Human Rights Council
25 June 2012
The Human Rights Council at a midday meeting today held a clustered interactive dialogue with Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, and with Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, focused on individual and institutional parameters to ensure and strengthen the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors and prosecution services. Prosecutors were essential agents in the administration of justice, and as such should respect and protect human dignity and rights. States had the obligation to allow lawyers and judges to carry out their work in an independent and impartial manner, ensuring the independence of all actors of the judicial system. The Special Rapporteur reported on her field missions to Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, and also presented a report on international human rights law capacity-building activities for judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public defendants and lawyers alongside initial recommendations.
Rashida Manjoo, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said global trends of gender-related killings of women were increasing and had reached alarming proportions. Many killings were culturally and socially embedded and continued to be accepted, tolerated or justified – with impunity as the norm. States’ responsibility to act with due diligence in the promotion and protection of women’s rights was largely lacking. The Special Rapporteur said patterns of conduct of men and women needed to be modified, as well as eliminating prejudices, customary practices and other practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes and on stereotyped roles for men and women. She also spoke about her country visits to Jordan, Somalia and Italy.
Speaking as concerned countries were Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Jordan and Italy, as well as the National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan.
Ms. Manjoo delivered her closing remarks today as she will not be available to attend the continuation of the dialogue tomorrow. The Special Rapporteur was pleased to note the concern of States about the phenomena of violence against women and gender-related killings. In the global context of invisibility and the lack of analysis of homicides, her report on killings of women was an important tool to highlight the need for disaggregated data of homicides and a better understanding of gender-based violence.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Mauritania, European Union, Jordan speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, China, Chile, Republic of Congo, Austria, Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Czech Republic, Pakistan speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Slovenia, Finland, Russia, Guatemala, Ecuador, Spain, Croatia, United Kingdom, Colombia, Honduras, Belgium, France, Cuba, Greece, Maldives, Morocco, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Algeria, South Africa, Uruguay, Indonesia and Switzerland.
Cameroon spoke at the end of the meeting in a right of reply.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. It will resume its work at 3:30 p.m. to start its annual day of discussion on women's human rights, this year titled “Remedies and reparations for women who have been subjected to violence”.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/20/19).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the mission to Romania (A/HRC/20/19/Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the mission to Bulgaria (A/HRC/20/19/Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the mission to Turkey (A/HRC/20/19/Add.3).
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/HRC/20/16).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women on the mission to Jordan (A/HRC/20/16/Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of Special Rapporteur on violence against women on the mission to Italy (A/HRC/20/16/Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women on the mission to Somalia (A/HRC/20/16/Add.3).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women containing a summary report on the expert meeting on gender-motivated killings of women (A/HRC/20/16/Add.4).
The Council has before it a corrigendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (A/HRC/20/16/Corr.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of Special Rapporteur on violence against women on the mission to Jordan: comments by the State on the report of the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/20/16/Add.5).
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women on the mission to Italy: comments by the State on the report of the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/20/16/Add.6).
Presentation of Reports on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on Violence against Women
GABRIELA KNAUL, Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers, introducing her annual thematic report, said that it focused on individual and institutional parameters to ensure and strengthen the objectivity and impartiality of prosecutors and prosecution services. Prosecutors were essential agents in the administration of justice, and as such should respect and protect human dignity and rights. The report highlighted that the international and regional standards related to prosecutors and prosecution services, the enormous differences in national criminal justice systems, and variation in the status and role of prosecutors posed important challenges for the elaboration of international standards; nevertheless, international and regional standards did exist and should be disseminated. It was important to assess both the independence and impartiality of prosecutors, including the structural and operational independence. It was essential to ensure that prosecutors were accountable for the performance of their duties, but it was necessary to ensure that the need for accountability would not undermine their independence. States had the obligation to allow lawyers and judges to carry out their work in an independent and impartial manner, ensuring the independence of all actors of the judicial system.
Reporting on her field missions to Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey, Ms. Knaul commended Romania for the adoption of new criminal and civil codes and highlighted the importance of involving all stakeholders in their implementation. An action plan for the implementation of the new code had also been created, a people-centred approach to reforms and the administration of justice was necessary in order to ensure independence, transparency and equality. With regards to Bulgaria, Ms. Knaul recognised the efforts to reform the judiciary and its current strategy for judicial reform aimed at improving management and taking steps to counter corruption. This would require the consideration of certain structural aspects, such as the separation of prosecution and investigation from the court and a more specialised justice system. Ms. Knaul recognised Turkey’s efforts for serious reforms; however, among the challenges, remained the mindset of judges and prosecutors, and the close relationship and pressure to which prosecutors were exposed by the appointment and transfer system. The fight against terrorism should be compatible with human rights and Ms. Knaul expressed particular concern about the number of arrests, detentions and prosecution of lawyers for actions carried out in the legitimate discharge of their functions as defendants in cases related to terrorism.
Ms. Knaul also presented a report on the first stage of the global thematic study on international human rights law capacity-building activities for judges, magistrates, prosecutors, public defendants and lawyers. The report contained initial recommendations on capacity building and effectiveness. Finally, Ms. Knaul continued to call States’ attention to specific situations of concern and urged States to respond to these calls and allegations of abuse. In particular, Mr. Knaul noted acts of reprisals against members of judicial systems who sought to cooperate with the United Nations and the international human rights system.
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said global trends of gender-related killings of women were increasing and had reached alarming proportions. Those included killings of women as a result of intimate partner violence; killings of women due to accusations of witchcraft; killings of women and girls in the name of ‘honour’; killings in the context of armed conflict; killings of indigenous women; extreme forms of violent killings of women such as those related to gangs, organized crime and human trafficking; killings as a result of sexual orientation; and female infanticide. Those manifestations were culturally and socially embedded and continued to be accepted, tolerated or justified – with impunity as the norm. States’ responsibility to act with due diligence in the promotion and protection of women’s rights was largely lacking as regarding the killing of women. The report also provided an overview of international human rights law and jurisprudence regarding to the gender related killings of women, and recalled the due diligence obligations of States. That included modifying the social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women as well as eliminating prejudices, customary practices and other practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either of the sexes and on stereotyped roles for men and women. Such killings, often termed femicide and feminicide, were not isolated incidents which arose unexpectedly, they were the ultimate act of violence which was experienced in a continuum of violence.
Turning to her country visits to Jordan, Somalia and Italy, the Special Rapporteur said women’s status in Jordanian society was gradually changing and today women enjoyed, in principle, equal rights with men with regards to political participation, education and employment. However, despite many positive legislative efforts, current legislation still discriminated against women on nationality, pension and social security rights. Challenges included overcoming community level gender stereotypes and the paternalistic view of women as vulnerable individuals in need of protection. The internal conflict that had affected Somalia for the past 20 years could not justify the lack of attention to all forms of violence against women. During her visit the Special Rapporteur said she heard anecdotal evidence of sexual violence, especially affecting internally displaced women, domestic violence, female genital mutilation and forced and early marriages. Domestic violence remained the most pervasive form of violence against women, and the use of traditional dispute forums to resolve issues of violence against women resulted in little or no justice for women victims. Violence against women in Italy remained a significant problem, despite wide efforts to combat it. There were increasing numbers of victims of femicide by partners, spouses or former partners, illustrating the continuum of violence in the home. Challenges were faced by irregular migrant women, while girls and women with disabilities tended to be less educated due to the stereotyped opinion that considered them as dependent.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Romania, speaking as a concerned country, said that Romania had issued a standing invitation to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. Reforms undertaken in the last two decades had aimed at adapting the legal and institutional framework to contemporary society. Reform of the judiciary was a major political priority. Despite challenges significant progress had been made, including the setting in place and consolidation of institutions and achieving substantial, concrete resulting implementation. Four new judicial codes had been adopted which were modern instruments that aimed at simplifying and making the judicial practice more efficient. These efforts were coupled with extensive activities aimed at training the judiciary and legal practitioners, and awareness-raising. Some measures promoted by Romania included amendments to legislation in order to ensure more flexibility in hearing cases. With regards to the predictability and quality of judicial decisions, one of the major objectives of the Small Reform Law was to increase the unification in jurisprudence. Romania remained strongly committed to further modernizing its judiciary and adapting it to the new realities within the society and the needs of its citizens.
Bulgaria, speaking as a concerned country, said the amendments and additions to the text had not been sufficiently influenced by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers’ general conclusions and recommendations. In light of this it had prepared a set of comments that were distributed. A number of recommendations had already been thoroughly addressed and fulfilled, including recommendations regarding the need for active involvement and enhanced commitment of magistrates, and for more expressed involvement of the prosecution in the scope and implementation of the existing Judiciary System Reform Strategy. On the need to address excessive delays in civil and criminal proceedings, a decisive step had been made in addressing the issue through the creation of a national mechanism for the examination of complaints on violations of the right to a trial within a reasonable time. Concerted efforts were underway and steps had been taken to address other recommendations.
Turkey, speaking as a concerned country, attached particular importance to the work of the mandate holders and had extended several invitations to them. Concerning the report presented by Ms. Knaul, this report came at a time when Turkey was undergoing important reforms to its judiciary with the objective of improving the justice system. These reforms aimed at accelerating judicial procedures and addressing problems related to the duration of procedures and the period of detention before judgement. A third package of judicial reform concerning freedom of expression and press had been approved in May 2012 by the National Assembly and would be promulgated soon after. Among other provisions, the exercise of the right to defence before special tribunals with special powers would be reinforced by these amendments. The strategy of judicial reform adopted in 2009 was also currently under revision. Concerning the independence and impartiality of judges and procurators, the new text would adopt dispositions concerning the election by Parliament of a grater number of the members of the Constitutional Council and the restructuring of the military justice system. Concerning the organization and functioning of the High Council, Turkey emphasised the honorary role played by the president. The High Council had an independent body and most of its members had been elected by the judiciary. Turkey took note of the observations and recommendations.
Jordan, speaking as a concerned country, said Jordan stressed the importance of the human rights of women and the important effect that these rights had on families and communities. Jordan had worked very seriously to accord maximum attention to these issues. The King had also directed the Government to consider the cause of women as a crucial element of Jordan’s path to justice and human rights. A national strategy to advance the role of Jordanian women and their role on society would be implemented. Concerning the nationality of Jordanian women and children when married to foreigners, the spouse and children were allowed residency for ten years. With regards to the need to include references to gender discrimination, Jordan noted that the term “Jordanian” in the Constitution covered both men and women without any distinction. Concerning the recommendation on providing homes and shelters for women victims of violence, Jordan referred to several projects to find long-term solutions and the appropriate environment for women who had been the victims of violence or could be the subject to honour crimes.
National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report on her visit to Jordan which indicated the importance of adopting a comprehensive approach and practical solutions in addressing the empowerment of women to achieve substantive equality and not just formal equality. That required legislative and institutional frameworks and awareness-raising campaigns targeting societal groups and involving the media, religious leaders, parliamentarians and other stakeholders. The National Centre for Human Rights of Jordan made several recommendations which included amendments to the Nationality Act to grant Jordanian women the right to confer their citizenship on their children, to ensure adequate sentences in cases of ‘honour’ killings, to eliminate the practice of protective custody of women and to train and sensitize the media in issues related to women’s rights generally and violence against women in particular, in order to contribute to changing the predominant social and cultural beliefs and attitudes that perpetuated harmful stereotypes and myths about women.
Italy, speaking as a concerned country, said it attached the utmost priority to protecting women’s human rights and eradicating all forms of violence against them. As the Special Rapporteur noted, the Italian legal framework largely provided for the protection of women. Concerning the legislation on violence against women, today all major sexual crimes were treated as crimes against individual rights rather than against public morality. Free legal assistance was provided to all victims of sexual violence. The protection of women from trafficking, in light of the fact that in recent years Italy had become a country of mass immigration, was a priority. In the last 10 years 23,000 persons involved in trafficking had benefited from Government programmes to help them. Advertisements contrary to the dignity of women must be withdrawn within 24 hours of a Committee decision following a complaint. To strengthen family-friendly measures aimed at enhancing work-family balance, a new action plan with a large budget had been launched. There were also new programmes to support and enable persons with disabilities. The recently adopted first National Strategy for the Inclusion of Roma People envisaged initiatives to promote access to labour, education, housing and healthcare services, and marked the end of the ‘administrative emergency phase’. Italy agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the importance of collecting reliable national data on episodes of violence against women.
Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Independence of Judges and Lawyers and on Violence against Women
Mauritania referred to measures taken against Mauritanian judges in September 2011. This case concerned the dismantling of a significant network of drug-traffickers, which included Mauritanians and persons from other nationalities. This case had been entrusted to magistrate Mohamed Lemine Ould Moctar, who concluded that the evidence was void and acquitted the suspects in violation of the rules of procedure. Respect for the law concerning the protection granted to magistrates had been scrupulously observed. The files and all relevant information had been shared with magistrates and the procedures of the Disciplinary Chamber were held in the presence of lawyers. Additionally, detailed elements concerning this case would be provided to the Special Rapporteur.
European Union expressed concerns about the existence of an informal dispute settlement system in many countries which tended to be more accessible but lacked the necessary guarantees, what kind of interim measures could be taken to ensure independence? Concerning increased cases of serious threats against lawyers, was there a similar phenomenon for prosecutors and what specific measures were recommended? Concerning violence against women, the European Union asked how it would be possible to amend a set of indicators without prejudging the prevalence of violence against women; and asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how the action protocol could be further developed?
Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said women under more Arab constitutions and laws enjoyed the same rights as men. Most Arab States had ratified international instruments on the rights of women and sought to eradicate all forms of violence against women, and to intensify the protection of women against violence. The Arab Group agreed that impunity was a worldwide concern, when States failed to protect the rights of women and to hold perpetrators accountable. This increase in women’s dependence and helplessness sent the wrong message to society, it was then that violence was considered normal. The Organization of Arab Women, working under the umbrella of the Arab League, aimed at assisting Arab States in drawing up action plans and promoting a political commitment.
China said in 1995 China had adopted its prosecutor’s law, which was amended in 2011 in order to ensure that prosecutors could independently exercise their right to discharge their duties under the impartiality of justice. Today prosecutors were selected through strict tests of ethics and talent and had to sit a nationwide examination. Furthermore the law on criminal procedures was revised early in 2012. The main causes of violence against women and the killings of women – armed conflict, domestic violence and accusations of witchcraft – had prompted the international community to take action. Several laws in China clearly prohibited violence against women and the killing of women. China noted that some data quoted by the Special Rapporteur had not come directly from the State but from other sources.
Chile said that for over a decade Chile had had an autonomous and independent national prosecutor to carry out investigations of crimes. The protection of victims and witnesses was a priority. The worldwide increase in crimes against women and the general lack of accountability for those crimes was a grave concern. There needed to be a holistic global approach. Violence against women existed because it was allowed to exist. There was a clear need to protect and promote the rights of women through concrete actions nationally and internationally.
Republic of Congo said its goals matched the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. The Congolese Government had stepped up activities to promote gender equality. Dissemination activities on the National Gender Policy had been carried out while training of trainers and development of a bill to protect victims of sexual violence had also taken place. Working together with United Nations Women the Government organized debates on gender equality for high-school pupils and carried out a study on sexism in school textbooks. A study on sexual harassment had also taken place. The Government endeavoured to punish gender-specific violence, and every year commemorated the World Zero Tolerance Day for Female Genital Mutilation.
Austria agreed that prosecutors were essential agents of the administration of justice who needed to safeguard due process and the smooth functioning of the criminal justice system. Could Ms. Knaul elaborate on the role of prosecutors in protecting society from a culture of impunity and in the context of serious human rights violations? What skills did prosecutors need to deal with system crimes such as crimes against humanity or genocide? The fight against violence against women was a priority for Austria, which was particularly focused on the involvement of women in conflict prevention. Gender-related killings were the extreme manifestation of existing forms of violence and a holistic approach for the elimination of all forms of violence was needed.
Senegal, on behalf of the African Group, noted the great diversity of judicial systems in the world which allowed countries to draw from it ensuring independence and objectivity of prosecutors. The African Group also noted the focus in Ms. Knaul’s report on the fact that more independence for prosecutors could not be envisaged without increasing their accountability. The African Group took note of the report on violence against women and the motivation behind the violence in situations of armed conflict. Regarding gender-related killings, it was important to explore international instruments in this area and regional experiences.
Czech Republic agreed that the independent, autonomous, objective and impartial functioning of prosecution services was a cornerstone of the administration of justice and the public confidence in the justice system. Undue interference in the exercise of the prosecutors’ functions was impermissible, but was unfortunately a persisting phenomenon in many countries that could lead to the abuse of authority. What were the most efficient measures to investigate undue interference and under whose authority should those investigations be carried out?
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, agreed on the need to guarantee the autonomy, independence and impartiality of prosecutors and prosecution services, but stressed that the way and means through which these goals were achieved would depend on the legal and political systems of the concerned States. The Special Rapporteur on violence against women had focused her report on gender related killings of women and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation asked whether her focus was only on killing as an extreme form of violence or something more nuanced? Concerning the shortage of data in the investigation of killings of women based on gender, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation noted that this kind of data was often difficult to collect because it involved making an inference on the motives of the killers, which were not as clear cut as the report implied.
Slovenia noted with concern the findings of Ms. Manjoo and said that gender-related killings were one of the most horrific kinds of human rights abuses. Deplorable misogynist and sexists crimes were morally abhorrent and should never be legitimised. States were responsible to ensure the right to life of all their citizens, regardless of any personal circumstances. Concerning the role of the media in preventing gender related killing, how should the media approach this issue, on the one hand, in liberal societies and, on the other, in more traditional societies? In the context of Ms. Manjoo’s call for a holistic approach to eliminate violence against women, Slovenia asked for successful examples of this approach.
Finland reiterated that one of the reasons for the prevalence of violence against women was that they were often accepted, tolerated or justified as a culturally and socially embedded manifestation. Finland had an action plan to reduce violence against women that took a comprehensive approach including prevention, protection and support for the victims, specially addressing the situation of vulnerable minorities. Noting the escalation of crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons and their special vulnerability to violent crime, Finland indicated that when combating gender-based violence special attention should be paid to sexual and gender minorities.
Russia agreed with the Special Rapporteur that prosecutors must not try to influence the criminal system, but noted that unfortunately in many countries token bodies simply rubber stamped the proposals given by prosecutors, thus undermining the checks and balances essential for the normal function of any democracy. Russia drew attention to the Human Rights Council resolution on monitoring judicial independence, and said the integrity of the judicial system required the full scrutiny and attention of the international community.
Guatemala spoke about violence against women and said a change in mindset for society at large was needed, as well as training and an end to impunity. Cases of femicide in Guatemala were still far too frequent and the Government was anxious to eradicate them. Over the last few years the Government had taken measures to eradicate violence against women, which were not mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s report. Any crime against women – whether physical or psychological – was punishable by a prison sentence from 5 to 12 years. There was a prosecutor’s office for women and since 2010 special tribunals and courts had been set up to deal exclusively with cases of violence against women and femicide.
Ecuador spoke about the situation of generalized violence against women, especially gender, race or religion-based killings. Awareness-raising was crucial to bring the issue out of the darkness and indifference to which it was currently subjected – that was key in changing social stereotypes that allowed violence against women to worsen. Ecuador had made significant progress over the last two years in eradicating violence against women. The Constitution established that victims of sexual and domestic violence would receive priority attention from the State. The National Plan of Eradication of Gender Violence against women, girls and boys was launched in 2008 and involved breaking predominant patriarchal stereotypes. Regarding judicial independence, reform and reconstruction of the judiciary recently began following a people’s referendum.
Spain said that violence against women was extremely serious. Spain had comprehensive legislation to combat violence against women characterized by a holistic approach and cooperation between various institutions. The legislation avoided re-victimization of women who reported violence. States must exercise due diligence through the legislation and prevent impunity for crimes against women. Would a specific protocol facilitate investigation and prosecution of crimes of gender-related killings?
Croatia said that violence against women, especially within the family, was one of the most serious human rights violations and that was why Croatia had developed a legal framework addressing domestic violence, which now also contained a definition of economic violence. Strengthening of legislation at national and international levels should improve protection and was connected with the important work of the judiciary and its independence. Education was one of the most important tools to fight violence against women as was the role of the media which should be more used.
United Kingdom was concerned that the incidence of gender-related killings was reaching alarming proportions around the world and that impunity for those killings seemed to be increasingly widespread. The United Kingdom was developing a Preventing Sexual Violence Team of experts to tackle sexual violence in conflict areas. They would work on eroding the existing culture of impunity and deterring combatants from using sexual and gender-based violence as a tactic in conflict-affected countries, with the aim to increase the number of perpetrators prosecuted through national courts and internationally for sexual and gender-based violence crimes. The United Kingdom wished to build a strong international consensus on the need to act in practical ways to support judicial processes and to hold perpetrators to account.
Colombia said eradicating violence against women was a priority without which political, social and economic development could not be achieved. Colombia had adopted a law on the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations, but regretted that the major efforts of the United Nations Secretary-General on women’s rights were not referenced in the report. It was totally unacceptable to describe the internal conflict in Colombia as a civil war, as seen in the report. That term had never been used by the United Nations, which usually used the term ‘internal-armed conflict’ to describe the situation in Colombia.
Honduras shared the Special Rapporteur’s great concern about the alarming numbers of killings of women around the world. Honduran legislation included laws on domestic violence and a special prosecutor for women. In Central America there was an increased phenomenon of organized crime, trafficking of persons and drugs, high levels of migration and proliferation of small-level weapons. Honduras asked the Special Rapporteur to look in greater depth at the links between the killings of women in Latin America and organized crime.
Belgium agreed that femicide was the final stage in a mounting spiral of acts of impunity against women. States were all the more responsible for protecting the rights of women. Belgium specifically referred to femicide and infanticides, where pre-meditated murders were motivated by dowry issues, and also cases of women being condemned to death by stoning for ‘honour crimes’ and ‘crimes’ such as being ‘unchaste’. Did the Special Rapporteur think that the idea of making family members criminally responsible for a so-called ‘honour crime’ was a good practice?
France said that the report on the independence of judges and lawyers mentioned different elements necessary within public ministries and the guidelines for prosecutors to make progress in ensuring a fair trial and this was covered by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Could the Special Rapporteur explain more about mechanisms that would allow authors of sexual and gender-based crimes to be prosecuted? France was concerned by what was said about the killing of women as a result of domestic violence, harmful traditional practices or other reasons. It had sought international mobilization to favour the fight against impunity.
Cuba said that the myriad nature of systems that existed in respect of the Prosecutor’s Office made it difficult to apply standards in an even manner for all. Occurrence of deaths due to gender-based violence was a disquieting topic and must be focused on. States must apply measures to avoid the killing of women for these reasons. Reference was made in the report regarding the need to ensure prosecutors did not pay heed to the pressure which the press and public opinion may bring to bear. With regards to the case of the five anti-terrorism Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States, there had been no response from the United States Government.
Greece said it had extended an open invitation to all Special Procedures and strongly encouraged all States to extend an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women. Greece was deeply alarmed by the increase of gender-related killings. On intimate-partner violence which resulted in the killings of women and the fact that this was underreported, did this prevail in most countries and were these related to specific groups in society or did they cover all the society spectrum? Greece requested more information on how to define accountability in cases where the prosecutor made a decision in order to, for example, promote public safety, which according to most independent bodies and non-governmental organizations was not compatible with some human rights dimensions.
Maldives said that its 2008 Constitutional reform had created the Office of the Prosecutor which functioned in an independent, impartial and objective manner. The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges was welcome to visit the Maldives at her convenience. Maldives recognized the serious implications stemming from impunity for those committing violence against women and that was why it had passed in April this year a domestic violence bill which would ensure that all acts of domestic violence constituted a criminal offence.
Morocco agreed that prosecutors should function in an independent manner and without pressure and threats. The primacy of the rule of law and the human rights-based approach to prosecution was a necessary requirement for the functioning of the justice system. The national justice system reform had created the framework for justice for women. Morocco shared the concern about killing of women for different reasons and agreed that the right to life and physical integrity of women required protection.
Bosnia and Herzegovina said that violence against women was an important topic in the country which drew the attention of the Government and non-governmental organizations. There were visible improvements in combating this phenomenon, but many goals were still to be achieved. Prosecutors in Bosnia and Herzegovina were independent and the main goal of the ongoing judicial system reform was to make them as powerful, impartial and professional as possible. Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined the importance of continuing and regular training for prosecutors, with particular focus on the regional and international human rights norms and standards.
Belarus said Belarus wished to once again draw the Council’s attention to the prosecution of the journalist Julian Assange, for whom the Swedish authorities had issued a European arrest warrant while the United Kingdom twice took the decision to extradite him to Sweden, ignoring their own legislation. Julian Assange’s right to legal defence had been violated, as had his rights to fair judicial proceedings and to consideration by a fair court. The case had attracted a great deal of international attention, most of all because of Julian Assange’s potential extradition to the United States where he could face the death penalty. Belarus called upon the Special Rapporteur to examine judicial and legal independence in the case of Julian Assange.
Algeria said the independence of prosecutors was central to the independence of the judiciary and was enshrined within its Constitution. The Government of Algeria recently passed a law establishing the rights and obligations of magistrates and prosecutors, including their impartiality, as well as their remuneration. Regarding accountability, could the Special Rapporteur elaborate upon the idea of an ethical code? Turning to violence against women, Algeria said that its Criminal Code punished any person guilty of violence against another person, whatever their gender. There was a need to ensure that the report did not include controversial aspects not recognized by international law.
South Africa believed gender equality was a fundamental human right and prerequisite for sustainable human development. The horrific spate of persistent violence against women and children continued to be a matter of serious national concern. Violence against women condemned women and girls to a life of fear and prevented them from being productive members of society. South Africa had adopted key legislation to address violence against women, while its 16 Days of No Violence Against Women annual campaign strengthened awareness-raising and local community networks and also increased reporting of violence and sexual abuse incidents.
Uruguay said that it was inconceivable that in the twenty-first century cases of brutal acts and extreme violence against women persisted, including vulnerability of women in situations of armed conflict, and vulnerability of aborigine and indigenous women. In Uruguay, deaths related to domestic violence remained an enormous challenge. In 2004 its first national plan to combat domestic violence was developed. The plan was at its evaluation stage and once the weaknesses and strengths were identified, there would be a comparison of its objectives with up to date data, and best practices would be sought. Could the Special Rapporteur share programmes, policies and measures identified in other countries that could be considered as best practices?
Indonesia said it shared the urgency of a holistic approach for the elimination of all forms of violence against all women. The National Action Plan on Human Rights 2011-2014 provided strategies to improve the prevention of domestic violence and the protection and services for women and children victims of domestic violence. How could effective data statistics on violence against women in a country like Indonesia, of vast archipelagic nature, be established?
Switzerland said it shared the concern regarding the phenomenon of femicide, due not only to lack of political will, but also to a lack of appropriate mechanisms to address these crimes duly. How would the Special Rapporteur define an international standard on investigations into femicide? The fact that crimes were too often accepted or tolerated for social and cultural reasons was a question of concern. Impunity remained a major challenge.
RASHIDA MANJOO, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, in her closing remarks, noted that she had not yet received an official translation of Jordan’s comments on her report in English and so had not been able to respond to criticisms, but would do so as soon as she had the official translation. Ms. Manjoo commended the Jordanian national human rights institution for the positive measures it had in taking up violence against women and said this was a model to use by other national human rights institutions. The Special Rapporteur was pleased to note the concern of States about the phenomena of violence against women and gender-related killings. In the global context of invisibility and the lack of analysis of homicides, her report on killings of women was an important tool to highlight the need for disaggregated data of homicides and a better understanding of gender-based violence. Concerning the difficulties in data collection, Ms. Manjoo said that looking at the history of violence a particular victim faced could provide a better understanding of that violence; more specificity and data collection were definitely needed. There was a need for a more effective response to violence against women and prevention measures sometimes were not fully adequate. Regional discussions on violence against women and sharing of practices on addressing femicide were important; those were emerging practices, policies and operational procedures and needed to be shared.
Right of Reply
Cameroon, speaking in a right of reply, raised the point made by the non-governmental organization Franciscan International in its statement on the report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, and its allegations purporting that trafficking took place in Cameroon. Franciscan International said such trafficking involved traditional chiefs, children and employers, and theft of babies. Cameroon was surprised at such allegations from that organization and would like to put the record straight: Cameroon was a party to the Palermo Protocol and all International Labour Organization Conventions on child and forced labour. Cameroon’s strong political will to fight trafficking led to a 2011 amendment to a law criminalizing trafficking in children to include trafficking in women and men. All cases were duly prosecuted and all offenders found guilty were sanctioned. Regarding the specific case raised by Franciscan International of the death of a baby, the delegate pointed out that that was an isolated incident that took place at a Government hospital at the end of 2011, and the Government was sparing no effort to investigate the case and ensure offenders were brought to justice. Cameroon asked the Council to ignore the baseless allegations made by Franciscan International and said it would welcome a visit by the Special Rapporteur to witness the Government’s efforts in fighting trafficking in persons, particularly women and children.
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