13 September 2012
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh Addresses the Council
The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, Calin Georgescu, and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Gulnara Shahinian. The Council also heard an address by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh.
Dipu Moni, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, said that the Human Rights Council and other United Nations human rights mechanisms were essential for providing protection and effective remedies to victims of human rights violations across the world. Bangladesh had, during its membership of the Council, supported and worked actively to try to make the Council more effective, efficient and credible, although efforts remained to be made. Bangladesh’s approach to human rights was a principled one that all human rights were equal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Bangladesh believed in dialogue as the most effective way to promote respect between all religions and culture.
Calin Georgescu, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste, said it was telling that in most resource-rich countries, the wealth of the natural capital did not translate into the enjoyment of an array of rights and that the opposite was often true. Children in particular were at risk from mining related impacts. He reiterated his concern at the practice by transnational corporations of using private security companies to guard key geostrategic sites and their suppression of legitimate social protest against the unsound disposal of hazardous substances. He called upon the international community to provide increased assistance to the Marshall Islands in facing the consequences of nuclear weapons testing.
Gulnara Shahinian, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, stressed the importance of country visits, which contributed to an understanding of the specific realities and challenges of each country. Servile marriage affected both adults and children and violated their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. Civil penalties helped to raise awareness but were not enough to tackle the problem, and she strongly recommended that servile marriage be criminalized. New legislation should go hand in hand with community programmes which would help detect servile marriage cases and would provide advice and shelter to victims.
Speaking as concerned countries were the Marshall Islands, the United States and Lebanon.
Virginia Heerrera Murillo, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, emphasised the complementarily between the work of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the Fund’s efforts to address issues of slavery. The Fund delivered small grants to civil society organizations providing direct assistance and the Board paid particular consideration to project proposals from non-governmental organizations that engaged in the implementation of recommendations put forward by the Special Rapporteur and included as key components access to education, rehabilitation and income-generating activities, among others.
Concerning hazardous substances and waste, speakers noted the existence of measures such as coordination mechanisms across industries and multilateral and bilateral cooperation, such as the Basel and Hague Conventions, but reiterated the concerns and gaps identified in the report. Increasing worldwide demand for precious metals had given rise to the exploitation of production sites by extractive industries to the detriment of the environment. While some speakers welcomed the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur with a view to developing new international norms and instruments to strengthen the regulatory framework, others argued that the focus of future work should be on the implementation of current instruments and through the development of national measures. Speakers recognised the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands. They also called for the issues to be adequately addressed through the United Nations system.
With regard to contemporary forms of slavery, delegations welcomed the focus of the report on the issue of servile marriage and recognised that its deep-rooted causes included economic, political, cultural and religious beliefs that should be addressed. Speakers condemned forced and early marriages and other forms of abuses against women and traditional practices that interfered with women’s freedom. It was reported that a total of 70 million women aged 20 to 24 were married as children and about 11 per cent of those had been forced to marry before the age of 15. The consequences of these abuses for women and girls’ physical and psychological well-being were long-lasting and, in many cases, these human rights violations were also conducive to forced labour and sexual violence. Delegations referred to examples of national legislation and safeguards against abuses in the context of marriage; several speakers reiterated the importance of promoting education and enforcing a minimum age to strengthen the meaning of consent and reaffirmed their commitment to promote human rights and overcome the negative consequences of slavery.
Speaking in the clustered interactive dialogue were Senegal on behalf of the African Group, Holy See, Venezuela, Uruguay, Austria, European Union, Cuba, Thailand, Australia, Nepal, Chile, United States, Germany, UNICEF, Mauritania, Norway, New Zealand, Morocco, China, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Argentina, Peru, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Greece, Ecuador, Belgium, Malaysia, Romania, Guatemala and Côte d’Ivoire.
Also speaking were the following non-governmental organizations: Franciscans International, Defence for Children International, Action Canada for Population and Development, Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Cultural Survival, International Humanist and Ethical Union, and Amnesty International.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Georgescu said that the international community would have to develop a legally binding treaty to cover the gaps in treatment of hazardous substances and wastes left by the Basel and Hague Conventions. He expressed his full support to the involvement of the international community in the process between the Marshall Islands and the United States which could not be kept a bilateral process, and said that this issue was completely within the scope of his mandate.
Ms. Shahinian said in her concluding observations that she was delighted to receive the support of the delegations today for the fight against forced marriages. The Human Rights Council should pass the resolution on this issue and States should develop programmes and policies to combat it. The majority of States had ratified the Supplementary Convention on Abolition of Slavery; however, criminalization was not enough and the issue needed to be addressed in a comprehensive way which would include education, empowerment and the fight against poverty.
The Council today is holding a full day of meetings. At noon, the Council will hold a panel discussion on the issue of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups who cooperate or have cooperated with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights.
Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh
DIPU MONI, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, said that the Human Rights Council and other United Nations human rights mechanisms were essential for providing protection and effective remedies to victims of human rights violations across the world. Bangladesh would present its candidature for being a member of the Council again during the term 2015-2017. Bangladesh had, during its membership, supported and worked actively to try to make the Council more effective, efficient and credible, said the Minister, although efforts remained to be made. Bangladesh’s approach to human rights was a principled one that all human rights were equal, indivisible, interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Bangladesh believed in dialogue as the most effective way to promote respect between all religions and culture. Human rights were protected in the Constitution of Bangladesh, and guided its policies. Bangladesh considered the Universal Periodic Review mechanism to be one of the successes of the Human Rights Council and looked forward to engage seriously with it during the second cycle.
Climate change was causing unprecedented human suffering, and its impact on human rights should be considered with great importance by the Human Rights Council, Ms. Moni said. She also believed that the global economic and financial crises had pushed a significant number of people into poverty and was depriving millions of people from enjoying fundamental freedoms and employment opportunities. These crises had re-emphasized the importance of the right to development, which was still out of reach for many countries, due to impediments at the international level. Migrant workers’ rights received poor attention in the receiving States, she said, and called on Governments to ensure the rights of this vulnerable population. The continued illegal occupation of Palestinian territories created violence and destabilization in the region; human rights violations occurring against Palestinians should be addressed by the Human Rights Council without selectivity and with equal importance. Ms. Moni expressed her concerns about the situation in Syria, and said that the resolution of the conflict should be led in an inclusive way and in respect of Syria’s sovereignty. The Minister said that the Government of Bangladesh was determined to end the culture of impunity in Bangladesh and to bring perpetrators of the past crimes against humanity to justice.
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences consisting of a thematic report on servile marriage (A/HRC/21/41); its Corrigendum (A/HRC/21/41/Corr.1); its Addendum 1 - Mission to Lebanon (A/HRC/21/41/Add.1); and its Addendum 2 - Mission to Lebanon: comments by the State on the report of the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/21/41/Add.2).
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights obligations related to environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and waste (A/HRC/21/48); its Corrigendum (A/HRC/21/48/Corr.1); its Addendum 1 -Mission to the Marshall Islands and the United States of America (A/HRC/21/48/Add.1); and its Addendum 2 - Mission to the Marshall Islands: comments by the State on the report of the Special Rapporteur (A/HRC/21/48/Add.2).
Presentation by the Special Rapporteurs on Hazardous Substance and Waste and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
CALIN GEORGESCU, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management of hazardous substances and wastes, presented his report whose main theme was on the extractive industries as they related to the management of hazardous substances and the resultant impact on human rights. It was telling that in most resource-rich countries, the wealth of the natural capital did not translate into the enjoyment of an array of rights and that the opposite was often true. Children in particular were at risk from mining related impacts and the Special Rapporteur was gravely concerned that mercury intoxication had been called an epidemic among children working in gold mines. Among some of the recommendations was the promotion of transparency at country and at company level, including the disclosure of production-sharing agreements and host-country agreements. Mr. Georgescu remained concerned about the practice by transnational corporations of using private security companies to guard key geostrategic sites, and their suppression of legitimate social protest against the unsound disposal of hazardous substances.
The mission report focused on the impact on human rights of the nuclear testing programme on the Marshall Islands by the United States. The nuclear testing had resulted in both immediate and continuing effects on the human rights of the Marshallese. Radiation from the testing allegedly resulted in fatalities and acute and long-term health complications. Moreover, many people continued to experience indefinite displacement. The international community was called upon to provide increased assistance to the Marshall Islands in facing the consequences of the testing, including addressing the needs of victims, and a particular appeal was made to the United Nations and its specialised agencies and interested Member States to examine the possibility of broader involvement in the development of a comprehensive action plan for the rehabilitation and long-term sustainable development of the Marshallese people. Furthermore, both parties were requested to undertake all further necessary action to protect the right to life, health and environment of all affected victims and their families. The Special Rapporteur, concluding with some personal thoughts as it was the last time he would address the Council, expressed worry as to whether there truly was any significant prospect for the situation to improve in the Marshall Island in the near future.
GULNARA SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, began by stressing the importance of country visits, which made it possible to gain an understanding of the specific realities and challenges of each country. During her visit to Lebanon in October 2011, she met women who had been forced to work as domestic workers without remuneration or a valid contract and who had been subjected to harassment and physical and sexual abuse. Lebanon had taken positive measures, such as the establishment of a hotline where human rights violations against domestic workers could be reported and forming a national steering committee to study the problem, but more needed to be done in that direction. Ms. Shahinian urged Lebanon to prioritize the enactment of the draft law for migrant domestic workers and to ratify the conventions for the abolition of slavery and slave trade and for the protection of the rights of migrant workers.
Regarding servile marriage, she stressed that those were not the same as arranged marriages, which were based on the consent of both parties. Duress in a marriage was a violation of internationally recognized human rights standards and could not be justified on religious or cultural grounds. Servile marriage affected both adults and children and violated their right to health, education, non-discrimination and freedom from physical, psychological and sexual violence. She acknowledged that civil penalties were a useful way of raising awareness but also said that they were not enough to tackle the problem and strongly recommended that servile marriages be criminalized. New legislation should go hand in hand with community programmes which would help detect servile marriage cases and would provide advice and shelter to victims. She also urged the Council to bring the discourse of forced and early marriages back to its original definition as a form of slavery.
VIRGINIA HERRERA MURILLO, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, emphasised the complementarily between the work of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and the Fund’s efforts to address issues of slavery. The Fund delivered small grants to civil society organizations providing direct assistance and the Board paid particular consideration to project proposals from non-governmental organizations that engaged in the implementation of recommendations put forward by the Special Rapporteur and included as key components access to education, rehabilitation and income-generating activities, among others. In the context of the recent financial crisis, voluntary contributions had decreased significantly in the past two years and the Board was committed to further enhance its efficiency and the cost-effectiveness of its activities, and would engage in new fundraising efforts. Ms. Murillo reiterated the appeal from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon to contribute to the Fund before the end of the year to allow it to fulfil its mandate.
Statements by Concerned Countries
PHILLIP H. MULLER, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, representing a concerned country, said that the continued denial of justice to the Marshallese people was completely unacceptable. It was now time to move beyond accusation and take action to resolve the very real human rights impacts which continued to exist as a result of the nuclear testing. The recommendations of the Special Rapporteur were welcomed, and the United States and the international community were urged to do the same. Furthermore, the Human Rights Council was urged to follow up on the recommendations during the next Universal Periodic Review round.
United States, speaking as a concerned country, said that it felt strongly that the nuclear testing was not fundamentally an issue of sound management and disposal of hazardous waste, even more so when described as one of improper disposal. It noted a number of assertions of human rights law within the report with which it disagreed, including the continued obligation of the international community to encourage a final and just resolution of the issues. It acknowledged the negative impacts. The United States would continue in its decade-long engagement to address issues arising from the nuclear testing.
Lebanon, speaking as a concerned country, said that the report was prepared in a highly professional manner. However, some conclusions were based on disparate information. The fact that there were some cases of exploitation and abuses against domestic workers could not mean that the majority of domestic workers were under domestic servitude. Lebanese society was far from accepting slavery or servitude, and was a pioneer for human rights. The competent authorities would conduct a comprehensive analysis of the recommendations.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Hazardous Substance and Waste and on Contemporary Forms of Slavery
Senegal, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted the alarming situation concerning hazardous substances and the implications for human rights. The report of the Special Rapporteur focused on substances and waste from extractive and mining industries and was indicative of the impact of industrial activities on the enjoyment of human rights and the need for sound management. The international framework was marked by a low level of ratification and did not include all relevant hazardous substances. The virtual absence of national legislation was also a problem. True political resolve and a holistic approach were needed to breach the legal gap, including all stages of the life cycle.
Holy See said that slavery mainly affected women and children given their limited material resources and lamented the existence of so-called servile marriage. Consent and a minimum wage for the celebration of marriage were important in order to ensure that nobody’s rights were violated. The Holy See urged the international community and the Special Rapporteur to continue their efforts to eradicate corporal punishment and domestic violence, improve education and health services to ensure independence, and to provide support to victims.
Venezuela said that slavery deprived people of their right to choose and their own ability to work. In this context, the Special Rapporteur recommended a more comprehensive approach to the issue of servile marriages. The Constitution of Venezuela explicitly prohibited slavery, servitude and trafficking in persons, particularly of women and children. This scourge was not over and rather present in the present world, feeding from the worst consequences of poverty and misery which derived from capitalist forms of exploitation.
Uruguay said that the chapter in the report on chemicals and hazardous waste was a priority because the increase of hazardous waste had a negative impact on persons’ daily lives. Uruguay had jointly chaired with Sweden in Dubai in February 2006 a strategic approach event on the effective management of chemical products. It called for a binding, legal solution w which would tackle the hazardous effects of mercury. Inadequate management or lack of management of hazardous substances affected the most vulnerable groups in society, such as pregnant women and their unborn children. Uruguay urged all States to work in order to tackle the issue.
Austria welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report on servile marriage, an issue which had often been neglected. It agreed that a more comprehensive approach at all levels was needed in order to bring that unacceptable practice to an end. Austria had taken a number of measures at the national level to raise awareness and to improve the protection of victims. The implementation of the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on the matter were crucial and Austria requested further details on the two follow-up workshops in which Ms. Shahinian had participated following her country visits.
European Union said that hazardous waste posed a major risk to the environment and human health and pointed out that it had adopted a regime in European Union legislation which implemented the Basel ban on the export of hazardous waste to developing countries. The European Union was also developing together with other parties to the Basel Convention a global framework for the effective management of waste. Regarding the Special Rapporteur’s report on contemporary forms of slavery, the European Union welcomed the attention paid to the matter of servile marriage and asked how national and international strategies could better combat forced marriage.
Cuba said that the responsibility of industrialized countries in the exacerbation of the problem of hazardous substances and toxic waste should be taken into account, according to their varied degrees of economic development. What actions should be taken by the United States to turn the situation around? On contemporary forms of slavery, this was also present in industrialised countries. Reactions, recommendations and actions had to take into account cultural diversity, as well as the variety of judicial and political systems in the world.
Thailand said that States should enact legislation to prevent slavery and slavery-like practices, punish the perpetrators, and provide support to victims. However, having the right law in place was not an end in itself. Implementation and enforcement were very important and required cooperation from all concerned agencies. In Thailand, within the context of violence against women and children, a multidisciplinary approach had been adopted to ensure a more coordinated and effective response to addressing violations, while placing the victims at the centre.
Australia said that it had joined with other Pacific Leaders at the Pacific Island Forum in Rarotonga, Cook Islands, in August 2012 in reaffirming recognition of the special circumstances pertaining to the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Island. Australia welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur as a contribution to stimulating dialogue between the parties in the spirit of understanding and reconciliation for the benefit of the Marshallese people.
Nepal said it attached high priority to empowering women, eliminating all forms of violence against them and achieving gender equality. Nepalese law prohibited harmful practices that violated the rights of women and girls and the 2007 Interim Constitution provided that no discrimination of any kind should be made against women and established the right to reproductive health. Nepal asked the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery how international or regional mechanisms could be useful in generating awareness about servile marriage.
Chile said that extractive industries posed human rights and environmental challenges, but these industries were essential for development and therefore regulation should be participative and should avoid hindering countries’ opportunities for development. Chile asked the opinion of the Special Rapporteur on his recommendation to develop waste management and elimination protocols fully based on the right to heath and the right to life that were inclusive, binding and based on a human rights-based approach.
United States said that early and forced marriages were a form of gender-based violence and the international community should work to address their root causes, including compulsory birth registration to ensure minimum age laws. Concerning hazardous substances and waste, the international community should focus on ensuring full implementation of existing instruments; the local impacts of extractive industries should be more effectively regulated at the national level. The United States was committed to ensure that governments and businesses protected the human rights of communities affected by their work.
Algeria said that an increase in worldwide demand for precious metals had given rise to the exploitation of production sites by extractive industries, which was detrimental to human rights, biodiversity and the environment. Algeria supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations to develop new norms in order to strengthen the institutional framework which regulated the activities of extractive industries. Could the recommendations made in the report be extended to other forms of nuclear tests around the world? Regarding the negative effects of servile marriages, Algeria noted that those did not leave any part of the world unaffected even if its victims often remained invisible.
Germany said that it appreciated the work of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery. Germany regretted that forced marriage in particular was still a reality for many persons around the globe and asked the Special Rapporteur how human rights training and awareness-raising activities could contribute to fighting the root causes of servile marriage and ensure the full enjoyment of human rights by all persons concerned or potentially concerned. Germany strongly supported the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery.
United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund said that it welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery which served to draw attention to the reality of the practice of forced marriage faced by millions of girls worldwide. It reported that a total of 70 million women aged 20 to 24 were married as children and about 11 per cent of those had been forced to marry before the age of 15. Together with its partners, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund was providing support to the development and implementation of holistic policies and programmes which could help to bring about change.
Armenia shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and said that it was time to end the practices of early and forced marriage. Armenia noted that under no circumstances should national and cultural traditions be abusive and urged States to promote the application of all international conventions for the protection of the rights of women. Armenia had always promoted the rights of women and guaranteed access to all international instruments for the prevention of servile marriage. It also reported that it had recently taken measures to harmonize its Family Code with international norms.
Mauritania said that it had made a firm commitment to fighting the consequences of the scourge of slavery and had undertaken a number of reforms. This was done hand in hand with the Special Rapporteur and with the Office of the High Commissioner. Mauritania was determined to promote human rights and overcome the negative consequences of slavery, and wanted to work with the United Nations and regional mechanisms in this respect.
Norway said that its efforts in the field of contemporary forms of slavery had been focused on the fight against forced marriages. The Government had implemented several action plans with the principal goals of boosting public sector initiatives and firmly embedding these areas in the public sector. Could the Special Rapporteur elaborate on how her recommendation on a more comprehensive approach, legislation, awareness campaigns and support to victims could be put into practice?
New Zealand, speaking on behalf of the Cook Islands, Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, said during the Forum’s meeting last month in the Cook Islands, leaders had recognised the special circumstances pertaining to the continued presence of radioactive contaminants in the Marshall Islands and reaffirmed the existence of a special responsibility by the United States towards the people of the Marshall Islands. They also called for the issues to be adequately addressed through the United Nations system.
Morocco said that the problem of toxic waste required the attention of the international community given its consequences for the enjoyment of human rights. Appropriate and lasting management systems were necessary. Morocco had appropriate legislation to promote an environmentally friendly waste management and disposal system. The problem of servile marriages affected women’s well-being and the deep-rooted causes should be addressed. Morocco had a family code that provided legal guarantees for women.
China attached importance to toxic waste management and measures had been adopted, including coordinated mechanisms across industries and multilateral and bilateral cooperation. Environmental protection was of central importance for China. China was opposed to any violation of women’s rights, including servile marriage. Its marriage code forbade forced marriages and other practices that interfered with women’s freedom like domestic abuse. China also had legislation safeguarding women’s interests through a national women’s federation.
Kyrgyzstan said that bride abduction constituted a violation of human rights and was concerned that this practice resulted in forced marriages, forced labour and sexual violence and was at odds with national legislation. As noted by the Special Rapporteur, numerous cases of bridal abduction took place despite relevant legislation. National awareness campaigns had been implemented about human rights, gender stereotypes and legal consequences of harmful marriage practices. New legislation concerning domestic violence had been implemented.
Maldives took note of the first report submitted to the Council by the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and said that the effect of nuclear testing on the Marshall Islands must be examined from several aspects, such as its impact on the health of the population and the environment. The support of the international community in this regard was very much needed because many small island States were struggling with multifaceted challenges and did not have the capacity to deal with such adverse impacts on the environment.
Argentina said that identifying discriminatory norms underlying slavery could lead to progress in combating the phenomenon and its consequences, such as domestic and gender-based violence, and improve the protection and promotion of women’s rights. In Argentina, marriage must have the full consent of both parties to engage in it and both parties must be older than 18. Argentina reaffirmed its commitment and support to the work of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery.
Peru agreed with the Special Rapporteur that inadequate management of hazardous substances and waste by extractive industries had adverse impacts on the human rights of their workers and surrounding communities as well. Peru shared the concern about mercury poisoning as a result of gold mining, which adversely affected children working in the mines and pregnant women. It was important to note that the principal causes of forced marriage were gender inequality and rural poverty.
Indonesia said, in relation to the hazardous impact of mercury, that Indonesia was involved in the active development of a legally binding instrument on this issue. It was of the view that extractive industry issues related to small scale economies were multi-dimensional and required an integrated approach. Indonesia was determined to put an end to modern day slavery and agreed on the need for a comprehensive approach. It hoped the next report would further deliberate on the protection of migrant workers, particularly vulnerable to various forms of contemporary slavery and therefore deserving of the attention of the international community.
United Kingdom said that the report contained a clear analysis of the issues of servile marriage and correctly highlighted the existence of the United Kingdom’s dedicated Forced Marriage Unit. The British Prime Minister had recently announced that forced marriage would be made a criminal offence in England and Wales. What challenges did the Special Rapporteur foresee for States in their implementation of domestic laws to combat servile marriage? How could education be most effective in preventing servile marriage?
Greece said that servile marriage was an issue of extreme importance and was at the heart of human rights. It called upon all countries to fully cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in the framework of work to eradicate the phenomenon. Greece endorsed the request that the Human Rights Council take a more comprehensive approach to end the practice. How did the Special Rapporteur envisage such a comprehensive approach and what kind of impact could the Council’s action have on the ground? Had there been cases of servile marriage in developed countries and how could the response by the States involved be rated?
Ecuador highlighted the problem of servile marriage. States should ensure compliance with existing norms and ensure that the minimum age for marriage was enforced. Ecuador had carried out a follow up workshop for the Governmental agencies tasked with implementing the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery and had adopted a number of measures, including on the eradication of child labour and national protection programmes, and inter-agency coordination.
Belgium stressed that some traditional practices deprived women and girls from fundamental freedoms and rights, despite the condemnation of the practice of slavery by international law. Given the limitations of consent to ensure the validity of marriage, education and maturity were crucial. Belgium asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the global strategy referred to in the report and the holistic approach to servile marriage that Ms. Shahinian suggested to the Council.
Malaysia was concerned with the immediate and continuous effects of nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands. Malaysia had ratified the Basel Convention and it had national legislation for the protection of the environment. States should not be denied the right to exploit their natural resources and a proper balanced must be achieved. A number of factors such as lack of technology, ignorance or desperation played a role. The international community should play a constructive role helping States to provide adequate regulation.
Romania welcomed the fact that the Special Rapporteur raised the issue of the activity of environmental defenders who should not be a forgotten category of human rights defenders. Romanian authorities were well aware of the accident in Baia Mare and the impact of the 2000 industrial accident that had affected Romania, Hungary and Serbia. Following this toxic spill the mining exploitation plant had been closed. The eco system of the Tisa River had not been affected for the long term, as confirmed by the International Commission for the protection of the Danube.
Guatemala shared the concern about the dumping of hazardous substances and its negative consequences on human lives. Inadequate management of hazardous wastes by extractive industries seriously affected the right to life, the right to food, the right to safe drinking water and others. Special attention must be paid to the negative impact on the most vulnerable. Guatemala expressed its appreciation for the work of the Special Rapporteur in identifying models of good practices that could be replicated elsewhere.
Côte d’Ivoire said that the lack of national legislation for the management of hazardous substances exposed the people to all sorts of risks, as happened in Côte d’Ivoire in 2006. Côte d’Ivoire welcomed the human rights-based approach adopted by the Special Rapporteur in Chapter III of his report and expressed support for the conclusions and recommendations, particularly those related to obligations of States to respect, promote and protect human rights through the establishment of a regulative framework for extractive industries.
Franciscans International said that in Pakistan children, especially those belonging to minority groups, were often under threat of being kidnapped and forced to get married. Girls were victims of the practice of forced conversions and it was often impossible for them to escape from a slave-like environment. Franciscans International urged Pakistan to respect the principles and obligations of human rights conventions and treaties and to modify its national legislation accordingly.
Children International said it was pleased to see that servile marriage was at the heart of the report of the Special Rapporteur. Servile marriage entailed domestic and sexual slavery and was the cause of other forms of violence as well as being a form of violence itself. The victims of servile marriage were generally girls but boys could fall victims as well. Children International urged the Human Rights Council to put an end to the practice of servile marriage.
Action Canada for Population and Development said that it was disappointed that certain States had not responded to the communications by the Special Rapporteur about specific concerns expressed in her report. In many countries, the legal age for marriage was lower for girls than for boys and in practice girls were often married earlier than the age recommended by law. Action Canada urged States to enact laws and policies that would end child marriage.
Nuclear Age Peace Foundation said that the compensation and remediation provided by the United States for the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands had been insufficient to fully attend to the healthcare and socio-economic needs of the Marshallese people. The international community, the United States and the Government of the Marshall Islands must develop long-term strategic measures to address the effects of the nuclear testing programme and provide adequate redress to the citizens of the Marshall Islands.
Physicians for Social Responsibility provided an eyewitness account of the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands by the United States by Jeban Riklon, who had lived on Rongelap Atoll, where no one knew that the United States had planned to test the Bravo bomb on that day and did not know that precautionary measures should have been taken. The population had been evacuated by the United States only two days later and brought into a military encampment and enrolled in Project 4.1. to study the effects of radiation on human beings.
Cultural Survival also provided an eyewitness account of the nuclear weapons testing in the Marshall Islands by the United States by Lemeyo Abon, President of the ERUB (damaged, broken) association of Marshallese nuclear survivors. Ms. Abon described the explosion of the bomb Bravo on Bikini Atoll, just 180 km upwind from Rongelap Atoll where she had lived. The immensely painful consequences were felt even today, with birth of babies with missing limbs and other congenital defects.
International Humanist and Ethical Union said that child marriage was always forced marriage because children were unable to give meaningful consent. Sadly child marriage was still prevalent in many countries, even in countries with laws which prohibited that practice. The worst forms of abuse occurred in cases where young girls were married to adult men and suffered rape. Early pregnancy was a major cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19. Children should not be treated as the property of their parents.
Amnesty International expressed concern over the failure of business enterprises to disclose full information about hazardous materials to which they had exposed the public. Amnesty International had documented cases where persons had been exposed to hazardous wastes but neither those affected or those treating them had been given adequate information about those hazardous substances. It asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the need for governments to require businesses to disclose information about hazardous substances under their ownership which had affected the environment.
CALIN GEORGESCU, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, said in his closing remarks that the international community would have to develop a legally binding treaty to cover the gaps in treatment of hazardous substances and wastes left by the Basel and Hague Conventions. With regard to the report on the Marshall Islands, the Special Rapporteur said he had received a communication from the United States that nuclear testing was outside of his mandate. Mr. Georgescu expressed his full support to the involvement of the international community in the process between the Marshall Islands and the United States which could not be kept a bilateral process, and said that this issue was completely within the scope of his mandate.
GULNARA SHAHINIAN, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, in her closing remarks said that she was delighted to receive support from the delegations today for the fight against forced marriages. The Human Rights Council should pass a resolution on this issue and States should develop programmes and policies to combat it. The majority of States had ratified the Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery; the enforcement of this legal mechanism would be a really important step to take. However, criminalization was not enough and the issue needed to be addressed in a comprehensive way which would include education, empowerment and the fight against poverty.
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