A corrosive international environment fuelled by sanctions and harsh rhetoric negatively impacted vital economic sectors and the enjoyment of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the United Nations expert monitoring that situation told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today, as it continued discussion of country reports and other human rights matters.
Tomás Ojea Quintana, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, called for a comprehensive assessment of Security Council sanctions put in place following Pyongyang’s firing of 19 ballistic missiles between January and September 2017. Those measures might have prevented medical assistance and equipment from reaching the country.
Pursuing isolationist policies would harm the human rights situation, he asserted, calling for positive dialogue to ensure the crisis did not devolve into armed conflict. Pyongyang appeared to be taking steps to enhance cooperation with human rights bodies and to be more open to discussing rights obligations. Lamenting the absence of the country’s delegate in today’s dialogue, he said sanctions had reached their limits; they had yielded no improvements to the human rights situation.
During the dialogue, several Member States requested information about the effects of sanctions on civilians, with others expressing deep concern over detentions and abductions by Pyongyang. The representative of the United States cited those acts as grave rights violations, while the Republic of Korea’s delegate pointed to an ongoing pattern of rights violations by Pyongyang.
In what would be a theme throughout the day, several delegates voiced their rejection of country-specific mandates to address human rights issues, with Cuba’s delegate calling for cooperation, rather than politicization to address the matter.
Sheila B. Keetharuth, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, said rights violations ranging from extrajudicial executions to arbitrary detentions persisted in that country. Consistent allegations and documented reports of abuses in border regions pointed to a “shoot-to-kill” policy being adopted by the Government.
Citing International Organization for Migration data, she said 100 people tried to flee Eritrea each day, with some 21,215 Eritrean refugees arriving in Ethiopia last year and another 20,000 thus far in 2017. The human rights situation was further worsened by the absence of institutions capable of upholding the rule of law, she said.
Eritrea’s delegate said the Special Rapporteur was determined to demonize the country. The Government was pursuing increased bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and had prioritized regional peace and development.
Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, told the Committee that smugglers and traffickers were inseparable from migrant flows. No comprehensive data existed on how many refugees and migrants had been executed, drowned, starved to death or tortured across the world. The current political climate appeared to tolerate high numbers of migrant deaths and militarized approaches to addressing migration issues, she said.
Miklós Haraszti, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, said the President of that country had built a State structure to consolidate and protect his power, with only token human rights gains having been made. The Government failed to heed universal periodic review and treaty body report recommendations.
Moreover, he said ongoing crackdowns on civilians only served to protect the power of the President “at the price of denying the remaining vestiges of constitutional liberties”. The Government’s “permission based” regime of civic initiatives and criminalization of unregistered activities reduced the occurrence of mass movements, he noted.
Responding, Belarus’ representative said the Special Rapporteur’s work was the worst example of misguided efforts to address human rights issues. He said several United Nations agencies had recognized his country’s improved human rights protections. The Special Rapporteur must end his selective monitoring and submit his resignation, he said.
Throughout the interactive dialogue, delegations voiced concern over the mistreatment of civil society groups, with Ireland’s representative asking what steps the Government must take to ensure free participation of the civic sector.
Also presenting before the Committee were Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, Including its Causes and its Consequences, and Fatsah Ouguergouz, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Friday, 27 October, to continue its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.
The Third Committee met today to continue its debate on the promotion and protection of human rights. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4205).
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
TOMÁS OJEA QUINTANA, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said that country continued to reject his mandate and requests for a visit. However, visits to the Republic of Korea, Japan, Cambodia and the Holy See had allowed him to evaluate and cross-check data on the situation. Security Council sanctions, put in place following Pyongyang’s firing of 19 ballistic missiles between January and September 2017, might have negatively impacted vital economic sectors and the enjoyment of human rights. They also might have prevented access to chemotherapeutic medicine, and restricted the shipment of wheelchairs and other equipment for people with disabilities. Humanitarian groups also faced difficulties sourcing supplies and carrying out financial transactions. He called for a comprehensive assessment of the sanctions regime and, citing harsh rhetoric between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and other Governments, urged the international community to ensure the dispute did not result in armed conflict.
He said he did not believe a policy of isolation would improve the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Government ultimately had the utmost responsibility for protecting and promoting the rights of its citizens. However, grave rights violations against persons in detention, for example, continued to take place. Turning to the issue of separated Korean families, he cited a recent wave of forced repatriations of citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to China. There was an urgent need to resume investigations into abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea of citizens of the Republic of Korea and Japan, he said, also drawing attention to people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea now living in the Republic of Korea but not allowed to return home.
He said corruption was a problem in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, as increased marketization had led people to bribe public officials in hopes of improving their living standards. Another issue was the strict surveillance of all forms of communication within the country. Access with the outside world came at a high financial cost and with the risk of arrest and detention. However, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had taken steps to enhance cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, he said, and appeared to be more open to discussing ways to fulfil its human rights obligations, as the international community insisted on seeking justice and upholding universal rights principles. The process of engagement and reporting was significant, he said, as it could lead to progressive changes to law, policies and decision-making.
The representative of Venezuela, speaking on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, reaffirmed the commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, which were inalienable and interrelated. All such issues must be approached through a fair, objective manner with respect for territorial integrity. Noting that the Human Rights Council was the body to consider human rights issues, he expressed deep concern over the selective use of country-specific resolutions in the Third Committee, referring to the practice as a political tool.
The representative of Argentina, noting that the defence and protection of human rights was State policy, asked how the international community could follow up on the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations.
The representative of Germany called the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea deplorable, and urged it to engage in meaningful dialogue. He asked what the United Nations could do to raise awareness about the conditions of that country’s workers abroad.
A representative from the European Union noted that visits by many mandate holders to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been blocked and asked how independent evidence gathering could be improved.
The representative of the Republic of Korea expressed concern over a pattern of serious human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and expressed hope that cooperation with the human rights community would increase.
The representative of the Russian Federation said a constructive approach based on cooperation and dialogue might not please all actors, yet it was the only approach that would yield results. Discussion of matters in the Third Committee had no added value, he said, stressing the relevance of the universal periodic review process.
The representative of Japan said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued diverting resources towards its nuclear ambitions. He urged the Special Rapporteur to focus on holding people accountable for human rights violations and identifying examples of forced labour of that country’s workers abroad.
The representative of the United States expressed regret that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea failed to respect the rights of its people, citing such grave rights violations as detentions, abductions and mistreatment of women. She asked what steps had been taken to ensure assistance would reach detainees.
The representative of Switzerland said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea continued to deny access to the Special Rapporteur and asked about his efforts to strengthen implementation of human rights recommendations.
The representative of Ireland, associating himself with the European Union, asked how the international community could ensure sanctions on the country did not impact ordinary people.
The representative of Cuba said he did not support politically motivated, country-specific mandates, as such activities threatened human rights. He called for cooperation, rather than politicization, to address human rights issues.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had prioritized the pursuit of weapons over human rights and asked how that country could be held accountable, and further, how reliable information could be gathered.
The representative of Iran, associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, said the Third Committee’s practice of considering country-specific measures contravened the United Nations Charter. He expressed concern over the effects of sanctions on civilians.
The representative of the Maldives urged the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to cooperate with the United Nations and to mobilize its resources for the advancement of its people.
The representative of Australia expressed concern over the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s use of resources for its nuclear ambitions. She underscored the importance of recording human rights abuses in that country, including on the conditions of labourers abroad.
The representative of Syria, associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, expressed opposition to country-specific considerations. The practice violated the principles of sovereignty and equality among States, he said, asking why the Special Rapporteur had ignored the negative effects of sanctions on the people of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of the Czech Republic, associating himself with the European Union, asked what initiatives could be explored to promote cooperation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and international agencies.
The representative of Algeria, associating herself with the Non Aligned Movement, expressed concern over country-specific presentations in the Third Committee, pointing to the universal periodic review as the best suited mechanism to address such issues.
The representative of Lao People’s Democratic Republic said country-specific reports did not promote human rights and called on the international community to pursue positive dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Also speaking was the representative of Norway.
Mr. OJEA QUINTANA replied that he did not consider the discussion complete, as the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was absent. Access to information was also a challenge, due to the difficulty obtaining cross-checked data on the human rights situation. To questions on the negative impact of sanctions, he said that those measures had reached their limit, and there had been no progress on the human rights situation in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He had asked authorities in New York responsible for those sanctions to look into such adverse impacts, he said, noting that it was also the General Assembly’s responsibility to consider that matter. More broadly, he said he was working with embassies that had a presence in Pyongyang on the issue of foreign detainees in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Also, it was crucial to ensure that the rights of people from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea working abroad were protected, he said, proposing that a regional dialogue be held, in a non confrontational manner, on human trafficking in North Asia. He reiterated his call on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to engage in dialogue.
SHEILA B. KEETHARUTH, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, congratulated the country for completing the costing phase of its pandemic preparedness and response plans. However, human rights violations — including death in custody, extrajudicial executions and arbitrary detention — had not stopped. Further, there were no institutions that could ensure checks and balances or prevent misuse of State power. The Government had failed to heed recommendations to address past rights violations, and to ensure accountability of military personnel for gender-based violations. Impunity stemmed from the absence of the rule of law. Underscoring the effectiveness of universal jurisdiction in addressing violations, she said it was unlikely that Eritrea would provide investigators and prosecutors access to gather evidence or extradite suspects.
She said military involvement in extrajudicial executions of unarmed Eritreans attempting to cross the border occurred with impunity. While the Government had denied having a “shoot to kill” policy along the border, allegations and documented cases of that practice persisted. People were arrested without being given a reason or access to legal mechanisms, she said, stressing that Eritrea lacked the will to deal with arrests and detentions in conformity with international human rights law and citing deaths in custody as a major concern. With Eritrea only officially recognizing four religions, followers of other faiths faced draconian regulations.
Turning to the plight of refugees, she said International Organization for Migration (IOM) data indicated an average 100 people tried to leave Eritrea each day, with some 21,215 Eritrean refugees arriving in Ethiopia last year and another 20,000 thus far in 2017. Eritreans were trafficked for economic reasons, extortion and sexual exploitation. Noting that neighbouring countries were working to prevent the entry of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers, she urged States not turn their back on the plight of those people. Throughout her mandate, efforts to build relations with Eritrea had been inconclusive. Eritrea could not rely on selective economic and social rights achievements to detract from other abuses. It must show genuine commitment to making progress, she said, pointing to key areas where efforts should be directed. She concluded by reaffirming Eritrea’s need to strengthen the rule of law and fight institutionalized impunity.
The representative of Eritrea said the Special Rapporteur’s mandate had been tabled by States determined to demonize his country. In the face of such hostilities, Eritrea had emerged a harmonious country. It had stepped up to the demands of nation-building, yet its journey to human dignity was being attacked. The Special Rapporteur had engaged in political activism to paint an unrealistic image of Eritrea. Views that differed from those of the Special Rapporteur had been dismissed, he said, and her methodologies lacked rigour and professionalism. Eritrea had repeatedly expressed concern over the Special Rapporteur’s work.
Eritrea’s bilateral and multilateral cooperation with other countries was growing, and regional peace and development was a clear priority, he stated, noting that human rights objectives were better addressed through cooperation and dialogue. Faced with human rights challenges, Eritrea had submitted periodic reports to relevant treaty bodies, undergone the first and second rounds of universal periodic review, and put in place a strategic partnership framework with the United Nations.
Moreover, the supremacy of and respect for the law was underpinned by the principle of non discrimination, he said. Guided by a new development strategy, Eritrea was implementing education and other development programmes to build cohesion and self-confidence. It was committed to elevating the standards of all Eritreans and invited all States to help end Ethiopia’s occupation, noting the Special Rapporteur had disregarded that matter. The country-specific mandate on Eritrea had been negotiated by Governments with egregious rights abuses, he said, stressing that the universal periodic review must address human rights issues.
The representative of Djibouti called for the release of its prisoners of war in Eritrea, stressing that his country would do its utmost to ensure their release.
The representative of the United States urged the Government to improve detention conditions and expressed concern over the detention of people based on religious belief.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked how the international community could work with the United Nations to improve the human rights situation in Eritrea.
The representative of Somalia expressed deep alarm about the rights violations in Eritrea and urged authorities to release prisoners of war from Djibouti.
The representative of the European Union called on Eritrea to put in place legal and constitutional reforms to improve the human rights situation.
The representative of Cuba said regional and subregional organizations should be involved in finding solutions to human rights challenges in Eritrea.
The representative of Nicaragua expressed regret over the decision to send Special Rapporteurs to specific countries, decrying that Eritrea’s efforts to improve the situation had not been recognized.
The representative of Belarus said country-specific mandates were counterproductive, noting that only constructive dialogue could lead to the protection of human rights.
The representative of Norway said his country was encouraged by Eritrea’s cooperation with the United Nations and renewed interest in certain areas in the follow up to the universal periodic review. He asked how international partners could help improve human rights in the country.
The representative of Ireland asked the Special Rapporteur about progress made in building the capacity in Eritrea to protect human rights.
The representative of the Czech Republic, aligning herself with the European Union, said Eritrea had not held elections for 20 years and asked how dialogue with the Government could encourage political pluralism.
The representative of Switzerland asked the Special Rapporteur about her priorities for the universal periodic review.
The representative of China, noting that human rights should be viewed in an objective, fair manner, said stability in Eritrea would benefit countries in the region.
The representative of Burundi opposed country-specific mandates, stressing that the commission of inquiry had been counterproductive.
The representative of India said States had the primary responsibility for strengthening human rights. Country-specific mandates were counterproductive and had been used for political ends.
The representative of Venezuela rejected country-specific mandates. Instead, the universal period review should be used in an atmosphere of constructive dialogue.
The representative of Pakistan underscored the need for greater coherence between the Third Committee and the Human Rights Council so as to avoid duplication.
The representative of Egypt said the universal periodic review was the main intergovernmental body. His country did not support the work of country-specific mandate-holders.
The representative of Zimbabwe opposed country-specific mandate holders and said universal periodic review was the appropriate mechanism.
The representative of Bangladesh said rights violations should be addressed legally and in an accountable, transparent manner.
The representative of Iran, associating herself with the Non Aligned Movement, said country-specific mandates undermined dialogue among Governments. The universal periodic review was the right platform for such discussions.
The representative of the Russian Federation said human rights questions should be considered in a constructive manner in the universal periodic review.
Ms. KEETHARUTH, replying, agreed that bilateral cooperation with Eritrea was an improvement. However, such meetings must include human rights issues, she said, urging all States engaging with Eritrea to remember the centrality of human rights. Regarding visits by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to Eritrea, she said the Office’s role must include monitoring to provide “another set of eyes” on human rights in the country.
She identified religious freedom as a priority and said the release of religious detainees must be prioritized. With her mandate soon ending, she described achievements in bringing human rights issues in Eritrea to global attention, pledged to pursue capacity-building efforts and expressed hope the Government would build a bridge to the mandate. Turning to the universal periodic review, and objections to country-specific mandates, she said the mechanisms were not mutually exclusive. The treaty body system provided the path forward.
She said many detained people still awaited their day in court and encouraged Eritrea to address related issues. Institutional mechanisms needed for people to access justice and promote checks and balances were central to ensuring the protection of fundamental rights. Responding to concerns from Eritrea’s delegate, she said that, had the Commission of Inquiry report not been endorsed by the Human Rights Council, she would not have a mandate.
The representative of Eritrea thanked all Member States who endorsed constructive dialogue as the correct approach to deal with human rights issues and said the Human Rights Council had simply “noted” the Commission of Inquiry report. Djibouti had made it its business to attack Eritrea at the international level and had no moral authority to speak about human rights. He called for an end to hypocrisy regarding human rights and concluded by asserting Eritrea’s willingness to engage in constructive cooperation.
The representative of Djibouti said his country had never been the subject of any commission concerning human rights and could not be compared to Eritrea, where human rights were systematically violated, including through “shoot-to-kill” policies.
MIKLÓS HARASZTI, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Belarus, said his report explained how the President of the country had built a State structure to consolidate and protect his power, with token human rights gains made towards that end. For example, the human rights action plan adopted one year ago had led to restrictions on civil life. Authorities also had not implemented recommendations from the universal periodic review or from treaty bodies to improve civil and political rights. “I have no good news to present,” he said. The submission of Belarus’ report to the Human Rights Committee, after a 16 year delay, testified to the speed of its compliance with treaty obligations.
Moreover, he said, the Government’s massive crackdowns on citizens had shown that it sought to protect the absolute power of the President “at the price of denying the remaining vestiges of constitutional liberties”. There was no space for human rights or proper legal redress for violations, as Parliament was ineffective and the judiciary an extension of the executive branch. In fact, the President had stated that Belarus did not need a national human rights institution, calling himself the Ombudsperson. The Government had justified its “policy of rights deprivation” based on the need to protect itself from the “dangers” of civil activism.
He said Belarus continued to implement its “permission based” regime of civic initiatives and criminalize unregistered activities, thereby reducing the occurrence of mass movements. Paradoxically, such centralized governance could work to improve the human rights situation, as the President could adjust the legal framework “with a stroke of a pen”. He called on authorities to engage with the mandate, adding that he was ready to assist in moving towards their compliance with United Nations obligations.
The representative of Belarus said the Special Rapporteur’s work was the worst example of misguided efforts to address human rights issues. The “colossal” resources devoted to his mandate had failed to identify all the progress being made in Belarus to improve human rights conditions, success that had already been documented by several United Nations agencies. He said it was obvious that such contradictions pointed to a conflict of interests and the Special Rapporteur had set out to negatively portray Belarus as a means to justify his mandate.
Belarus was cooperating with relevant human rights mechanisms, he clarified, noting an action plan was in place to consolidate efforts by all relevant parties. Belarus was up to date in its submission of reports to the treaty body system, he stressed, noting that human rights issues existed in every country. He assured that Belarus was engaging in open dialogue with several international organizations. The Special Rapporteur must end his selective monitoring, he said, and submit his resignation.
The representative of Switzerland expressed concern over the human rights violations in Belarus.
The representative of the European Union asked how Belarus could be encouraged to implement the universal periodic review recommendations and relevant treaty body commitments.
The representative of Eritrea said the universal periodic review was the best platform for discussing human rights and welcomed efforts by Belarus to improve its human rights situation.
The representative of Lithuania asked how the international community could assist civil society organizations in Belarus.
The representative of Syria called the country-specific mandate on Belarus a flagrant interference in the country’s affairs.
The representative of Uzbekistan said the situation in Belarus did not require monitoring or further action by the United Nations.
The representative of Poland, aligning herself with the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur if he had seen hope for cooperation with Belarus during his visit.
The representative of the United Kingdom asked the Special Rapporteur for his impressions of the parliamentary session he had attended in Belarus.
The representative of Sudan said he opposed country-specific mandates.
The representative of Germany asked the Special Rapporteur to evaluate the potential of the national human rights plan in Belarus.
The representative of Burundi opposed country-specific mandates and expressed concern about use of the Third Committee for political purposes.
The representative of Pakistan commended Belarus’ cooperation with the universal periodic review.
The representative of Tajikistan said Belarus had improved its human rights situation by reforming its national legislation and cooperating with the United Nations.
The representative of Cuba said the universal periodic review was the best platform for discussing human rights.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the Special Rapporteur had not engaged in dialogue with Belarus.
The representative of Kazakhstan commended Belarus’ progress in the universal periodic review, and efforts to fulfil its treaty body commitments.
The representative of Azerbaijan said Belarus had changed its national legislation which had improved the protection of human rights.
The representative of Norway asked the Special Rapporteur about the steps needed to fulfil his mandate and called on Belarus to place a moratorium on the death penalty.
The representative of Venezuela said the selectivity and treatment of the human rights situation in Belarus violated the Charter of the United Nations.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said all country-specific mandates should be terminated.
The representative of India said country–specific mandates were not conducive to discussing the protection of human rights. Rather, the universal periodic review was the most appropriate means of doing so.
The representative of Turkmenistan said the situation in Belarus did not require further review.
The representative of Ireland asked what steps the Government should take so that civil society could operate freely.
The representative of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic said country-specific mandates would not improve human rights situations and urged constructive international dialogue with Belarus.
The representative of China, noting progress made in Belarus, said human rights assessments should be conducted in a fair and objective manner.
The representative of Iran said the situation in Belarus did not warrant the need for a Special Rapporteur.
The representative of the Czech Republic asked the Special Rapporteur if he had had the opportunity to talk informally with Belarus.
The representative of the United States expressed concern over human rights violations in Belarus.
Mr. HARASZTI, responding, said his visit to Belarus did not receive official acknowledgement from the Government. No official encounters had taken place and only one engagement with a deputy minister had been possible as part of a round-table meeting. He expressed appreciation for the “tolerance” of his visit to the country.
He said universal periodic review and treaty body recommendations had been disregarded in Belarus’ action plan, especially those related to civil society engagement and decriminalization of certain public acts and media activities. Assistance to civil society groups in Belarus required an end to the criminalization of support from other countries and international organizations as such legislation blatantly denied the universality of human rights.
Turning to the use of the death penalty, he said not enough had been done to address concerns. He concluded by saying that if he had criticized the President in Belarus, he would be in jail. His critiques had focused on the head of the executive branch for exercising absolute power.
AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, presented her report to the Committee, stressing that her mandate’s two other work areas were sending written communications to States, and conducting country visits. The thematic report she would present, on the unlawful deaths of refugees and migrants, included findings from visits to Italy and European Union institutions. There was no reliable comprehensive data on how many refugees and migrants had been executed, drowned, starved to death or tortured. The right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life was fundamental, from which no derogation was possible. In the current global political climate, countries had implemented policies that implicitly or explicitly tolerated high risk of migrant deaths. Those policies shared the troubling features of deterrence, extraterritoriality and militarization.
She said smugglers and traffickers were inseparable from migrant flows, and the risks migrants faced increased as more barriers went up. One of the greatest dangers was death at the hands of criminal networks or armed groups. The illegal deaths of refugees and migrants by State or non State actors were rarely the subject of investigations, she said. Numerous migrants and refugees died each year at land and maritime borders. Most names were unknown, their families could not be located, and their bodies ended up in unmarked graves. Her report offered recommendations for the international community and States, she said, such as a suggestion that indicators for Sustainable Development Goal target 10.7 include the number of dead and missing migrants. States should establish regional or international databases, so families could locate lost members. The equal protection of all lives was central to the international human rights system, she said, and must be upheld in the context of the movement of people.
The representative of Algeria said migration would continue and countries must work together to organize movements of people. Enhancing security would not address migration problems. Instead, countries should focus on development, which was among the causes of migration.
The representative of the Philippines asked what measures the Special Rapporteur had taken to ensure that she worked within the boundaries of her mandate, and further, how Member States could help ensure that her work was fair and objective.
The representative of the United Kingdom said deterring migrants from taking dangerous journeys was crucial. His country was committed to ensuring that the goal of safe and orderly migration would become a reality.
The representative of France asked what steps could be taken to gather and share data on refugees.
The representative of the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur how data on deaths and missing refugees could be collected.
The representative of Australia reiterated the Special Rapporteur’s call to punish criminal networks exploiting refugees and migrants.
The representative of Finland, also on behalf of Denmark, Norway and Iceland, asked the Special Rapporteur which migrant and refugee groups were particularly at risk of extrajudicial killing and how States could protect them. He also inquired how States could better protect child migrants and refugees.
Ms. CALLAMARD, responding, agreed with observations that her report addressed only the symptoms of a deep crisis, saying she had not spoken about the causes because that was not her mandate. Readers should refer to the reports of the Special Rapporteurs on migration, which made recommendations related to those causes. Police and prosecutors faced many difficulties; the people responsible for deaths, and witnesses to those acts, could be in different countries. If that situation was not prioritized, the international community would not make progress. The solutions that would make a difference involved work on the small scale. In the United States, for instance, she noted that people worked along the border to identify the dead, approaching the issue with humanity. But there was no political will to make local initiatives become national policies. She urged States declaring their interest in preventing death and responding to illegal death to prioritize those issues. Small, local good practices should be scaled up and multiplied.
Another problem was that while DNA might be collected from refugees and migrants who had died, that information could not be matched with families back home. Finding ways of connecting those efforts would bring greater humanity to addressing the unlawful death of refugees and migrants. The focus of her report was not to indict Governments for their migration policies, provided that policies were based on effectiveness. Yet at the moment, the international community was on a slippery slope where it was justifying the deaths of refugees and migrants as a way to deter migration. That was the abyss she had identified in her report.
Contemporary Forms of Slavery
URMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, underscored that the continued prevalence of slavery was symptomatic of the weak global efforts to achieve inclusive, rights-oriented sustainable development. A new approach was required, which looked beyond the lens of individual vulnerability to contemporary forms of slavery and Government responses. The universal endorsement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development could guide actions and resources towards addressing the socioeconomic causes of forced labour, bonded labour, forced marriage, child labour, human trafficking and sexual exploitation. However, including the eradication of modern slavery under the Agenda’s target for decent work and economic growth also created the risk that ending traditional forms of slavery was secondary to addressing labour market violations. Also, the vulnerability of persons of slave descent was not recognised in the framework.
She said ending all contemporary forms of slavery was integral to the broader fight against poverty, underdevelopment, gender inequality and achieving human rights-based justice for all. Her report recommended enhancing international collaboration and knowledge-sharing to eradicate modern slavery. She called on States to provide technical and financial support, develop resource mobilization strategies, ensure policy coherence and establish indicators. They should also improve their legislative and policy frameworks to ensure compliance with international conventions, and guarantee robust law enforcement to stop the illicit flow of funds and corruption. It was also crucial to increase corporate accountability for contemporary forms of slavery in global supply chains.
When the floor opened, the representative of Qatar said his country had spared no effort in combating contemporary forms of slavery, adding that such work was integral to ending poverty. He asked the Special Rapporteur what measures were available to countries aiming to end that practice.
The representative of the United Kingdom said the report had made it clear that, if the Sustainable Development Goals were to be reached, the causes of slavery must be addressed.
The representative of South Africa agreed that slavery could only be comprehensively addressed by tackling its causes, asking the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the effects of globalization.
The representative of Liechtenstein noted the existence of a customary norm against slavery, asking the Special Rapporteur where she saw potential for her mandate to address impunity.
A representative of the European Union said the 2030 Agenda could play a role in ensuring accountability for the crimes of slavery, also asking for details on the call for policy coherence in implementing the Goals.
The representative of Morocco asked for good practices in international cooperation to prevent and avoid modern forms of slavery.
The representative of Paraguay reiterated her country’s support for the Special Rapporteur’s mandate.
Ms. BHOOLA said greater cooperation through global initiatives such as the Alliance 8.7 and more coherence among State policies were crucial to ending modern slavery. To how the United Nations could support State efforts, she said the International Labour Organization (ILO) collected baseline data on forced labour, which States could use to formulate polices. She agreed that more must be done to ensure that all people benefited from globalization, pressing Governments to regulate transnational business so that it complied with human rights laws, which would protect people at the bottom of the supply chain.
To prevent migrants and refugees from being trapped in contemporary forms of slavery, she said an IOM report had found that two thirds of migrants were subjected to forced labour. She called for greater efforts to criminalize such practices and better coordinate the work of labour inspectors and law enforcement officials. While the issue of reparations was beyond the ambit of her report, it nonetheless noted that Governments must protect the rights of people of slave descent, as their livelihoods continued to be affected by the history of slavery.
FATSAH OUGUERGOUZ, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, said grave human rights abuses were committed in Burundi, and some could be international law crimes. The human rights crisis had now lasted two and a half years. Contrary to what was stated by the Government, the human rights situation had “not at all” improved. While the Commission had not been able to visit Burundi, it had conducted missions to neighbouring countries and held talks with people in Burundi. It had gathered more than 500 pieces of evidence which it had analysed and corroborated. While it was neither judge nor jury, it did come to conclusions, on the basis of which a reasonable person might conclude that an event had taken place. It had carried out its mission in a rigorous and impartial manner.
From information gathered, the Commission had concluded that grave human rights violations and abuses had been committed in Burundi since April 2015, consisting of arrests and arbitrary detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture, rape and other sexual violence and enforced disappearances. The Government had suspended or eliminated major independent media. Documented abuses had involved opponents of the Government, he said. Those primarily responsible for violations were the police, the army and the youth wing of the party in power, the Imbonerakure.
Some violations constituted crimes against humanity as defined by the Rome Statute, he said, stressing that persisting impunity had only worsened the crisis. Noting that Burundi had been party to the Rome Statute since 2004, and that its withdrawal from the treaty took effect today at midnight, he said the International Criminal Court was competent to consider all crimes against international law committed between April 2015 and today. Burundi should combat impunity by State authorities and Imbonerakure, and undertake far-reaching reforms of its judicial system. In the face of violence and lives lost or ruined, the international community could not remain insensitive or inactive. He urged States to support a lasting solution to the political crisis in Burundi and to guarantee protection of all human rights in that country. He asked that the Commission’s report be submitted to the Security Council.
The representative of Burundi called the report part of a campaign to demonize and slander his country and a violation of its sovereignty. Burundi had the right to sue its authors for slander. The report was based on evidence from refugees who had fled after crimes committed during the coup d’état. It incriminated the Government but covered up the crimes by opposition members who were acting under the influence of external actors.
Nor did the report highlight cases of rape, torture and live burnings of people by insurgents, he said. It covered odious crimes by insurgents only as a way to protect certain individuals. He urged the Commission not to be influenced by external actors and to maintain objectivity, pointing out that the Commission had used complacent language in describing the opposition, and harsh descriptions of the Government. It also had called on the European Union to maintain its sanctions on Burundi, which was not part of its mandate.
He said it was not true that Burundi had favoured impunity during the prosecution of hundreds of criminals. The country was committed to protecting human rights despite the challenges. Dialogue, consensus and implementation of the universal periodic review were essential to ensuring improvements.
The representative of Venezuela, on behalf of the Non Aligned Movement, said human rights were universal and discussions on human rights issues should be done in a non confrontational and objective way.
The representative of Botswana said the Commission was constrained because it had been refused access to Burundi by the Government. He appealed to Burundi’s Government to cooperate with the Commission to allow it to execute its mandate.
The representative of Algeria said the two resolutions by the Human Rights Council on the same issue in Burundi were a source of concern. He said the mandate of the Human Rights Council should be carried out in a consultative manner. The universal periodic review should be the main platform of human rights discussions and country-specific mandates should not be used.
The representative of Morocco said the Commission of Inquiry was not objective and the two resolutions by the Human Rights Council on Burundi lacked consistency.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania asked the Commission how was it able to obtain credible information on the report since it was not able to gain access to the country. He said the report should be declared void.
A representative of the European Union called the report’s conclusions serious. In all cases where human rights were violated, those responsible should face justice, he said, asking the Chair what role the African Union might play in that regard.
The representative of China said stability in Burundi was conducive to peace in the Great Lakes region. China supported the Government and the opposition in trying to reach an agreement through dialogue and consultation. China was ready to work with the international community in that regard.
The representative of Syria associated himself with the Non Aligned Movement and said the aim of the Commission was to interfere in State internal affairs, claiming it used human rights as a “weapon”.
The representative of Saudi Arabia reiterated his objection to selective reports. He hailed regional efforts, especially by East African countries and the African Union.
The representative of Sudan supported efforts to resolve the situation in Burundi through dialogue, as well as the positions of the African Group and the Non Aligned Movement. The United Nations should not depend on second-hand information.
The representative of Eritrea advocated making use of the universal periodic review, adding that it was an ineffective use of resources to bring country-specific situations to the General Assembly.
The representative of Egypt expressed concern about the context of confrontation, and explained certain efforts undertaken in Geneva through proposed draft resolutions. The Human Rights Council should take advantage of the openness of the country concerned to ensure better protection of human rights.
The representative of the United States expressed concern over Burundi’s lack of cooperation with the international community. As the Government had the primary responsibility to protect human rights, it should stop all violence and ensure those responsible for abuses were held accountable. She asked the Commission what steps the international community should take to promote accountability.
The representative of Djibouti expressed deep concern about politicizing and selectively addressing human rights situations. Burundi had made efforts, and its political will should be “compensated”, he said, expressing support for dialogue.
The representative of the United Kingdom expressed deep concern that the majority of reported cases of crimes against humanity had been carried out by Burundian forces. He asked the Chair how the Commission would work with the experts to be appointed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The representative of Belarus opposed special country procedures, adding that the Commission was a vivid example of how mandates were set up to accommodate the initiators. Politically motivated procedures were ineffective, and distorted the real situation.
The representative of Cuba associated himself with the Non Aligned Movement, stressing that the universal periodic review was the relevant body for considering such issues. New means of cooperation and dialogue should involve regional African officials.
The representative of the Netherlands said all perpetrators of rights violations must be brought to justice. The situation required the Security Council’s attention and an inclusive political solution. He asked the Chair how the Commission and the three experts would cooperate.
The representative of Pakistan said human rights issues must be addressed through a non selective approach with respect for territorial integrity and non interference in internal State matters. Pakistan emphasized the significance of the universal periodic review.
The representative of the Russian Federation said discussing the situation did not add value. International efforts would only succeed if there was respect for Burundi’s territorial integrity.
The representative of Zimbabwe reiterated his objection to country-specific reports, stressing that the universal periodic review was the appropriate forum, and that both Burundi and the Human Rights Council should find modalities for dialogue.
The representative of Rwanda commended the United Nations efforts, and expressed support for international efforts to resolve the crisis.
The representative of Equatorial Guinea asked how the Commission could objectively describe the human rights situation in Burundi when the Government did not cooperate with it.
The representative of Mauritius, aligning herself with the Non Aligned Movement, said the naming and shaming of countries was not constructive to promoting human rights. She expressed concern that while the Human Rights Council had tabled two resolutions on Burundi, the report had not included the Government’s views.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea rejected the report on Burundi and cautioned the Commission against being influenced by motivations and selectivity. The universal periodic review should be the main platform for such discussions.
The representative of Iran said dialogue and consultation would work better to achieve progress on human rights.
The representative of India, associating himself with the Non Aligned Movement, said country-specific mandates must be balanced and transparent and avoid polarization. The universal periodic review was the most appropriate instrument for discussions on human rights.
Mr. OUGUERGOUZ said he had taken note of the representative of Burundi’s threat to sue the Commission for defamation, adding that its members were protected by the United Nations and that he would not give into any attempt at intimidation. All the report’s recommendations were in depth and objective.
To comments that the report was not objective, he said the Commission had written five letters to the Government requesting information on human rights violations. However, it had not received a reply. It was difficult to document abuses by the Government because victims and witnesses of State-sponsored violence were afraid to speak up. He said he would gather information on such violations by non State actors in the second phase of his mandate.
To questions on the Commission’s priorities, he said it would go further into its inquiry and corroborate more information. It would also focus on allegations which had arisen after the report’s drafting, and continue its investigation into non State actors and the violation of economic, cultural and social rights. The Commission was ready to work with the experts to be appointed by OHCHR.
The representative of Burundi said the country did not need lessons from Rwanda, which had committed genocide. He told the Chair it was the sovereign right of his country to sue the Commission for defamation, noting that 23 out of 28 delegations had rejected the report.
The representative of Rwanda said Burundi should stop externalising problems, and own them instead. If Burundi was going to deny the genocide which had happened in Rwanda, that country’s representative could not invoke the suffering of the Rwandan people in the Third Committee.
Source: United Nations