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Human Rights Council Advisory Committee discusses follow-up to reports submitted to the Human Rights Council

14 August 2013

Also discusses gender perspective, democratic and equitable international order and persons with disabilities

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee this afternoon discussed standing items on its agenda including gender perspective, a democratic and equitable international order and the realization of human rights by persons with disabilities. It also discussed follow-up to reports submitted to the Council on the promotion of the right of peoples to peace, the rights of peasants, promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind, and human rights and issues relating to terrorist hostage-taking.

In the discussion, which examined each issue by turn, a speaker said that unfortunately past practices showed that in many societies there was a need to alter pre-conceived perceptions about gender. The Committee should find obstacles that hindered persons with disabilities from exercising their rights, speakers said. Discussing issues surrounding a democratic and equitable international order, there was a need for a common interpretation of this issue and a common definition, acceptable to all.

On the promotion of the peoples’ right to peace, speakers referred to the draft declaration on the peoples right to peace that was submitted to the Human Rights Council, and noted the contradicting views between States on the issue. One speaker said that if diverging opinions were seen again, then the text would have no influence on the development of international relations and the development of international law.

A new draft resolution on the rights of peasants was planned for the future, the Committee was informed by one member. In the discussion on the Committee’s work on a study on how better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights, it was noted that the issue of cultural diversity was an ongoing concern and had to continue to be discussed.

Regarding the study on terrorist hostage-taking the Committee had been asked to prepare for the Human Rights Council, speakers highlighted the importance of paying particular attention to the impact on human rights and the role of regional and international cooperation in this field. A speaker also emphasized the sensitive debate on payment of ransom to terrorist hostage-takers, saying that the payment of ransoms contributed to trafficking and the funding of terrorism and threatened peace, security and development around the world.

The following Committee members spoke in the discussion: Vladimir Kartashkin, Jose Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Chung Chinsung, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, and Cecilia Rachel V. Quisumbing. Algeria also took the floor.

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will resume its public meeting tomorrow, Thursday, 15 August, at 12 p.m. to discuss ways of enhancing the Advisory Committee’s procedural efficiency.

Introductory Remarks

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that the Committee’s standing items on the agenda today were gender perspective, democratic and equitable international order, and persons with disabilities.

SAEED MOHAMED AL FAIHANI, Vice-President of the Advisory Committee, said that gender perspective was very important both in the Committee’s work and on the international agenda. Unfortunately past practices showed that in many societies there was a need to alter pre-conceived perceptions about gender. It was important to eliminate violence against women and to empower women in all aspects of life. There were still no real solutions to the problem of violence against women. Persons with disabilities were vulnerable and their basic rights could be at stake: the Committee should explore ways and means to preserve their rights and identify obstacles that hindered them from exercising their rights. The democratic and equitable international order was discussed on many occasions, but there were different interpretations, according to convictions and political creeds. There was a need for a common interpretation and a common definition of the issue that was acceptable to all.

Right to Peace

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, spoke about the draft declaration on peoples right to peace that had been submitted to the Human Rights Council, and consisted of 14 articles covering issues including the right to peace, disarmament, resistant opposition to oppression, human security, the right to development, refugees and migrants. Earlier this year the Intergovernmental Working Group on peoples right to peace had started to discuss the general object of the declaration and examined the different articles.

On one level a majority of States that said they would like to have a declaration on the right of peoples’ to peace. Other States did not wish to have it, but still wished to engage in discussions. Some believed there was a right to peace and that it could be found in international law. Others believed that was not the case, but that it could be construed as an enabling right. The question regarded what dimensions should be taken up in such a declaration. When it came to obligations and implementation there was some consensus but a spectrum of opinions on the project was evident. In Human Rights Council Resolution 23/16, around 30 Members of the Human Rights Council voted in favour of convening another session of the Intergovernmental Working Group.

VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Committee Expert, said he did not think now was the right time to look at the declaration because if the Advisory Committee did so it never finish its work. There were very many contradictory statements and views that were not shared. If diverging opinions were seen again, then the text would have no influence on the development of international relations and the development of international law. Mr. Kartashkin called all those that participated in the drafting of the declaration to recall that the legal and practical value of the text was largely determined on knowing whether it could be adopted by consensus.

Rights of Peasants

JOSE ANTONIO BENGOA CABELLO, Committee Expert, said that unfortunately he was not able to attend the meeting of the Working Group on the rights of peasants. The meeting was held and he was informed by the Bolivian mission, who chaired the meeting, that there would be resolutions and they were planning a new meeting to focus more specifically on drafting a possible declaration.

Traditional values


WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Committee, recalled that the Council in Resolution 16/3 requested the Advisory Committee to prepare a study on how better understanding and appreciation of traditional values of dignity, freedom and responsibility could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights. In its Resolution 21/3 the Council accorded the Advisory Committee additional time to finalize the study in accordance with its own recommendation. The final report A/HRC/22/71 was submitted to the Council at its twenty-second session. In addition to the study presented, the Council had also requested the Office of the High Commissioner to collect information from Member States and other relevant stakeholders on best practices in the application of traditional values while promoting and protecting human rights and upholding human dignity. A summary of contributions received would be presented to the upcoming session of the Council in September.

CHUNG CHINSUNG, Committee Expert, asked why the traditional value topic could not be found in thematic issues.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, answered that he did not know, but it was probably only a short-term oversight as it was an important document.

VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Committee Expert, said that the study presented to the Human Rights Council was the outcome of an arduous task and intense work undertaken by almost all members of the Committee. At the time of preparation many controversial issues were raised and these issues were always going to come up and would continue to do so. Members States of the Council were practically split into two groups, with one group saying that the study should not be carried out, while the second was in favour of carrying it out. One group saw the whole idea or notion of values may have a negative impact on human rights and may lead to violations of human rights. Another group of countries believed that traditional values might help promote and ensure respect for human rights. However there were negative experiences or practices of States using their own traditional values to deny human rights. Why was additional information needed and what could it contribute to the study carried out?

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that it was very often the word responsibility that gave rise to controversy as it could be interpreted in different ways. The issue of cultural diversity was always coming up at the level of discussion at the Human Rights Council and it was also seen by some States as being a challenge to the principle of universality of human rights. In that context, the ongoing concern and exercise went in the right direction, as those issues had to be discussed.

Terrorist Hostage-Taking

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, in Council Resolution 18/10, the Advisory Committee was requested to prepare a study on the issue of terrorist hostage-taking for the purposes of promoting awareness and understanding, paying particular attention to its impact on human rights and the role of regional and international cooperation in this field. There had been a discussion of this last February by the Committee, when the draft final report prepared by the drafting group had been considered. There was now a report on this topic, A/HRC/24/47. It looked briefly at conceptual issues, definition and the problem in the empirical sense, before moving to major issues such as the impact of terrorist hostage taking on human rights and the role of regional international cooperation among others. Despite considerable efforts, it had been difficult to identify good practices. Not many responses had been received.

CECILIA RACHEL V. QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said that the report was as comprehensive as it could be, with all of the challenges as well as the breadth of the topic. Perhaps, for other questionnaires that would be sent out for information gathering for other studies, they could be also sent to other stakeholders, such as national institutions, who would probably be more willing to give actual experience information? Academic institutions and civil society organizations could also perhaps be included. On payment of ransom, there could be pressure on the Government where the hostage-taking has occurred, if it was decided to pay ransom, and this was interesting.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee, said that that had been considered and the issue should be flagged. It was quite difficult from a human rights point of view to say who was right and who was wrong. It was a very delicate issue, as the life of people was at stake.

Algeria said that hostage-taking by terrorists was a timely issue. The financing of terrorism was one of the most important things that fuelled it and payment of ransoms contributed to trafficking and the funding of terrorism and threatened peace, security and development around the world. Despite efforts undertaken to fight against payment of ransoms to terrorists and to prevent any benefits from hostage-taking, the international community should be encouraged to take more efforts in that area.

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For use of the information media; not an official record