11 September 2012
President of Slovakia Addresses Council
The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard an address by the President of Slovakia, Ivan Gašparoviè. It also began a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, and concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
Ivan Gašparoviè, President of Slovakia, said that the Human Rights Council had made remarkable achievements in the field of human rights and that there was still room for further improvements, whether with balancing the United Nations agenda, consistent prioritisation of the most pressing problems, or regarding its capability to respond to crisis situations promptly and adequately. A long-term, targeted and focused effort was necessary in order to face numerous challenges and Slovakia was prepared to openly share from its experience and knowledge of the transition to democracy.
Faiza Patel, Chairperson of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said that over the last year the open-ended intergovernmental working group had been engaged with the development of new international standards to deal with the challenges posed by increasing and varied use of private military and security companies. The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was conducting in-depth research on national legislation and was developing an analytical framework for understanding national regulatory approaches to private military and security companies. Concerning the work on self-regulation, the Working Group had submitted extensive comments on the draft Charter for the International Code of Conduct for Security Providers.
Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, said that resolution 18/7 and the creation of this mandate provided incentives for the adoption of comprehensive approaches to respond to gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law. The first report presented by Mr. De Greif described the framework which laid emphasis on strengthening the links between the four different elements of the mandate in a comprehensive approach and outlined three broad thematic areas which deserved further development, including the effectiveness of the measures in post conflict contexts and in contexts characterised by different types of institutional weaknesses.
In the clustered interactive dialogue, speakers said that the analysis provided in the report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries was very useful in light of the increasing use of private military and security companies and the need of a strong regulatory framework. Delegations agreed that it was important to consider the human rights perspective when regulating the activities of those companies. The drafting of national legislation constituted a fundamental cornerstone for the prevention of human rights violations and speakers welcomed the sharing of good practices among States to regulate the industry of private military and security companies.
On the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, speakers said that the report rightly stressed the importance for victims to participate as well as the gender specific aspect. A victim-oriented approach was of great importance and victims should be given a central place. Delegations asked how the mandate could strengthen a gender specific approach and solicited the views of the Special Rapporteur on the cooperation between his mandate and the Working Group on enforced disappearances.
Speaking in the clustered interactive dialogue were Morocco, Argentina, Switzerland, Cuba, European Union, Chile, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Venezuela, Uruguay, Belgium, Nepal, Honduras, United States, Ecuador on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Group, Russia, Austria and Norway.
Speaking in right of reply were China, Nigeria, Mauritania and Libya.
At the beginning of the afternoon meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict, in which the following delegations spoke: Bangladesh, Slovenia, India, Indonesia, Colombia and South Sudan. Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: World Environment and Resources Council, European Union of Public Relations, Canners International Permanent Committee, Women’s World Summit Foundation and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.
In her concluding remarks, Ms. Zerrougui said that likely priorities during her mandate, which started four days ago, would include consolidation of achievements and building on that basis, and combating impunity to make sure that those responsible for violations were indicted, brought to justice and sanctioned.
The Council will meet on Wednesday, 12 September at 9 a.m. for a full day meeting in which it will conclude the clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. It will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rappporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Statement by the President of the Slovak Republic
IVAN Gašparoviè, President of the Slovak Republic, said that Slovakia appreciated the role of the United Nations amidst the current global turmoil and actively participated in the work of its bodies. Today the world commemorated the tragic terrorist attacks on the United States that occurred 11 years ago and he emphasised that no ideology and no belief could excuse such terrible deeds. The origins of the United Nations were accompanied by the commitment and resolution of its founding members to avoid the recurrence of the horrors, sufferings and injustice that the international community had to sustain during the Second World War. In spite of the unprecedented progress in science and technology and communications, a significant size of the population in various regions of the world was frequently confronted with challenges similar to those that preceded the establishment of the United Nations. Slovakia welcomed the “Arab Spring”, hoping for a similar scenario as the one followed by Central European countries, including Czechoslovakia and its Velvet Revolution, when overcoming the burdensome legacy left behind by totalitarian regimes. However, subsequent developments had revealed a far more intricate background of these social and political movements. The initial euphoria was suppressed by bloodshed in a short time and thousands of individuals calling for respect for their fundamental rights and freedoms died an unnecessary death in the streets and faced brute organized force, including the use of heavy military equipment against unarmed civilians.
The Human Rights Council had made remarkable achievements in the field of human rights, perfecting the procedures and mechanisms of their protection. However, there was still room for further improvements, whether with respect to balancing the United Nations agenda, consistent prioritisation of the most pressing problems, or with respect to its capability to respond to crisis situations promptly and adequately. Since the human rights agenda was one of the three key pillars on which the Organization was built, the Council deserved, in Slovakia’s opinion as presented on more than one occasion, to be promoted among the principal organs of the United Nations system. The backbone of the Council, the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, had shown that basically none of the United Nations Member States could boast a perfectly spotless human rights profile. A long-term, targeted and focused effort was necessary in order to face numerous challenges and Slovakia was prepared to openly share from its experience and knowledge of the transition to democracy, for example, through official development assistance projects. Having completed its first ever mandate on the Council, the Slovak Republic and its foreign policy remained firmly committed to further actively work and to participate in the Council’s activities, including its subsidiary mechanisms. The current twenty-first session of the Council concentrated on various aspects of the extensive human rights family and represented ambitious challenges in this complicated world. Mr. Gašparoviè wished the Council fruitful, creative and successful discussions. They aimed at ensuring everyday accomplishment of a high-profile mission: respecting the dignity of the human person.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
Bangladesh said that despite progress with regard to the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the signing of action plans to release children from armed groups, millions of children continued to live in a situation of armed conflict and foreign occupation where their human rights were being violated. The question remained how strategies to adopt or implement effective legal prevention mechanisms at the national level and provide children with alternatives could be effectively applied?
Slovenia asked for suggestions on how to overcome the problem of impunity for perpetrators of grave violations of children’s rights in situations of armed conflict. How could the Council complement the Security Council’s work on this issue, especially with regard to country-specific situations? Slovenia requested the opinion of the Special Representative concerning the impact of the International Criminal Court’s judgement in the Lubanga case and the Court’s interpretation of the terms.
India said that resources remained a key challenge and that United Nations missions needed to be staffed appropriately. India stressed the importance of efforts by national authorities to address impunity and ensure accountability. India reiterated its concern with the way in which Security Council resolutions on the issue of child soldiers were being interpreted and the report of the Special Representative referred to situations which had not been covered by the Security Council.
Indonesia said that the international community should continue its resource and expertise support to enable reintegration and other relevant programmes to succeed. Indonesia shared the concern on the growing list of persistent perpetrators of grave violations against children. Indonesia also underlined the strategic role of concerned Governments to enforce compliance with international obligations and to address factors that undermined efforts to combat impunity.
Colombia said it understood that combating the recruitment and use of child soldiers was not just a legal duty but an ethical imperative. Colombia had adopted and implemented a public policy for the prevention of recruitment and use of children, both boys and girls. Colombia appealed to international bodies and the international community to continue to be demanding about taking children out of armed conflict and out of illegal armed groups.
South Sudan commended the outgoing Special Representative for the excellent report and welcomed the new Special Representative. The Government of South Sudan was working with international partners in the implementation of programmes tackling child abuse through education. Over 300 children had yet to be freed from slavery. The Government of Sudan had repeatedly refused to grant access to international children advocacy groups to investigate their whereabouts. South Sudan would like the Office of the Special Representative to have representation in the ongoing negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to address this matter.
World Environment and Resources Council said that 2 million children had died as victims of war since 1990 and 22 million were refugees or internally displaced. Children were being used by armed groups associated with the Taliban or Al-Qaeda to undertake attacks on civilians and institutions in Pakistan. Children also suffered the effects of cross-border recruitment related to the on-going conflict in Afghanistan.
European Union of Public Relations said that the current situation in South Asia was of major concern to the global community where children were either victims of or forced to be perpetrators of the ongoing violence. Debates and discussions about the fate of children in situations of armed conflict were of little use and determined efforts were needed by the international community to use its moral, financial and military power to stem the rot that afflicted certain societies.
Canners International Permanent Committee called the attention of the Human Rights Council to the situation in Afghanistan where mothers were witnessing the fatigue that had set in, in the international community, which might result in children once again facing the ideological and physical depredations that they had been subjected to when the Taliban had ruled Afghanistan.
Women’s World Summit Foundation reiterated the need to increase the prevention of children recruitment in armed conflicts. Financial resources but also national measures to criminalise and to make it physically impossible for armed groups to recruit children into armed conflict were needed. The Foundation encouraged the Special Representative to promote dialogue with civil society and stakeholders on this issue.
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom regretted that the links between proliferation and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons and children and armed conflict had not been addressed in the report and, concerning the distinct problems associated with explosive weapons, urged States to support concrete steps to curb the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and to acknowledge its impact on children.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict
LEILA ZERROUGUI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, stressed that she had only been in the job for four days but intended to ensure her engagement in broad consultations with States, non-governmental organizations, other partners and her office to pinpoint priorities. Likely priorities included consolidation of achievements and building on that basis; the implementation of Resolution 192 1998 to improve monitoring and reporting; and working with Governments. It was important to have effective cooperation with the authorities on the ground. Another priority was combating impunity to make sure that those responsible for violations were indicted, brought to justice and sanctioned. The international justice system was the best ally. Work to ensure appropriate cooperation with organizations at the regional level was mentioned. The Special Representative intended to start straight away with the African Union, and hoped to cooperate with other regions including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Latin American and Caribbean Group.
It was vital that resolutions, country or thematic, should include wording on children and violations of their rights. Information formally submitted to the Security Council on violations of monitoring and reporting mechanisms should also be taken into account. In relation to persistent perpetrators, a lot of progress had been made in working with governments in coming up with plans of action but there were still a number of persistent perpetrators on the list. What was being done in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be stepped up and taken as best practice. Efforts should continue to combat impunity. In response to questions raised by Pakistan and Egypt on cooperation with the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, she did not know to what extent rules had been complied with but would check and make sure that in future the rules that had been laid down were implemented.
The Council has before it the report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (A/HRC/21/43).
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence (A/HRC/32/46).
Presentations by the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth and Justice
FAIZA PATEL, Chairperson of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said that over the last year the open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework for the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies had held two consultative meetings in which it had discussed various efforts to clarify existing obligations of private military and security companies and the need to develop new international standards to deal with the challenges posed by the increasing and varied use of those companies. The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was pleased to serve as resource persons for these consultations. It considered that an international treaty was necessary to fill two key gaps: defining which activities were non-outsourcable beyond the limits defined in the Geneva Conventions and providing specific content to broad State international obligations vis-à-vis private military and security companies. It was recommended that the Human Rights Council continued the discussions in the inter-governmental working group for another two years.
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries was currently conducting in-depth research on national legislation in Africa, analysing national legislation in five Eastern European countries, and developing an analytical framework for understanding national regulatory approaches. Three primary elements were at play in attempts to regulate private military and security companies, notably the banning of certain activities by those companies, requiring them to register with national authorities and licensing their activities abroad, and efforts to establish jurisdiction in the home countries for violations of human rights and criminal law that occurred abroad. Concerning the work on self-regulation, the Working Group had submitted extensive comments on the draft Charter for the International Code of Conduct for Security Providers which had been made available for public consultation in January 2012. The Working Group believed that the Draft Charter did not live up to the promise of the International Code of Conduct; it should be modified to explicitly mainstream the protection of human rights and brought further into compliance with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which set out the minimum standards that an industry self-regulatory mechanism should meet.
PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, introducing his first report, commended the Council for the adoption of Resolution 18/7 and the creation of this mandate. It provided incentives for the adoption of comprehensive approaches to respond to gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law. Countries from both the North and South, regardless of religious, cultural and legal traditions and political organization, all had to confront the legacies of massive human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law; however, the development of measures with which the mandate was concerned, truth, justice reparations, and guarantees of non-recurrence, were the ones to which Southern countries made a distinct contribution. The framework described in the report laid emphasis on strengthening the links between the four different elements of the mandate in a comprehensive approach. It was crucial to find synergies between the different measures for both practical and conceptual reasons, they all shared certain fundamental aims, namely, providing recognition to victims as rights-holders, promoting confidence in State institutions and strengthening the rule of law.
The four elements of the mandate, systematically related to one another, could not constitute a special kind of justice; rather, they described a strategy or an approach to bring about familiar ways of understanding justice in situations where countries were attempting to address the legacies of gross violations of human rights and serious violations of international humanitarian law. The report also outlined three broad thematic areas which deserved further development: the issue of the links between the four elements of the mandate; the links between the four elements of the mandate and between them and other areas of policy intervention; and efforts to increase the effectiveness of the measures in post conflict contexts and in contexts characterised by different types of institutional weaknesses, for example, in post-conflict settings where the number of armed actors and agents of violence was significantly higher and the challenges involved in making attributions of responsibility were greater while the capacities available were lower. Finally, Mr. de Greiff said that the report highlighted the significance of a gender orientation on these issues and of a victim-centred perspective. There could be no success in this area without responding to the claims of victims and without establishing effective mechanisms of participation for victims, including female victims, he said.
Clustered Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth and Justice
Morocco commended the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of the right to truth’s consultative approach to identifying priorities. Morocco proposed to host the regional consultations on the mandate, which the Special Rapporteur envisaged to hold. The work of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights provided consultative expertise support of great importance for the Working Group on private military and security companies in its efforts to demonstrate the requirement of a strong regulatory framework.
Argentina highlighted that it agreed on the pride of place set for victims. It was also pleased with the specific subjects that the Special Representative planned to take up. The sentencing in the ‘Systematic Plan’ case of 5 July 2012 was important, as it marked the first time that the stealing of children was legally defined as a systematic practice. Argentina congratulated the Special Representative and invited him to visit Argentina to share experiences. It also encouraged other countries to do the same.
Switzerland said the report of the Special Rapporteur rightly stressed the importance for victims to participate as well as gender specific aspects. In light of the tenth anniversary of the International Criminal Court, Switzerland stressed that when States truly shouldered their responsibilities they could make positive contributions to strengthening the complimentarity between national and international efforts to combat impunity. How would the mandate strengthen a gender specific approach?
Cuba said that the analysis provided in the report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries was very useful in light of the increasing use of private military and security companies in imperial wars. Cuba appealed to all States to remain vigilant to the phenomenon. The establishment of the mandate on truth, justice, reparation and guarantee of non-recurrence was particularly important for the Latin American region given its past and Cuba believed that this right must be systematised. Cuba asked Mr. De Greiff to provide his views on the cooperation between his mandate and the Working Group on enforced disappearances.
European Union said that it continued to regret the lack of conceptual clarity of the mandate of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and said that the activities of mercenaries could not be put on the same footing as the activities of private military and security companies. To the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, the European Union said that it considered the victim-oriented approach to be of great importance and that victims should be given a central place. Also essential was the gender perspective, the European Union said, the implementation of which would mark the mandate.
Chile said that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence was of historical importance for Chile. Chile therefore welcomed the approach taken by the Special Rapporteur, and stressed the importance of the need for the Special Rapporteur to further his collaboration with other mandate holders. As for the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, Chile said that it was important to consider the human rights perspective when regulating the activities of private military and security companies, including States’ responsibility to protect people, corporations’ responsibility to respect human rights, and the right to an effective remedy.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that it supported the Working Group on the use of mercenaries’ central finding that national legislation on the issue of private military and security companies must be complemented by a strong international regulatory framework. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation also supported the recommendation that States should guarantee accountability for violations of international human rights law involving private military and security companies. The mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence was very broad and dealt with diverse and complicated issues. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation would follow closely the work of the Special Rapporteur.
Venezuela said it supported the Special Rapporteur’s highlighting of the importance of studying in greater detail the elements of the four pillars of his mandate. Venezuela was alarmed by the increasing use of private military and security companies, whose activities presented a direct threat to human rights. The clear privatisation of armed conflict by various countries was totally contrary to the principles of international law.
Uruguay expressed its full willingness to receive the Special Rapporteur. Experience had shown that truth and justice were steps that had to be taken in the processes of healing wounds and the subsequent re-building of trust in countries that had undergone major political upheavals. Uruguay was still working to determine truth concerning events and the dramatic consequences of the coup d’etat almost 40 years ago, including the disappearance of individuals.
Belgium commended the pride of place assigned to victims, giving them back their dignity, and the role they should play. Also, and of particular importance to it, was the gender specific dimension. Had there been any contact with other United Nations bodies, such as the United Nations Development Programme? The Council had particularly invested itself in the question of the fight for more democracy in what had been called the ‘Arab Spring’. Were there any plans to carry out any field visits in that region of the world in the coming year?
Nepal said that its Government was committed to ensuring justice and reparation to the victims of the past conflict. Nepal’s 2007 Interim Constitution and the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Accord had specific provisions to establish a transitional justice mechanism to provide justice to the victims. Nepal was fully committed to human rights and fundamental freedoms. The transitional justice mechanism would address the issues of the rule of law, human rights concern and justice to the victims. Nepal asked the Special Rapporteur to consider the unique and specific nature of particular situations.
Honduras said that drafting national legislation constituted a fundamental cornerstone for the prevention of human rights violations and welcomed the sharing of good practices among States to regulate the industry of private military and security companies. Honduras noted the Working Group’s proposal to create an international legally binding document, considering that national legislation was complementary to an international regulatory process of the transnational nature of this industry; in this context, Honduras asked the Special Rapporteur to list the minimum components of such international instrument.
United States said that national regulation was the most appropriate and effective way to ensure respect for human rights and accountability and hoped that the Working Group would take into account the new auditable American National Standards. The United States was not prepared to support the option elaborating a legally binding instrument. The United States called on the international community to assist countries in implementing holistic transitional justice programmes and to incorporate best practices into the development and implementation of transitional justice mechanisms.
Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that gender mainstreaming was important as women suffered the most in conflicts. Ecuador supported the gender participatory approach taken by the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence.
Russian Federation said that it shared the conclusion from the Working Group on the use of mercenaries that an international binding regulatory instrument was needed. The Russian Federation deplored the presence in Syria of foreign mercenaries working with the rebel fighters, who were trained in camps in Kosovo.
Austria said that it would strongly support the work of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence, whose mandate played a central role with regard to raising awareness and gathering data in the field of transitional justice. The large consensus around this mandate had to be maintained, Austria said, and asked how the Special Rapporteur could ensure coherence and cooperation with other United Nations mechanisms.
Norway reiterated that the various measures of transitional justice should be seen as parts of a whole, and not as isolated initiatives, and they would be most effective for reconciliation and establishing the rule of law if combined in an overarching strategy and executed in line with other strategies for transition. Norway asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how the United Nations system could best contribute to such holistic policy development; and to elaborate on what specific policies he believed that States should adopt in order to address the different needs of marginalised groups and minorities.
Right of Reply
China, speaking on a right to reply, rejected unfounded allegations by a non-governmental organization regarding the death penalty in China. The death penalty was part of Chinese legislation and the majority of Chinese citizens were against the abolition of death penalty. China was a state of the rule of law and the death penalty was applied with precautions. Statistics showed that the use of the death penalty had decreased in the past few years.
Nigeria, speaking in a right of reply in response to remarks by a non-governmental organization concerning instances of faith-based violence that had allegedly been perpetrated in Nigeria with impunity, said that the Nigerian Government had implemented specific measures to curtail and prevent all forms of faith-based violence, including the overhaul of the security sector and the promotion of dialogue among community leaders and other well meaning stakeholders. There was no religious war of any kind in Nigeria. Different religious communities could live in harmony in a united Nigeria and the Government was committed to ensuring peace and security for all citizens.
Mauritania, speaking in a right to reply, said that it refuted all allegations of slavery made by Human Rights Watch. Mauritania said that certain situations continued, but combating slavery was a priority for the State. Mauritania invited Human Rights Watch to visit Mauritania in order to update its information.
Libya, speaking in a right of reply, referred to the report of the Special Representative on children and armed conflict and said that the Libyan people had struggled against a dictatorial regime which had abused the rights of its peoples. After the transition Libya had sought to work with the international community to ensure respect for rights and fundamental freedoms and it reaffirmed its commitment to fulfil all international obligations to which Libya was party, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
For use of the information media; not an official record