Council hold Interactive Dialogues with Independent Experts on the Situation of Human Rights in Côte d'Ivoire and in Haîti

Report
from UN Human Rights Council
Published on 19 Mar 2013 View Original

Human Rights Council
AFTERNOON

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held separate interactive dialogues with Doudou Diene, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, and Michel Forst, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti.

Mr. Diene said that the three fundamental pillars of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, its moral and political dimensions and social impact, had to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. The reality was that its institutional democratic development had to be strengthened and bolstered by inclusive political pluralism. Political polarization continued to be a major challenge despite the political dialogue underway; and there was also the challenge of impunity and equity of the justice system.

Speaking as the concerned country, Côte d’Ivoire said that since the end of the political crisis the Government had stepped up its openness towards the opposition and had created a general spirit of dialogue. Security sector reform needed to be sped up but low financial capacity remained an obstacle and a judicial inquiry had been launched into the regrettable incident in Nahibly. The protection of women and children remained a priority, and this was why Côte d’Ivoire had taken steps to extend free legal assistance throughout the country to help victims of violence and rape.

In the interactive dialogue on Côte d’Ivoire, speakers praised the reconciliation initiatives undertaken and the frank cooperation with the Independent Expert. The worrying renewal of tensions in Nahibly demonstrated that the international community needed to remain vigilant. Côte d’Ivoire should intensify its efforts to facilitate a peaceful coexistence between communities and to prevent human rights violations. The international community should continue to support the reconstruction efforts made by Côte d’Ivoire.

Speaking in the discussion on Côte d’Ivoire were: Gabon on behalf of the African Group, Benin, Maldives, Botswana, Algeria, European Union, France, Morocco, United States, United Nations Children’s Fund, Djibouti, Togo, United Kingdom, Senegal, Australia and Switzerland.

Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, International Catholic Child Bureau, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme, and United Nations Watch also took the floor.

The Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Haiti, Michel Forst, was satisfied to see that electoral promises had been realised. However, there were elements of concern, such as the nomination of magistrates in political or partisan ways or to protect important persons. The impunity enjoyed by human rights violators undertaking violent acts meant that fear had returned and clear actions needed to be taken to show Haiti’s resolve to deal with this problem.

Speaking as the concerned country, Haiti said that it attached great importance to the mechanisms of the United Nations system, and praised the work of the Independent Expert. Haiti had made the rule of law one of its priorities and was determined to ensure better living conditions for its citizens. Substantial progress had been made in terms of consolidating democracy in the past few years, but much more remained to be done. Foreign aid continued to be of great importance and, at the same time, a strategy that would ensure continuity and cohesion was needed.

In the interactive dialogue on Haiti, delegations recognized Haiti’s efforts to fight hunger and poverty, and the adoption of a number of recommendations made by the Independent Expert. Speakers expressed concerns about the fragile humanitarian situation, concerning the housing sector and the right to food, and the need to uphold good governance, the rule of law and the independence and transparency of the judiciary. Delegations called on the Council and Member States to continue to support Haiti’s efforts and to provide the necessary technical and financial assistance.

Taking the floor in the interactive dialogue on Haiti were: Brazil on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, European Union, France, Chile, Maldives, Argentina, Venezuela, Kuwait, Uruguay, Morocco, Spain, Cuba, Switzerland, United States, and Algeria. The International Federation for Human Rights Leagues also participated in the discussion.

The Council will resume its work at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, 20 March, when it will hear the presentation of the reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Secretary-General on country situations under its agenda item on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, followed by a general debate.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire (A/HRC/22/66).

Presentation of the Report on Côte d’Ivoire

DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, said that three fundamental pillars of the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire, its moral and political dimension and the social impact, had to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. The reality was that the institutional democratic developments in the country had to be strengthened and bolstered by inclusive political pluralism. Political polarization continued to be a major challenge despite the political dialogue underway. There was also the challenge of impunity and equity of the justice system. Some progress included a remarkable and balanced report by the National Commission of Inquiry, the rebuilding of the National Human Rights Commission in line with the Paris Principles, and a process of bringing to trial those accused of grave violations of human rights. There should be greater impartiality by the justice system, and more systematic vigilance of the justice system.

It was important to punish violations of human rights and there should be more rigorous approaches to the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Many officials that were close to the former president and that were involved in human rights violations had now been indicted and detained. Another major trend was that the security climate had been jeopardized by a certain amount of resilience shown by those who entered into violent attempts to destabilize the security of the State. The economic and social situation was improving. The human rights situation was characterised by democratic, economic and social progress of a decisive nature as well as major challenges stemming from the political, historic and moral aspects of the crisis. The country required vigilance and support from the international community, and the urgent lifting of the embargo to allow for internal and external challenges to be faced.

Statement from the Concerned Country

Côte d’Ivoire said that freedom of expression was guaranteed by the country’s constitution and that funding was provided to political parties. Since the end of the political crisis the Government had stepped up its openness towards the opposition and had created a general spirit of dialogue. In December 2012 eight persons of the former regime had been released. The reform of the security sector needed to be sped up but its low financial capacity remained an obstacle. A judicial inquiry had been launched into the regrettable incident in Nahibly. One of the priorities of Côte d’Ivoire was the protection of women and children, which was why the country had taken steps to extended free legal assistance throughout the country to help victims of violence and rape. Many of the recommendations made by the Independent Expert were currently being implemented, including the increase of political dialogue and the revision of the Family Code.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Côte d’Ivoire

Gabon, speaking on behalf of the African Group, welcomed reconciliation initiatives taken in the country and the frank cooperation with the Independent Expert. The African Group remained attached to democratic principles and encouraged the authorities of Côte d’Ivoire to ensure that security was not compromised. The worrying renewal of tensions in Nahibly demonstrated that the international community needed to remain vigilant.

Benin said that Côte d’Ivoire should intensify its efforts to facilitate peaceful coexistence between communities and to prevent human rights violations. Benin also urged the international community to continue to support the reconstruction efforts made by Côte d’Ivoire.

Maldives recognized that the path to recovery and reconciliation was riddled with enormous structural deficiencies and supported the commitment of the Government of Côte d’Ivoire to further advance the reconstruction of democracy. It was urgent to address the current climate of insecurity and instability, secure accountability for past violations, and prevent impunity.

Botswana agreed with the Independent Expert that sub-regional instability was likely to eradicate the process of positive change underway in Côte d’Ivoire and said that despite the challenges the progress made in the country was encouraging. It was difficult for the people and authorities to make amends after decades of instability and Botswana welcomed the process of the ratification of the Rome Statute which would ensure accountability for past crimes.

Algeria welcomed the sound economic dynamic of Côte d’Ivoire which would have positive impact on the enjoyment of the socio-economic rights of the Ivorian people. The increasingly fragile human rights situation due to ongoing incidents of violence was an issue of concern and the Government should carry out the process of reconciliation which was the only way for citizens to sustainably deal with political challenges.

European Union said it was committed to respecting human rights and re-establishing fundamental freedoms in Côte d’Ivoire. The ratification of the Rome Statute by Côte d’Ivoire was a positive development. What did the Independent Expert think would be its possible impact on the fight against impunity? Could the Independent Expert provide details on concrete measures which could favour the fight against impunity?

France welcomed the cooperation which the Independent Expert managed to establish with the Ivorian authorities. France was concerned about allegations of violations committed by Ivorian security forces since summer 2012. France called on Côte d’Ivoire to respect ratified international conventions, welcomed the ratification of the Rome Statute in early February, and reaffirmed its will to support Côte d’Ivoire in implementing its commitments.

Morocco welcomed the cooperation and high level of interaction between the Independent Expert and the Ivorian Government. In a sub-regional context marked by the crisis in Mali and the Sahel, the stability of Côte d’Ivoire was commended. Morocco congratulated Côte d’Ivoire on the relevant measures to re-launch economic and social growth. Morocco congratulated the authorities and United Nations operations on refurbishing the prison institution, which was a major pillar of criminal justice.

United States said that Côte d’Ivoire’s continued engagement with the Council’s mechanisms was allowing the Council to contribute positively to the reconciliation process. The number of human rights issues which Côte d’Ivoire must address was challenging, but its efforts to combat impunity and its commitment to improving the lives of its people were commendable. Greater coordination was needed among various Government mechanisms created to promote justice and reconciliation.

United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said that Côte d’Ivoire was undertaking many efforts to protect children, in particular in order to fight child labour and trafficking in children. Nonetheless, much remained to be done in terms of preventing abuses, influencing social norms, and providing adequate responses to the needs of child victims. Healthcare access for children and pregnant women remained a challenge owing to the limited availability of essential commodities such as drugs.

Djibouti encouraged Côte d’Ivoire to maintain the dynamics of democracy, to continue to promote and protect human rights, and to consolidate the economic and social reconstruction. None of that could be done without national dialogue. It was also important to step up efforts to combat impunity.

Togo said it had always stood side-by-side with Côte d’Ivoire and had offered its good offices since 2002 to bring the conflict to an end. Togo welcomed the remarkable progress made by Côte d’Ivoire, including its commitment to combating impunity and the establishment of the Commission for Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation. Côte d’Ivoire should keep the momentum by implementing the recommendations made by the Independent Expert.

United Kingdom noted that many of the remaining challenges were the result of the deep-rooted tensions that pre-dated the post-election crisis. Combating impunity on all sides must be a priority in order to make genuine progress; Côte d’Ivoire should implement the conclusions of the National Commission of Inquiry Report which aimed to address causes of violence and ensure equity of justice for all Ivoirians affected by human rights violations. The Council should remain seized of this matter.

Senegal said that the report shed light on the human rights situation in the country which was affected by the security situation at the moment when the Government was involved in disarmament, demobilization and reintegration efforts, and noted that reconciliation was a daunting challenge. Senegal took note of the progress made by Côte d’Ivoire and said that the international community should support its efforts to achieve development and human rights.

Australia was concerned that a recent upsurge in killings might signal a reversion to the security climate during the civil war. Australia was also concerned by a lack of progress on security sector reform and disarmament, mobilization and reintegration and the impact this might have human rights. Levels of violence against women were disturbing, though the willingness of courts to prosecute these crimes was welcome.

Switzerland asked what role the international community could play in setting up an egalitarian community that respected human rights in Côte d’Ivoire. Also, what concrete measures could be put in place to reform the security sector. Combating impunity was important, as was prosecuting human rights crimes without discrimination. How could reparation and the non-repetition of human rights violations be effectively guaranteed?

Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture congratulated the Independent Expert on the meetings he had held with a range of stakeholders, but was concerned with tardiness in reforming the security sector in Cote d’Ivoire. Access to justice was a priority and reports from national and international inquiries clearly listed perpetrators of human rights violations from one group, though the prosecutions seen were entirely from another.

International Catholic Child Bureau noted the efforts undertaken by the Ivorian authorities and said that the reform underway in the Ministry of Justice was to be encouraged. However, the report stressed an upsurge in sexual violence. How did the Independent Expert intend to ensure public authorities respected the right to education for girls and punish those teachers that made ethical transgressions?

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues welcomed the commitments by the authorities in favour of justice and to end impunity. Although inquiries were underway on the attack on the camp of displaced persons from Nahibly in Duekoue in July 2012, no arrest had yet been made. The authorities were called upon to take immediate measures to establish the truth and bring to the book the perpetrators.

Rencontre Africaine pour la Defense des Droits de l’Homme said that Côte d’Ivoire was having difficulties getting back onto its feet and it still had to deal with security challenges, obsolete State structures and flaws in its judiciary as a whole. It was worried about the fate of former leaders who were still in prison without any trial or handing down of a decision. National reconciliation would only be possible on the basis of sound and fair justice.

United Nations Watch acknowledged the progress in reforming the justice system in Haiti and fighting corruption, but noted that corruption was still widespread, particularly among the police. The United Nations should open investigation into the cholera outbreak in Haiti which had killed 7,000 people and caused illness of 300,000. [The President of the Council informed the speaker that he was not speaking on the proper subject].

Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Côte d’Ivoire

DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, in his closing remarks, said that most speakers agreed that real progress had been achieved in the country and that the security situation was indeed fragile. Fostering inclusive political pluralism was fundamental to finding the way out of the lengthy Ivorian crisis; the political dialogue had resumed despite of what was happening in The Hague, and this must be maintained. The Government must make further and tangible progress in equity and justice, and ensure that all perpetrators of serious human rights violations were brought to justice, regardless of their political orientation. It was vital to underscore that the Dialogue, Truth and Reconciliation Commission should take into account the scope of the crisis and the challenges facing it, while the Council should have a substantial debate on the whole concept of truth commissions, dialogue and reconciliations. Another important issue was that of international justice and all agreed that ratification of the Rome Statute was an important step in dealing with accountability; the International Criminal Court must ensure that the Ivorian people perceived it as impartial and neutral and that everyone who had committed crimes was brought before the Court. The security situation was precarious, due to the culture of violence that was entrenched in the society and to the situation in the region and violence used in neighbouring countries such as Liberia. The challenge Côte d’Ivoire was facing was to ensure that its security forces respected human rights while improving the security situation, which was not the case now.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti (A/HRC/22/65).

Presentation of Report of Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

MICHEL FORST, Independent Expert on the Human Rights situation in Haiti, said he was satisfied to see that electoral promises had been realised, including the putting into place of the two cornerstones for the reform of independent justice. However, there were elements of concern, such as the nomination of magistrates in political or partisan ways, or to protect important persons in the country. Arbitrary arrest and detention was also observed, and it was inconceivable that those charged with applying the law did not respect it. Recent threats against journalists thought to support the opposition were also worrying. Conditions in prisons had not improved, and they remained cruel, inhumane and degrading places. Solutions to pre-trial detention needed to be applied and action taken against corruption in the judicial system. The reform of the criminal code currently being undertaken was welcome. Following steps taken, trust was returning in the institution governing the police, though incidents of police harassment and brutality were thought to be widespread.

The impunity enjoyed by human rights violators undertaking violent acts meant that fear had returned and clear actions needed to be taken to show the Haitian authorities’ resolve to deal with this problem. The role of the Ombudsman was praised as positive, as was the appointment of a minister for human rights and tackling poverty. An equitable trial of the former President was considered a sign that justice functioned in the country, and his receipt of a summons to court was a sign of the rule of law, unfortunately the way that it was being undertaken suggested this was not the case. An inter-ministerial committee on the state of law was suggested to clarify the concept in the country as coordination was lacking. An office of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Port-au-Prince was also suggested and it was pleasing that the idea was making progress. Haiti now needed jobs and stability, and human rights were an important element of that.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, said Haiti attached great importance to the mechanisms of the United Nations system, and praised the work of the Independent Expert. Haiti had made the rule of law one of its priorities and was determined to ensure better living conditions for all Haitians. Substantial progress had been made in terms of consolidating democracy in Haiti in the past few years but much more remained to be done. The Citizens Protection Office, the National Office for Migration, the Central Unit for Combating Corruption, and the Ministry for Human Rights and Extreme Poverty were some of the initiatives which Haiti had taken to promote and protect human rights. Particular attention had been paid to the training of police officers and the allocation of a substantial budget to law enforcement agencies. Haiti was vulnerable to erosion and flooding and a large portion of the population lived in conditions of extreme poverty, despite progress made in establishing programmes for disadvantaged persons. The aid of the international community continued to be of great importance. At the same time, a strategy that would ensure continuity and cohesion was needed.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

Brazil, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, said Haiti had always had an open attitude to cooperation with the United Nations and should be recognised for its efforts in fighting hunger and poverty. Capacity building assistance should be offered to support its efforts. The Human Rights Council had an important mandate to channel sufficient resources into Haiti to rebuild the country. Brazil supported the decision to create a structure for municipal and legislative elections. The Independent Expert should deepen his work in the socio-economic area.

European Union said the Independent Expert highlighted practical obstacles to reform in Haiti, such as the lack of efficacy in the state of law. The European Union appealed to the Haitian authorities to protect women and children as vulnerable groups. What measures should be taken to ensure the office of the Ombudsman was in line with the Paris Principles? What priority measures should be put in place to better coordinate emergency plans? How could the state of law be reinforced?

France said it had followed measures aimed at establishing the judicial framework, improving prison conditions and the ongoing legitimization of the office of the Ombudsman in Haiti. It also noted favourably the adoption of a number of recommendations made by the Independent Expert. What priority measures were needed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary? What were the most urgent measures needed to protect women in refugee camps against violence?

Chile noted with satisfaction that the state of law was a priority for Haiti and said that its institutional strengthening and development of democracy were important to Chile. Chile was concerned about the fragile humanitarian situation in the country and said that the international community must support Haiti’s social and economic development. What were the short-term priorities for technical assistance in Haiti?

Maldives commended the substantial strides achieved by Haiti, including in the area of political stabilization. Maldives was aware of the enormous humanitarian challenges in the country, particularly in the housing sector. The rule of law must be established as a fundamental part of its future strategic directions. Alleged instances of violations committed by the Haitian National Police were an issue of concern.

Argentina shared the view of the importance of the rule of law for the enjoyment of all rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, and welcomed the efforts Haiti had made in combating poverty. One of the main challenges was the enjoyment of the right to food and efforts must be made to increase agricultural and food production in this country which was currently importing 50 per cent of the food it consumed.

Venezuela said that the severe humanitarian crisis facing the Haitian people had necessitated the continuous support and solidarity of the international community, which should take the form of concrete, effective and urgent measures. Venezuela, which had been one of the first countries to offer humanitarian assistance to Haiti following the devastating earthquake in January 2010, called on all countries, particularly the most developed ones, to continue to offer technical assistance and financial aid to Haiti.

Kuwait said that it valued the work carried out by the Independent Expert, and stressed that the international community had to live up to its financial and other commitments towards Haiti. The appointment of a Minister for Human Rights and Poverty was a commendable move but it was also necessary to protect the independence and transparency of the judiciary. Haiti should implement as soon as possible the recommendations made by the Independent Expert.

Uruguay stressed the important role of education for the enjoyment of human rights and said that the provision of adequate housing for all Haitians remained an urgent issue after the earthquake of 2010. The new Strategic Development Plan was a welcome development, but Haiti had to step up efforts to ensure appropriate housing for everyone. Uruguay noted with satisfaction the Haitian President’s efforts to advance capacity building of the country’s democratic institutions.

Morocco welcomed the decision of the President of Haiti to appoint a Minister for Human Rights and the fight against extreme poverty in the country. Morocco noted with satisfaction the establishment of the National Election Council, and the efforts to reform the justice system, including the establishment of the Supreme Justice Council and the Court of Cassation.

Spain said that Haiti faced considerable challenges in the promotion and protection of human rights and regretted that the situation in many fields was alarming. Paralysis of institutions made it difficult for the rule of law to prevail and it was up to the authorities to ensure functioning of the State. Another concern was the situation of children, reports of trafficking in children, the situation of restavek children and the informal system of adoption.

Cuba said that the general situation in Haiti was complex but the responsibility of the international community for the contemporary conditions in this country must not be forgotten. It was important to meet the needs of the Haitian people and authorities through the cooperation mechanism of their choice. Cuba reiterated its call for urgent assistance to Haiti and stressed the moral obligation of all to provide additional financial resources.

Switzerland shared the opinion that the state of law was an essential cross-cutting element for Haiti and encouraged the setting up of an inter-ministerial delegate office for the state of law, to encourage and coordinate the action of ministries in their efforts in favour of the state of law. The means available to the ombudsman’s office had to be substantially reinforced to ensure protection against bad administration and abuse of law throughout the country.

United States said that the Government of Haiti had made considerable progress to move rule of law matters forward. How could civil society be a constructive player in suggesting and implementing solutions to the rule of law and human rights challenges in Haiti? Given that resources were limited for many institutions, how could the Government afford to institute an additional post at the level of inter-ministerial delegate or deputy prime minister?

Algeria said that the report made it possible to note with satisfaction that Haiti was continuing with its fruitful cooperation with United Nations mechanisms. The information however also painted a rather gloomy picture of a certain number of matters that the Government had to deal with. Given the objective constraints faced by Haiti, it was of primordial importance for the international community to continue to provide its assistance to the Haitian authorities generously and depending on their needs and priorities.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues said that more than three years after the earthquake, human insecurity was still a problem and a lot remained to be done in ensuring access to housing for the 300,000 people still living in camps. The measures adopted so far had only deferred the problem, and did not provide long-term solutions. The reconstruction could not take place if the state of law remained fragmented by a climate of impunity.

MICHEL FORST, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, in his closing remarks, said that many delegations noted the series of natural disasters that confronted Haiti which did not facilitate capacity building efforts to fulfil the electoral promises of the President. The report tried to capture the efforts undertaken by the Government and the challenges it faced. The state of law concerned all ministries and not only those dealing with justice, police or prisons, and the Prime Minister had many challenges to face and did not have time or technical competence to coordinate state of law activities and agencies; that was why the Independent Expert had suggested establishing a coordination body, like what had been done in Morocco for example. Another mechanism to strength the work of the Ombudsmen could be ratification by Haiti of a number of international instruments, particularly those that would enable the Office of Ombudsman to carry out preventive work. Supervision of the work of the police force was timely and the Independent Expert hoped that the new Police General could play the supervisory of the police as requested by the Constitution.

REMIGIUSZ ACHILLES HENCZEL, President of the Human Rights Council, thanked the Independent Expert for his work in the course of which he had provided sound advice for Haiti and hoped that his successor would build on that strong foundation.

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