Speakers Call for an End to Country Specific Mandates, Independent Expert on Situation in Haiti Receives Wide Praise
The Human Rights Council took up the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia this afternoon, hearing repeated calls for an end to country specific Special Procedures, but also support for the Independent Expert on the situation in Haiti.
Yash Ghai, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, said that, since the Paris Peace Agreements had ended the strife in Cambodia over 15 years ago, the country had been brought under a unified administration, and there had been improvements in access to education and health. In recent years the rate of economic growth had been impressive, and elections had been held, with varying degrees of fairness. However, in most areas, progress had been disappointing: little real progress had been made in the reform of the legal and judicial systems, with courts still used to punish the innocent and persons whom the Government found politically inconvenient; impunity was exercised in favour of wealthy and politically well-connected persons and corporations; corruption was widespread; there were serious restrictions on the freedom of speech; and, despite repeated promises, nothing had been done to protect the collective rights of the indigenous peoples to land.
Cambodia, speaking as a concerned country, said the report had only dealt with negative aspects of the situation in Cambodia and obscured efforts designed to promote democracy and freedom of expression, the press and assembly in the Kingdom. Cambodia reaffirmed that those claims were unacceptable, and categorically rejected the accusations levelled against Cambodia, asking the Secretary-General to reconsider his position vis-à-vis the Representative, and call for the regulation of the performance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh.
Louis Joinet, the Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haiti, said that there had been important changes since the report had been submitted in December, including the return to Constitutional legality with the election of a President and a Parliament without any major irregularities for the first time in the history of Haiti. There had been progress on the reform of the police and of justice, and a process of vetting of the police in general would take place shortly. There had also been progress in the fight against gangs, with efforts made to improve security. There had been a major break-through with regards to drug trafficking, and a number of police officers and judicial police had been arrested.
Speaking as a concerned country, Haiti expressed its gratitude for the work of the Independent Expert and asked that the mandate be extended. Since coming into power, the Government had set itself the goals of fighting poverty and strengthening of the rule of law, through the reform of the judiciary system, among others. In parallel, the Government was actively working to implement policies for the protection of human rights, and to improve the status of women. A plan of action on security had been adopted and, these days, peace had almost returned to the streets. The Government was also stepping up its activities for national and foreign investments to fight poverty.
Ghanim Alnajjar, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Somalia, said that when he last briefed the Council, in September 2006, the human rights situation in Somalia had been bad. Almost nine months later, the situation appeared to be much worse. Thousands of people had been killed or injured in the period between December 2006 and April 2007. According to United Nations estimates, close to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu between February and May 2007 due to the fighting, in addition to the more than 400,000 internally displaced persons already scattered around Somalia. Internally displaced persons were subject to threats, intimidation, looting, assault and rape. Many were forced to live in crowded camps where there was a lack of water, food, sanitation, basic health services and shelter. The violence of the past months and the deteriorating security situation were having further detrimental consequences for the protection of women and girls and, according to UNICEF, children had featured prominently in recent fighting as active combatants. The United Nations should encourage greater support to the Transitional Federal Institutions and had to press those institutions to provide protection to the Somali population.
During the interactive dialogues on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Haiti and Somalia, several speakers criticized the country specific mandates, saying that they did not promote human rights, and had a negative effect on the country concerned. However, others pointed to the apparent success of the dialogue between the Haitian Government and the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in that country. In that regard, Algeria wondered if the Council could think of a constructive way of expressing appreciation to mandate holders who were able to engender dialogue.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Cambodia were Representatives of Canada, Germany on behalf of the European Union, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia, Slovakia and the United States.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Haiti were Representatives of Canada, Germany on behalf of the European Union, Luxembourg, Algeria, the United States, Chile and Brazil.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on the situation of human rights in Somalia were Representatives of Germany on behalf of the European Union, Djibouti, the United States and Italy.
At the end of the meeting, the following non-governmental organizations made statements on the country specific reports presented during the day: National Commission of Human Rights of France; Asia Pacific Forum; Centrist Democratic International; Amnesty International; Human Rights Watch; International Federation for Human Rights; World Federation of Trade Unions; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Centre Europe – Tiers Monde; Indian Council of South America; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; and Comision juridica para el autodesarollo de los pueblos originarios andinos.
The Council will reconvene on Wednesday, 13 June, at 10 a.m., and will meet until 6 p.m. without interruption. It is scheduled to consider follow-up to its decisions and to consider the report of the group of experts on the situation in Darfur.
Report on Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia
The Council has before it the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, Yash Ghai (A/HRC/4/36), which provides an account of the Special Representative's second mission to Cambodia in March 2006, and details his continuing concerns. The Special Representative addresses problems of a systemic nature from the perspective of commitments in the peace agreements adopted in Paris on 23 October 1991. These agreements recognized the central importance of human rights in establishing and maintaining peace and prosperity for all Cambodians, and contained provisions to promote human rights and constitutional guarantees for their protection. The report concludes with recommendations designed to assist the Government and the people of Cambodia to secure the observance and enjoyment of human rights for all Cambodians. The Special Representative notes the start of proceedings within Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia to try senior Khmer Rouge leaders and those most responsible for the atrocities of the regime of Democratic Kampuchea. The purpose of the trials, to recognize the value of and promote respect for human rights, to acknowledge the evils of impunity, and to strengthen the rule of law and the machinery of justice, will be futile unless the Government agrees to stop practices, documented in this and in previous reports of special representatives, which undermine these very objectives. In that regard, the international community bears special responsibilities to support Cambodia in its quest to strengthen human rights and ensure social justice.
Presentation of the Report by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cambodia for Human Rights
YASH GHAI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cambodia for Human Rights , said he had made his third official visit to Cambodia in May 2007. The main objective had been to discuss his report and recommendations with the Government, civil society and the international community, and to update himself on the human rights situation. Last year had marked the fifteenth anniversary of the internationally negotiated Paris Peace Agreements that had ended the war and civil strife in Cambodia. Since then, with significant international assistance, considerable progress had been made in rebuilding Cambodia. The country had been brought under a unified administration, and there had been improvements in access to education and health. In recent years the rate of economic growth had been impressive. Elections had been held, with varying degrees of fairness, of which the recent commune council elections had been the most peaceful. However, further steps were needed to make the electoral system fully independent.
There had been positive developments; however, in most areas covered in the mandate, progress had been disappointing, Mr. Ghai said. In many respects, promises and obligations of the Paris Agreements had not been fulfilled. Little real progress had been made in the reform of the legal and judicial systems. Courts were still used to punish the innocent and persons whom the Government found politically inconvenient. Impunity was exercised in favour of wealthy and politically well-connected persons and corporations. Corruption was widespread. There were serious restrictions on the freedom of speech. Despite repeated promises, nothing had been done to protect the collective rights of the indigenous peoples to land. In view of these disturbing trends and others, the Government of Cambodia should submit its first and long-overdue report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Mr. Ghai said he had long urged fundamental legal and judicial reforms. Without a proper system of remedies, of protection against State or non-State oppression, and an impartial judiciary which ensured equal treatment for all, human rights would be violated and the legal system used to cover up the violations, and this was what was happening in Cambodia. Corruption continued to undermine the court system. Disparities of wealth and access to income and opportunities among the people had widened at an alarming rate. Confidence in the impartiality of the State had weakened. The failings of the rule of law, deliberately engineered, had provided fertile ground for corruption and the exploitation of weaker sections of society. Fifteen years after the rehabilitation of Cambodia, important objectives and promises of the internationally agreed Paris Peace Agreements remained unfulfilled, and Cambodia should do all it could to ensure those objectives and promises were realized.
Statement by Concerned Country
CHHEANG VUN ( Cambodia ), speaking as a concerned country, said the report had only dealt with negative aspects of the situation in Cambodia. The report said that violations were systematic, intentional, and aimed at keeping power. Those statements obscured efforts designed to promote democracy, freedom of expression, the press and assembly in the Kingdom. Cambodia reaffirmed that those claims were unacceptable, and categorically rejected the accusations levelled against Cambodia. Cambodia asked that the Secretary-General reconsider his position vis-à-vis the Representative, and call for the regulation of the performance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Phnom Penh.
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia
PAUL MEYER ( Canada ) said Canada appreciated the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Cambodia for Human Rights, which was a broad and accurate outline of some of the principle issues and challenges that Cambodia faced today. It was important to clarify some of the situations that the Special Representative had drawn attention to – that was what a dialogue was about. Many of the issues raised were impediments to sustainable development, as well as to human rights, including indigenous issues with regard to land. Subsequent to Mr. Ghai's visit, there had been a report from a non-governmental organization on the illegal destruction of forests, and there was concern that the Government had failed to respect freedom of expression and opinion in that regard. Did the Special Representative have suggestions as to how the Government could ensure the safety of those monitoring human rights, Canada asked?
ANKE KONRAD ( Germany ), speaking on behalf of the European Union , welcomed the report and stated clear support for the work in Phnom Penh and the Special Representative in Cambodia. The European Union underlined the importance of States' cooperation with all United Nations mechanisms. The European Union welcomed the Code of Penal Procedure and the Extraordinary Chambers, but unresolved cases of murders of trade unions members were still a concern. The Representative had expressed his concern for a number of individual cases. In that connection, what measures would he recommend where legal means had been exhausted? The Special Representative was also asked to elaborate more on the role of the international community in strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights in Cambodia.
JUNEVER MAHILUM WEST ( Philippines ) said an accurate assessment of the situation in Cambodia would have to start with an assessment of the challenges, and should include steps taken so far, and an assessment of remaining challenges. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers had commended Cambodia's dealing with the members of the Khmer Rouge only yesterday. Capacity-building efforts had yielded positive results, contributing to Cambodia's development and growth, and those achievements should be further built on in the sprit of construction and dialogue.
SHU NAKAGAWA ( Japan ) said the elections in Cambodia had been conducted for the most part peacefully and fairly, and had been a significant step in the democratization of Cambodia. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia had said that Cambodia lacked basic laws. Although Japan had been providing support for the legal system, what further support could be provided to strengthen the system?
BENNY SIAHAAN ( Indonesia ) said, with regard to the report of the Special Representative for the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, Cambodia had taken a number of measures and had achieved improvements. Any efforts to eclipse those achievements would increase the complexity of the situation facing the country. Without going into the human rights situation in the country, Indonesia was committed to protecting human rights. Country-specific mandates did not promote human rights, and had a negative effect on the country concerned. The only solution was constructive dialogue.
WESTMORELAND PALON ( Malaysia ), referring to the report on Cambodia, said progress on the ground had been noticed. Cambodia was trying to achieve freedom. The Government would continue to face those challenges that were not unique to Cambodia. Improving the human rights situation in particular was a gradual process. Malaysia welcomed the commitments expressed and those implemented by the Cambodian Government. The international community was encouraged to continue lending its support as well as providing technical assistance to the Government.
RACHEL WHITE ( Australia ) said, as with other country mandates, the Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia had continued to play an important role in maintaining international focus on the situation in Cambodia, and contributing in real and important ways to the protection and promotion of human rights there in the way that mattered most – for the people on the ground. There remained room for improvement of election processes in Cambodia, as in other countries, including voter participation and election administration, which should be impartial. Australia continued to work with Cambodia in that regard, and to promote democratic development and civil participation, as well as strengthening judicial processes.
DRAHOSLAV STEFANEK ( Slovakia ) said, with reference to the questions already posed to the Special Representative on human rights in Cambodia, that Slovakia was pleased to hear the update to the report. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Cambodia was working on land concessions. OHCHR had come, in the course of its monitoring of that situation, to the conclusion that there was a problem with the implementation of the law, rather than with the law itself. The Special Representative was asked which mechanisms should be provided to access already approved land concessions.
JAN LEVIN ( United States ) supported the continuing work of the Special Representative in Cambodia. Although Cambodia continued to undergo a difficult transition, there had been positive developments, in particular with regard to trafficking in persons. The United States commended Cambodia for the peaceful and generally positive local elections in January. However problems, in particular with elector registration, remained. The United States also remained concerned about the pervasiveness of corruption in the legal process, eroding the judiciary's ability to uphold the rule of law. The United States believed a robust independent judiciary, along with a vibrant civil society, would allow Cambodia to make progress on democratic reform. The Government was encouraged to advance its national reconciliation process.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights in Cambodia
YASH GHAI, Special Representative on Human Rights in Cambodia , referring to the trial of trade unionists, said he had met the widow of the trade unionist that had been killed, and also with the spouses of the accused, who had now been sentenced to very long terms of imprisonment. He did not know how much could be done. The trial had shown the weakness of the judiciary. One way to deal with the problem would be to strengthen two institutions: the Constitution Council, which protected the Constitution; and the Supreme Council of the Magistracy, which protected the independence of the judiciary. Neither of those institutions had performed their tasks, and consequently there was no protection against intervention by the Government. It seemed that a possibility would be to set up an independent investigation – although it was highly improbable the Government would agree to that. The Chief of Police at that time had since admitted that he had been instructed to frame these two persons, he had now fled to Cambodia and was languishing in jail there. The woman who had witnessed the actual killing of the trade unionist had fled to Thailand, and had since signed an affidavit saying that the persons arrested were not those who had carried out the murder. One way out might be to make a request to the King for a royal pardon, but while it was in the King's prerogative to grant pardons, in practice it was the Government which decided whether a pardon would be given.
As far as efforts by the international community, Mr. Ghai said that foreign assistance should be linked to the improvement of the judicial and legal system. The United Nations treaty body system should also pay more attention to the situation in Cambodia. Cambodia had been very remiss in making its reports to treaty bodies, and they could now, under new procedures, review the situation in the country in the absence of a report. Some consideration should also be given to trade sanctions concerning goods that were exploited illegally in the country.
Concerning land concessions, there was new legislation which the Special Representative had discussed in detail in his new paper. That legislation provided a very good framework for the review of existing concessions. It allowed sanctions when the concession terms had been violated, and there was a whole series of provisions requiring review and authorizing the cancellation of concessions. The Special Representative had looked at what measures had been undertaken by the Government to undertake those reviews, and had found that almost no such reviews had been made. A technical secretariat had been set up, but what was needed was a totally independent mechanism for the review of those land concessions.
Right of Reply
YASH GHAI ( Cambodia ) called for the Council to review the Special Representative's position. His words had been unacceptable, and so here Cambodia called upon the Council to take note that it would no longer accept the Special Representative's mandate in Cambodia.
Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti
The Council has before it the report on the situation of human rights in Haiti (A/HRC/4/3), prepared by the Independent Expert, Louis Joinet, who says there has been an undeniable return to constitutional legality in Haiti, but there remains a long way to go to achieve a consolidated State based on the rule of law. The chronic malfunctions of the State – and their impact on human rights – must be reduced as a matter of priority in the areas of the police, the judicial system, prisons and in efforts to combat the impunity of perpetrators of particularly serious crimes which, at the end of 2006, took the form, in addition to drug trafficking, of waves of murders and kidnappings for ransom. In order to achieve this, it is necessary to strengthen, through vetting, the police and justice services, and to launch an ambitious plan of action to reform the judicial system. Following joint operations conducted by the Haitian National Police and the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), a decline in this type of crime seems to have begun. However, certain milieus are in favour of restoring capital punishment or re-establishing the army instead of giving priority to the sustainable creation of a professional and democratic police force. This is why it is important that Parliament adopt the judiciary regulations, establish the Supreme Council of Justice, reform the Judicial Training College and undertake the constantly postponed reform of the Institute of Forensic Medicine. The Independent Expert stresses the importance of the reform and activation of the Office of the Ombudsman in order to enable it to take over the functions of the MINUSTAH Human Rights Section when that Mission's mandate comes to an end. Major progress also remains to be achieved in efforts to prevent violence against women (including criminalization of rape and the elimination of extenuating circumstances in cases where a wife is murdered by her husband) and with regard to civil status (admissibility of paternity proceedings, regulation of the status of concubines (plaçage) and domestic work, and preparation of a family planning programme).
Introduction of the Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti
LOUIS JOINET, Independent Expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Haiti , said that there had been important changes since the report had been submitted in December, including the return to Constitutional legality with the election of a President and a Parliament without any major irregularities for the first time in the history of Haiti. This update was very important in the discussion on Special Procedures. His mandate included two facets: monitoring, and cooperation. Progress had been made in the country in those regards.
The Independent Expert had made a list of all the recommendations he had made since the beginning of the mandate, and had noted that there had been progress in many fields. There had been progress on the reform of the police and of justice, and a process of vetting of the police in general would take place shortly. There had also been progress in the fight against gangs, with efforts made to improve security.
With regard to the reform of justice, there were three initiatives which had followed the recommendations that had been made. There had also been coordination between police bodies on the international level. There had been a major break-through with regards to drug trafficking, and a number of police officers and judicial police had been arrested, Mr. Joinet concluded.
Statement by Concerned Country
JEAN-CLAUDE PIERRE ( Haiti ), speaking as a concerned country, expressed the gratitude of the Haitian Government for the work and the recommendations of the Independent Expert. He had been continuously observing the evolution of the human rights situation in the country, and had produced results that were all relevant. Since it took power, the Government had set itself the goals of fighting poverty, and strengthening of the rule of law, through the reform of the judiciary system, among others. In parallel, the Government was actively working to implement policies for the protection of human rights and the improvement of the status of women. With regard to the protection of the rights of the child, Parliament had ratified two conventions of the International Labour Organization. The Government believed that the rule of law and good governance went hand in hand.
The Government was firmly struggling against corruption as well, Haiti stressed. A plan of action on security had been adopted and, these days, peace had almost returned to the streets. The Government was also stepping up its activities for national and foreign investments to fight poverty. Wherever there was poverty, democracy and the rule of law were jeopardized. The international community must pay important attention to the social, economic and cultural rights and to the right to development. Haiti more than ever needed justice, peace and solid institutions of civil, political and economic rights. Haiti asked that the mandate of the Independent Expert be prolonged.
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti
PAUL MEYER ( Canada ) said there were weaknesses in the justice and prison systems in Haiti, and those should be priority areas. Canada wanted to see reform of those areas, and also within the police force. It would be useful to know the Special Representative's position concerning the challenges that Haiti would have to face in that regard.
ANKE KONRAD ( Germany ), speaking on behalf of the European Union , said that the Independent Expert had been able to develop a constructive relationship with the Haitian authorities, and that had helped with the overall situation. The Independent Expert had mentioned that advances could be compromised by the inability of the police to maintain security, and he was asked to clarify that issue, as well as the implementation of certain recommendations linked to it. Had those recommendations been followed by the Government or Parliament, and how had support by the international community been manifested?
JEAN FEYDER ( Luxembourg ) said that Luxembourg aligned itself with the statement made by Germany on behalf of the European Union regarding Haiti. Luxembourg thanked the Independent Expert for his support of Haiti's journey down the difficult path to democracy. However, in view of the dire poverty in Haiti, Luxembourg wished to draw attention to the grave problem caused by the economic liberalization of the country, as had been noted in reports by non-governmental organizations. In the 1990s, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank had invited Haiti to take measures to liberalize its trade. Today, Haiti had one of the most liberalized economies. The case of rice was perhaps the most emblematic of that situation, with tariffs on rice falling from 50 per cent to just 3 per cent in a couple of months. The price of imported rice had fallen drastically, leading to the destruction of local cultivation to the detriment of local farmers. The same thing had happened in the textile and shoe industries. Luxembourg hoped that an examination of the impact of such policies on the situation in the country would be included in future reports.
IDRISS JAZAIRY ( Algeria ) said that there had been a wide variety of reports by Special Rapporteurs – some harmonious, others antagonistic. It would be necessary for the Council to give a premium to those Experts who were able to engage best in dialogue. Could the Council think of a constructive way of expressing appreciation to mandate holders who were able to engender dialogue? The Haitian situation was a case in point. The idea of an embargo was not the best way of ensuring human rights. Those who were able to propose more creative solutions should be recognized.
JAN LEVIN ( United States ) said the Independent Expert should be commended for providing a detailed overview of the situation of human rights in Haiti. Haiti's restoration of democratic institutions was a significant achievement, and the elections had been free and fair. Stabilization had proceeded under relatively calm conditions, but much remained to be done with regard to the establishment of the rule of law. The United States continued to provide funding towards training the Haitian police. The United States welcomed the anti-gang efforts of the police, with the arrest of over 700 gang members, including several important gang leaders, with an important increase in public confidence. However, confidence in the judiciary remained a concern, as did the situation in Haiti's penal facilities. Haiti needed to continue to progress to achieve a situation in which the rule of law would prevail.
EDUARDO CHIHUALIAF ( Chile ) thanked the Independent Expert for his presentation. The progress in Haiti had been a result of important institutional reforms carried out by the Haitian authorities with the help of the international community. However, one could see that there were still practices incompatible with human rights. The Haitian Government should address that situation. Worthy of note was a national plan for the prevention of violence against women. Economic aid was important to solve the problems that remained.
Chile was heavily committed to the construction of peace and stability in Haiti, and the Chilean Congress had therefore renewed the contracts of 600 Chilean peacekeepers there. Chile shared the view of the Independent Expert that there was no need to re-institute the penalty of capital punishment to deal with the situation. Chile asked if the Independent Expert had any information regarding the enforcement of the implementation of the priority reform plan.
SERGIO ABREU E LIMA FLORENCIO ( Brazil ) said the report by the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti had shown the importance of information gathered from social organizations and the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). MINUSTAH, in which Brazil had participated, had ensured a return to constitutional legality. Brazil's role extended also to technical cooperation and social programmes. Continued international support was also needed. Deteriorating relations between the police and the judicial system could be an obstacle to the positive outcome of the crisis. A democratic and effective police force was vital and efforts should concentrate on training of police officers and the fight against corruption.
Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Haiti
LOUIS JOINET, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti , responding to the interactive dialogue, said, with regard to the vetting operations for the police and justice services, that was something he had not really gone into. It was a difficult matter, as it was not enough just to clean up the police. The problem was that the rate of corruption was such that many judges, magistrates and police officers should be suspended. However, if all were to be imprisoned, progress would be jeopardized. There was no forensic laboratory in the country, as chemicals were out of date and the laboratory had been vandalized, and that was also a problem. With regard to the state of the prisons, the Independent Expert had visited one, and it was a case of human bodies stacked upon each other like worms on a clod of earth. Once there could be a reabsorption of those in pre-trial detention, then there should be an improvement of the situation.
In his plan for development, the President of Haiti had given priority to security and to sustainable development. In order to fight against poverty, investors needed to be attracted, and security was important in that regard. With regard to women, there were many issues being dealt with by the Parliamentary Assembly. The magistracy needed to be cleaned up, but their statute needed to be clarified first. Things were progressing very well, but Mr. Joinet said he could not go into further detail due to the lack of time.
In the past there had been a certain level of mistrust between the Independent Expert and the Government, but that had changed. Things were improving also with regard to cooperation between the Government and the inhabitants of the country with United Nations organizations and civil society organizations.
Right of Reply
JEAN-CLAUDE PIERRE ( Haiti ) said every report produced by the Independent Expert had provided a working tool for the Haitian authorities and society. Haiti wished to thank its partners and assistance from Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, Algeria, the United States, Chile, Brazil and others.
Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
The Council has before it the note by the Secretariat on the report of the independent expert appointed by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Somalia, Ghanim Alnajjar (A/HRC/5/2), which explains that, owing to the security situation in Somalia, the independent expert has been unable to undertake his mission to Somalia, and is therefore unable to submit a report to the fifth session of the Council. The independent expert intends to give the Council an oral update on the situation of human rights in Somalia during his interactive dialogue with the Member States.
Presentation of the Report of the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
GHANIM ALNAJJAR, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia , said that at the time of his last briefing of the Council in September 2006, the situation had been bad. But, almost nine months later, the situation of human rights in Somalia appeared to be much worse. With regard to some key human rights issues in the south and central regions of Somalia, there had been widespread reports of indiscriminate artillery fire in several fierce battles which had taken place in Mogadishu between December 2006 and April 2007. The wounded had been prevented from fleeing or from receiving humanitarian assistance and protection, and urgent deliveries or food aid and other humanitarian assistance were hampered or blocked. It was estimated that thousands of people had been killed or injured in the period between December 2006 and April 2007. With regard to the internally displaced persons, the United Nations estimated that close to 400,000 people had fled Mogadishu between February and May of this year due to the fighting.
The Independent Expert highlighted that the figure of 400,000 people was in addition to the more than 400,000 internally displaced persons already scattered around Somalia. Internally displaced persons were subject to threats, intimidation, looting, assault and rape. Many were forced to live in crowded camps where there was a lack of water, food, sanitation, basic health services and shelter. Concerning the National Reconciliation Congress, it would be held in Mogadishu and some 1,325 delegates from within the country and the Somali Diaspora were expected to attend. The National Reconciliation Congress should be seen a positive first step within the broader framework of a reconciliation process for Somalia. On the question on human rights defenders, widespread harassment sometimes culminating in targeted killings of human rights defenders, journalists, humanitarian aid workers and public figures also continued.
With regard to sexual and gender-based violence, the Independent Expert said it was clear that the violence of the past months and the deteriorating security situation were having further detrimental consequences for the protection of women and girls. According to UNICEF, children featured prominently in recent fighting as active combatants, which was completely unacceptable. The recent fighting had also severely affected school enrolment. The situation of economic, social and cultural rights was still of grave concern. The international community was strongly urged to support Somali leaders and civil society in the critical human rights work that must occur if peace and security were to prevail in Somalia. Regarding some recommendations, the United Nations should, among others, encourage greater support to the Transitional Federal Institutions and must press those institutions to provide protection to the Somali population. The United Nations and the Somali authorities must also increase their efforts to address the immediate human needs and protect the human rights of the hundreds and thousands of internally displaced persons scattered across Somalia.
Interactive Dialogue on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
ANKE KONRAD ( Germany ), speaking on behalf of the European Union , said that the European Union supported the mandate of the Independent Expert on human rights in Somalia, and deplored the recent fighting in Mogadishu that had caused the deaths of many among the civilian population. The European Union urged all parties to the conflict to commit to an end to hostilities and to return to peace. In view of the humanitarian crisis unfolding and renewed conflicts in various areas, torrential rains and flooding, what measures did the Independent Expert suggest in order to improve the situation, and what could be done to ensure humanitarian access to all in need? Many internally displaced persons were now being evicted from their neighbourhoods in order to give way to public institutions; how could their rights be safeguarded? Also, how did the Independent Expert think that women and girls could enhance their situation, and how could human rights be implemented in the judicial context considering that there were a range of different laws in effect?
MOHAMED ZIAD DOUALEH ( Djibouti ) thanked the Independent Expert for giving an update on the human rights situation in Somalia. The enjoyment of human rights was denied to the majority of the people in Somalia. Access to basic healthcare services, clean water and sanitation was extremely limited. Djibouti wanted to express its sincere appreciation to the humanitarian aid workers in that country. Djibouti had persistently called upon the Government of Somalia to find a solution to the crisis. The climate of fear that had been created raised concerns among the international community. Djibouti expressed its support for the upcoming conference in order to push the reconciliation process forward.
JAN LEVIN ( United States ) said sustainable security and stability were impeded by extremists seeking to destabilize Somalia, tensions between clans, and prevention of troop deployment. The United States wished to see a stable national Government to promote security and stability on the ground. President Bush had appointed a special envoy to lead those efforts and liaise with clan elders, civil society and regional and international partners. The United States would like to hear how it could work with the Independent Expert on those issues.
ROBERTO VELLANO ( Italy ) said Italy was strongly committed to support the difficult path of Somalia towards peace and national reconciliation. In Somalia, massive displacement of civilian populations had seriously contributed to human trafficking. In that regard, it had been reported that many people left from Bossasso and undertook perilous journeys by sea, often forced by smugglers to leave the boat far away from the shore. What concrete steps could be taken to prevent and stop such phenomena? Also, Italy would appreciate it if the Independent Expert could elaborate further on the protection of children's rights in Somalia, taking into account the most exposed and vulnerable group of street children.
Concluding Remarks by the Independent Expert on the Situation of Human Rights in Somalia
GHANIM ALNAJJAR, Independent Expert on the situation of Human Rights in Somalia , said that, when dealing with a place like Somaliland, where there was at least an established government, it was easier to deal with the situation of human rights. He had been in full dialogue with the Government there. Any development had to have human rights components. The issue of internally displaced persons was one that had been going on for ages. A lot of agencies had tried to help, but still the situation was very bad. The main thing was to establish a national unity government with a reconciliation conference. Although some reservations had been expressed about it, that might be able to take them somewhere.
What the United Nations could do was to strengthen the integration of the human rights component in any such process, the Independent Expert said. So far, there was only one human rights adviser, working on a temporary basis. That had to be strengthened. The international community had to push and provide the resources for that kind of commitment, whether it be to deal with the issue of women, children, internally displaced persons or trafficking. The issue of trafficking was much more complicated than the other issues. Regarding the ability of the Puntland authorities to govern the shores and coastlines of Somalia, the international community could help in that matter by providing vessels or a new organisation to govern the coastline.
Statements by Non-Governmental Organizations on the Situation of Human Rights in Cambodia, Haiti, Cuba, Belarus and Somalia
MICHEL FORST, of National Commission of Human Rights of France , said the quality of the Independent Expert's report on the situation in Haiti was high. Efforts to re-establish constitutional legitimacy, tackle corruption, insecurity and deal with the threat of capital punishment were vital, and those and other aspects of the situation demonstrated the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, civil and political rights and economic and social rights alike. The National Human Rights Institution of Haiti could play a crucial role. Measures advocated by the Expert had been highly relevant. However, if resources were not allocated for them, those measures would fail.
KIEREN FITZPATRICK, of Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions , welcomed the decision of Cambodia to establish an independent national human rights institution in full compliance with the Paris Principles. It was significant that the Government had first made that announcement at an Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) meeting to discuss the establishment of new institutions of ASEAN countries. Discussions had been held with the Parliament, Government and civil society in that regard, and the Asia Pacific Forum would work with those bodies to help in the establishment of the national human rights institution.
LIZZY CHAVIANO, of Centrist Democratic International , said that he came before the Council as a living testimony as the son of Francisco Chaviano Gonzalez, who had suffered as a political prisoner and prisoner of conscience in Cuba. He had founded an organization to defend human rights called the National Council for Civil Rights in Cuba, and had unjustly been sentenced to prison. Now after 13 years, he was ill as a result of the detention conditions. Centrist Democratic International demanded justice for him. There should be respect for human rights in Cuba, and freedom for Cuban political prisoners.
MARTIN HILL, of Amnesty International , said that serious violations of human rights continued in Somalia, and a strong human rights component in the mandate of the African Union Mission there was needed. The National Reconciliation Congress should give priority attention to protecting the rights to life, personal security and freedom of expression and association. The Independent Expert's mandate should be extended. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should also expand its field mission to Somalia to provide technical assistance and human rights advice to transitional institutions. Transitional Federal institutions should develop an action plan to protect human rights, guarantee safe and unrestricted access for humanitarian agencies to assist displaced persons, and develop mechanisms to investigate past war crimes and crimes against humanity.
SEBASTIAN GILLIOZ, of Human Rights Watch , said Human Rights Watch had documented serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by most of the armed groups engaged in the conflict in Somalia. All the parties to the conflict in Mogadishu had been responsible for violations, and had used types of weaponry that were inappropriate for urban warfare. The Human Rights Council should support efforts to protect civilians, and investigate and hold accountable those responsible for such human rights abuses. With regards to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Belarus, the Special Rapporteur should recommend measures that the Council could undertake in response to the Government's intransigence.
RENAN HEDOUVILLE, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues , expressed great concern about the human rights situation in Haiti. Efforts had been made concerning the police force in Haiti, but insecurity still remained a scourge to Haitian society. In the field of justice, the situation was worrying as well with regard to the problem of preventive detention and bad incarceration conditions. A resolution should be adopted on the general condition of the human rights situation in Haiti, encouraging the Government to take concrete measures to facilitate the improvement of human rights.
GEORGE MAURIKOS, of World Federation of Trade Unions , said earlier reports on the situation in Cuba had shown that the embargo by the United States against that country had deprived Cuba of vital access to medicines, technology and food. The effects had been disastrous, and the embargo had been regularly condemned by the United Nations General Assembly. There was no other country in the world that had been subject to such criminal interference. Was this interference not a direct violation of human rights? It was astonishing to read in the Special Rapporteur's report that the blockade had not caused the slightest concern and was not even the subject of a single recommendation. Instead, the recommendations involved drastic and interventionist measures. Who could be so shameless in proposing such a farce?
LAO MONG HAI, of Asian Legal Resource Centre , said the Special Representative on human rights in Cambodia should explain what the Council and the Government of that country could do to address the human rights situation there. There was a serious absence of the rule of law in Cambodia, an absence that was characterised by the judiciary's failure to protect the human rights and freedoms of the Cambodian people. The highest priority should be given to ensuring that Cambodia was governed by the rule of law and the respect for human rights, with a judiciary that was independent from any political control.
HERNAN BADENAS, of Centre Europe–Tiers Monde , said that no person and no State was supposed to be above the law. The Universal Periodic Review should assure the universal coverage and the equal treatment of all States. However, since its creation last year, the Council had only kept four countries on its agenda: Belarus, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cuba and Myanmar, which were inherited from the old Commission. That demonstrated the existence of double standards. The country mandates had demonstrated limits. Human rights should be applied effectively all around the world.
ROLAND BARNES, of Indian Council of South America , said in the process of reviewing, improving on and rationalizing all mandates as called upon by the resolution establishing the Council, the Council should once and for all eliminate and rationalize the method of addressing and implementing human rights violations wherever they occurred. The attempt to create a system that eliminated politicization and selectivity seemed to be at a standstill. The Council had not demonstrated that it was willing to address all situations as called upon. There was a need for a practice that was consistent and far-reaching, so that all States, regardless of their size, economic status or power were treated equally. That could be achieved by allowing for a more transparent process that allowed for greater participation by all stakeholders in the work of the Council. There should also be an end to the mandate on the situation in Cuba.
DZMITRY MARKUSHEUSKI, of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights , said the situation of human rights in Belarus was the worst in Europe. There was increased repression, harassment and closing down of human rights organizations, prosecution of activists, and restriction of the rights to assembly and freedom of the press, including detention of journalists. The Independent Expert's mandate had been created in 2004, and in 2006 the General Assembly had expressed its concern, yet Belarus had failed to comply with UN resolutions. It had also failed to cooperate on Special Procedures requests for visits. The Special Procedures mechanism was the only way to ensure a voice for the victims.
TOMAS ALARCON, of Comision juridica para el autodesarollo de los pueblos originarios andinos , said that the country specific mandates had looked in some cases at the violations of human rights of indigenous people. However, in every country with indigenous people violations of their human rights were taking place. The Special Representative on Cambodia had identified serious violations of human rights. A specialized body for indigenous people was needed. New standards for indigenous people should be found. If such a special body could be set up, justice could be given to the indigenous people.
Right of Reply
JEAN-CLAUDE PIERRE ( Haiti ), speaking in a right to reply, said that some non-governmental organizations had spoken about attacks on freedom of expression. The Government had examined those cases, and investigated them as it would any other killings. Those killings were deplored, and an inquiry had been opened to investigate the authors of these acts. With regard to corruption and poverty, the Government had made it known that that was not a new phenomenon on the Haitian landscape, and it was making significant efforts to root out that evil.
In press release HRC/07/37 of 11 June 2007, the statement by Uzbekistan in the interactive dialogue on the reports on racism and the independence of the judiciary should read as follows:
BADRIDDIN OBIDOV ( Uzbekistan ), said the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers had touched in his report on issues linked to trials and criminal and civil processes in general. His sources were highly politicized. A delegation from Uzbekistan in 2006 had supplied information on the situation concerning extradition, and the so-called facts, obtained from politically biased sources, were not factual at all. The Special Rapporteur should refrain from this biased approach.
Reforms were under way in the judicial system of Uzbekistan. A decree on habeas corpus and concerning individuals accused of offences had been issued. Uzbekistan had carried out a lot of work and training in awareness raising, on the Criminal and Civil code, the role of the prosecutor's office, and the introducing of habeas corpus together with a raft of associated measures. Round tables and conferences on incorporation of habeas corpus in national legislation, in cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, civil society and others, had been undertaken.
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