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Human Rights Council considers indigenous issues

MORNING

21 septembre 2010

The Human Rights Council today took up indigenous issues, holding a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, which mainly focused on indigenous issues, hearing an introduction of reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office on indigenous issues, as well as reports of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People, and concluding the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples.

Marcia Kran, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introducing the reports of the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office, said that proposed initiatives such as the expansion of the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations could further enhance the visibility of indigenous issues in the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies. With its current mandate, the Voluntary Fund could support participation of indigenous peoples representatives in the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Jose Carlos Morales, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, introducing the report on the Third Session of the Expert Mechanism that had taken place in Geneva in July 2010 , said that this Expert Mechanism was an important place for the indigenous people, as its main role was to advise the United Nations bodies and feed its decisions in the United Nations General Assembly. In this context, the Expert Mechanism was in a position to help the Human Rights Council in fulfilling its mandate of the protection of human rights of all in an equitable and fair manner. Some 600 accredited participants took part at the Third Session, Mr. Morales said, which included States, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations.

In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers said the draft Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, which were forwarded by the Advisory Committee of the Human Rights Council, would contribute significantly to efforts to eliminate this discrimination. Human rights bodies and mechanisms made crucial contributions through their work and speakers supported the work of Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs whose works, reports and presentations not only informed the work of the Council, but also helped countries better promote and protect human rights at home. The progress of the study by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making was welcomed. On promoting cooperation with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council through the universalization of the standing invitation, speakers said that progress had been made in the past year with the number of countries extending standing invitations continuing to grow. States were urged to fully cooperate with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Concern was expressed about the escalation of reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperated with United Nations mechanisms. Support was expressed for the work on the human rights of indigenous peoples carried out by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur, and by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Speaking in the general debate were China, Japan, Guatemala, Chile, United States, Argentina, Australia, Latvia, Honduras, Denmark and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

The following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, International Indian Treaty Council, France Libertés: Fondation Danielle Miterrand, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development, International Committee for the Indians of the Americas, World Association of the School as an Instrument of Peace, International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, Colombian Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, Society for Threatened Peoples, Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Indian Council of South America, International Club for Peace Research, European Union of Public Relations, International Institute for Peace, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, Liberation, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association of Cameroon, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Rencontre Africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, North-South XXI and Syriac Universal Alliance.

Paraguay and Panama spoke in right of reply.

In the interactive dialogue with James Anaya, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, speakers said that Mr. Anaya devoted much of his report to an analysis of corporate responsibility with respect to indigenous people's rights. States had the obligation to protect against human rights abuses committed by third parties, and bore the main responsibility to conduct consultations with indigenous peoples, however, third parties had the responsibility to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and corporations should ensure that they did not contribute to violations of those rights. United Nations bodies should give greater attention to the issue of reparations from corporations. It was also noted that dissemination and training should be incorporated at the national and community level, and should include indigenous work and company organizations as well as academic centres. The knowledge of the rights of indigenous peoples should be broadened, and this would contribute to understanding as well as social peace. Speakers asked the Special Rapporteur to describe how initiatives aimed at respecting the rights of indigenous people, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could be promoted and how best to engage private companies in the promotion and protection of the human rights of indigenous people.

In closing remarks, Mr. Anaya said he was encouraged by the spirit of constructive dialogue in which responses from Governments were made, and the expressions of willingness for continued cooperation, but he reminded all of the ongoing problems and challenges in the reports, many of which involved grave situations of the human rights of indigenous peoples in the countries he had visited. More needed to be done for indigenous peoples to be aware of their rights, in particular the right to self-determination, and to participate in consultations on matters affecting their rights. Different kinds of initiatives were required to engage companies with regard to their duties towards indigenous peoples, and there was a need for greater interaction between what appeared to be two parallel dialogues, one within companies on what their responsibilities may be, and one within indigenous communities about the lack of responsibility within companies for indigenous peoples' rights.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur were Norway, Russian Federation, New Zealand, Guatemala, Chile, Zimbabwe, Bolivia, the European Union, Denmark, Brazil, Nepal, Mexico, China, the United States and Malaysia. Non-governmental organizations speaking during the interactive dialogue included the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, the International Indian Treaty Council, the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the Indian Council of South America and the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action.

The Special Rapporteur presented his reports on Monday, 20 September and the summary of his presentation can be found in press release HRC/10/100

The Council today is holding three back-to-back meetings. The proceedings in this press release cover the meetings from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. In a meeting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Kyrgyzstan and Guinea. At 3 p.m., the Council will consider the outcomes of the Universal Periodic Review of Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Spain and Lesotho.

Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples

GEIR SJOBERG (Norway) said the Special Rapporteur devoted much of his report to an analysis of corporate responsibility with respect to indigenous people's rights, and put forward several concrete recommendations to corporations and States. The governance gap in this area was the source of numerous abuses worldwide; many indigenous communities were affected adversely by corporate activities, which could cause conflicts. States had the obligation to protect against human rights abuses committed by third parties, and bore the main responsibility to conduct consultations with indigenous peoples, however, third parties also had the responsibility to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and corporations should ensure that they did not contribute to violations of those rights. In this regard, the recommendations in the report on the exercise of due diligence by corporations were particularly useful. There was a growing awareness about corporate involvement in human rights violations. The Special Rapporteur should elaborate on possible synergies between his work and the work of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on business and human rights with regard to the rights of indigenous peoples, and give his views on the capacity of the United Nations system in advising.

ROMAN KAHAEV (Russian Federation) welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report and especially his focus on the impact of corporate entities on indigenous rights. Russia believed that United Nations bodies should give greater attention to the issue of reparations from corporations. Compliance from private companies to respect the rights of indigenous peoples was important and Russia fully supported the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur in this regard. In summary, private companies had both social and business responsibilities to promote and protect the human rights of indigenous people and States had an obligation to uphold these rights.

HINE-WAI LOOSE (New Zealand) said that country visits by Special Rapporteurs were an opportunity to acknowledge where progress had been made and confront what were often significant challenges. The visit of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people to New Zealand had achieved those two objectives and New Zealand appreciated his willingness to meet with a wide range of government ministers, Maori tribes and other organizations. The Government was committed to resolving outstanding historical grievances under the Treaty of Waitangi and looked forward to receiving the recommendations and practical advice as to how to make further progress in advancing the rights of Maori in New Zealand. New Zealand welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s willingness to meet with individuals wishing to raise allegations in the margins of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and was interested in further initiatives that Professor Anaya might have on this matter.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala) said Guatemala was eagerly awaiting the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur as they would be valuable guidance along the path Guatemala had chosen for the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples. As part of a comprehensive policy, Guatemala believed that dissemination and training should be part of the national and community level, and should include indigenous work and company organizations as well as academic centres. The knowledge of the rights of indigenous peoples should be broadened, and this would contribute to understanding as well as social peace. The mandate could help in this area, as it had since its inception. In previous years, significant progress had been made in various areas such as identifying barriers to the promotion of these rights. The role played by the Special Rapporteur in preparing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was extremely important; other important contributions included the attention given to the situation of indigenous women and children in such areas as education, health, justice, participation in decision making, and reform. This had given rise to the implementation of recommendations, and best practices in the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples. During the session of the Council, Guatemala would present resolutions on human rights and indigenous peoples and address the renewal of the Special Rapporteur's mandate, trusting they would be adopted by consensus as usual.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) extended its appreciation for the work conducted by the Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples. With regard to the current situation in Chile, the Government was making important strides in addressing its domestic relations with indigenous people and had set up a number of development projects with its various indigenous populations. A resolution with the Mapuche people was underway and Chile had also signed ILO Convention 169. The new approach of the Government was built on four fundamental pillars, that of liberty, freedom, dignity and empowerment. Constitutional reforms were also under way, including revisions to the anti-terrorist law to ensure that it protected indigenous people from being unfairly targeted. The efforts being made stretched beyond rural areas to urban zones, where 70 per cent of indigenous people now lived. Chile did not wish to repeat the errors of the past and wanted to share its progress with members of the Council. In closing, Chile said that it remained committed to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and would continue to work closely with him and other United Nations bodies on this important issue.

ENOS MAFEMBA (Zimbabwe) welcomed the report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people and said it noted the need for a delicate balance between maintaining the rights of indigenous people and the need to bring those rights into national and international norms, such as the right to education and equality between men and women, to name a few. Those fundamental freedoms could only be realised by the modification of some traditional practices of indigenous people. Zimbabwe shared the observation of Botswana on the need to clarify the use of the terms ethnic minority and indigenous people and encouraged the international community to provide assistance to Botswana in its efforts to improve the rights of indigenous people.

FERNANDO ROSALES (Bolivia) said the report of the High Commissioner's Office on the activities in the field to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was particularly valuable. In Bolivia all rights of indigenous peoples were recognized under the Constitution, and other States could take similar measures, in a genuine light of democracy. Coordination of the work done by the Special Rapporteur with the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum was greatly valued because of its constructive results, but it was still clear that a lot remained to be done to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples throughout the world. Extending the Voluntary Fund's mandate in order to cover the sessions of the Human Rights Council and the treaty bodies was a way of putting into practice the indiscriminate inclusiveness of these United Nations fora. There were still many outstanding issues to be considered, but Bolivia agreed with paragraph 99 of the report which referred to a key issue for indigenous people's access and decision making, namely access to information. The interest of the Special Rapporteur in studying judicial pluralism and indigenous customary law was important, and Bolivia hoped for a dialogue on this.

JOELLE HIVONNET (European Union) welcomed the efforts of the Special Rapporteur aimed at enhancing cooperation and coordination with other United Nations mechanisms dealing with the theme of indigenous peoples. The European Union asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate further about the main conclusions of his discussion with the representatives of the Permanent Forum on enhancing cooperation and coordination among United Nations mechanisms. The European Union considered that business activities should be conducted in a manner consistent with people’s enjoyment of their human rights. However, each State bore the responsibility to protect human rights within its jurisdiction. Thus, the European Union shared the view of the Special Rapporteur that it was the State’s duty to protect against potential human rights abuses by business enterprises, as well as to investigate these and ensure adequate accountability. Finally, the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur to describe how initiatives aimed at respecting the rights of indigenous people, as set out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, could be promoted and how business could be encouraged to join them.

ARNOLD DE FINE SKIBSTED (Denmark) commended Professor Anaya on his effort to engage with and encourage cooperation and dialogue between States, indigenous people and other concerned parties. He had established an effective cooperation and was carrying out his mandate in a complementary manner with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Denmark wanted to hear Professor Anaya’s thoughts on how to improve the ability of the three United Nations mechanisms to supplement each other in promoting the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Denmark commended the Special Rapporteur for dedicating substantial amounts of time to meeting in person with representatives of indigenous people and saw this practice as a very important gesture. Denmark wanted the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on this arrangement and how the States might assist in fulfilling this challenging part of the mandate. Finally, Denmark wanted to hear more on how best to engage private companies in the promotion and protection of human rights of indigenous people.

FRANKLIN RODRIGUES HOYER (Brazil) said that States had the duty to mitigate and compensate the effects of human rights violations. With regard to indigenous peoples, the concept of due diligence should be based on international norms and standards. The necessity of discussing parameters that integrated activities of corporations should include the issue of respect of human rights. These populations were vulnerable to the interests of companies exploring natural resources. Brazil had an advanced legal and institutional framework to deal with such issues. The duty to consult indigenous peoples in matters affecting their collective rights was integrated into the Brazilian legal framework, and there was a draft law which approved the Indigenous Peoples' Statute which reaffirmed the obligation of consulting indigenous communities on any measures that may affect them. Indigenous communities were also entitled to compensatory measures. Such measures coincided with the recommendations contained in the Special Rapporteur's report and also illustrated the Brazilian Government's treatment of enterprises which could affect indigenous communities, and reflected the normative parameters by means of which States and companies could be legally summoned and prosecuted by Brazil's judiciary.

BHRIGU DHUNGANA (Nepal) stated that the 2007 Interim Constitution of Nepal guaranteed the right to equality of all citizens before the law and its equal protection. There was no discrimination against any citizen in the application of general laws on grounds of religion, race, gender, caste, tribe, origin, language or ideological conviction. The Constituent Assembly, with the mandate of writing a new democratic constitution of the country, was a clear example of one of the most inclusive representative bodies in the country’s history with 40 percent of its members representing indigenous communities. Nepal had ratified ILO Convention 169 and was working to adopt a national action plan on its implementation, to ensure indigenous people’s effective and politically meaningful participation in the decision-making processes and governance of the country. Nepal concluded by saying it was a secular country and was proud to have maintained its unique diversity.

ARTURO HERNANDEZ BASAVE (Mexico) said that Mexico hoped that the Special Rapporteur would continue to work along the four main lines and thought this was an approach that gave the overall view and promoted the rights of indigenous people. His recommendation and proposals became useful tools for governments. Mexico welcomed the efforts of the Special Rapporteur in strengthening cooperation with other mechanisms in the implementation of his mandate, particularly with the Indigenous Forum, the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous People and other Special Procedures of this Council. Regarding the report on corporations and rights of indigenous people, Mexico said it was important to clarify the responsibility of companies in this matter in order to avoid conflicts. Mexico said that, with the delegation of Guatemala, it would have the honour to promote a resolution on the extension of the Special Rapporteur’s mandate during the current session of the Council. Mexico welcomed the progress made on the rights of indigenous people and called on all States to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and in doing so ensure that the mandate was fulfilled.

XU JING (China) said China had listened to the presentations by the Special Rapporteur and the countries, and appreciated the reports prepared by the High Commissioner's Office, and the Expert Mechanism. China supported continuous efforts to ensure that indigenous peoples could enjoy their rights to fully participate in the economic, social and cultural rights of the State. China had always promoted national autonomy, and ethnic minorities had substantive decision-making power with regard to internal affairs, and could share in national affairs. The Government had always been devoted to the development of ethnic education, and had adopted special measures, including training ethnic teachers for minority areas, resulting in a big increase in the ethnic population going through education. Most of the ethnic population in Xinjiang and Tibet had religious belief, and the State respected that belief and religion.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said that it read with great interest the report of the Special Rapporteur and its discussion of guidelines for responsible corporate behaviour when developing and implementing projects that could affect indigenous peoples. The United States encouraged corporations to study the report as well, due to the importance of the issues it addressed regarding the business sector and the rights of indigenous people. The United States said that it would be interested in hearing how corporations had responded to the specific recommendations in the report. The United States also looked forward to the Special Rapporteur’s future work on the situation of voluntarily isolated indigenous people and indigenous individuals living in urban areas. The United States explained that it was continuing to work, in consultation with various stakeholders, on a review of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The United States would keep the Special Rapporteur up to date on the progress and outcome of this review process.

JOHAN ARIFF ABDUL RAZAK (Malaysia) said that the delay in communications mentioned in the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people was due to the fact that the Working Group had just been established and had been undertaking its own investigation on sexual violence against Penan women and children. Since achieving independence, most members of the Penan community had chosen settled life, while others who remained nomads were at great risk of human rights violations including sexual abuse. Additional measures to ensure the respect of the rights of the Penan, particularly their land rights, were included in the provisional Constitution. The Government remained committed to ensuring that the Penan were enjoying the same rights and other members of the society and regretted that the issue of the Penan was exploited at both national and international level.

POOJA PATEL, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), said the significant delay in the response by the Malaysian Government to the Special Rapporteur’s communication of November 2008 regarding the sexual violence and exploitation of Penan women and girls at the hand of private company loggers in the Baram area, Sarawak, was regrettable. No concrete measures had been taken so far to act upon the findings and recommendations of the Task Force set up to investigate with the view of bringing the perpetrators to justice. There were new cases of sexual abuse, and the wider structural causes of the issue of persistent sexual violence and exploitation was due to denial of their land rights and basic citizenship rights as well as defunct mechanisms for redress and remedies. The mega agro-development project in West Papua was also of concern, as customary land was being grabbed, and this would only aggravate the impoverishment and marginalisation of the indigenous Malind people.

XALBERTO SALDA MUNDO, of International Indian Treaty Council, said the Special Rapporteur should continue to stress the right to free, prior and informed consent. Lamentably up to now, the situation in States often continued to maintain the pre-colonial situation. This was now being challenged. Until the right to free, prior and informed consent was ensured, the old pre-colonial way of taking would continue to deny indigenous peoples their lands and their ways of life. There were comments on the visit to New Zealand - regarding the treaty settlement process, some issues remained outstanding.

ANA-MARIA RODRIGUEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said that the Human Rights Council had before it the report of the Special Rapporteur. During his visit to Colombia in 2009, the Special Rapporteur commented that the situation had not improved since 2004. There was a lack of guarantees to the right to land and a constant threat of infrastructure development. Guerrilla groups, along with private paramilitary groups, did not respect the right of indigenous peoples. According to the Special Rapporteur, between the period of 1998 to 2008, 1,365 indigenous people had been murdered. The forced displacement of indigenous groups needed to be urgently addressed by the Council and concerned States.

RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that the Special Rapporteur’s report failed to link specifically to the vital importance of the right to self-determination and the obligation by foreign corporations and nationals to obtain consent to exploit indigenous territory. There were serious human rights violations in preventing the right to self-determination of indigenous peoples, including the imposition of corporate status in Alaska, in essence to create manufactured consent to exploit indigenous resources. In addition, the Indian Council of South America asked the Government of Chile to recognize calls by the Mapuche leaders and to address their concerns in order to end the current hunger strike.

LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, called for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, with the inclusion of the promotion of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In relation to the report on Australia, the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action expressed the concern on the reply given by the Government of Australia in this Council. Australia had not consulted with Aboriginal people on the conclusions and recommendation contained in the report and therefore the response of the Government was that of the Government alone. The management of the Aboriginal welfare continued to be discriminatory and the new arrangements did not include any remedies to people affected by this discriminatory regime. The Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action drew the attention of the Council to the need to establish more options for dialogue with indigenous people for the implementation of their rights.

Closing Remarks by Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples

JAMES ANAYA, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms of Indigenous Peoples, said he was encouraged by the spirit of constructive dialogue in which responses from Governments were made, and the expressions of willingness to continue to cooperate, but he reminded all of the ongoing problems and challenges in the reports, many of which involved grave situations of the human rights of indigenous peoples in the countries he had visited. The comments on the part of the report on corporate responsibility were appreciated, and with regard to awareness of corporate bodies of their responsibilities with regard to international human rights standards, there was indeed a need for greater awareness. There was a growing awareness of social responsibility generally, mainly due to the work of the Special Representative on business and human rights. More needed to be done for indigenous peoples to be aware of their rights, in particular the right to self-determination and that to participate in consultations on matters affecting their rights. Different kinds of initiatives were required to engage companies in inquiry with regard to their duties towards indigenous peoples, and there was a need for space for greater interaction between the two - there appeared to be two parallel dialogues, one within companies on what their responsibilities may be, and this did not usually include indigenous peoples. The other parallel discussion was within indigenous peoples, complaining about the lack of responsibility within companies for indigenous peoples' rights. On cooperation with the Expert Mechanism and the Permanent Forum, this was a practice that had begun a few years ago, and it would be continued, as it had provided a means for indigenous peoples to express their views within the United Nations, but it required improvement, as there was a significant lack of time during meetings.
Documents

The Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the rights of indigenous peoples, (A/HRC/15/34), contains information on relevant developments of human rights bodies and mechanisms and outlines the activities undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner at headquarters and in the field that contribute to the promotion and the full application of the provisions of the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and follow-up the effectiveness of the Declaration. The report covers the period between January 2009 and May 2010.

The Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the practical implications of a change in mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations, (A/HRC/15/38), covers in particular: the mandate, administration, working methods and financial status of the Fund. It also provides information on the implications of a possible change of mandate of the Fund to cover the participation of indigenous people’s representatives to sessions of the treaty bodies and Human Rights Council, which has been proposed by the Human Rights Council’s Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (proposals contained in reports A/HRC/10/56 and A/HRC/12/32).

The Report of the Human Rights Advisory Committee: Draft set of principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members, (A/HRC/15/30), outlines a draft set of principles and guidelines for the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members.

The Progress Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on indigenous peoples and their right to participate in decision making (A/HRC/15/35), examines the international human rights framework as it relates to indigenous peoples, their internal decision-making processes and institutions, and participation in decision-making mechanisms linked to both State and non-State institutions, and processes affecting indigenous peoples.

The Report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on its third session, (A/HRC/15/36), details the discussions held by the Expert Mechanism on the following topics: the progress report on the study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, in order to finalize it; the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, with a particular focus on its use at the international, regional and national levels to promote and protect the rights of indigenous peoples; and proposals to be submitted to the Human Rights Council.

The Note by the High Commissioner for Human Rights transmitting to the Human Rights Council the report of the seventeenth meeting of special rapporteurs/representatives, independent experts and chairs of working groups of the special procedures of the Human Rights Council, (A/HRC/15/44), summarizes the discussions held at the meeting in Geneva from 28 June to 28 July 2010. The discussions focused on the independence and effectiveness of the special procedures, harmonization of working methods, and the approach of the system of special procedures to the Human Rights Council review. Participants stressed the importance of strengthening the special procedures system through the review and emphasized the importance of according them the possibility to participate in the process as equal partners. They agreed on a proactive role to be assumed by the Coordination Committee and mandate holders in the review process. They also discussed the role of special procedures in early warning and natural disasters and coordinated follow-up to the work of human rights mechanisms, including special procedures, treaty bodies and the universal periodic review.

Introduction of Reports of the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and her Office

MARCIA KRAN, Director of the Research and Right to Development Division, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the rights of indigenous peoples remained a high priority issue for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and indigenous issues figured prominently in the High Commissioner’s annual Strategic Management Plan. The Office continued to promote cooperation and coordination within the United Nations system and between the three mandates devoted to indigenous issues, namely the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

Proposed initiatives such as the expansion of the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations could further enhance the visibility of indigenous issues in the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies. Furthermore, she was pleased to see that support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples kept expanding, including the four countries that initially voted against the Declaration. With its current mandate, the Voluntary Fund could support participation of indigenous peoples representatives in the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The diversity of indigenous peoples’ representatives, including those from under-represented regions who did not have adequate financial resources, contributing to the Council and treaty body sessions would undoubtedly increase. Ms. Kran concluded by saying that, since its inception, the mandate of the Voluntary Fund had been amended five times in order to reflect institutional changes and to ensure that the needs of indigenous peoples were accurately reflected.

JOSE CARLOS MORALES, Chairperson of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, introducing the report on the Third Session of the Expert Mechanism that had taken place in Geneva in July 2010, said that this Expert Mechanism was an important place for the indigenous people, as it main role was to advise the United Nations bodies and feed its decisions in the United Nations General Assembly. The Expert Mechanism allowed the discussions that led to better understanding of the rights of the indigenous people. In this context the Expert Mechanism was in the position to help the Human Rights Council in fulfilling its mandate of the protection of human rights of all in an equitable and fair manner. Some 600 accredited participants took part at the Third Session, Mr. Morales said, which included States, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. The thematic approach of this Session was guided by relevant resolutions of the Human Rights Council and included the right of indigenous people to participate in decision-making. Since the right to participation in decision-making was fundamental to the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous people, Mr. Morales said that the study would assist in the implementation of this right. The study presented the institutions, mechanisms and decision-making processes of States. The Expert Mechanism received positive feedback during the Third Session, particularly on the two aspects of decision-making - internal and external - and this was crucial to tackle the implementation of indigenous people rights. In the context of the discussion during the Third Session, many thought it was useful to share good practices in the implementation of the Declaration. The mention was constantly made about the need for more information and for awareness-raising about the Declaration. During its Third Session, the Expert Mechanism approved a number of proposals that were submitted now to the Council for consideration.

Proposal one referred to the human rights institutions and mechanisms and their important role in the promotion and protection of rights of indigenous people. Proposal two submitted to the Council that the Expert Mechanism could at its future session organise panel sessions on the follow up on the first Expert Mechanism’s expert study on the right of indigenous people to education. Proposal three referred to the review process of the Human Rights Council and proposed that it included indigenous people experts in order to ensure that the promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous people was strengthened. Proposals four and five requested an authorisation to conduct an annual study on the implementation of rights of indigenous people and to notify the Council of any recommendation that could be adopted to promote this issue. The Expert Mechanism believed it was important to note the scope of Article 28 of the Declaration which said that States must adopt appropriate measures including legislative measures to implement the scope of the Declaration. Further proposals referred to the establishment of a voluntary fund for indigenous people as previously proposed by the Expert Mechanism. The Expert Mechanism adopted other proposals such as necessary attention to the rights of indigenous people in the context of the Universal Periodic Review and the necessary cooperation of United Nations bodies with the Expert Mechanism. In conclusion, Mr. Morales informed the Council about the cooperation with the Permanent Forum and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, which demonstrated their commitment to and engagement in strengthening cooperation between the mandates.

General Debate on Indigenous Issues and on Human Rights Bodies and Institutions

HANNU HIMANEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic Countries: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, said the Nordic countries were firm supporters of the rights of indigenous peoples, and welcomed the work of the three United Nations mechanisms for the protection and promotion of the rights of indigenous peoples. The three mechanisms were complementary. The Expert Mechanism was thanked for the report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision-making, as this was of fundamental importance for the realization of the rights of indigenous peoples. The objective of consultations should be to obtain the consent of the indigenous people concerned. Representatives of indigenous peoples should be invited to participate also in international processes on matters that concerned them directly. It was relevant to pay attention to the follow up of the studies conducted by the Expert Mechanism on the national level and in the Council. The Nordic countries also appreciated the work and the proactive approach of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of indigenous peoples. The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples contextualised all existing rights for indigenous peoples, and provided the natural frame of reference for the promotion of indigenous peoples' rights.

LIESBETH GOOSSENS (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the European Union welcomed the opportunity to exchange views on the work of the expert mechanisms of the Human Rights Council. Access to human rights expertise was essential if the Council was to effectively implement all aspects of its mandate. In this regard, the European Union welcomed the report of the seventeenth meeting of the Special Rapporteurs of the Council. The mandate holders played a crucial role in providing the Council with independent, timely and detailed information about specific human rights issues and situations. Four years after the Council’s inception, it was necessary to increase attention to the implementation and follow-up of the Council’s decisions. Special Procedures could play an important role in this regard. However, if the system of Special Procedures was to function effectively, it was imperative that all stakeholders provided these Procedures with their full cooperation.

The European Union would consider the work of the Advisory Committee with interest, including the final version of the study on the best practices in the matter of missing persons. The European Union encouraged the experts to continue to engage in the discussions on human rights education and training and to share their views on ways and means to enhance international cooperation in the field of human rights. Finally, in conclusion, the European Union welcomed the report on indigenous peoples and looked forward to considering the final report, which would be presented at the eighteenth session of the Human Rights Council.

MARIANA OLIVERA (Mexico) welcomed the progress made on the study on the participation of indigenous people in decision-making and said it would ensure better understanding of frameworks, challenges and best practices in exercising this right. Mexico participated in the preparation of this study and hoped its contribution would be important in its finalisation. The question of the participation of indigenous people in decision-making warranted serious consideration and follow up by the Council, and that was why those aspects were incorporated in the joint resolution Mexico was preparing with Guatemala related to the extension of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people.

ROMAN KAHAEV (Russian Federation) said the role of the High Commissioner and her Office in promoting the rights of indigenous peoples was appreciated, and its work was extremely effective. The report of the Expert Mechanism had been examined. The parameters and scope of information considered were defined in the Council's Institution-building Package. Any change at this stage was inappropriate and counter-productive. On the conduct of panel discussions, the participation of indigenous peoples remained problematic, and Russia understood this. All were witnesses to the extremely heavy workload of the Human Rights Council. In this connection, rather than organising a new panel discussion, how appropriate this would be should be considered. The United Nations did have a Forum on Indigenous Peoples, and this also had panel discussions where all indigenous issues were discussed.

ZHANG QIAM (China) said with regard to the set of principles and guidelines on the persons affected by leprosy and their family members, the Advisory Committee was the think tank of the Human Rights Council. Guaranteeing religious people's right to education, health and housing was close to the rights of indigenous peoples, and would help to fundamentally improve the lives of indigenous peoples and would improve their access to their rights. The Expert Mechanism should check the reliability and truthfulness of relevant materials so as to ensure the impartiality of the Mechanism. China would continue to support the work of the Expert Mechanism and continue to participate in its work and in the work on the review of the body.

OSAMU SAKASHITA (Japan) said Japan would focus its intervention on the Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. Despite the fact that leprosy was a curable disease, thanks to chemotherapy and other forms of treatment, persons affected by leprosy and their family members around the world continued to suffer serious violations of human rights which resulted from misconceptions or misunderstandings of the disease. Japan too used to have a policy of isolating persons affected by leprosy from the general public. However, such policies had been abolished and at present Japan carried out a variety of measures in order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. Based on its experience, Japan believed that the issue of leprosy would never be fundamentally resolved without addressing the aspect of discrimination. Japan was certain that the adoption of the draft resolution on the Principles and Guidelines would contribute significantly to efforts to eliminate discrimination, including in Japan.

CARLOS RAMIRO MARTINEZ ALVARADO (Guatemala) thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report on the participation of indigenous people in decision-making. The report pointed to progress made in this area, which opened new avenues to explore in the participation of indigenous peoples. This issue was particularly relevant for Guatemala where discussions on a national legal framework took place in a culture of cooperation. Guatemala said that the Expert Mechanism made tangible contribution to the achievement of the rights of indigenous people, which was yet another issue of importance to Guatemala.

PEDRO OYARCE (Chile) said the presentation of the report of the Expert Mechanism and of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were appreciated - they had made a real attempt to coordinate better, and the contribution of the Special Rapporteur was also valued in this respect. It was important for the Office to continue to work on the ground to improve the situation in countries, as this could help to better cover indigenous rights. The Mechanism was a fundamental body to protect and promote human rights, and the Universal Periodic Review should be a space for constructive dialogue to recommend measures in this regard. Indigenous peoples should have their own space in the strategic management plan, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should create such space allowing opportunities for development of indigenous peoples in the full respect of their traditions and culture. The Expert Mechanism allowed a space for constructive dialogue for indigenous peoples, and the inclusion of the consultation process in the report contributed to the implementation of Convention 169 and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A legal framework should be developed for indigenous peoples to decide their own priorities for development bearing in mind their cultural integrity. On Convention 169, significant progress had been made in Chile on the policies for indigenous progress, and it was working to improve its consultation processes.

JOHN C. MARIZ (United States) said that the human rights bodies and mechanisms made crucial contributions through their work and the United States reiterated its support for the work of Independent Experts and Special Rapporteurs whose reports and presentations not only informed the work of the Council, but also helped countries better promote and protect human rights at home. The United States supported the integration of indigenous issues into the work of the Council and appreciated the recommendations of the Experts to have more panel discussions focused on issues facing indigenous people. The United States also supported the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. The United States strongly supported the guidelines in principle and encouraged fellow Member States to consider taking further measures to eliminate discrimination against patients with leprosy by healthcare workers as well as instituting guidelines for medical practices that did not prescribe long term or permanent institutionalization for leprosy patients.

SILVIA CAO (Argentina) thanked the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism on their reports on indigenous peoples. Argentina would not have a problem with a possible change in the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Peoples. In line with the report, since its inception this mandate had been changed five times to ensure that the work of the Fund was indeed centred on the needs of the indigenous people and the United Nations. This proposal was submitted by the Expert Mechanism in order to guarantee greater representation of indigenous people in different United Nations bodies. In line with the report, broadening of the mandate would lead to increasing the number of people with subsidies taking part in the United Nations treaty bodies’ sessions.

FATIMA MALIK (Australia) said Australia would like to congratulate the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples on the progress of its study on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making. Australia recognized the importance of facilitating the participation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in decision-making processes. The Government had announced its support and funding for the establishment of a national indigenous representative body, now known as the National Congress of Australia's First Peoples. It was designed by and for indigenous Australians, and was an independent company limited by guarantee. It would formally commence operation in January 2011 and would provide a central mechanism with which Governments and the corporate and community sectors could engage and partner on reform initiatives, and would also monitor Government service delivery and performance, as well as focusing on formulating policy and advice, providing an Aboriginal and Torres Islander perspective on issues across Government and bringing an informed, strong national voice representing the goals, aspirations and values of these peoples.

JANIS MAZEIKS (Latvia) addressed the issue of promoting cooperation with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council through the universalization of the standing invitation. Progress had been made in the past year with the number of countries extending standing invitations continuing to grow. Latvia encouraged all States to fully cooperate with the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. While noting some improvements in the practical cooperation with the Special Procedures that led to 73 country visits in 2009, Latvia also noted that the number of visits this year remained low; only 43 country visits had taken place in 2010 and dates for very few forthcoming visits had been set thus far. Worryingly, more than 300 requests for visits by Special Procedure mandate holders were still pending. Latvia remained committed to the principle of improved cooperation with the Special Procedures and invited all States to continue to cooperate with and assist the Special Procedure mandate holders in the performance of their tasks.

GIAMPAOLO RIZZO ALVARADO (Honduras), said that 11 per cent of the over 7 million Hondurans belonged to indigenous people and lived throughout the national territory. Honduras had been established as a multicultural and multilingual country and all programmes were centred on this form of development. The efforts made by the State could be seen in national education programmes for ethnic groups, which paid particular attention to language and culture. One thousand and three hundred teachers had been trained in multicultural education and 100 per cent of the school population from those ethnic groups had been given educational materials. There was still much to be done, as the regions with greatest poverty were the areas where indigenous people lived. Honduras welcomed the various reports on those issues and said it had participated in the Third Session of the Expert Mechanism in order to point out good practices being implemented in the region. The participation of indigenous people in decision-making must take place in the institutional framework that respected them, Honduras concluded.

ARNOLD DE FINE SKIBSTED (Denmark) said the Special Rapporteur and the Expert Mechanism had proven their ability, together with the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, to cooperate effectively in carrying out their respective mandates in a complementary manner. Denmark was impressed with the commitment with which the Special Rapporteur fulfilled his important mandate, and greatly appreciated his remarkable dedication to conducting country visits and meeting with representatives of indigenous peoples. The many studies he had carried out to date were a valuable contribution to furthering the understanding of the rights contained in the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The progress report on indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making of the Expert Mechanism was a very timely contribution to the important promotion of good practices and the implementation of key provisions of the Declaration. Denmark looked forward to the final report next year and reiterated its support for the work on the human rights of indigenous peoples carried out by the Expert Mechanism, the Special Rapporteur, and by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, and looked forward to their future collaboration.

RENATA SARACENO-PERSELLO (Sovereign Military Order of Malta) thanked the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the Principles and Guidelines for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta had for many centuries been involved in combating Hansen’s disease. Today, it continued to provide medical and psychological assistance to affected people and their family members in a number of countries through its foundation and its worldwide relief organization, Malteser International. Their work also focused on raising public awareness and running information campaigns to promote early detection of the disease. In this context, it fought against the numerous forms of discrimination suffered on the grounds of having or having had leprosy. Furthermore, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta was presently funding laboratory research and clinical trials through its MALTALEP programme, which was recognized by the World Health Organization to be the main source of financing for leprosy research worldwide.

FLORENCE SIMBIRI-SACKO, of International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights supported the human rights capacity in the area of indigenous people rights. Those efforts were encouraged by the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which called on all United Nations bodies to support the promotion of the rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had hosted in 2009 an international expert meeting in Bangkok to consider the role and challenges of national human rights institutions in promoting the Declaration at the country and regional level. The Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions called on the Human Rights Council to consider the strategies identified at this meeting, which were endorsed by the Expert Mechanism and to support the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in building the capacity of national institutions in the area of indigenous peoples’ rights.

ANDREA CARMEN, of International Indian Treaty Council, noted the report on the Second Seminar and its recommendation that the United Nations, through the High Commissioner for Human Rights, organise an expert seminar on truth and reconciliation processes as a mechanism for conflict resolution. The right of indigenous people to participate in decision-making also applied to international processes which affected them, but several current international processes presented profound challenges in this regard, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the United Nations Framework on climate change. The International Indian Treaty Council urged the Human Rights Council to take a leadership role in ensuring that the human rights of indigenous people were mainstreamed in all United Nations processes and ensuring the full and effective participation of indigenous people.

ORETTA BANDETTINI DI POGGIO, of France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, in a joint statement with International Educational Development, and Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said the importance of the principle of indigenous participation in decision-making on the full range of issues affecting their lives constituted the fundamental basis for the enjoyment of all their human rights. In this respect, the principle of participation in decision-making was closely linked to the right to consultation and decision under the principle of free, prior and informed consent. This latter principle was of basic importance, as it set the framework for all consultations relating to the acceptance of projects related to indigenous peoples' ancestral land use and likely to negatively affect the life of indigenous communities. The Council should pay attention to the situation of the Mapuche people of Chile.

LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, said since the creation of the League of Nations, indigenous peoples had campaigned with inter-Governmental bodies to confirm their identity as peoples. The Human Rights Council and the General Assembly had substantiated that indigenous peoples and individuals were free and equal to all other peoples and individuals, and had the right to be free from any kind of discrimination in the exercise of their rights, in particular that based on their indigenous origin or identity. Official documents of the Human Rights Council should therefore use the term "indigenous peoples" or otherwise as individuals, and the Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action was deeply offended by those few States who continued to insist that "indigenous people" was the only acceptable terminology in the Council. The Council must put into action clear messages to offending States and multinational organizations, which were intended and designed to end the conspicuous abuses of the human rights of indigenous peoples.

WITTON LITTLECHILD, of International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development, focused on the ongoing impacts on indigenous peoples of the Residential Schools System in Canada. In total, more than 150,000 indigenous children participated in this system, which was legally mandated by the Canadian Government. Many children suffered systematic physical, cultural, spiritual, sexual and emotional abuse. Parents, extended families and communities were traumatized by the forced removal of their children, in many cases for years. Unknown numbers of children died in the schools from illness, injury, abuse, neglect, and suicide. The International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development urged the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to organize an international expert seminar on truth and reconciliation processes as a mechanism for conflict resolution and improved relations between States and indigenous peoples.

TRACEY TE AROHA WHARE, of International Committee for the Indians of the Americas (Incomindios Switzerland), spoke about the progress report on the study of indigenous peoples and the right to participate in decision making as well as the proposals related to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The organization highlighted the importance of the proposals to strengthen the report, in particular information regarding constitutional arrangements for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights as well as greater references to indigenous youth and their role in decision making. The International Committee for the Indians of the Americas said the Council should consider the role of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples during its five year review with a view to ensuring that the Declaration was the normative framework for the Council in regard to indigenous peoples’ rights.

JOSHUA COOPER, of World Association of the School as an Instrument of Peace, said that the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was taking shape and the World Association applauded the initial agendas and how indigenous people had been able to participate in the tradition on the United Nations Working Group on indigenous people. The studies were at the heart of the annual session of the Expert Mechanism, and drafting and adopting studies could be an important initiative for indigenous people. The completion of the right to education and the current discussion on the progress report on the right to participate in decision-making offered an opportunity to map out how those reports could make a difference in indigenous communities around the world. There must be more detailed approach to follow up of those studies, the World Association of the School as an Instrument of Peace concluded.

INSIDRO ACOSTA, of International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs, that the Government of Panama was taking worrying steps in terms of respect of rights of indigenous people. They were not involved in decision-making with regard to the use of their land, which was used for mining or for power plants. The Government of Panama showed racism and intolerance towards the indigenous people, used violent repression and constantly ignored the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people. There was no compliance with the measures that the Government itself announced. The International Working Group for Indigenous Affairs urged the Human Rights Council and United Nations bodies to ensure regional and national monitoring of the policies of Panama, particularly those which had a negative impact on indigenous people.

ANA-MARIA RODRIGUEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said the report submitted the idea of prior consultation, and this was particularly relevant in Colombia, and yet in recent years the Government had promulgated laws on environmental and other matters which had been declared unconstitutional as they went against the rights of indigenous communities, who had, further, not been consulted on these laws. The Special Rapporteur had recognized the persistent problem of lack of prior consultation in Colombia, but the Government had chosen to disregard these recommendations. There must be prior consultation before the implementation of projects that could affect Afro-descendant or indigenous communities. Indigenous representatives were not listened to when they claimed their right to consultation, and it was important to systematically implement ILO Convention 169 and other international instruments, in line with development priorities.

HEATHER COLLISTER, of International Service for Human Rights, said it was extremely concerned by the phenomenon of reprisals against those cooperating with the United Nations and its human rights bodies and mechanisms. Threats, intimidation and attacks against those who cooperated with the United Nations system were serious human rights violations that must be addressed by the Human Rights Council, and were also obstacles to the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms that relied on information from civil society. The Council had ineffective systems and lacked initiative to seriously address this issue, despite its responsibility towards those that engaged with it and its mechanisms. The Council as a collective body must demand answers and concrete investigative results from States in relation to these violations. States bore the primary responsibility for protecting and respecting human rights, and they must investigate attacks and intimidation against those cooperating with the United Nations and its human rights bodies and mechanisms.

NINA DEAN, of Society for Threatened Peoples, said that despite the upcoming Chilean Bicentenary, the Mapuche Nation had little to celebrate while still denied their right to develop in accordance with their traditional spiritual values. Chile remained in contravention of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and ILO Convention 169 adopted by the State in 2008. The Mapuche Nation’s legitimate ancestral territory had been successfully ecologically sustained in accordance with Mapuche spiritual values through thousands of years prior to the arrival of European settlers. However, since the forced annexation of Mapuche territory in the 1860s, the republics had progressively laid claim to the resources contained therein, giving rise to a sustained national resistance by the Mapuche people. The militarization of Mapuche regions, simultaneous trial in both military and civil courts, pre-trial detention, the use of faceless witnesses, application of anti-terrorist law and the incarceration of indigenous leaders and their families by successive Chilean governments must cease immediately to restore democracy for all.

JULIA FRANCO DE CASTRO, of Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, wanted to draw the Human Rights Council and the Expert Mechanism’s attention to the grave situation of indigenous peoples in Paraguay. According to official figures, indigenous people in Paraguay could be found in 17 regions, 561 settlements and 412 communities with 5 language groups. Although Paraguay had constitutional laws regarding the rights of indigenous people, their rights were infringed and violated by state powers. Extreme poverty could be seen in the lack of land with 46 per cent of indigenous people not having legal, definitive settlements as laid down by the constitution. They also suffered from institutional and cultural discrimination, they were forcibly evicted from their land, they experienced the destruction of their land and livelihoods and had no right to decide on decisions that affected them. Paraguay was in contravention of ILO Convention 169.

PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said that cooperation with the Special Procedures mechanisms was crucial to their effective functioning, and therefore, that of the Council. If Amnesty International were completing report cards on the engagement of States with the Special Procedures, it would record that progress had been variable and far too many States would receive a disappointingly low grade. Amnesty International believed that all States should issue a standing invitation to the Special Procedures, failure of which would keep it from being considered for Council Membership. Moreover, urgent appeals should receive a response within five days. Finally, the Council had to be vigilant in regularly reviewing the cooperation of States with the Special Procedures and following up on related commitments made through election pledges and the Universal Periodic Review mechanism.

TOMAS CONDORI CAHUAPAZA, of Indian Council of South America, said that this morning they listened to the delegation of Denmark who said that he did not know how to effectively interact with the Special Rapporteur. Given the huge number of problems faced by indigenous groups, the Indian Council of South America felt that one Special Rapporteur was insufficient to address all their issues. The Indian Council of South America therefore suggested the establishment of deputy rapporteurs in each country to monitor the grass roots situation in each country and to provide reports on indigenous rights.

Mr. S. SERING, of International Club for Peace Research, said the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Indigenous Communities gave indigenous communities control over their lands and resources, and yet the people of Gilgit-Baluchistan were denied these rights by the Pakistani authorities, who used violence against their women as a means to control the natives. Pakistani security service personnel intruded regularly into native neighbourhoods, harassing women and disturbing the peace. Excesses compelled the women of Gilgit-Baluchistan to demonstrate against the Pakistani security forces. Illegal Pakistani immigrants had changed the social fabric, with a culture of intolerance creeping into the region. The incidents of honour killings were anathema that required international attention. The international community should formulate a mechanism to dismantle the Pakistani State apparatus that harmed the native people.

NISAR UI HAQ, of European Union of Public Relations, said the Human Rights Council should pay attention to the situation of the Kashmiri Pandit community, an indigenous community in Kashmir, who had been forcibly pushed out of their valley, forced to live a life of exile in their own country, outside their homeland. The genocide of Kashmiri Pandits had reached its culmination, and they were facing a grim battle to not become extinct as a distinct race and culture.

EMMANUELLE DANGE, of International Institute for Peace, said that the Delhi High Court, in two rulings on cases brought by Kashmiri Pandits seeking equitable treatment, ordered the State to pay lower compensation to Kashmiri Pandits than was paid to Kashmiri Muslims for the loss of their homes as a result of the insurgency in the valley, even though the losses were comparable. The Indian National Commission for Minorities had recommended the passing of legislation in the State to give minority status to Kashmiri Pandits and the International Institute for Peace strongly recommended that the rights of Kashmiri Pandits be protected.

GAJJALA PRAVEEN, of Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, requested that the Working Group on Minorities accept the notion of sub-regional minorities and their human rights, especially in the case of Jammu and Kashmir where the regional majority was a minority within the Indian State and the “regional majority” had a dismal record of protecting its local minorities like Pandits. The Commission to Study the Organization of Peace also requested that the plight of such sub-regional minorities be highlighted and measures suggested to protect their human rights. The cultural and political aspirations of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities would be strongly influenced by the fact of whether the minorities were dispersed or concentrated or whether the minority was displaced from its original habitat.

KAYA MAKARAU SCHWARTZ, of Liberation, said that in north-east India. an influx continued to pose a grave threat to the indigenous peoples of this region. The unabated influx of people from across international borders had reached alarming proportions thereby affecting the indigenous population who were a numerical minority. The situation had given rise to growing animosity and tension between genuine settlers and illegal migrants. Gross human rights violations were perpetrated in the entire north-east of India on a daily basis and Meghalaya was no exception. Liberation urged the Council to address these human rights abuses, particularly with regard to health, education and the empowerment of women. Finally, Liberation also urged the Indian Government to stop its efforts in migrating people to this region.

DINO DEAN GRACIOUS DYMPEP, of Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association of Cameroon, said that India had substantial indigenous and tribal populations living within their borders. Most of these communities were facing rapid overwhelming changes in their societies and were particularly vulnerable to poverty and other forms of marginalization and exploitation. The gross injustices being committed to the hill districts only promoted disunity and serious discord in the integrity of the State in the near future. The role of traditional indigenous institutions had been gradually undermined to such an extent that most of them were now unable to enforce their collective and democratic will upon the general populace.

AWATAR SINGH SEKHON, of Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, said it was estimated that indigenous and tribal people in India represented only eight per cent of Indian populations. Indigenous peoples often experienced extreme poverty in terms of income levels and socio-economic conditions, and were also often one of the most marginalised segments of national populations. As disadvantaged groups, they had less access to decision-makers and fewer opportunities to participate in economic and political life. Corruption in India today was known to have a disproportionate impact on the poor indigenous and tribal peoples in terms of income inequalities, access to essential services and resource distribution. There was little empirical research specifically focused on the impact of corruption on indigenous peoples in India. This situation among many others demanded the immediate attention of the Human Rights Council, which should urge the Indian Government to take stringent and resolute steps to eliminate the menace of corruption.

NNEKA HALIM, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, said in the sphere of intellectual property, the World Intellectual Property Organization had entered into a dynamic dialogue with indigenous groups and communities, and to date the various stakeholders were continuing discussions to develop an international legal instrument to provide better protection for these groups. There should be a binding legal instrument allowing knowledge-holders and others to benefit from the resources they had. Numerous multinationals committed crimes daily across the globe, including plundering ancestral patrimony, exploiting natural genetic and cultural resources, and others. Changing the mandate of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations needed to take account of the vulnerability of indigenous women and children to economic and financial crises, ensuring they had access to food and employment.

LAILA MATAR, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, was deeply concerned about the escalation of reprisals in the Middle East against human rights defenders who cooperated with UN mechanisms. In Bahrain, many of them were being held incommunicado, denied access to lawyers and their families and subject to torture. Two human rights defenders from Bahrain were supposed to be present today, but one had been living in imminent threat of torture for his engagement with human rights mechanisms. The other person was prevented from leaving the airport in Bahrain to travel to Geneva. The Council and its Member States were urged to give the issue of reprisals the attention it deserved and to give attention to reprisals happening in Bahrain.

ALEXANDRA RIVERA, of North-South XXI, noted that the voices and concerns raised by indigenous peoples were often neglected in the important UN forums, including the Human Rights Council. North-South XXI noted with regret that none of the reports on indigenous peoples discussed the very serious matter of the participation of indigenous peoples in fora where action on climate change and its negative effects on the well-being of the human family was being contemplated. Their voices were not only important, but were key elements for success in balancing sustainable development with the environment. North-South XXI believed that the expansion of the Voluntary Fund for Indigenous Populations should facilitate the contribution and attendance of indigenous peoples at the meetings of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee.

OZKAYA BESIL, of Syriac Universal Alliance, said that the Republic of Turkey continued to withhold legal status and basic minority rights to the Aramean people which were afforded to them by the Lausanne Treaty signed by Turkey in 1923. By contrast, the Turkish Republic validated its legal existence by reference to this very same treaty. The situation, which had deteriorated in recent years, had led to a mass exodus of Arameans from their traditional homeland in Turkey. Today, Arameans were facing the extinction of their three-thousand year old language and identity. It was a sad truth that the persistent denial by Turkey of the legal status of its indigenous peoples would lead to the demise of the Aramean people. Finally, the Syriac Universal Alliance recommended that the Council give indigenous peoples a stronger voice and a more active participation in the Universal Periodic Review process.

Right of Reply

RAUL MARTINEZ (Paraguay), speaking in a right of reply, said with regard to the false allegations made with respect to Paraguay by the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Paraguay worked with the Mechanism on an ongoing basis, as the various reports testified, and there was plenty of evidence of this. Consultations had been carried out as part of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights work in the country with a view to drafting the main document on the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon region and another region. Paraguay was a party to all the main instruments on indigenous peoples because of its full belief in the importance of these rights. There was plenty of evidence of the Government's commitment to indigenous rights, and the Government had given all Special Procedures an open invitation to ensure an ongoing dialogue to protect and promote human rights in the country. Paraguay took its commitments very seriously, and human rights were being shored up in the country.

GRISSELLE RODRIGUEZ (Panama), speaking in a right of reply, said that in Panama there were no systemic violations of the rights of indigenous peoples or those of any other ethnic groups. There had been some isolated incidents, but they had been duly dealt with and the Special Rapporteur’s visit to the country investigated the situation surrounding the construction of a hydro-eclectic power plant and all interested parties were invited to consultations. There had been some unrest and the police had to be called in, and a commission was established to look into the situation with the participation of society, trade unions and indigenous peoples. Panama reiterated before the Council that it was fully committed to respecting the rights of indigenous peoples.

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For use of the information media; not an official record