Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogues with Experts on human rights in Côte d'Ivoire and in Haiti

Report
from UN Human Rights Council
Published on 26 Mar 2014 View Original

Human Rights Council

AFTERNOON

25 March 2014

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

Doudou Diene, the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire, said that the report on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire was structured around progress achieved and the remaining steps to be taken towards the rule of law. Step by step, democratic institutions and a human rights commission had been set up, and the main State organs were being rebuilt across the nation. On the security situation, both an overall improvement but also factors of fragility could be seen, including the time bomb of former combatants that had not been assimilated and were still armed. Mr. Diene appealed to all political stakeholders to engage in dialogue on main issues and institutional problems related to the elections.

Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as the concerned country, welcomed the relevant points made by the Special Rapporteur concerning the efforts made by the country on security, governance, and improving socio-economic conditions. The delegation provided additional information regarding political dialogue, the security situation, the justice system, and rights violations. President Ouattara had made clear his determination to ensure that no one enjoyed impunity for human rights violations. The prime objective of the government was the restoration of the rule of law based on human rights, public freedoms, and social peace and justice, and to this end, Côte d’Ivoire was reinforcing its cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

In the interactive dialogue on Côte d’Ivoire, speakers commended the progress achieved in the field of human rights and the country’s constructive cooperation with the Independent Expert. Among other aspects, speakers commended the gradual establishment of democratic institutions, the re-establishment of the national police, the release of detainees close to the former regime, and the improvement of socio-economic conditions. Some expressed concerns about the resurgence of sexual violence and harmful practices against women and girls. The fight against impunity had to be a priority and an impartial investigation on past crimes was a fundamental condition for national reconciliation. Security remained fragile, and participants urged Côte d’Ivoire to continue to work towards security sector reform. Delegations also called on the international community to maintain and enhance its support to Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights.

Speaking during the interactive dialogue on Côte d’Ivoire were Ethiopia speaking on behalf of the African Group, the European Union, Togo, Algeria, Mali, Australia, United States, Burkina Faso, United Nations Children’s Fund, France, Italy, and Belgium.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: World Organization against Torture, Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la Region des Grands Lacs, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, and Franciscans International.

Gustavo Gallon, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, pointed out that the complex situation in Haiti could be overcome if shock-treatment could be administered to the five priority areas and highlighted several areas for improvement. Concerning socio-economic inequalities, Mr. Gallon highlighted that 76 per cent of the population lived in extreme poverty, a great proportion suffered malnutrition and Haiti ranked among the lowest on the human development index in the world. Other areas concerned the situation of persons deprived of liberty and living in prolonged detention; the weakness of the rule of law; the need to address past human rights violations, combat impunity and provide redress to victims; and actions to improve the situation of those affected by recent disasters, who lived in deplorable conditions. Haiti faced significant structural challenges and required the support of the international community.

Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated the Government’s determination and commitment to promote and protect human rights. For more than a quarter of a century, reports had always focused on the deep-rooted inequalities, prison overcrowding, and the weakness of the judicial system. In 2013, there had been progress in the areas of housing projects and national food security policy, but such achievements were not referred to in the report. More than 1.2 million children had benefitted from the free school programme and the rule of law remained a priority for the Government. The Government had made clear and tangible progress over the last 33 months and would continue to seek support to bear the burden of shared responsibility to deliver on the rights of persons living in poverty.

In the interactive dialogue on Haiti, delegations recognised that Haiti had made progress in the field of human rights, including on tackling impunity, addressing hunger and malnutrition, and social programmes. There were still challenges remaining, including prolonged periods of pre-trial detention, sexual violence and discrimination. Addressing social inequalities and the fight against impunity were key aspects for reaching stability in Haiti. Speakers highlighted the need for international cooperation in areas such as the consolidation of the rule of law and the fight against poverty. Others stressed the importance of free, open and inclusive elections for democracy.

Speaking during the discussion on Haiti were the European Union, Costa Rica on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Brazil, Togo, France, Morocco, Norway, Chile, United States, Cuba, Australia, Mexico, Venezuela, Argentina, and Algeria.

Connectas Direitos Humanos and Amnesty International also took the floor

The Council will resume its work on Wednesday, 26 March, at 9 a.m., when it will hold interactive dialogues with the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Mali and the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Central African Republic.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire, Doudou Diène (A/HRC/25/73).

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

DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d’Ivoire, said that the report on the human rights situation in Côte d’Ivoire was structured around progress achieved and the remaining steps to be taken towards the rule of law. The progress achieved since the end of the crisis following the elections had to be acknowledged and underlined. Step by step, democratic institutions and a human rights commission had been set up, and the main State organs were being rebuilt across the nation. On the security situation, both an overall improvement but also factors of fragility could be seen, including the time-bomb of former combatants that had not been assimilated and were still armed. It was unfortunate to note that the political dialogue was now stuck, as was the national reconciliation process, because of the creeping return to a climate of polarization and political stigma. The provisional release of a large number of detainees related to the crisis and the recent beginning of renewed contact between the Government and political parties were encouraging, despite developments in the last few days. An appeal was made to all political stakeholders to talk on main issues and institutional problems related to elections.

It was urgent for there to be no more impunity and to ensure that equity and justice became a reality. The slow pace of justice was regretted, particularly on emblematic issues. The situation of victims of the crisis required the particular attention of the State and a global, objective approach was needed. Turning to economic and social rights, it was believed that the remarkable macro-economic performance in the country would be of definite benefit to the whole population. The notable feeling of social insecurity might make social issues a factor for de-stabilization. It was stressed that it was necessary to recognize and respect the fundamental role to be played in national reconciliation by independent civil society organizations. Attention was drawn to the need to become aware that the country’s crisis may be coming to a moment of truth. The major challenge faced was to ensure that elections took place in a calm and democratically credible way. The timetable was fragile and threatened by several difficult prior issues. These questions related to the irreversible and urgent need to get back a basic political dialogue that was pluralistic and inclusive. Impartial, equitable, national and international justice for all those involved in the legal process had to be seen. The serious crisis in the Central African Republic had to be a warning to all those involved in the Côte d’Ivoire crisis.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Côte d’Ivoire, speaking as the concerned country, welcomed the relevant points made by the Special Rapporteur concerning the efforts made by the country on security, governance, and improving socio-economic conditions. However, Côte d’Ivoire would make a few comments for a better understanding of the information and recommendations contained in the report, concerning political dialogue, the security situation, the justice system, and rights violations. While dialogue constituted an important framework for exchanges among politicians, and measures had been taken in this regard such as the provisional freedom of individuals close to the former regime and the return of people in exile, refugees and displaced persons, not everyone appreciated these measures. Concerning security, the delegation noted that the situation remained fragile, however, a number of pragmatic measures had been taken to this end. The delegation also addressed the functioning of the justice system, addressing the situation of victims, detention conditions in prisons, and the national human rights commission. Many of the recommendations included in the report were being implemented. President Ouattara had made clear his determination to ensure that no one enjoyed impunity for human rights violations. The prime objective of the government was the restoration of the rule of law based on human rights, public freedoms, and social peace and justice; to this end, Côte d’Ivoire was reinforcing its cooperation with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

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

Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, commended the progress achieved by Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights, including the release of prisoners and the conduct of investigations on post electoral crisis crimes, and its constructive cooperation with the Independent Expert. The African Group called on the international community to maintain and enhance its support to Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights and democratization. The European Union welcomed the progress achieved in governance and the gradual establishment of democratic institutions. The European Union supported the re-establishment of the national police in order to ensure security throughout the territory. It was concerned about the resurgence of sexual violence and harmful practices against women and girls. The fight against impunity had to be a priority, and an impartial investigation on past crimes was a fundamental condition for national reconciliation. Togo welcomed the national reconciliation process in Côte d’Ivoire, including the release of detainees close to the former regime. Togo remained concerned about the rejection of albinos and about gender violence. It welcomed the efforts made to address the high cost of living, and invited the international community to continue its support to Côte d’Ivoire in the field of human rights and development.

Algeria noted with satisfaction the gradual establishment of democratic institutions, as well as progress in the field of economic, social and cultural rights and in the field of security. Algeria encouraged efforts to strengthen the national dialogue and reconciliation process. It also supported the appeal of the Independent Expert to the international community to provide support to Côte d’Ivoire. Mali congratulated Côte d’Ivoire for its achievements on economic and social governance and for its full cooperation with the Independent Expert, which illustrated Côte d’Ivoire’s commitment to protect human rights. Mali expressed its full support to the Ivorian authorities’ efforts to stabilize the country, and wished Côte d’Ivoire success in this field. Australia acknowledged positive developments in the field of human rights, including the release of detainees pending trials and the adoption of a bill on human rights defenders. The security in the country remained fragile, and Australia supported efforts to reform the security sector. Australia was concerned about hate speech in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as about the prevalence of sexual violence.

United States shared the concern of the Independent Expert about the increase in sexual violence against women and girls and about the slow progress of security sector reform, demobilization and disarmament, and the significant challenges to genuine national reconciliation. Burkina Faso welcomed the recommendations of the Independent Expert to reinforce a political dialogue to put an end to hate speech and called on the international community to help Côte d’Ivoire to build on its achievements in order to address residual insecurity. The United Nations Children’s Fund was concerned about the lack of legal provisions to punish the perpetrators of violence against children, and particularly girls, and called for a large-scale national inquiry to establish the real dimensions of phenomenon which were underestimated. France agreed with the seven priority areas identified by the Independent Expert that the Government should focus on, and said that tackling impunity must be a priority, including for acts of sexual violence. Italy stressed the need to hold perpetrators of human rights violations accountable and said it was a basis to true national reconciliation. Belgium expressed concern about human rights violations in the country, and in particular about the increase in sexual violence which had become a common occurrence, and about the persistence of harmful practices such as early marriages and female genital mutilation.

Senegal congratulated the Independent Expert for the quality of the report and commended Côte d’Ivoire for its efforts to consolidate democracy, among many other measures. Senegal urged Côte d’Ivoire to continue to work towards national reconciliation on the basis of dialogue and on the international community to provide support. Sudan joined the Independent Expert in welcoming the gradual establishment of democracy in Côte d'Ivoire and said that the ongoing reconciliation process deserved to be supported by the international community. Morocco welcomed the quality of cooperation and interaction between Côte d’Ivoire and the Independent Expert, which had contributed to the success of the mission and the quality of the report. Côte d’Ivoire had improved its security situation and a number of important signals supported the credibility of efforts at reconciliation.

Niger paid tribute to the cooperation between Côte d’Ivoire and the Independent Expert and noted the process of institutional reconstructions, as well as measures to improve political dialogue. The report underscored the key role played by institutions in that process. The continued support of the international community was necessary for Côte d’Ivoire to continue its efforts. Egypt welcomed the progress made by Côte d’Ivoire and the release of many prisoners detained in connection with post-election violence, which reflected the commitment of the Government to bring perpetrators to justice. It noted the role played by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in promoting dialogue and reiterated the need for support from the international community. Central African Republic thanked the Independent Expert for the quality of the report, noting with satisfaction the update on the human rights situation on the basis of information gather by different stakeholders. The delegation encouraged Côte d’Ivoire to strengthen its security apparatus and to combat sexual violence.

World Organization against Torture said concerns remained regarding persistent gross human rights violations in Côte d'Ivoire, including acts of torture committed with impunity by the Republican Forces. It called for the inclusion of a justice dimension in the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Action Internationale pour la Paix et le Developpement dans la Region des Grands Lacs said that despite the progress achieved, including the release of political prisoners, much remained to be done to ensure peace and stability. It was concerned about executions allegedly perpetrated by the authorities against supporters of Laurent Gbagbo. Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples called on Côte d'Ivoire to ensure that local leaders and civil society organizations were included in national reconciliation efforts and to continue its efforts to end impunity without selectivity or discriminatory treatment.

International Federation for Human Rights Leagues welcomed the decision by the authorities to transfer Charles Blé Goudé to the International Criminal Court, as well as the establishment of a new special investigation unit, and called for the allocation of the necessary resources to that unit. It urged Cote d’Ivoire to implement a strong policy against impunity. Franciscans International was concerned about the detention conditions for juvenile offenders, and noted that juvenile and adult defenders were not separated in detention facilities, including in Abidjan. It recommended substantial improvement in material conditions of detainees, with a particular focus on juveniles.

Concluding Remarks

DOUDOU DIENE, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Côte d'Ivoire, speaking in concluding remarks, reminded the Council of the deep roots of the crisis which comprised of 10 years of violence; 10 years with the absence of the rule of law. It was a structured crisis that had scarred the population and the response had to be a long-term one. There was a need for a return to democracy, to human rights and prosperity, and that had to be a collective undertaking for the whole of Ivorian society because a crisis needed a political response and because politics had caused the crisis. It was urgent to end impunity and make justice a reality, because the feeling of injustice was a slow-working poison. The country had achieved remarkable growth figures but it was urgent for that to be used as a basis for progress. However, a crisis such as Côte d'Ivoire’s could not just be resolved in terms of politics, justice and rights, said Mr. Diene, there also needed to be moral awareness. Those who created the crisis had to go through some form of catharsis and speak out individually and collectively, recognizing their responsibility before the people. That may be the most firm basis of reconciliation. The crisis in the Central African Republic showed how fragile multicultural societies could be and the need to consistently get back to work through politics, policy, rights and justice.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti (A/HRC/25/71).

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

GUSTAVO GALLON, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, presented his first report after taking the office in June 2013 and pointed out that the complex situation in Haiti could be overcome if shock-treatment could be administered to five priority areas. The first area was socio-economic inequalities: 76 per cent of the population lived in extreme poverty, a large proportion suffered from malnutrition and Haiti ranked among the lowest in the world on the Human Development Index. Governmental priorities included education and the quality of housing, and the Independent Expert suggested that the Government should set very short deadlines to eradicate prevailing illiteracy among adults, as literacy was crucial for gradual eradication of inequalities. The second area to address was the deplorable situation of persons deprived of liberty and in prolonged detention. Overcrowded conditions in prisons were shocking, and 80 per cent of the detainees were being held in prolonged and preventive detention.

The third priority area was the weakness of the rule of law: few people were aware of their rights, the number of murders had increased threefold and the prevalence of gender-based violence had also increased. Urgent measures were needed to put an end to child labour, and to address the situation of restavec children. The fourth area for shock-treatment was the need to address past human rights violations, combat impunity and provide redress to victims. The Independent Expert welcomed the court decision to conduct further investigations into allegations of crimes against humanity by former President Duvalier and recommended the creation of a national reconciliation commission which could facilitate recovery of the right to memory and could lead to long-term substantial improvement of the human rights climate in the country. The fifth priority area was improving the situation of those affected by recent disasters, those who lived in deplorable conditions, and also the situation of Haitians living in Dominican Republic who were at risk of statelessness. Mr. Gallon said the priority areas identified were those for which the responsibility rested not only with the Government, which had inherited many of the issues raised in the report; the situation in Haiti was more structural in nature and required the support of the international community.

Statement by the Concerned Country

Haiti, speaking as the concerned country, reiterated the Government’s determination and commitment to promote and protect human rights. All progress made was a testimony to the Government’s huge political will. The Independent Expert was thanked for his report and the recommendations therein. The Government would scrutinize them and take them on board to improve the human rights situation in the country. For more than a quarter of a century, the reports of the Experts had always focused on the deep-rooted inequalities within Haitian society, prison overcrowding, the weakness of the judicial system, impunity and the lack of adequate health care conditions for persons still living in camps following the 2010 earthquake, among others. Haiti regretted that several of Haiti’s achievements were not referred to in the report. They included the launch of the National Food Security Policy in 2013 and the beginning of the first phase of the construction of social welfare housing projects the same year. Concerning education, more than 1.2 million children had benefitted from the free school programme, a very significant step. The rule of law and its establishment remained a Government priority and significant progress had been made. Challenges still remained in different areas. The prison system required particular attention, as 85 per cent of the prison population was in extended pre-trial detention. The Government over the last 33 months had made clear and tangible progress and would continue to seek the support of other actors so that all could bear the burden of shared responsibility to deliver on the rights of persons living in poverty. There was no turning back, the delegate concluded.

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

The European Union said that Haiti had made progress in the field of human rights, including on tackling impunity. Challenges remaining included reducing prolonged periods of pre-trial detention, and investigating cases of sexual violence and discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. How could the international community reduce inequalities in terms of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights? Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that the Community was committed to supporting Haiti in full respect with the country’s sovereignty in the field of human rights, the rule of law, education, environment, energy and democratic elections. Haiti’s measures to strengthen the State’s response to hunger were noted. The Community agreed that the fight against social inequalities and the fight against impunity were key aspects for stabilizing Haiti. Brazil said that the consolidation of the rule of law and the fight against poverty were key aspects of international cooperation and support. It had adopted a special migration policy for Haitians, and had made efforts to discourage the use of illegal migratory routes to Brazil.

Togo agreed that there was a need to establish priority action areas. It expressed concern about institutional fragility in Haiti which made full enjoyment of human rights difficult. France applauded the progress achieved in Haiti over the past several months and stressed the importance of free, open and inclusive elections for democracy; only strong political will, coupled with active participation of civil society would improve the human rights situation in Haiti and for all citizens. Morocco took note of the positive Government initiatives to eradicate hunger and malnutrition, ensure education and build rule of law, and said that it was ready to support Haiti in the process of transitional justice, if the Government chose that approach.

Norway noted the increasing social inequalities which was a key ingredient of social tensions and instability and called on the Government and international community to invest in job-creation that would increase the resilience of the population. Norway also expressed concern about the situation of pre-trial detainees and of restavek children. Chile commended the delivery of important social programmes aimed at children living below poverty line, and asked the Independent Expert to elaborate on the strategies for implementation of the five priority areas identified in his report.

Cuba said that the situation in Haiti in general continued to be complex. The responsibility the international community bore to this nation could not be ignored. It was crucial that the needs and priorities of the Haitian Government and people be addressed. Cuba had been cooperating with the country in the areas of health and agriculture, among others. Australia welcomed progress made by the Government and civil society in addressing the significant human rights challenges in the country. Australia had engaged directly with the Government and acknowledged steps taken in the promotion and protection of human rights. However, Australia was concerned with regards to the progression of the rule of law and about gender-based violence.

Mexico applauded the close cooperation between Haitian authorities and all mandate-holders over the last few years. Mexico agreed that the human rights situation was critical but also that it could be overcome. For this to happen there was a need for the strengthening of the rule of law and institutional consolidation. Mexico and Haiti had agreed to maintain cooperation activities aimed at delivering development.

Argentina congratulated the Government for having worked so closely with the Independent Expert. Argentina pointed to progress on human rights in Haiti. Obviously, the challenges still faced were numerous and would require the cooperation of all international actors, particularly in areas identified as priorities by the Government. Venezuela said the humanitarian crisis was a serious threat to the fundamental rights of persons in Haiti, particularly women and children. The 3 million people affected by the earthquake required urgent assistance. Venezuela was concerned about the cholera epidemic. Relevant international bodies were called upon to shoulder their responsibility to contain the outbreak and provide necessary assistance. United States said that long-term, sustained capacity-building was critical to strengthening the rule of law and improving the efficiency of Haiti’s justice system. What additional steps could the Government take to further harmonize Haiti’s laws and public policies with constitutionally guaranteed and internationally recognized human rights?

Algeria welcomed Haiti’s cooperation with the Independent Expert and other United Nations mechanisms. Algeria commended Haiti’s efforts to combat hunger and malnutrition, but was concerned about the economic, social and cultural rights’ situation in the country. Algeria agreed that the situation was extremely grave, but believed this could be overcome with the adequate support of the international community. Connectas Direitos Humanos was concerned about the situation of education in Haiti, including discrimination against non-citizens for access to education. Brazil had become the main destination of emigrants from Haiti, and despite the simplified visas procedures it had created, many of these migrants were at risk and travelled illegally in dire conditions. Amnesty International said forced evictions of internally displaced persons had been conducted by the authorities in Haiti, sometimes accompanied with unnecessary use of force. Amnesty International encouraged Haiti to take immediate measures to investigate forced evictions and relocate internally displaced persons in compliance with a durable solutions network.

Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti

GUSTAVO GALLON, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, in concluding remarks expressed gratitude for the sheer number of speakers who took the floor and shared the analysis of the situation. An appeal was made to all States and the international community as a whole to join efforts to cooperate with the Haitian State and society, as there was still a lot to be done, and to focus efforts on steps that could be taken to make a difference in the five areas identified in the report. On a question on what should be done to strengthen citizen participation in finding a solution to human rights problems in Haiti, Haitian society already contained some key civil society organizations working in the field of human rights. The international community should also ramp up efforts to contribute to fostering these civil society organizations. With regards to a question on which institutions should benefit as a priority from the support earmarked for strengthening the rule of law, there were several, perhaps the Citizen’s Protection Office in particular, which played a key role in promoting and protecting human rights in Haiti. There was also a need for capacity building in the judicial sector.

On requested details on the programme of work and a timetable for the five priority actions, this was difficult to answer but from a technical perspective, they could be dealt with as a cluster so as to enjoy equal treatment and response. It was vitally important that civil society was involved in the process and a dialogue was needed between it and the Government. The creation of the Inter-ministerial Committee for Human Rights was not in itself a solution. The Committee should analyse the problems raised in order to tackle difficulties in a holistic way. There were not enough judges or time invested by judges in order to receive and interview detainees. There were people who had been waiting for two or more years that had not received the attention of a judge. One of the solutions was the importance of strengthening the system of justice and the capacity of judges to be in touch with detainees.

For use of the information media; not an official record