression through proactive policies. Algeria had acceded to most international human rights treaties, and was implementing a national plan to consolidate respect for those rights. It also was pressing ahead with justice reforms and evaluating health, education and social protection measures. A national law established a quota calling for between 20 and 50 per cent of candidates to be female, while violence against women had been criminalized. Algeria had also established a National Human Rights Council to monitor and assess the situation across the country. He reaffirmed Algeria’s commitment to eradicate terrorism, adding that the country was deeply engaged in helping restore peace and security in neighbouring countries as well as protecting the human rights of refugees and displaced persons.

ZEBIB GEBREKIDAN (Eritrea) said international cooperation to protect human rights was crucial and should be carried out on the basis on transparent and constructive dialogue. National governments had the primary responsibility to protect human rights and there was a need to help strengthen national capacities to achieve that goal. She noted that Eritrean officials had participated in human rights training sessions. However, human rights issues could not be addressed meaningfully if challenges such as poverty and occupation persist and deny people the right to live in dignity and peace.

NGUYEN PHUONG NGA (Viet Nam), emphasizing the importance of dialogue, said common goals and respect for the historical, political, social and cultural diversity of Member States were vital to success in human rights cooperation. The principles of impartiality, objectivity, non-confrontation, and avoidance of both double standards and politicization must be fully respected. She cited Viet Nam’s efforts to strengthen its legal system, including through judicial reforms, and steps to improve life for vulnerable groups. Viet Nam attached great importance to international cooperation in the field of human rights, she said, noting that the Special Rapporteur on the right to food would visit her country in November.

MERYL MICHELLE DIEDRICKS (South Africa) fully subscribed to the notion of universality of all human rights, stressing that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action provided the framework for improving people’s lives around the world. Yet, efforts lagged to make the right to development a reality for all. Evidence clearly proved that lack of enjoyment of economic and social rights was at the centre of instability around the world, she said, stressing the need to recognize the link between the Vienna Convention and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

BHARAT RAJ PAUDYAL (Nepal), underscoring his country’s commitment to the universality, indivisibility, non-selectivity, interdependence and interrelatedness of all human rights � including that to development � said it was a party to 24 human rights instruments, which it had internalized in its national laws. Nepal had undergone a second round at the Universal Period Review last year and accepted almost 80 per cent of its recommendations. Despite being a least developed country with limited capacity, Nepal had extended invitations to three Special Procedures Mandate Holders for a country visit. At the national level, Nepal’s human rights-based, democratic Constitution guaranteed protection of human rights and adherence to the rule of law, and provided for an independent and competent judiciary. Citing gains in gender equality, with recently held elections having secured almost 49 per cent of women’s representation in local government bodies, he said the 2004 human rights action plan had helped to mainstream such issues into national development plans and policies.

AMIRBEK ZHEMENEY (Kazakhstan) said his country had ratified all key human rights treaties, had no overdue reports and had invited special mandate human right holders to visit his country. Kazakhstan had submitted its first national human rights report this year and looked forward to engaging treaty body committee members in an open dialogue. While he recognized the contributions of the various human rights treaty bodies, he expressed concern about their independence, stressing that they should focus on issues under their purview and underscoring the importance of using the six official United Nations languages.

MYRIAM AMAN SOULAMA (Burkina Faso), stressing that her country had ratified key human rights conventions, said that Burkina Faso had put in place a legal framework and national policy on human rights and civic promotion. An action plan had also been developed to promote and protect human rights, while human rights education was included in formal education and awareness raising campaigns had been launched. Burkina Faso maintained a separation of powers and had established an independent judicial system that sought to create conditions favourable for protecting human rights. It also had established new tribunals, and both recruited and trained new magistrates, as well as set up a fund to assist people who had been accused of crimes.

HELLEN MKHWEO CHIFWAILA (Zambia) said that, to effectively protect and promote human rights, States must have clear and consistent legal frameworks as well as robust institutions. Those included the judiciary, which in Zambia was the primary institution charged with the protection of human rights through the enforcement of the bill of rights enshrined in its Constitution. Meanwhile, the country’s human rights commission was mandated to investigate human rights violations and maladministration of justice, and to propose measures to prevent human rights abuses. Zambia’s police service included a victim support unit focused on women and children’s rights. It continued to make progress, in line with the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights in Africa, among other instruments.

Ms. SHAHEEN (United Arab Emirates) said her country’s sophisticated, pre-emptive approach to human rights had proven effective in mitigating trafficking and other regional threats. The United Arab Emirates pledged to continue acting as a human rights leader in the region and to foster the development of national human rights institutions, she said. The country had fulfilled its obligations and submitted reports on the status of children, women and people with disabilities. A national strategy was launched to enable persons with disabilities, now identified in the country as people of determination, to ensure decent living conditions. The Government was also focused on the rights of migrant workers by balancing the relationship between employers and employees through legislation harmonized with international labour standards.

HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said the spirit of cooperation must prevail when addressing human rights. Azerbaijan’s engagement with the treaty body system had improved its human rights record. As a founder of the Human Rights Council, Azerbaijan believed in promoting non-selective, dialogue-based approaches to promote the Council’s work. Economic, social and cultural rights must receive adequate attention, he said, adding his country had acceded to most relevant treaties and was bringing legislation in line with its obligations. Noting that Azerbaijan was among the 34 States up to date with its reporting, he said treaty bodies must pursue greater harmonization.

GHULAM SEDDIQ RASULI (Afghanistan) said that having suffered war and conflict for over 40 years, Afghans more than any other nation understood the real value of peace, security, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Today, Afghans were much more aware of their human rights. Democratic institutions and civil society were the driving force behind that spread of knowledge. Afghanistan was focused on reforming the judiciary, and had ratified the Convention against Torture. Women’s rights were being promoted and protected through a national priority programme through which Afghanistan had adopted various laws and policies. The gains had come at a very high price of blood and devotion, he said, adding that slowly, Afghanistan was building a nation that saw fundamental freedoms for all Afghans being protected.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia), noting that his country had ratified key human rights mechanisms and supported the work of special mandate holders, said it had also submitted national reports to the Committee and adopted a national action plan for the universal periodic review. Mongolia also had introduced legal, judicial and administrative reforms to fulfil its obligations to the human rights mechanisms and abolished the death penalty in a new criminal code. A law to combat domestic violence had been adopted and another on childcare to protect women’s right to employment introduced. There were also laws to protect the legal rights of children, persons with disabilities and the elderly.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said all Russian obligations under human rights treaties applied to Sevastopol and the whole of the Crimean peninsula.

The representative of Myanmar, responding to remarks by her counterpart from Bangladesh, said authorities from both countries had agreed to establish a working group to address issues along the shared border. Bangladeshi officials would visit Myanmar to further discuss the matter, she said, noting her country would work in a neighbourly fashion.

The representative of Ukraine, addressing remarks by his counterpart from the Russian Federation, said that country was misleading in referring to the referendum in Crimea as free and democratic. The referendum was legal nonsense, he said, asking how it could be free given that people of the region were afraid of being killed by occupying forces.

Source: United Nations