World

Human Rights Council Holds Separate Interactive Dialogues on Prevention of Genocide and on Violence Against Women

Format
News and Press Release
Source
Posted
Originally published
Origin
View original

MORNING

28 June2021

The Human Rights Council this morning held separate interactive dialogues with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Alice Wairimu Nderitu, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, said part of her mandate as Special Adviser was to provide early warning and to collect existing information on massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including against ethnic, religious and national minorities, which if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide.

Genocide and other atrocity crimes were preventable if all put aside narrow political interests and worked together. Prevention was a collective responsibility, she emphasised. She spoke about situations of concern in various countries and territories.

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers emphasised that the Council and its mechanisms had an important monitoring and early warning role in preventing mass atrocities, encouraging the High Commissioner for Human Rights to actively inform the Council when a heightened risk of genocide was detected. The Office of the Special Adviser was encouraged to provide regular updates about its initiatives on hate speech, the responsibility of social media companies, and the role of religious leaders and actors. Speakers also highlighted specific ongoing national situations within which States were committing violations that may amount to genocide, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities - noting that the Council may have been failing to act in violations where mass rape, torture, surveillance, internment and forced labour were taking place.

Speaking were the European Union, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Cuba, France, Switzerland, Indonesia, Israel, Luxembourg, Iraq, Armenia, China, Morocco, Netherlands, Venezuela, United States, Romania, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Ukraine, Russian Federation, Montenegro, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Malawi, Cambodia, and Iran.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor: Centre for Global Nonkilling, Justiça Global, Stichting Global Human Rights Defence, Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI, British Humanist Association, Minority Rights Group, Universal Rights Group, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, International Bar Association, and Lawyers' Rights Watch Canada.

China and the United Kingdom spoke in point of order.

The Council then began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said her thematic report was on rape as a grave, systematic and widespread human rights violation, a crime and a manifestation of gender-based violence against women and girls, both in peacetime and during conflict, with a focus on States’ responsibility to prevent it, and to change the prevalent rape culture, the culture of impunity for perpetrators, and stigmatisation and lack of access to justice for victims. The report supported a review and harmonisation of national criminal laws and practices with international standards on rape. It was accompanied by the Framework for Model Legislation on Rape. Based on international standards, criminal law provisions should protect all persons, without discrimination, including men, boys and gender-diverse persons. They should also cover all types of penetration, however slight, of a sexual nature with any bodily part or object. The criminalization of rape should include rape between spouses or intimate partners. The Special Rapporteur added that intercourse without consent should be criminalised as rape in all definitions.

Speakers said a definition of rape in line with international standards, criminalising all forms of this crime, including marital rape as well as rape of men and boys, should only be the first step of many. Many speakers outlined a wide variety of laws, legal provisions, national policies, strategies and campaigns aimed at preventing rape and ensuring accountability, agreeing that it was the duty of the State to ensure their implementation. COVID-19 measures often led to the confinement of women and girls with their abusers, creating a pandemic within a pandemic - such measures needed special provisions to ensure their protection. Speakers congratulated the Special Rapporteur on her six-year tenure, noting that her report rightly highlighted legal loopholes which may exist due to legislative vagueness linked to persistent patriarchal stereotypes and cultural traits.

Speaking were the European Union, Netherlands on behalf of a group of countries, Sweden on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Egypt on behalf of the Group of Arab States, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Liechtenstein, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Canada, France, Ecuador, Israel, Indonesia, Libya, Australia, Sovereign Order of Malta, Brazil, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Cuba, Republic of Korea, Spain, Angola, Senegal, Fiji, Iraq, United Arab Emirates, Armenia, Syria, Burkina Faso, China, Malta, India, Maldives, Morocco, Algeria, Venezuela, United States, Egypt, Greece, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Namibia, Malaysia, and South Africa.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here. All meeting summaries can be found here. Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-seventh regular session can be found here.

The Council will next meet at 3 p.m. to hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, followed by an interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises. The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on violence against women will resume at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 29 June.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide

ALICE WAIRIMU NDERITU, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, said part of her mandate as Special Adviser was to provide early warning and to collect existing information on massive and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, including against ethnic, religious and national minorities, which if not prevented or halted, might lead to genocide. The international community could not repeat the same failures and their devastating impacts, such as the conflict in Syria, which had raged for over 10 years with ongoing gross violations against civilians. In Myanmar, root causes needed to be addressed, including guaranteeing definite citizenship and other rights to the Rohingya community in Myanmar, and ensuring accountability for past crimes in order to deter more atrocity crimes from being committed. In Yemen, she was growing increasingly concerned about the protection situation of civilians as the conflict continued in the absence of a nationwide ceasefire. On Afghanistan, she echoed recent calls for the international community to do more to support Afghanistan and prevent a reversal on the important gains made on the rights of women and minority communities over the past several years.

Ms. Wairimu Nderitu said she had previously called on the Ethiopian authorities to establish national mechanisms for accountability of alleged human rights violations and other crimes committed, to address the root causes of ethnic violence and build national cohesion and reconciliation. The Central African Republic had witnessed increasing human rights violations by armed groups, government forces and bilaterally deployed security personnel, which could contribute to risks of atrocity crimes. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed groups and intercommunal violence continued to threaten populations in eastern provinces. In South Sudan, there was persistent localised violence across many areas of the country amid limited progress in implementing the terms of the peace agreement. Concerning Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Ms. Wairimu Nderitu expressed support for the Council resolution establishing an international commission of inquiry, adding that the situation remained very volatile and tensions could trigger renewed violence. She welcomed the resolution recently adopted by the Human Rights Council on Sri Lanka which strengthened avenues for accountability and reconciliation.

Turning to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Special Adviser said she had expressed concern, during a recent visit to the country, at persistent instances of genocide and war crimes denial and glorification of war criminals. In Brazil, Ecuador and other countries, she called on governments to protect communities at risk and ensure accountability for the crimes committed. The discrimination and hate speech against displaced populations, such as in the context of Venezuela, remained a great concern for her office. She highlighted the fundamental role of transitional justice in Colombia to ensure that peace could prevail, and the need for an immediate response to the violence against human rights activists and former combatants. Her office maintained a general concern on the impact of racism and discrimination in the overall global north, which could ignite social polarisation increasing the risk of atrocity crimes when and where elements of resilience were weak, notably as regards the migrant and refugee populations. Genocide and other atrocity crimes were preventable if all put aside narrow political interests and worked together. Prevention was a collective responsibility, she emphasised.

Discussion

Speakers emphasised that the Council and its mechanisms had an important monitoring and early warning role in preventing mass atrocities, encouraging the High Commissioner to actively inform the Council when a heightened risk of genocide was detected. The Special Adviser was encouraged to provide regular updates on hate speech, the responsibility of social media companies, and the role of religious leaders and actors. One speaker said that ongoing unilateral coercive measures such as blockades qualified as acts of genocide. What role did the education and memorialisation of previous instances of genocide play in the work of the Special Adviser? The international community had the responsibility to conduct a comprehensive, impartial, and in-depth investigation into historical crimes of genocide committed by countries in the global north over hundreds of years in colonial contexts. Silence perpetuated the wounds, keeping alive the memories of suffering and carnage: justice delayed was justice denied.

Some speakers said that the responsibility to protect principle was used selectively to justify military intervention in some countries, while ignoring ongoing crimes of genocide committed in others. Other speakers emphasised their commitment to the responsibility to protect principle, welcoming the recent intersessional panel discussion on the topic and calling on the international community to include the aspect of sexual and gender-based violence in all procedures. In the time of climate change and pandemic, it was time for humanity to understand that they formed a unity with a common future and for States to ratify the Genocide Convention. Afro-descendants across the world were often not considered to even be a people, still suffering the effects of one of the most serious crimes committed against humanity, African slavery, with some still living in countries that conducted genocidal policies against Afro-descendants. Speakers also highlighted specific ongoing national situations within which States were committing violations that may amount to genocide, in particular against religious and ethnic minorities - noting that the Council may have been failing to act in violations where mass rape, torture, surveillance, internment and forced labour were taking place.

Concluding Remarks

ALICE WAIRIMU NDERITU, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, noted that her office was continuing inter-agency consultations to better align the work of United Nations agencies in Geneva and New York. Reiterating her commitment to strengthening the atrocity prevention component of her mandate, she said that civil society’s contributions, engagement with special mechanisms, and participation in the Universal Periodic Review were key to identify and address atrocities, war crimes and genocide, and risks thereof. Human rights education was extremely important, notably to address genocide denial and glorification of war criminals.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

The Council has before it the reports of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (A/HRC/47/26) on rape as a grave, systematic and widespread human rights violation, and (A/HRC/47/26/Add.1) on a framework for legislation on rape (model rape law)

Presentation of the Reports

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said her thematic report was on rape as a grave, systematic and widespread human rights violation, a crime and a manifestation of gender-based violence against women and girls, both in peacetime and during conflict, with a focus on States’ responsibility to prevent it, and to change the prevalent rape culture, the culture of impunity for perpetrators, and stigmatisation and lack of access to justice for victims. The report supported a review and harmonisation of national criminal laws and practices with international standards on rape. It was accompanied by the Framework for Model Legislation on Rape. Stressing that rape was a specific form of sexual violence, she said that, to be efficient, its criminalisation required the examination of all its constitutive elements at the international level, and noted that many of those standards were also applicable to other forms of sexual violence. Drawing from 206 responses provided to a questionnaire, the Special Rapporteur remarked that States criminalised rape using different definitions (based on force or on lack of consent), protecting different persons (only women or all persons), including or excluding marital rape, covering different types of penetrations, prescribing different aggravating and mitigating circumstances, setting different lengths of sentences, prescribing ex officio or ex parte prosecution of rape, and providing or not providing statutes of limitation for its prosecution.

In many States, provisions on rape covered only women victims and only vaginal penetration. Based on international standards, criminal law provisions should protect all persons, without discrimination, including men, boys and gender-diverse persons. They should also cover all types of penetration, however slight, of a sexual nature with any bodily part or object. The criminalisation of rape should include rape between spouses or intimate partners. The Special Rapporteur added that intercourse without consent should be criminalised as rape in all definitions. The victim’s testimony, supported by a physical and psychological assessment of harm and assessed alongside existing evidence, should not require further corroboration to be considered as proof. There should be no statutes of limitation for initiating legal proceedings on rape during conflict or in peacetime. States should provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction, so courts could prosecute rape cases committed by their nationals outside their territory, which was particularly relevant to prevent impunity of cases involving international or uniformed personnel connected to the United Nations.

Discussion

Some speakers said stigma against transgender women in all their diversity was prevalent and many transgender women were at heightened risk of and exposure to violence, killings, and other human rights violations and abuses. They encouraged governments to proactively work with transgender-led and competent organizations in raising awareness and enhancing understanding about the human rights of transgender persons. A definition of rape in line with international standards, criminalising all forms of this crime, including marital rape as well as the rape of men and boys, should only be the first step of many. Spotlighting the challenges faced by indigenous women and girls in particular, speakers said gender-based violence was one of the most pervasive, deadly and deeply rooted human rights violations of our time. Urging a survival-based approach, speakers stressed that rape violated a range of human rights, and touted their educational approach, which sought to inculcate pupils with the notion that their body was their possession and that “no means no”.

Shame, the feeling of injustice and revictimization, impunity, and fear were evils that perpetrators of this crime would never know, as speakers called for concrete actions such as fostering positive masculinity to change mentalities and behaviours by destroying stereotypes and gender inequalities. This need to improve education in the fight to change societal norms was noted by multiple speakers. Some countries denied or even beautified their histories of aggression and omitted past crimes, including mass rape and the recruitment of comfort women. Many speakers outlined a wide variety of laws, legal provisions, national policies, strategies and campaigns aimed at preventing rape and ensuring accountability, agreeing that it was the duty of the State to ensure their implementation. COVID-19 measures often led to the confinement of women and girls with their abusers, creating a pandemic within a pandemic - such measures needed special provisions to ensure their protection. Speakers congratulated the Special Rapporteur on her six-year tenure, noting that her report rightly highlighted legal loopholes which may exist due to legislative vagueness linked to persistent patriarchal stereotypes and cultural traits.

Interim Remarks

DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, recalled that she had submitted a report to the General Assembly that dealt specifically with COVID-19 and gender-based violence. The pandemic had made pre-existing shortcomings more evident. Regarding objections to her use of the notion of consent, she pointed out that it was included in General Comment No. 35 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. The Special Rapporteur suggested that perhaps the development of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women that dealt with violence against women should be considered.

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2021/06/morning-human-rights-council-holds-separate-interactive