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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue on enforced disappearances and on truth, justice and reparation

Human Rights Council
MIDDAY

11 September 2017

Hears Addresses by Ministers of Qatar, Venezuela, Finland, United Kingdom and Bolivia, and by the Cambodian Human Rights Committee 

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with Houria Es-Slami, Chairperson of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, and with Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence. 

The Council also heard addresses by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar; Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela; Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland; Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, State Minister for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom; Carmen Almendras, Vice Minister of Institutional and Consular Management of Bolivia; and Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee.   

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister for Foreign Affairs  of Qatar, emphasized the great importance of the work done by the Human Rights Council, adding that the use of power politics was the main driver that laid waste to human rights, peace and security.  He stressed that the motivation behind the siege of Qatar and the severing of diplomatic relations was not to fight terrorism but to force Qatar into trusteeship and to interfere in its sovereign affairs, which was a violation of the United Nations Charter. 

Jorge Arreaza Montserrat, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, stated that the High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to put a stop to aggression against Venezuela through reports with twisted arguments and to work in accordance with standards.  Between April and July 2017, Venezuela was the theatre for a new escalation of political violence opposed to the Government of Nicolas Maduro.  Anti-government groups had violated the principles of peaceful demonstrations. 

Timo Soini, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, noted that as a poor country Finland had become a successful society through an early commitment to human rights, universal education, social cohesion and dialogue.  Peer review made one better and Finland had carefully reviewed the recommendations given to it by the Universal Periodic Review and those by the United Nations treaty bodies.  Human rights were universal and they had to be respected in all circumstances. 

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, State Minister for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom, underscored the importance of taking on human rights abuses wherever they occurred and whomever they happened to.  The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks reminded everyone of the need to tackle global terrorism.  Lord Ahmad noted that the values of the Commonwealth were aligned with those of the Human Rights Council. 

Carmen Almendras, Vice Minister of Institutional and Consular Management of Bolivia, reiterated the country’s strict commitment to human rights.  The Human Rights Council represented the hope for the protection of the value and dignity of human beings, and it had demonstrated that it was possible to harmonise efforts to help excluded and discriminated people.  Bolivia welcomed the resolutions on indigenous languages, the right to water and sanitation, and the right to food.  Bolivia recognized the need to contribute to the Global Compact on Migration and to recognise universal citizenship. 

Keo Remy, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said there had been some unfair criticism of the Government’s measures, noting that foreign entities had used the so-called “colour revolution” to advocate regime change.  The “malign theory” had been acting under the mantle of human rights and democracy in Cambodia.  Cambodia had never denied any country visit proposal by any of the Special Procedures and the high number of accepted Universal Periodic Review recommendations reflected its strong commitment towards the promotion and protection of human rights.

At the start of the interactive clustered dialogue, Houria Es-Slami, Chairperson of the Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances, said there had been an increase in short-term disappearances, where people were outside the law for a time and either reappeared after torture, or became victims of extrajudicial killing.  Noting that the Working Group would present its thematic report in 2017 on enforced disappearance in the context of migration, she said that there was a link between enforced disappearance and migration, and that Governments and the international community were not doing enough to address that issue in light of its transnational character.  She spoke about the Working Group’s mission to Albania.

Albania spoke as a concerned country.

Pablo De Greiff, Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, noted that there were plenty of accomplishments in the field of transitional justice.  Transitional justice had become one of the policies that countries were expected to implement in the aftermath of violations, and countries in all regions had by now accumulated valuable experiences in the implementation of relevant measures.  Other advances included making victims visible, and in fact-finding and documentation.   As for challenges, there were three tendencies: the persistent selectivity in the way in which universal legal obligations were implemented, the tendency to “securitize” certain issues, and the continuing tendency to close civil spaces.

In the ensuing discussion on enforced or involuntary disappearances, speakers agreed that the issue of enforced disappearances in the context of migration required greater attention and supported the renewal of the important humanitarian mandate of the Working Group.  They stressed the importance of domestic laws in addressing and preventing enforced disappearances and urged the Working Group to act in strict accordance with United Nations Charter values and principles.  Some speakers regretted that more than 20 States had not responded to the Working Group’s request for visits.    

On truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, delegations concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that the sustainability of transitional justice measures depended upon placing the rights of victims at the centre of design processes.  Some speakers noted that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to transitional justice and warned against the duplication of institutional architecture in post-conflict societies.  States talked at their national efforts to ensure truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence.

Speaking were European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Uruguay on behalf of group of countries, Switzerland, Sierra Leone, France, Colombia, Russian Federation, Greece, Pakistan, Belgium, Sudan, Venezuela, Maldives, Australia, Iraq, Egypt, Bahrain, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United States, Tunisia, Austria, Morocco, China, South Africa, Portugal, Nepal, Latvia, Ukraine, Sweden, Iran, Benin, Paraguay, Japan, Montenegro, Armenia, Philippines, Cyprus, Libya and Burkina Faso. 

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc, United Nations Watch, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Franciscans International, International Commission of Jurists, Article 19 – International Centre Against Censorship, Asian Legal Resource Center, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme, Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Asociación Civil, International Educational Development, and Lutheran World Federation.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  It will next hold an interactive clustered dialogue with the Independent Expert on the rights of older persons, and with the Special Rapporteur in water and sanitation. 

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (A/HRC/36/39).    

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances - mission to Albania (A/HRC/36/39/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on enforced disappearances in the context of migration (A/HRC/36/39/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances: follow-up report to the recommendations made by the Working Group - Missions to Chile and to Spain (A/HRC/36/39/Add.3).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances – comments by Albania (A/HRC/36/39/Add.4).

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/36/50).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence - the Global study on transitional justice (A/HRC/36/50/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence

HOURIA ES-SLAMI, Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, said that the Working Group had transmitted 1,094 new cases of disappearances to 36 States.  The number was high, but it only represented a fraction of the reality.  The Human Rights Council needed to put the heinous crime of disappearances at the top of its agenda.  All States should cooperate with the Working Group.  There had been an increase in short-term disappearances, where people were outside the law for a time and either reappeared after torture, or became victims of extrajudicial killing.  Noting that the Working Group would present its thematic report in 2017 on enforced disappearance in the context of migration, she noted that there was a link between enforced disappearance and migration, and governments and the international community were not doing enough to address that issue in light of its transnational character.  More and more people were becoming victims of trafficking.  Turning to the issue of country visits, she noted that the Working Group had carried out a visit to Albania and more recently also to Gambia.  Sudan, Tajikistan and Ukraine had during the period under review invited the Working Group to carry out visits. 

On the subject of the visits, she said that in Albania, grave and systematic violations of human rights during the dictatorship still remained to be addressed.  An overall policy to address disappearances was needed.  The recommendations contained in the report contained suggestions to ensure the rights of victims to truth, justice and reparations. 

When it came to Gambia, the report would be presented in 2018.  Some preliminary recommendations included ensuring that there was a truth and reconciliation commission, as well as security sector reform.  Follow-up reports had been issued regarding visits to Chile and Spain.  Regarding the former, the Working Group was concerned that recommendations still remained to be implemented.  As to the latter, the Government was urged to take initiative as regards recommendations.  Belgium was thanked for the invitation to hold a session in 2018, and the voluntary support of Argentina, France, Japan and the Republic of Korea was noted with appreciation.  Just a few moments ago, she said, she had heard that family members of a victim had been apprehended at the airport.  Such things happened each time a session was planned.  The international community needed to ratify international conventions to protect persons from enforced disappearances.

PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, presented his annual thematic report and the findings of the global study called for by the Human Rights Council in resolution 18/7.  The mandate had organised five regional consultations in order to gather inputs for the global study: in Cairo in November 2012, Buenos Aires in December 2012, Kampala in November 2013, Berlin in May 2014, and Colombo in November 2016.  Mr. De Grieff noted that there were plenty of accomplishments to celebrate in the field of transitional justice.  The first thing to celebrate was that a normative framework had been developed defining State obligations regarding the four pillars.  Transitional justice had become in a 30-year period one of the policies that countries were expected to implement in the aftermath of violations.  Second, a great contribution transitional justice had made consisted of the unpacking of the notion of justice into constituent and mutually reinforcing elements.  Third, countries in all regions had by now accumulated valuable experiences in the implementation of relevant measures.  Other advances included various ways to make victims visible and to acquire a place in the public sphere that they had lacked before.  That was an important dimension of the process of taking seriously the idea that victims were rights-holders and of successful processes of social integration.  Another cross-cutting advance referred to gender sensitivity and inclusion.  Much had been learned about how to make truth, justice, reparations and guarantees of non-recurrence better at promoting the rights and serving the needs and interests of women.  The list of gender-based crimes that were prosecutable had increased.  Finally, great progress had been achieved in fact-finding and documentation. 

Mr. De Grieff said transitional justice had made important contributions in the domain of prosecutions by offering different ways of coping with amnesties.  Various arguments to nullify amnesty laws either on constitutional grounds or in virtue of their incompatibility with international obligations had been developed.  Various approaches had been developed in order to mitigate the worst effects of such laws.  Important lessons had been learned about the articulation of prioritization and prosecutorial strategies that would allow for the more effective and reasonable deployment of often scarce investigatory and prosecutorial resources.  In the domain of truth-telling and reparations, transitional justice had contributed to the entrenchment of the right to truth, and of the implementation of large-scale programmes capable of dealing efficiently with the claims of thousands of victims. 

Turning to challenges, Mr. De Greiff noted that transitional justice work was hampered by three tendencies: the persistent selectivity in the way in which universal legal obligations were implemented, the tendency to “securitize” certain issues, and the continuing tendency to close civil space.  Some of the other challenges included lack of analysis regarding the expansion of the mandate, sensitivity to the context, and the so-called “isomorphic mimicry” or the tendency to replicate institutional forms regardless of context.  Finally, there was a tendency to overemphasize technocratic responses and to reduce transitional justice to a question of clever institutional engineering. 

Transitional justice nowadays was implemented in very different contexts, specifically weakly institutionalised post-conflict settings.  It was imperative to link the transitional justice agenda with institution-building and institution-strengthening processes.  Copying institutional forms, rather than looking for the most effective means under the circumstances to achieve specific ends, was unlikely to produce good results.  Finally, it was important to strengthen civil society because there was no successful transitional justice without contributions from civil society, Mr. De Greiff concluded.  

Statement by Concerned Country

Albania, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its full support to the work and mandate of the Special Procedures of the Council.  Albania had ratified all major international and regional human rights treaties regarding enforced disappearances.  The report of the Working Group had accurately described the situation in Albania, formulating some recommendations to be taken into consideration by the State. They were a good basis to identify the problems and define the necessary national measures to address the issue of enforced disappearances.  The best approach would be to adopt a specific legal framework where these recommendations were reflected.  Albania would continue to address all crimes related to the communist regime and was fully prepared to strengthen cooperation between national institutions in order to reach concrete results.  The implementation of Albania’s reform of the justice system would directly affect these issues.

Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence

European Union said it was necessary to provide support to disappeared persons’ families.  It concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s assessment that the sustainability of transitional justice measures depended upon placing the rights of victims at the centre of design processes.  The European Union expressed support for the renewal of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted that Africa for years had been affected by violence and war, adding that countering impunity was one of the founding principles of the African Union.  The African Group cautioned that no approach to transitional justice could easily be duplicated, but each context meant that the parameters of each situation needed to be negotiated.  Uruguay, speaking on behalf of a group of States, noted that strong institutions were necessary to ensure the implementation of policies, and that the full and unlimited participation of civil society was most important.   Switzerland said a division between external and internal challenges could lead to misunderstandings, as external challenges were in fact general trends.  The Special Rapporteur was thanked for underlining the crucial role of civil society.

Sierra Leone thanked the Working Group for its efforts to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with concerned countries.  Turning to the Special Rapporteur, Sierra Leone concurred with the Special Rapporteur that the justice system alone was often not enough to satisfy the justice claims of the victims of systematic violations of human rights.  France welcomed the work undertaken by the Working Group regarding the suffering of families of missing persons, which was an appalling scourge.  Turning to the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, France asked how transitional justice could contribute to the institutional strengthening of fragile States.  Colombia said its Government and an armed group had agreed on a process, noting that a holistic system of truth and justice had been elaborated, yet noting that Colombia’s success faced many challenges. 

Russian Federation thanked the Working Group for its work and hoped that its planned visit to Ukraine in 2018 would pay special attention to enforced disappearances in the conflict zone.  Russia voiced concern about migrants fleeing their regions of origins for economic reasons or under security threats.  The Special Rapporteur was asked to state his vision on how these issues could be incorporated into other United Nations mechanisms.  Greece voiced concern that the practice of human trafficking and smuggling was harsh testament to the cruel nature of man and the exploitation of human beings by other human beings.  The discussion on a Global Compact for Migration and a Global Compact for Refugees would hopefully result in agreement on legal pathways.  Greece congratulated the Special Rapporteur on his work.  Pakistan said that ensuring human dignity was key to its efforts to protect and promote human rights.  It regretted cases of incomplete information provided about allegedly disappearances to the Working Group.  Pakistan highlighted the suffering of people in occupied territories.  Belgium regretted that more than 20 States had not responded to the Working Group’s requests for visits.  Belgium outlined that both reports issued by the Special Rapporteur clearly illustrated the unsuitability of a “one size fits all approach” in transitional justice processes. 

Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar

SHEIKH MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs  of Qatar, emphasized that Qatar attached great importance to the work of the Human Rights Council to enhance universal respect for all human rights.  The protection of human rights and human development was a top priority for Qatar.  Accordingly, the country had established a legislative system that aimed at achieving comprehensive human-centred development, such as education, health, empowerment of women, and development of children.  Qatar had taken a regional lead in the promotion of efforts in those domains.  The use of power politics was the main driver that laid waste to human rights, peace and security.  Qatar had recently been facing a number of challenges in a clear violation of international laws and standards that was perpetrated by brotherly neighbouring countries.  That situation had begun with the hacking of the Qatari news agency and publishing of false news and unsubstantial allegations that Qatar had financed terrorism. 

Banning the access of Qatari citizens from various areas of life in the siege countries had a direct negative impact on their families.  The international community had to show its responsibility and protect the people who found themselves in political rifts.  Illegal measures allowed for the politicisation of terrorism and risked negative consequences for global security.  The siege countries had instrumentalised all means for their political purposes and they had fomented anti-Qatar sentiments.  It was unfortunate that religious leaders and clerics also played a role in that endeavour.  The motivation behind the siege of Qatar and the severing of diplomatic relations was not to fight terrorism but to force Qatar into trusteeship and to interfere in its sovereign affairs, which was a violation of the United Nations Charter.  Despite the discourse of the siege countries, the optimal solution for disputes was dialogue and thus Qatar welcomed Kuwait’s offer of mediation.  Terrorism in all its forms constituted a gross violation of human rights and freedoms, and Qatar condemned it in all its manifestations.  Qatar was an active member of the international coalition against the Islamic State, and it would address the root causes of terrorism by investing in education and employment of youth.  Qatar would spare no effort in working with the Human Rights Council to develop mechanisms to promote human rights. 

Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela

JORGE ARREAZA MONTSERRAT, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said 11 September was a sad day, as it was the anniversary of a military coup which had unleashed a regime of terror.  Following the coup d’etat, the participation of the United States had been revealed.  The attacks of another 11 September had unleashed destructive wars, with millions of deaths; the United States had found no traces of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  Terrorism waged by States claiming the right to intervene anywhere in the world was a serious threat to world peace and stability.  Modern imperialism had tried to ensure access to natural resources, and there were no guarantees of human rights in migration processes.  In 1999, the United Nations had approved the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action that had established principles that needed to be respected.  Double standards and politicization needed to be eradicated, but there was selective use of human rights by those who wanted one view of the world. 

The strategy used against Venezuela was a clear example of human rights used against a country.  The Human Rights Council needed to be protected from a bureaucracy trying to change the sovereign will of States.   Biased, politicized behaviour of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights was condemned, and recent reports against Venezuela had no methodological rigor.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights needed to put a stop to aggression against Venezuela through reports with twisted arguments.  The Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights needed to work in accordance with standards.  The United States committed the real human rights violations through undignified walls and illegal prisons such as Guantanamo.  Between April and July, Venezuela was the theatre for a new escalation of political violence opposed to the Government of Nicolas Maduro.  Anti-government groups had used homemade explosives, causing harm to civilians which violated principles of peaceful demonstrations.  Venezuela had been the victim of manipulations of the oil price and other measures aimed at destroying Venezuelan institutions.  Venezuela was back on the path to the rule of law and after four months of violence, undertaken by violent sectors of the opposition, members of the constituent assembly had been selected.  Venezuela would lay to rest lies through truth.

Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland

TIMO SOINI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Finland, noted that the experience of Finland had confirmed the importance of the United Nations’ three pillars.  A poor country had become a successful society through an early commitment to human rights, universal education, social cohesion and dialogue.  Peer review made one better, which was what the Universal Periodic Review was about.  Finland had carefully reviewed the recommendations given to it by the Universal Periodic Review and those by the United Nations treaty bodies.  Human rights were universal and they had to be respected in all circumstances.  A global approach was needed in tackling the refugee and migration challenge, and their root causes needed to be examined.  Finland followed with great concern the situation of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, and the only solution to the heart-breaking conflict in Syria was an inclusive Syrian-led political process under the auspices of the United Nations.  Syrian women had to be able to meaningfully participate in that process.  As for Ukraine, human rights violations continued to be committed in the illegally annexed Crimea and the targeting of Tatars and Ukrainian-speaking communities was unacceptable.  Those responsible had to be held accountable and Finland was committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  Finland also supported the resolution on cooperation with Georgia and it looked forward to the reporting by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It encouraged all actors to ensure the Office’s access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Turning to Europe, Mr. Soini remarked harshening attitudes and restrictions on freedom of speech, information and assembly, reminding that every Government had a duty to ensure a safe environment for journalists and civil society.  Finally, he noted that the global community had to fight all forms of violence against women and girls.

Statement by the State Minister for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom

LORD AHMAD OF WIMBLEDON, State Minister for the Commonwealth and the United Nations of the United Kingdom, said that the Human Rights Council was the United Nations’ premier human rights forum, and underscored the importance of taking on human rights abuses wherever they occurred and whomever they happened to.  The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks reminded everyone of the need to tackle global terrorism.  Responding to Venezuela, he said the Government of Venezuela was undermining democracy, with protesters being tried in military courts, which was totally unacceptable.  The United Kingdom would continue to work to decrease tension in Venezuela.  Regarding the plight of the Rohingya Muslims, he said the security forces in Rakhine bore the primary responsibility, urging all parties to address the deteriorating human rights crisis.  Allegations of other human rights violations by Burmese authorities was also noted with concern.  The situation in Yemen remained of great concern, with over half a million suspected cases of cholera.  All parties to the conflict needed to focus on the need for accountability.  Reviewing issues prioritized by the Government of the United Kingdom, he said the eradication of modern slavery was of paramount importance.  It was also important to promote and protect the rights of women and girls, as well as the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. 

The persecution of people for their beliefs was an issue of concern for the United Kingdom.  Protecting human rights defenders was also a priority, and the United Kingdom would continue its work with defenders in difficult situations.  The values of the Commonwealth aligned with those of the Human Rights Council.  A planned summit aimed to revitalize the Commonwealth.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he noted the importance of the Council speaking with one voice, and also expressed concern about the situation in Burundi.  Somalia had made progress toward upholding human rights, but a culture of impunity persisted.  The human rights situation in South Sudan was dire, and the Government continued to violate its own constitution.  The deteriorating human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo was also of concern, with the Government continuing to restrict political space.  In Libya, there were reports of persecution of individuals, and urgent political progress was needed.  Eleven years since its establishment, the Human Rights Council shaped standards and allowed for the peer review of States.  It gave voice to those denied human rights, but the international community could not be complacent.  The Council had an unacceptable bias through its item 7.

Statement by the Vice Minister of Institutional and Consular Management of Bolivia

CARMEN ALMENDRAS, Vice Minister of Institutional and Consular Management of Bolivia, reiterated the country’s strict commitment to human rights.  The Human Rights Council represented the hope for the protection of the value and dignity of human beings.  The Council had demonstrated that it was possible to harmonise efforts among nations in order to give priority to help people who were excluded or discriminated against.  If the earth was called mother, then it would no longer be considered “it” and “commodity”; this would inspire respect, care and affection for earth.  Within the framework of the
Declaration on Human Development, which was one of the fundamental pillars of the United Nations, Bolivia welcomed the resolution that had declared 2019 the year of indigenous languages as a means to preserve cultural richness.  The right to water and sanitation was another priority for Bolivia because they were essential for the enjoyment of all other rights.  The right to access those rights could not be privatised.  In the same vein, Bolivia also welcomed resolutions on the right to food and rural workers.  As expressed by the New York resolution of 19 September 2016, the world was facing an unprecedented migration crisis as millions of people found themselves displaced due to armed conflict, religious and ethnic persecution, and consequences of natural disasters.  The Government of Bolivia recognized the need to contribute to the Global Compact on Migration.  It would support the effort to recognize universal citizenship, reject criminalisation of migration based on false security paradigms, strengthen efforts to protect the rights of all migrant workers and their families, and it would support the creation of a global ombudsman for the protection of rights of migrants, refugees and stateless persons in order to promote human mobility.  Concluding her remarks, Ms. Almendras reiterated Bolivia’s solidarity with Venezuela and she called on the international community to refrain from any extraterritorial and unilateral actions that violated international law. 

Interactive Discussion with the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-recurrence

Sudan welcomed the reports of the Special Rapporteur on truth and the Working Group on enforced disappearances.  Sudan reaffirmed its cooperation with the Working Group on enforced disappearances and asked it what mechanisms needed to be adopted in order to ensure that all cases of disappearances were addressed.  Venezuela thanked the Special Procedures and noted that the Constitution of Venezuela prohibited the authorities from practising, committing or tolerating enforced disappearances.  Maldives said the disappearance of the blogger and journalist Ahmed Rilwan remained a priority case under investigation for the Maldivian authorities, also underscoring the difficulties faced by migrants. 

Australia said effective prevention of conflict and human rights violations was essential to peacebuilding, and underscored support for the Special Rapporteur’s conclusion about the centrality of transitional justice and conflict prevention to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16.  Iraq said the Working Group on enforced disappearances had been working on cases of people who had disappeared in Iraq, noting that a national institution and human rights bodies within the Ministry of the Interior took up cases of disappearances.  Egypt said there was a need to respect national provisions, and that there was no single model which needed to be implemented.  The Working Group’s report to the Council was noted, and the importance of the mandate was underscored, as well as the noble mission it had been entrusted with, away from politicization and prejudice.

Bahrain agreed with the recommendations of the Working Group on enforced disappearances as such disappearances were unacceptable.  It was essential to shed light on the destiny of all disappeared persons.   The Government of Bahrain was open to cooperate with all bodies working on the protection of human rights.  Italy asked the Special Rapporteur about steps that needed to be taken to enhance the implementation of transitional justice, and how to effectively ensure redress and prevention.  Bosnia and Herzegovina shared the concern that the number of enforced disappearances continued to be unacceptably high worldwide.  It had recently concluded agreements with Croatia and Serbia to speed up the search for the missing.  United States urged the Government of Sri Lanka to continue efforts to establish meaningful and credible transitional justice processes that had the confidence of the Sri Lankan people and of the international community.  Tunisia reiterated its commitment towards cooperation with United Nations bodies on enforced disappearances in line with the national Constitution, which guaranteed human dignity and physical integrity of all persons.  As for truth, justice and reparations, Tunisia emphasized the need to fight impunity.  Austria welcomed the report on the contribution of transitional justice and took note of the manifold challenges and tendencies which made achievements more difficult.  It expressed gratitude to the Special Rapporteur for his efforts to exercise the mandate.  

Morocco agreed that the issue of enforced disappearances in the context of migration required greater attention and supported the renewal of the important humanitarian mandate of the Working Group.  With regard to transitional justice in post-conflict situations, Morocco stressed that there could be no one-size-fits-all approach, especially in the context of weak institutions.  China stressed the importance of domestic law in addressing and preventing enforced disappearances and urged the Working Group to act in strict accordance with United Nations Charter values and principles.  Every county had the responsibility to protect its people from the scourges of war and genocide and countries must be supported in their efforts to support the truth and learn from it.  South Africa underlined the importance of the nexus between migration and enforced disappearances, especially given the activities of human trafficking and people smuggling syndicates in the region.  South Africa had traded off justice and accountability for democracy, a difficult but conscious choice that it had made to secure a future for the country and its people.

Portugal was deeply worried by the unacceptably high number of enforced disappearances worldwide and agreed that the Working Group could not discharge its mandate without the cooperation of States.  Nepal agreed that there was no one-size-fits-all solution to transitional justice and warned against the duplication of institutional architecture in post-conflict societies.  Nepal had extended the mandate of its Truth and Reconciliation Commission for another year to enable it to look into issues and the 60,000 complaints it had received.  Latvia shared the concern that the number of enforced disappearances continued to be unacceptably high and encouraged all States to investigate cases of enforced disappearances and cooperate with the Working Group.  What were examples of best practices and concrete measures States could take to incorporate a gender perspective to further enhance the voice of victims, particularly women and girls?

Ukraine noted that among the wide-scale human rights violations in the occupied Crimea and in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, acts of abduction and disappearance of Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars were numerous.  From the beginning of the Russian occupation of Crimea, 21 representatives of Crimean Tatars were kidnapped, 9 were still missing and 3 were lately found dead.  Sweden was deeply concerned about the declining trend worldwide of shrinking democratic space.  In order to ensure the sustainability of transitional justice, it was of great importance that the freedom of democracy was safe guarded.  Iran confirmed there was a link between migrations, terrorist threats and enforced disappearances.  Through their actions, some States exposed migrants to human rights violations, including enforced disappearances as a consequence of traffic by terrorist groups. 

Benin thanked the Working Group and the Special Rapporteur for the quality of their reports.  Benin was committed to promote support for victims’ families and fulfil their right to truth and non-recurrence.  In the past 30 years, transitional justice had proven to be a pathway to lasting peace.  Benin fully supported the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur.  Paraguay welcomed the role of the truth commissions that had worked in close cooperation with victims’ families in order to provide reparations.  In 2003, Paraguay had created the truth and justice commission in order to investigate violations of human rights in the country, particularly enforced disappearances.  Further measures had been taken by the State to identify remains of the victims.  Japan said it was necessary to strengthen measures to address cases of enforced disappearances.  Far from being a crime from the past, enforced disappearance was a violation of human rights that continued to the present day.  Resolving the issue of abduction by “North Korea” was a very important matter for the Government of Japan.  The human rights situation in “North Korea” in general was getting worse.

Montenegro said that its National Commission for Missing Persons continued to operate at the national level, with a focus on establishing the truth, particularly the whereabouts of all the disappeared; to that end, it continued to improve cooperation with countries in the region and was about to sign a protocol with Croatia.  Armenia said that truth, justice and guarantees of non-recurrence were at the core of transitional justice and were important for the prevention of genocide and crimes against humanity, including the fight against impunity and denial.  Philippines reiterated that it did not tolerate enforced disappearances and extra-judicial executions and had enacted the very first Asian domestic legislation prohibiting enforced disappearances. 

Cyprus said that unfortunately the mandate of the Working Group remained as relevant and as necessary today as when it had been established.  Cyprus was still experiencing a humanitarian tragedy of missing persons and the pain of their families and called upon all States to fully cooperate with the Working Group and to comply with their international obligations.  Libya condemned the crime of enforced disappearances, stressed the relentless efforts of its Government to address migration and curb the activities of criminal guards and smuggling networks, and called upon the international community to provide assistance to improve the human rights situation and the rule of law in Libya to prevent violations and enforced disappearances.  Burkina Faso said it had made a strong commitment to creating a framework for national reconciliation following the political crisis the country had suffered, and had made progress in strengthening its institutions, including through the creation of the Supreme Council for Reconciliation and National Unity.

Conseil National des Droits de l’Homme au Maroc noted that a national mechanism for transitional justice had been created in 2004 in Morocco in order to investigate cases of human rights violations.  Its budget amounted to 266 million dollars and 26,998 victims of human rights violations had been compensated.  A follow-up report would soon be issued on transitional justice in Morocco. 

United Nations Watch urged the Special Rapporteur to visit Venezuela where there was an urgent need for truth and justice.  In August 2016, an activist had been intercepted by the Venezuelan intelligence service and enclosed in a cell with no lights.  More than 100 other activists had been victims of similar treatments.  Colombian Commission of Jurists invited the Special Rapporteur to continue to observe and report on how families could play an important role in supporting investigations on the disappearance of their relatives.  It was of utmost importance to ensure family participation in proceedings that directly concerned them.  Furthermore, it was worrisome that the unit for search of disappeared persons in Colombia was not an independent body.  Measures should be adopted in order to allow access to places where helpful information could be found.  

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain noted that the report addressed four outstanding cases of enforced disappearances in Bahrain, among them the cases of Fadhel Abba Radhi and Sayed Alawi Hussain al-Alawi.  Both victims’ families had attempted to engage with Bahrain’s complaint mechanisms with no tangible result.   Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil asked the Special Rapporteur what was the impact of corruption on mechanisms of truth and justice.  It was observed that serious human rights violations committed by State institutions during the dirty war in the seventies in Mexico had not been investigated.  Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil invited the Special Rapporteur to carry out a visit to Mexico to guarantee the right to truth, justice and non-recurrence and to combat impunity.

Franciscans International said that the promises Sri Lanka had made to its people two years ago had not been fulfilled, including to publish reports of previous Commissions of Inquiry, establish two offices on missing persons and reparations, establish a special judicial mechanism, and criminalize enforced disappearances.  International Commission of Jurists said that in South Asian countries, which had some of the highest numbers of reported cases of disappearances in the world, enforced disappearances were not a distinct crime.  The lack of a clear national legal framework specifically criminalizing enforced disappearances meant that detentions by law enforcement agencies were often treated as “missing persons” cases.  Article 19 – International Centre against Censorship said in Mexico, Article 19 had recorded the twenty-fourth journalist forcibly disappeared since 2003.  The authorities’ failure to pursue lines of inquiry related to Salvador Adame’s work as a journalist, and any possible connections of public officials to the events, meant that his disappearance was likely to become yet another case of impunity for attacks on journalists in Mexico. 

Asian Legal Resource Centre said that enforced disappearances in Asia were the direct result of State policies that allowed State agencies to break the laws and remain immune to any form of prosecution, as was the case in Bangladesh, Pakistan, China, India and Pakistan occupied Kashmir, Indonesia, and others.  Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that the highest number of enforced disappearances in Iran had been registered in the 1980s, and that their families were still waiting for them to come home.  It was regrettable that the Special Rapporteur still had not reported on the massacre of prisoners of conscience in 1988, thus ensuring the right of their families to truth.  Conseil international pour le soutien à des procès équitables et aux Droits de l’Homme was concerned about the situation of enforced disappearances in many countries, where people were detained and abducted by agents of governments, and the Council must be aware of the extent of this phenomenon in Bahrain and in the conflicts in which Saudi Arabia was involved, particularly in Yemen.

Association for Defending Victims of Terrorism said interference in the affairs of States had led to an increase in instability all over the world, adding that transitional justice was of crucial importance, and noting its interest in organizing a conference on that subject.  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom said hundreds of family members were missing from Syrian families, and the international community needed to handle the disappearance cases as a human rights issue away from military concerns, and to disclose the names and whereabouts of all detainees and allow international groups access, among other demands.  Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales Asociacion Civil said Santiago Maldonado in Argentina had last been seen in the context of unlawful actions in Mapuche territory.  The Centre urged the international community to push the Government of Argentina to contribute to his retrieval.

International Educational Development, Inc drew attention to the killing of Kurdish citizens by Iranian border guards, which were killings with an ethnic dimension, urging the Human Rights Council to call on Iran to halt violent demonstrations against a wide range of minority groups.  Lutheran World Federation said conflicts were increasing and a fresh look at transitional justice measures was important, underscoring that one of the biggest challenges was the absence of the voice of women and girls around the table. 

Concluding Remarks

HOURIA ES-SLAMI, Chairperson of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, thanked all States and non-governmental organizations for interacting in the discussion.   She particularly thanked the States that participated in the informal working group on the criminalization of enforced disappearances.  She welcomed Albania’s response and was pleased to hear that judicial reform was underway in the country.  The Working Group remained available to provide assistance to Albania in order to implement recommendations and respond to enquiries on enforced disappearances. 

Turning to the allegations of shortcomings in terms of the information gathered and communicated by the Working Group, Ms Es-Slami highlighted that the Working Group complied strictly with its working methods.  It communicated the maximum information that was available focusing on cases that were sufficiently documented to be considered as enforced disappearances.  In response to Pakistan’s comment on the lack of information on the Working Group, she reiterated the Group’s continuing efforts to provide detailed information to States.  She asked Pakistan to allow the Working Group to access the country to get a better overview on the situation.  M. Es-Slami thanked Sudan for sending an invitation to the Working Group to visit Sudan to clarify several cases.  A first mission would visit the country in November and this would represent an opportunity to discuss working methods with the authorities.  Responding to the allegations of lack of impartiality of the Working Group, she recalled that the Group complied with the guidelines given by the Council of Human Rights.  It was up to States to provide information that could be of use to the Working Group.  Furthermore, she outlined that the activities of the Working Group were complementary to those of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances.

Ms. Es-Slami voiced concern about the fact that enforced disappearances committed by non-state actors were on the rise.  Some were led with the acquiescence of the States while others were carried out by non-state actors in conflict with States.  She invited United Nations members to engage in a reflection on how to take up such cases and called on all States to protect victims’ families and the institutions supporting them.  She reiterated her appeal to States to accept visits of the Working Group.  The difficult conditions in Libya were the reasons impeding the Working Group from visiting the country for the moment, she noted.  Finally, she urged States to ratify the Convention on Enforced Disappearances.

PABLO DE GREIFF, Special Rapporteur on truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence, expressed gratitude to the delegations that supported the extension of his mandate and encouraged all Member States to support the renewal of the mandate.  Responding to questions about normative change, Mr. De Greiff said that what was missing was not an overarching normative structure, but rather the implementation of the existing structure.  Part of the motivation for the global study was to show the great progress made in the domain of transitional justice, which had contributed to the entrenchment of the right to truth, justice and reparation.  The caveat with respect to the implementation of transitional justice in post-conflict situations set a huge normative gap regarding the responsibility of non-State actors.  As for the proposal that an informal group be created to consult the Security Council on transitional justice, the idea was to ensure that the Security Council was making decisions on transitional justice on the basis of the best possible information.  The lack of reparations for women was a scandalous gap.  Gender sensitivity had increased with time; both theory and practice was illuminated by much more gender sensitivity.  Some of the best examples in that respect came from Morocco.  It was absolutely critical to develop more competence to strengthen civil society.  Mr. De Greiff called on States to be much more open to the contributions made by civil society.

Statement by the President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee

KEO REMY, President of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee, said he would focus his presentation on Cambodia’s attainment so far, on recent developments sparking unfair criticism of the Government’s measures, and delineate the Government’s commitment to fulfil its obligation to promote, protect and respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Peace accords in 1991 had ended a long civil war, and with peace had come development.  Cambodia had reached many of the Millennium Development Goals, with the poverty rate declining from 53 to 13.5 per cent from 2004 to 2014.  But there had been political manipulation against the Government, and foreign entities used the so-called “colour revolution” to advocate regime change.  The “malign theory” had been acting under the mantle of human rights and democracy in Cambodia.  The Government had a duty to enforce law and regulations, which meant holding perpetrators accountable for their offenses.  Cambodia valued human rights and democracy, and the Government had participated in all human rights mechanisms, including with treaty bodies.  Cambodia had never denied a country visit proposal by any of the Special Procedures.  Cambodia’s high number of accepted Universal Periodic Review recommendations reflected its strong commitment toward the promotion and protection of human rights.  Cambodia remained committed to strengthening close cooperation and constructive partnership with all the United Nations human rights mechanisms, yet underscored that all cooperation had to be based on non-interference into matters which were under Cambodia’s domestic jurisdiction.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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