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Human Rights Council starts dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on freedom of peaceful assembly and on countering terrorism

AFTERNOON

20 June 2012

Concludes Dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

The Human Rights Council this afternoon started a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism. It also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression, and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, presented his annual report which identified best practices related to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. He noted that those two rights, although interrelated and interdependent, were separate and governed in most cases by two different types of legislation. The Special Rapporteur proposed in the report a set of recommendations and best practices in relation to the exercise of those rights. On his country visit to Georgia, Mr. Kiai said that there were significant improvements since the Rose revolution and cautioned that the country was at a critical point where it could take further steps to improve on its human rights record, or slide backwards.

Ben Emmerson, the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that since last Saturday 125 people had been killed and 334 had been seriously wounded, in 14 separate terrorist attacks in different parts of the world, meaning that the human cost of terrorism had been felt in virtually every corner of the globe. It was striking that despite the proliferation of international instruments dealing with counter-terrorism co-operation, there was none that directly addressed the rights of the victims and he recommended the adoption of a specific international instrument, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations.

Georgia and Tunisia spoke as concerned countries.

In the interactive dialogue on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, speakers reaffirmed that freedom of peaceful assembly and of association were at the heart of an active civil society and a functioning democracy and expressed concern about the violent dispersion of peaceful assemblies recently witnessed in a number of countries. Delegations asked the Special Rapporteur about concrete measures to be taken to protect the more vulnerable groups in a peaceful assembly. Concerning the recommendation that associations should be able to access domestic and foreign funding without prior authorisation, countries asked how governments should monitor the flow of funds that may be involved in terrorism or the incitement of hatred and violence.

With regard to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, delegations stressed the need for collective work to face up to terrorism, which far transcended national borders, and welcomed the focus of the Special Rapporteur on victims of terrorism. With regard to the new international instrument proposed by the Special Rapporteur, delegations noted a number of existing international standards and practices relevant to victims of terrorism and requested the Special Rapporteur to provide further information about its added value and undertake a review of national legislation and best practices in this regard. Countries also welcomed the focus on ensuring State accountability for securing fundamental human rights while countering terrorism and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the main failures in the provision of protection by States.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were: Jordan on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, Spain, Norway, Cuba, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, France, Sri Lanka, United Kingdom, Chile, Malaysia, Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Brazil, Maldives, China on behalf of a group of States, Algeria, Germany, Australia, Lithuania, Morocco, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and Ecuador.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

In concluding remarks, Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the freedom of opinion and expression, said that his approach to the issue of special protection for journalists took as a point of departure the analogy of protective measures granted to human rights defenders. It was hard to differentiate between online and offline channels of expression. International standards safeguarding freedom of expression already existed and additional instruments did not have to be created. The same freedom of press should exist for online and printed media. Thus the notion of “citizen journalists”, those with the capacity to inform society, was important.

Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in closing remarks that investigation and prosecution were important and could be a major area of focus in the protection of journalists. The discussion today had demonstrated that there were a number of issues open for discussion such as the definition of a journalist or who should be protected; a declaration on safety of journalists could be a way to elevate the issue, learn from each other and move closer to a consensus. Mr. Heyns noted that most important norm to be applied on a local level was the right to life and protection of people and their rights, together with investigation and prosecution of those who violated the right to life.

Non-governmental organizations that took the floor during the interactive dialogue on freedom of opinion and on arbitrary executions were Press Emblem Campaign, International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Asian Legal Resource Centre.

Speaking in right of reply were China and Thailand.

The Council will meet on Thursday, 21 June 2012 at 9 a.m. for a full day of meetings. It will first conclude its clustered interactive dialogue on peaceful assembly and association and on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, and will then start an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights. It will then hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt, and on the report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteurs on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Summary or Arbitrary Executions

Press Emblem Campaign said that one of the most sensitive issues touched upon was that of the definition of a journalist. The biggest challenge faced was impunity. Press Emblem Campaign also noted that mechanisms presented in the reports had no judicial character and therefore could only be seen as best practices.

International Federation of Journalists said that the culture of impunity was clearly the single biggest contributor to the deadly violence targeting journalists. While Member States had primary responsibility for the effective implementation of existing legal provision and the enforcement of international as well as regional human rights treaties, the United Nations and its leading relevant agencies had an important role to play.

Reporters Without Borders said that since the beginning of 2012, 29 journalists had been killed. Mexico had made it a federal crime to attack a journalist. What effective and systematic monitoring mechanism could be created?

Asian Legal Resource Centre said Pakistan remained one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists; in 2011 the Asian Legal Human Rights Council had documented the killing of 16 journalists and injuring of other 46, including senior journalists. The Asian Legal Resource Centre also spoke about a lack of transparency in Thailand, extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and the case of Alexander Aan in Indonesia.

Concluding Remarks

FRANK LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said he approached the issue of special protection for journalists via the analogy of protective measures granted to human rights defenders. While everybody deserved protection against the violation of their rights, additional protection was necessary for some, such as journalists and human rights defenders. The defence of journalists did not necessarily involve the defence of the content of their work but of their right to document events and inform society. It was important to develop a definition of ‘journalist’ that was not restrictive. States should not try to restrict journalists. The official identification of professional journalists, for example through credentials and identification, should not be an obstacle for others to practice journalism. The quality of journalism itself should be judged and questioned by society, as the recipient of the information, and not by the State.

It was hard to differentiate between online and offline channels of expression. International standards safeguarding freedom of expression already existed so additional instruments did not need to be created. Online media should have the same freedom of press as printed media. The notion of “citizen journalists” in the capacity to inform society was important. For instance, in the context of natural disasters or being the sole source of information, citizen journalists should be protected on an equal basis. Mr. La Rue welcomed the idea of cooperating with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s coordinated plan of action on the safety of journalists. He emphasised the importance of looking at best practices and said the focus on Latin America in the report had been fortuitous. Mr. La Rue agreed that blocking the transmission of Syrian State television impinged on freedom of expression. He stressed that far graver violations were being committed against the Syrian people and it was important to maintain coherence and a sense of proportion.

CHRISTOF HEYNS, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said many delegations had asked about best practice on the protection of journalists and that a number of examples were contained in his report. Australia and Brazil offered good examples from which other States could learn, while a number of other countries had national laws protecting journalists from revealing their sources of information, which was crucial. The United Nations Plan of Action was a framework which could offer significant progress, and the Green Book of the United Kingdom offered guidance for journalists in armed conflict. The issue of investigations was important as well as prosecution, said the Special Rapporteur: investigation could be a major area of focus in the protection of journalists. Taking a firm political stand against the killing of journalists would also provide much needed oxygen to journalists. Turning to a question concerning the contribution of Special Rapporteurs to the protection of journalists, Mr. Heyns said that they were best placed to collect best practices and collaborate with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the coordination role it played.

Regarding the possibility of a declaration on the safety of journalists, the Special Rapporteur said that there were many issues to be discussed with regard to the protection of journalists, such as the definition of journalists and who should be protected, and a declaration could be a way to elevate the issue, learn from each other and move closer to a consensus on a number of important issues. Environmental journalists were often targeted by non-State actors, including transnational corporations: that issue should certainly be looked into in depth. Delegations had asked what norms and standards should be implemented on a national level, said Mr. Heyns, answering that the right to life and protection of people and their rights were crucial, together with investigation and prosecution of those who violated the right to life. With respect to targeted killings, that was an issue to remain on the agenda of the mandate and the international community; it involved the question of State sovereignty, the applicable legal regime, issues of transparency and accountability.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism (A/HRC/20/14).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism on the Mission to Tunisia (A/HRC/20/14/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism on the follow-up report to country missions (A/HRC/20/14/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on the Mission to Georgia (A/HRC/20/27).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on the replies to the questionnaire (A/HRC/20/27/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on the Mission to Georgia (A/HRC/20/27/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on observations on communications (A/HRC/20/27/Add.3).

Introduction of the Reports on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

MAINA KIAI, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said his thematic report identified best practices related to the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association which although interrelated and interdependent were two separate rights governed in most cases by two different types of legislation. Those exercising the right to peaceful assembly had an important duty to remain peaceful; the peaceful aspect of an assembly lay in the peaceful intention of organizers and participants. Participating in peaceful protests was an alternative to the use of violence and armed force as a means of expression and change and should be supported and robustly protected. The Special Rapporteur proposed a set of recommendations in relation to the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, which included an onus on States to facilitate and protect peaceful assemblies and remember that the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly should not be subject to prior authorization by authorities. Individuals had the right to associate without forming a legal entity. The right to freedom of association covered cooperatives, non-governmental organizations, religious associations, political parties, trade unions, foundations and online associations. Best practices in that regard included a simple regime of notification to establish an association as a legal entity, a freedom for associations to determine their statutes, structure and activities and to make decisions without State interference, and the right to privacy for associations.

Concerning his country mission, the Special Rapporteur said Georgia had come a long way since the Rose revolution and significant improvements in many aspects of public life had pushed it forward in terms of development and democratization. However, the country was now at a critical point where it could take further steps to improve on its human rights record or slide backwards. Mr. Kiai recommended that an independent, impartial and credible investigation be conducted into violence that had occurred in Georgia during the May 2011 protests without further delay. There was a climate of fear and intimidation against those who might wish to challenge the Government and it was incumbent on the authorities to ensure that appropriate and early action was taken to prevent acts of harassment and intimidation from escalating into violence or reprisals. With an important electoral period ahead it was crucial that such action was taken as a matter of urgency and that the Government ensured all persons were entitled to their civil and political rights.

BEN EMMERSON, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, said that since last Saturday 125 people had been killed and 334 had been seriously wounded, in 14 separate terrorist attacks in different parts of the world, and they were only just half-way through the week. He spoke about recent violent incidents and killings in Pakistan, Somalia, Iraq and Nigeria and said the international community knew of such deaths as statistics, but the world knew very little, or nothing at all, about the human tragedies that lay behind each and every one of them. The human cost of terrorism had been felt in virtually every corner of the globe. The United Nations family had itself suffered tragic human loss as a result of violent terrorist acts. Terrorism had a very real and direct impact on human rights, with devastating consequences for the right to life, liberty and physical integrity of victims and their families. States had an obligation to ensure the human rights of their nationals and others by taking positive measures to protect them against the threat of terrorist acts and by bringing perpetrators to justice in fair and public trials before independent civilian courts

Despite the proliferation of international instruments dealing with counter-terrorism co-operation, there was none that directly addressed the rights of the victims. According to his Framework Principles set out in the report, the Special Rapporteur recommended the adoption of a specific international instrument, negotiated under the auspices of the United Nations. He also called on all States to voluntarily accept a new binding international obligation to provide compensation and other forms of reparation and support to all victims of terrorism. Modern terrorism knew no international boundaries and it was therefore a collective responsibility of the international community to demonstrate solidarity with the victims and to provide them with the necessary support. He urged States to immediately review their national laws and practices for compliance with the Framework Principles. Human rights law needed to conform with the views of the men and women around the world whose rights and interests it protected. States were called upon to ensure that the Framework Principles were properly factored into the review of the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, due to take place at the General Assembly in New York on 28 and 29 June 2012.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, said that it had undertaken significant measures in recent years to ensure that the rights of freedom of assembly and association were guaranteed and civil society was effectively involved in policy-making. Georgia regretted that the legal novelties enacted following Mr. Kiai’s visit were not reflected in the report. In particular, Georgia had enacted measures to enhance the political party operation and financing system and to align it with international standards. For example, parts of the report referring to the activities of the Chamber of Control and the organic law on political unions were based on the assessment in December 2011 and amendments were based exclusively on recommendations of the Group of States against corruption and the Council of Europe. Concerning labour unions, according to recent International Labour Organization data, the percentage of labour unions members among wage and salaried earners in Georgia was the highest union density among lower middle-income countries. Georgia had also submitted to Parliament a draft amendment to the law on trade unions in order to lower the minimum trade union membership requirement as recommended by the International Labour Organization in May 2012, and expected that would further streamline the creation of unions. Concerning restrictions on manifestations, the Parliament had adopted further amendments to the law on assemblies and manifestations in July 2011.

Tunisia, speaking as concerned country, said Tunisia was happy that the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism had had an opportunity to see for himself the progress made in countering terrorism and said his recommendations would be used as guidance for future action. The legislative reform Tunisia had undertaken was evidence of its commitment to break with the past. A number of recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur were already being implemented, such as ratification of two important international instruments: the Rome Statute and the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. A Committee of Experts had been established within the Ministry of Justice to propose revisions to the law of 10 December 2003 in line with Mr. Emmerson’s recommendations, international human rights instruments and principles of equitable justice. Following the 14 January Revolution Tunisia had established a Ministry of Human Rights and a Ministry of Transitional Justice with the aim of creating an effective, efficient and independent justice system. Tunisia was also reforming its security system in order to make it possible to end impunity, bring to justice all those who committed crimes and provide reparation to victims.

Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism

Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed the need for collective work to face up to terrorism, which far transcended national borders. It was essential to implement the Global Strategy Against Terrorism. Political will and a transparent exchange of best practices was important, as was the provision of technical assistance to those countries that required it. Attempts to equate terrorism with any religion were, in itself, an incitement to terrorism.

European Union said that in spite of international standards reflected in national law there were certain bureaucratic or technical obstacles. The violent dispersion of peaceful assemblies recently witnessed in a number of countries was a concern. Concerning the report on counter-terrorism, the victim-centred approach was relevant insofar as States’ human rights obligations were concerned. Before any instrument was decided the European Union would like the Special Rapporteur to gather and share national legislation and best practices.

Spain believed that to end human rights violations in counter-terrorism, dignity had to be restored to victims. The discussion on the definition of terrorism was a recurring debate. An indisputable definition was of terrorism in terms of systematic and often unpredictable violence. Civil society had a crucial function to play as a force bringing about awareness of human rights victims around the world. Binding legal obligations on States, in accordance with principles of memory, dignity and truth, were important. A comparative study of legislation and best practices was essential.

Norway asked what concrete measures should be taken to protect the more vulnerable groups to peaceful assembly, and were challenges mainly due to restrictive domestic legislation, or that the right of assembly was impeded in practice? Norway welcomed the focus on ensuring State accountability for securing fundamental human rights while countering terrorism and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the main failures in the provision of protection by States and on the added value of a new international instrument.

Cuba said that the recent events in Zucotti Park in New York illustrated the violation of the right to association in developed countries, where governments often resorted to violence to impede its enjoyment. What was Mr. Kiai’s opinion on the proliferation of abuses to the freedom of association by racist and xenophobic associations in developed countries, and on the use of drones to carry out remote attacks around the world? The Council’s Special Procedures should be guided by the highest standards of professional conduct; but violations of those objectives undermined relations between Special Procedures and States.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Conference, agreed that victims of terrorism should be recognised as victims of grave violations of international human rights law. A victim’s right to an effective remedy and accountability for human rights violations and abuses was fully supported but should be in conformity with the law and should not undermine national security. In the event of assemblies turning violent, who should be held responsible? Concerning the recommendation that associations should be able to access domestic and foreign funding without prior authorisation, how should governments monitor the flow of funds that may be involved in terrorism and how would states prevent the use of foreign funding for interference in domestic affairs?

France said that the protection of human rights was one of the four pillars in the United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy which also included the right of victims to seek compensation. States must take all measures to identify culprits and bring them to justice. Taking into consideration the growing international character of terrorism, how could States could work together to implement the recommendations? France thanked the Special Rapporteur for recalling the right of people to demonstrate peacefully.

Sri Lanka said it had done its utmost to resettle and rejuvenate the lives and livelihoods of direct, secondary and indirect victims of terrorism, while its efforts to rescue civilians held hostage as human shields by terrorists was directed at granting them liberty from suppression and aimed at full restoration of their human rights. While peaceful assembly, including demonstrations, was permitted under the law, law enforcement authorities retained the right to disperse such assemblies in the event they ceased to be peaceful.

United Kingdom shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about the ban on or violent dispersal of peaceful assemblies in a number of countries. International human rights law was as equally applicable online as it was offline. The United Kingdom was not convinced of a need for new international instruments as there were already a number of international standards and practices relevant to victims of terrorism. Could Mr. Emmerson give further consideration to those existing standards for the victims of terrorism?

Chile wanted to know whether the Special Rapporteur had identified best practices in line with the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Chile believed that it fell upon forces of public safety and order to intervene on behalf of the State when tranquillity was breached. What was the relationship between public order and the duty of civil society to respect it?

Malaysia said that Malaysia had undertaken a massive reform of its law relating to freedom of assembly. Paragraph 34 of the Special Rapporteur’s report mentioning that peaceful assemblies were either not allowed or violently dispersed was not accurate. Participants and organizers had to be held responsible and liable as a consequence of any violent behaviour on their part.

Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group believed the exercise of freedom of opinion and assembly involved responsibility by all parties. On terrorism, the African Group stressed that States’ respect of their obligations towards victims was still a major challenge. States should continue to try to identify the ways and means to provide aid and assistance to victims of terrorism. Greater international solidarity would be required to do that.

China, speaking on behalf of a Group of States, reiterated that counterterrorism efforts should be in full compliance with international law, including respect for the lives of non-combatants. States were responsible for avoiding casualties among non-combatants and for ensuring respect of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Of particular concern was the case of extrajudicial and targeted killings in the territory of other countries, especially by the use of drones; that problem was compounded by the targeting of non-combatants. States should refrain from financing and supporting terrorist activities.

Maldives said that the right to peaceful assembly constituted a cornerstone of liberal democracy. In the Maldives peaceful assembly without prior permission of the State had been enshrined in the Constitution; however the subsequent increasing number of protests had created social stress and impinged on the enjoyment of other rights. The Special Rapporteur could contribute to the respect for that right while ensuring its responsible and respectful exercise through the identification of key issues and best practices.

Brazil indicated that an international instrument on the rights of the victims of terrorism could be an aspired goal; however the international community remained unable to conclude a convention on terrorism. The use of drones was a matter of grave concern, also shared by the previous Special Rapporteur. Preventing terrorism was key to ending that scourge. Respecting human rights reinforced that goal along with lasting political solutions aimed at addressing the root causes of terrorism.

Algeria said Algeria shared the Special Rapporteur’s vision on the limitations to the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. It was for that reason that Algeria had lifted in February 2011 the state of emergency that had been in place since 1993. Algeria welcomed the focus in the report on victims of terrorism and the discussion on violence committed by non-State actors. The Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism was asked to comment on the link between payment of ransom to terrorist groups and the impact on victims.

Germany said the importance of respecting human rights was illustrated in many countries in the Arab region that were in a transition process, which needed to happen in an open, transparent and inclusive manner. Germany shared the concern about restrictions to the right to peaceful assembly and association and called on all countries that constrained that right, specifically Russia, to review their recently tightened legislation. The rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association must be granted to all individuals and vulnerable groups including victims of discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity whose rights were restrained in several Eastern European countries, including Member States of the European Union.

Australia agreed that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association played a fundamental role in establishing democracy and could not be taken for granted. Australia welcomed the best practices provided by the Special Rapporteur in his report, and reiterated its commitment to upholding the rights from the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Could Mr. Kiai provide further information about the situations in whish those rights could be restricted and about the exercise of those rights in context of elections?

Lithuania said that the rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of association were the true foundations of democracy, and their protection was crucial for the creation of a tolerant society. Lithuania shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern about restricted rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association in Belarus.

Morocco said that assemblies took place in a peaceful atmosphere. One should not forget the rights of indirect victims of terrorism, including those of the families of those who committed terrorist acts. Morocco had taken a staunch and unambiguous stance to combat terrorism and planned to further cooperate with its African and European neighbours in particular.

Turkey said that with regard to the compensation of victims, it had already established a domestic remedy in July 2004. Counter-terrorism strategies should not be confined to law enforcement measures as they required a more comprehensive and multi-disciplinary approach based on the respect of human rights. The protection of the human rights of victims of terrorism was a crucial component of any successful counter-terrorism strategy.

Kyrgyzstan said that the 2010 revolution in Kyrgyzstan demonstrated the need to review best practices going beyond international standards and binding obligations. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association served as a vehicle for other civil, economic, political and social rights; and in March 2012 the Kyrgyz Parliament adopted a draft law on peaceful assembly. International terrorism destabilised and threatened the security of States and citizens. Human rights protection while countering terrorism was determined by the meaning of the principle of respecting and safeguarding rights and universal freedoms.

Ecuador said Ecuador promoted and protected the freedom to peaceful association through civic participation in democratic spaces and social inclusion. Peaceful demonstration should not be juxtaposed to the need to respect for other rights and obligations. Ecuador encouraged States to promote spaces for dialogue, intergenerational participation, and respect for diversity as a way of building more tolerant and inclusive societies; these spaces should be free from discrimination, xenophobia, and racism. Noting worrying instances of violence against women, Ecuador asked the Special Rapporteur how to ensure the safety of women in demonstrations.

Right of Reply

China, speaking in a right of reply, said China was a country of the rule of law where the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly were guaranteed. The incidents referred to by a speaker earlier today were criminal acts and not peaceful demonstrations. Those incidents had been reported to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in a timely manner. China had witnessed some criminal activities in Tibet this year and had taken resolute and legitimate measures to curb this violent action and protect the fundamental rights of the people.

Thailand, speaking in a right of reply, reaffirmed the guarantee of the enjoyment of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Thailand. All people had the right to due process, fair trial and the right to a lawyer, and there was no atmosphere of fear in the country. Thailand provided information about the treatment of two persons who had died while in custody. Thailand took all requests for visits by Special Rapporteurs seriously and had already agreed to visits by three mandate holders.

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For use of the information media; not an official record