Human Rights Council
6 June 2011
Concludes General Debate on Reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and on the Promotion and Protection of all Human Rights
The Human Rights Council this morning heard the presentation of the report of the second session of the Intergovernmental Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure, which was followed by a general debate on its agenda item on human rights bodies and mechanisms. The Council also concluded its general debate on its agenda items on thematic reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.
Drahoslav Stefanek, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Working Group of the Human Rights Council on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure, said that the text of the draft Optional Protocol was a result of a compromise, on which the Working Group agreed by consensus after an intense and thorough effort by all those involved. He noted that it might not initially fully meet expectations but that it constituted an instrument through which increased protection for the rights of children could be provided for under the Convention. The text drew on similar existing instruments, especially the most recent ones, using wherever possible and appropriate agreed language in order to ensure consistency and coherence within the treaty body system. The fact that the Working Group was able to complete this work in such a short time did not mean that the issues at stake were not given serious consideration.
Speakers in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms said that the Optional Protocol on a communications procedure would fill an important legal gap and provide complimentary means of redress in case of violations of the rights contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thus offering children an equivalent level of protection to that extended by other core human rights treaties that already had such mechanisms. A speaker noted that there were still some issues to be clarified concerning the Optional Protocol before the end of this session. Several delegations noted that the focus of the last round of negotiations had been on reaching a quick agreement rather than exploring ways to ensure that the new mechanism was child-friendly and child-sensitive. On the draft resolution 14/3 on the draft Declaration on the Promotion of the Rights of People to Peace, some speakers expressed their reservations and said they could not support it because of the omission that the absence of peace could not justify failure to respect human rights and believed that the issues were better dealt with in other fora. Many speakers agreed that the Special Procedures were among the most effective, responsive and flexible mechanisms and that cooperation of States with mandate holders should be strengthened. Also, speakers recognized the need for a greater degree of transparency in the funding of Special Procedures.
Speaking in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms were Hungary on behalf of European Union, Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Slovenia on behalf of the Cross Regional Group (Austria, Chile, Germany, Kenya, Uruguay, Thailand, Slovakia, and the Maldives), China, Cuba, Argentina, Thailand, Maldives, Republic of Moldova, Slovakia, Algeria, Germany, Turkey, Holy See, Austria and Morocco.
Also speaking were the following national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations: International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, SOS Kinderdorf International, International Service for Human Rights, International Commission of Jurists, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungpolitik, Indian Council of South America, International Association of Peace Messenger Cities and International Catholic Migration Commission.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its general debate on agenda item two on the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary-General, and agenda item three on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development. During the discussion, speakers expressed appreciation to the High Commissioner for the mention of climate change in her report and urged her to support the overwhelming expression of civil society at the Social Forum calling for a Special Procedure on climate change. Concerning the denial of the right to self determination, several speakers noted human rights violations against the people in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, the denial of the right to development and the right to survival of indigenous peoples, and the situation of the Sahrawi people in the Polisario camps. Speakers welcomed the report and recommendations by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression and noted the violation of this right in several countries around the world, including the excessive use of force against demonstrators, arbitrary arrests, imprisonment, prosecution of dissidents and journalists and others.
The following speakers addressed the Council in the general debate on agenda items two and three: North-South XXI, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, World Muslim Congress, International Peace Bureau, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Recontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de L’Homme, Society for Threatened Peoples, Union de l’action feminine, Asian Legal Resource Centre, Indian Council of South America, Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grand-Lacs, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungpolitik, Human Rights Watch, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Cairo Institute for Human Rights, Agence internationale pour le développement, Centrist Democratic International, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Press Emblem Campaign and United Nations Watch.
China and Thailand spoke in the right of reply.
The members of the Council will convene this afternoon at 4 p.m. for a closed meeting under the Complaint Procedure. The next meeting of the Council will be at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 7 June 2011, when it will consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes for Nauru, Rwanda and Nepal.
General Debate on Reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights
GALA MARIC, of North-South XXI, expressed appreciation to the High Commissioner for the mention of climate change and particularly the consideration of this important issue in paragraph 42 of her report. North-South XXI urged the High Commissioner to heighten the emphasis on the threat that climate change posed to human rights and to support the overwhelming expression of civil society at the Social Forum calling for a Special Procedure on climate change. If States did not agree to extend and significantly enhance the legally binding emission limits in the Kyoto Protocol in Durban, it was no over-exaggeration to claim that hundreds of millions of the most vulnerable people in the world would be condemned to death from the adverse consequences of climate change.
ALTAF HUSSAIN WANI, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said that the denial of the right to self determination had led to a regime of human rights violations in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Indian forces engaged in grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions. The International Islamic Federation drew attention to the sections on India in the report of the Special Rapporteur on summary and extra-judicial executions and the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. The International Islamic Federation called on the Human Rights Council to fulfill its obligations toward the suffering of the people of occupied Kashmir and called upon the Indian Government to welcome the visit United Nations officials, including Special Rapporteurs.
SYED FAIZ HUSSAIN NAQSHBANDI, of World Muslim Congress, said that India as a subject of international law was responsible for the violations committed by its armed forces and paramilitary forces. The human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir had reached an alarming level and required the urgent attention of the Council. India had enacted a series of black laws in Kashmir that provided impunity to Indian security forces against human rights abuses and protected them against prosecution. The World Muslim Congress urged the Council to send a fact-finding mission to Indian-occupied Kashmir to assess the human rights situation and report to the Council.
MICHEL MONOD, of International Peace Bureau, said the Human Rights Council had recognised that conscientious objection to military service was part of thought, conscience and religion as per Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In spite of that, many countries did not recognise the right to conscientious objection to military service and many objectors were put in prison, such as in the Republic of Korea, Israel, Turkey and Egypt. The International Peace Bureau then demanded that countries signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights complied with their engagement.
ISHLIYAQ HAMEED, of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression. The Government of India denied access to the Kashmir region of any person that would raise awareness of the situation in Indian-administered Kashmir. On 28 May 2009, two young women were raped and murdered in Indian-administered Kashmir. No one had been brought to justice in this matter yet. What steps could the Human Rights Council take in order to seek justice in this case?
CHARLES GRAVES, of Rencontre africaine pour la défense des droits de l'homme, noted that the social changes going on in certain countries, especially in the Mahgreb and other Arab countries, had revealed widespread social injustice, lack of transparency, corruption, bad governance and a general lack of freedom of opinion. The Human Rights Council should respond to the urgent needs of all the victims of authoritarian political structures through dialogue and cooperation of all countries with the Council’s mechanisms. The Council should investigate and evaluate the crimes committed in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Tunisia and Bahrain. The situation of human rights in the Western Sahara was noted in addition to the Security Council document of 27 April on the issue. Rencontre Africaine hoped that the political and institutional reforms occurring in Algeria and Morocco would contribute positively towards the improvement of human rights.
JANA BRANDT, of Society for Threatened Peoples, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in which the criminalization of legitimate expression through the imprisonment of bloggers was recognized. The Society for Threatened Peoples was deeply concerned about the ongoing violation of freedom of opinion and expression in China, especially against national minorities such as Uyghurs and Tibetans. The Society for Threatened Peoples called on the Human Rights Council to support the full respect of freedom of expression in China and urged the Chinese Government and other Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States to unconditionally and immediately release all imprisoned Uyghur media workers.
MAIMOUNA ESSAYED, of Union de l'action féminine, said the Declaration on the Right to Development stipulated that the right to development was an inalienable right that guaranteed the full pursuit of social, cultural and political development as well as ensured that all full rights and freedoms could be fully exercised. Union de l’action féminine regretted that the refugees in the Palisario camps in Southern Morocco were denied the right to development, were subject to outrageous human rights violations and were prevented from exercising their right to aspire to a better life. Union de l’action féminine requested that the Human Rights Council work to end human rights violations in the Palisario camps in southern Morocco.
MICHAEL ANTHONY, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, expressed grave concern about the excessive use of force and live ammunition by the Sri Lankan police against demonstrators. The Asian Legal Resource Centre reiterated the need for independent international investigations into a range of human rights abuses in this increasingly authoritarian country. The Centre welcomed the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression concerning the Republic of Korea, notably the need to abolish criminal defamation and amend vague and ambiguous articles of law on the Internet. With regard to Thailand, the recent laws had been used with increasing frequency to threaten, intimidate, arrest and prosecute dissidents and journalists.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that the right to self determination was a core for all property rights and equal right to self determination must apply when engaging with any international instruments affecting indigenous peoples. Denial of those rights led to conflict and violence and had negatively affected the right of indigenous peoples to survive and to protect their cultural rights and their right to development. People under colonial domination and foreign occupation must participate on an equal level in standard and norms setting. This was denied by the World Intellectual Property Organization and during the preparation of the international treaty on Traditional Knowledge, Genetic Resources and Traditional Cultural Expressions.
ZIGHEM BAYAR, of Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, was particularly alarmed by violations of human rights occurring in camps administered by the separatist polisario militia at Tindouf within Algerian territory. These were violations against human dignity and included isolation and separation of families, malnutrition and the lack of any freedoms. The international community must live up to its obligations towards these people. These populations needed to be allowed to move freely in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 13 which guaranteed individual freedom of movement and the right to choose their place of residence. These populations must also be allowed to return to their country of origin, Morocco. The Polisario had forbidden any people to visit their families in Morocco outside of visits under the MINURSO programme.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said they should not forget those killed in Iran during the peaceful protests following the 2009 disputed presidential elections. The most recent example of such a death was that of Haleh Sahabi who died on 1 Jun 2011. Ms. Sahabi was a well known women’s rights activist and a member of Mothers Peace. She died as a result of the brutality and violence of Iranian security agents. Sudwind noted that the strictest possible security measures were imposed prior to the burial of Ms. Sahabi, which took place in secret. It was noted that not even a coroner was permitted to establish the exact cause of her death. Sudwind asked for the High Commissioner to push for a fact finding commission and the prosecution of the security officers responsible for the death of Haleh Sahabi and other peaceful dissidents in an effort to put an end to the impunity of security officers
PHILIPPE DAM, of Human Rights Watch, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, who emphasized apprehensions about the increasing abuse of irregular migrants and voiced concerns about a trend towards viewing migrants as commodities rather than as persons with rights. Human Rights Watch had issued a report that documented that Thai Government officials, police and private employers enjoyed widespread impunity in abusing the rights of Burmese, Lao and Cambodian documented and undocumented migrant workers. Abuses of migrants were systematic and those filing grievances faced immediate, violent retaliation from a nexus of local police officials and employers. Human Rights Watch made 30y distinct recommendations that over a year later, the Thai Government had failed to implement. Human Rights Watch stated that it was time for the Thai Government to take action to adopt a human rights framework that would end the impunity to abuse to migrants.
POOJA PATEL, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), expressed regret at the increasing attacks against cyber dissidents and other Internet users in many Asian countries, thereby circumscribing freedom of opinion and expression on the Internet. In Thailand, excessively harsh measures had been increasingly employed to target Internet users. The Government of Thailand should provide lists of blocked URLs as well as details regarding the necessity and justification for each case. FORUM-ASIA also expressed concern about the ongoing and widespread ban on websites imposed in Pakistan, implemented on the basis of blasphemous content. FORUM-ASIA repeated the call of Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue to all Asian States, especially Thailand and Pakistan, that when restriction on online content was imposed as an exceptional measure, it should pass a test based on principles of predictability, transparency, legitimacy, necessity and proportionality.
MARYAM ALKHAWANJA, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that last night there had been widespread attacks on several villages around Bahrain during religious Shiaa proceedings. Since 2007, torture had once again become widespread in Bahraini prisons and over last several months it had been used against human rights defenders, clerics, journalists, doctors and all people who had participated or supported the protests in the country. There had been 1,350 arrests, at least 60 civilians had been sentenced by military courts to imprisonment, while today was the trial of 47 doctors and nurses who had treated the protesters after they had been violently attacked by state security forces.
HAMDI CHERIF, of Agence Internationale pour le Developpement (Aide-Federation), was apprehensive concerning the continuing violations of economic, social and cultural rights around the world and in particular in with regards to the Polisario. The major part of the international aid was being accumulated by the Polisario authorities and their families. The Sahrawi people were being denied their basic rights and those violations contradicted with the Declaration on the Right to Development. The right to self determination did not necessarily have to mean separation, but could mean an agreement on different forms of autonomy for the people.
DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, noted ongoing violations involving civil, political and economic rights with regard to populations in Tindouf, Morocco. These populations continued to suffer from discrimination which made the level of poverty high among them. They had been denied the right to education. These violations contradicted the right to development. Human rights formed part of an indivisible whole and none of these people should be denied their rights. Self determination did not mean separation and it could be fulfilled through autonomy.
ELBACHIR EDDAHY, of Centrist Democratic International, noted that freedom of expression was one of the most vital of human rights. It lay at the heart of every person’s right not to be oppressed. The Polisario detention camps in Tindouf were an outstanding illustration of the violation of human rights. Moustapha Salam Ould sidi Mouloud, Chief Inspector, having been exposed to the inhuman practices, freely expressed his support of the Moroccan autonomy plan as a solution to the prolonged conflict over the Moroccan Sahara. It was noted that he was thrown in jail for months and went through physical and psychological torture.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Press Emblem Campaign, expressed appreciation to the Special Rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression Frank La Rue for highlighting the importance of opening the Internet to all humanity without restrictions except in criminal cases. However, considering the developments undergoing in the Arab region, the Press Emblem Campaign would have liked the Special Rapporteur to highlight the damages caused to journalists in conflict zones in Libya, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria. Those issues were of paramount importance to the future of freedom of opinion and expression. According to figures of the Press Emblem Campaign, 43 journalists had been killed since the beginning of 2011. The time had come to start deliberations in a Working Group on guidelines for the protection of journalists in conflict zones and during civil unrest and the Press Emblem Campaign invited the Councils members to consider the adoption of a resolution establishing this Working Group.
HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, emphasized that the historic drama unfolding across the Middle East had captured the world’s attention. The situation in Syria was particularly dire. UN Watch inquired: given that the past weekend was the bloodiest yet, why was the Council refusing to convene an urgent debate. It asked when the Council would create a special mandate to investigate Syrian crimes and endorse Australia’s call to refer President Assad to the International Criminal Court. UN Watch asked why Iran and Hezbollah was aiding in Syria’s repression, if they claimed to care about human rights. It requested to know why Russian and China were blocking action by the Security Council.
Right of Reply
YANG ZHILUN (China), speaking in a right of reply, said that a non-governmental organization had attacked China and China refused all the unfounded allegations. This non-governmental organization had a history of attacking China and went against all rules of the procedure of this Council. China’s citizens enjoyed full right to freedom of expression and speech, including communicating their objections to the Government. There were no limitations of freedom of speech in China as claimed by the non-governmental organization.
EKSIRI PINTARUCHI (Thailand), speaking in a right of reply, said that the Thai Government understood the freedom of expression of the non-governmental organization and said that all allegations would be investigated. Still, the Thai Government had to refuse the comments made by Human Rights Watch concerning the situation of migrant workers in this country. In that sense, Thailand stood ready to continue constructive dialogue with all parties.
The Report of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on its second session, (A/HRC/17/36), describes the progress made by the working group established to explore the possibility of elaborating an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure complementary to the reporting procedure under the Convention.
Presentation by Chairman/Rapporteur of the Intergovernmental Working Group on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child
DRAHOSLAV STEFANEK, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Working Group of the Human Rights Council on an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure, noted that the Working Group was established two years ago. The Working Group met for the first time in December 2009 with the participation of experts and as a result of its deliberations the Council decided in March 2010 to extend its mandate until the current session with a view to elaborate the Optional Protocol. The Working Group held a two-part session. The Chairperson Rapporteur, in compliance with the mandate and to facilitate the discussions in the Working Group, prepared an initial proposal for the draft Optional Protocol that was circulated in August 2010 and served as a basis for the negotiations in the December meetings of the Working Group. The Chairperson Rapporteur noted that the outcome of the second round of deliberations was the text now before the Council, as an annex to the report on the second session of the Working Group (A/HRC/17/36) that was presented.
Mr. Stefanek said that the text of the draft Optional Protocol was a result of a compromise, on which the Working Group agreed by consensus after an intense and thorough effort by all those involved. He noted that it might not initially fully meet expectations but that it constituted an instrument through which increased protection for the rights of children could be provided for under the Convention. The text drew on similar existing instruments, especially the most recent ones, using wherever possible and appropriate, agreed language in order to ensure consistency and coherence within the treaty body system. Mr. Stefanek said he had met on several occasions with all regional groups and individual delegations, experts, including members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, non-governmental organizations, representatives of national institutions, the High Commissioner of Human Rights and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights staff. The fact that the Working Group was able to complete this work in such a short time did not mean that the issues at stake were not given serious consideration.
General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms
ANDRAS DEKANY (Hungary), speaking on behalf of the European Union, expressed the European Union’s appreciation of the work conducted by the Open-ended Working Group of the Human Rights Council on a new Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide a communications procedure. The rights of the child had a prominent place in the European Union’s policy and the strengthening of their implementation was consistently being promoted by the European Union. The European Union supported the adoption by the Council of the Optional Protocol. The European Union could not support resolution 14/3 on the promotion of the rights of people to peace and could not support the proposed draft resolution. It could not live with the omission that the absence of peace could not justify failure to respect human rights and believed that the issues were better dealt with in other fora. The European Union was of the view that the Complaints Procedure of the Council could be an important instrument but was concerned about its present functioning in light of the virtual absence of dossiers submitted by the Working Group on Situations to the Human Rights Council. The European Union was convinced that Special Procedures were among the most effective, responsive and flexible mechanisms, but in light of the alarmingly low rates of responses by States, the European Union was of the view that cooperation of States with mandate holders should be strengthened. The European Union recognized the need for a greater degree of transparency in the funding of Special Procedures. The European Union was pleased that the Council condemned any acts of intimidation or reprisal against individuals and groups that cooperated with the United Nations. The European Union supported the High Commissioner in the process aimed at strengthening treaty bodies.
OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the African Group congratulated the Chairman of the intergovernmental Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for the manner in which he had conducted his work. The African Group never hesitated in expressing its desire for the need to have an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and for this reason it had been engaged in the process since 2009. As of today, there were 193 States parties to the Convention, which meant that States had recognised the fundamental human dignity of all children and the urgency of ensuring their well-being and development. The provisions of the Convention made it clear that a basic quality of life should be the right of all children, rather than privileges to be enjoyed by a few. The African Group was convinced that the examination of communications could lead to a real change, not only to individuals, but to all those protected by international treaties. The African Group even went further than other regions by adopting in 1999 the African Charter on Rights and Welfare of the Child. While the African Group supported the idea of the Optional Protocol, it noted that there were still some issues to be clarified before the end of this session.
MATJAZ KOVACIC, of Slovenia, speaking on behalf of the Cross Regional Group, (Austria, Chile, Germany, Kenya, Uruguay, Thailand, Slovakia, and the Maldives), noted that the Convention on the Rights of the Child was the last core international human rights instrument without a communication mechanism. The Cross Regional Group noted that the Optional Protocol on a Communications Procedure would fill an important legal gap and provide complimentary means of redress in case of violations of the rights contained in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, thus offering children an equivalent level of protection to that extended by other core human rights treaties that already had such mechanisms.
YANG CHUANHUI (China) thanked the Open-ended Working Group on the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Advisory Committee on the rights of people to peace for the reports submitted. The report submitted by Working Group provided a full account of the meetings of the second session. The Chinese Government attached significance to the rights of child and had actively participated in the development of the Optional Protocol. As communicated in a statement on the report of the Working Group, it was necessary to further clarify the role of individuals and groups of individuals, as mentioned in section five, paragraph one of the draft. Proceeding from the principle of keeping the best interests of children in mind, China joined other parties in supporting the draft. It was willing to join States in playing a constructive role in this regard. China had always supported the investigations of the Advisory Committee, the think tank of the Council, and appreciated the report on the draft on the right of people to peace. It supported the definition of peace put forth by the committee and broadly supported the enjoyment of people to the right to peace. The right to peace and the right to development were fundamental human rights. Countries should pursue peaceful relations and not violate territorial integrity or interfere in other countries’ internal affairs.
JUAN ANTONIO QUINTANILLA ROMAN (Cuba) said that Cuba recognised the work done by the drafting group and the efforts made to present the draft Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace, as mandated by this Council. Cuba agreed with the various dimensions of this right as proposed by the Advisory Committee, including peace and international security, disarmament, development, resistance and opposition to foreign occupation and domination and others. Concerning the tangible content of the right of peoples to peace, Cuba said that there was a close link between this right and the third-generation rights such as the right to development and the right to health and a healthy environment. The existence of the restrictions opposed the right to peace and all other attributes that derived from it. Cuba said all States must reject the use of violence to purpose political ends and added that in order to achieve the climate of peace and security in the world, it was necessary to respect all peoples.
EKSIRI PINTARUCHI (Thailand) said that Thailand attached importance and was committed to promoting the rights of the child. As a member of the Cross Regional Group, Thailand supported the establishment of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications mechanism. Thailand appreciated the collaborative approach among all stakeholders throughout the drafting process. It was said that the draft Optional Protocol would provide a much needed mechanism by giving an opportunity to file legal claims for violations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Thailand recognized the crucial role of the Committee on the Rights of the Child. Thailand hoped that the Council would adopt this draft Optional Protocol for subsequent submission to the General Assembly.
IRUTHISHAM ADAM (Maldives) said the draft Optional Protocol was by no means perfect but, was, overall, a well-balanced text. The text filled an important gap in the international human rights protection framework, as it was the last international human rights instrument without a communications mechanism. People had rightly criticized the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the last 20 years, noting that the absence of a communications procedure resulted in children not benefiting from the equivalent protection afforded by other core treaties. The over-riding sentiment should be satisfaction that this gap had at last been filled. The Maldives called on States to support the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child for a communications procedure.
VLADIMIR CHIRINCIUC (Republic of Moldova) said that the Republic of Moldova could not support the resolution 14/3 on the promotion of the right of peoples to peace and therefore could not support the project of the Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace. The Republic of Moldova believed that it would be unwise for the Advisory Committee to continue the work on this subject. Special Procedures were the most receptive and flexible mechanisms of the Human Rights Council and the United Nations and the Republic of Moldova supported the reinforcing of cooperation between States and Special Procedures mandate-holders. The Republic of Moldova supported the idea that it was necessary to have a total transparency of the funding of Special Procedures and supported the proposal of the High Commissioner for the reinforcement of human rights bodies and mechanisms and awaited the follow up of the informal technical consultations of Sion of May 2011.
FEDOR ROSOCHA (Slovakia) said Slovakia was a member of the Cross Regional Group and was strongly and actively committed to the establishment of the communication mechanism to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Council had heard criticism that the Optional Protocol had been drafted too quickly and in a hasty manner. Slovakia noted that the Optional Protocol was the last mechanism of its kind for the whole human rights treaty system. With regard to accusations of its hasty adoption, Slovakia noted that there had already been debate in the late 80s and that the first formal debates commenced in 2009. The final text was adopted unanimously in the end resulting in what the Cross Regional Group viewed as a success. Slovakia said that no other communications mechanism that had been previously established contained such a wide range of measures. It was further noted that the draft Optional Protocol enabled individual communications to be submitted, not only in regard to the Convention but in relation to its two substantive Optional Protocols. Slovakia believed that the cross regional stakeholders had achieved the aim as closely as possible in an inter-governmental process where numerous views needed to be taken into consideration. Slovakia did not share the view that more negotiations would make the text better.
MOHAMED SALIM SAMAR (Algeria) said the protection of children was part of the promotion of the entity of the family as an important element in society. Algeria had participated in a constructive manner in the negotiations on the Optional Protocol and was convinced that it could be a supplementary advancement in supporting the rights of the child. Algeria had contributed notably to the inclusion of article 20 in the text. However, certain concerns had remained unanswered, such as those related to the admissibility of interventions. Admissibility should be considered before soliciting comments on merits. This was pertinent in considering whether recourse to legal remedies domestically had been exhausted. Algeria took issue with the definition of those empowered with the ability to make interventions on behalf the child, as it risked placing the protection of the child at risk of manipulation. Algeria underlined the contradictions between Article 7 and 20. The first article stated that a communication would be inadmissible if it concerned an issue produced before the date the protocol went into force in the involved State, as long as the issue continued after the date of ratification. The second article did not provide such an exception.
KONRAD SCHARINGER (Germany) said that Germany commended delegations for the early completion of negotiations which was a proof of the interest of States to finally provide the Convention on the Rights of the Child with a communications procedure. Germany welcomed the draft Optional Protocol as it stood and was well aware of the fact that the draft was a subject of criticism by different actors. Germany itself was obliged at the end of the negotiations to accept compromises that had not been easy as many other States had done. Germany was of the strong opinion that the Optional Protocol before the Council was in the best interest of the child and would provide the Committee on the Rights of the Child with all the necessary competencies to examine complaints under the Convention in a comprehensive and speedy manner. At the same time, the Optional Protocol ensured that the best interest of the child was at the very centre of the complaints procedures and that was why Germany called on all Member States of the Human Rights Council to adopt the corresponding resolution.
ONUR KATMERCI (Turkey) said Turkey attached particular importance to the rights of children. As a State party to the Child Rights Convention, Turkey was among the first countries that had ratified the Optional Protocols on children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Turkey supported the Working Group in the communication procedure to the Child Rights Convention. Last year Turkey ratified the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse, namely the Lanzarote Convention. The First Congress on the Rights of the Child was convened in Istanbul and attended by the Prime Minister of Turkey. Further, there was a Rights of the Child Strategy Paper for the next five years which was discussed through the involvement of all segments of the sector.
SILVANO M. TOMASI (Holy See) congratulated the stakeholders involved in the development of the Optional Protocol, which would become an important instrument in the human rights system. The Optional Protocol provided a word of hope and encouragement to those children and young people whose innocence and human dignity had been wounded by the cruelty that could be present in the world of adults. The Holy See was convinced that the family, as the fundamental group of society and the natural environment for the growth and well-being of all members, and particularly children, was essential. The best interests of the child were primarily served in the context of the traditional family. The new Optional Protocol was an opportune contribution to strengthening the human rights system.
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said that the Optional Protocol would close an important gap and as all the other major international human rights treaties, it was time for the Convention on the Rights of the Child to have its own communication procedure. Improving lives of children was one of Austria’s priorities for upcoming membership in the Human Rights Council and Austria was committed in stepping up measures against child trafficking and the sexual exploitation of children. Austria attached great importance to mainstreaming the principle of the best interest of the child into all its relevant legislation and policies aimed at providing children with a voice to be heard. At the political level, the age of active participation in national, regional and local elections had been lowered to 16 to allow older children to participate in the political process.
MAJDA MOUTCHOU (Morocco) noted that Morocco was convinced that the new Optional Protocol which established a communication procedure was the most tangible and effective way to protect the rights of children, and to deal with violations committed against them and bring about real change in society. Morocco had ratified all international instruments in relation to children’s rights and had adopted its own legal arsenal in this area. Morocco had implemented legislative, administrative and legal reform in order to implement the Convention. The new family code, the criminal code as well as the code for criminal procedure, the nationality code and the national action plan for children, the programme SAMU SOCIAL, and the national integration programme were initiatives that reflected Morocco’s political will in this area.
KATHARINA ROSE, of International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, supported the development of a strong Optional Protocol and commended all the parties who had participated in its development. The International Coordinating Committee welcomed paragraph 9 of the Preamble which recognized the important role of national human rights institutions. The International Coordinating Committee supported the important statements included in paragraphs 8 and 10 of the Preamble and approved of Article 2 of the Optional Protocol. The Committee highlighted specific concerns and recommendations in regard to the draft and encouraged the inclusion of language that would expressly recognize the role of national human rights institutions in submitting communications. The International Coordinating Committee called on all States to ratify and implement the Optional Protocol.
ANITA GOH, of SOS - Kinderdorf International, in a joint statement with severals NGOs1, said that the lack of a communication procedure for children’s rights violations had been a serious matter of discrimination against children, without which the international protection of children’s rights was incomplete. SOS Kinderdorf International deplored that the focus of the last round of negotiations had been on reaching a quick agreement rather than exploring ways to ensure that the new mechanism was child-friendly and child-sensitive. This led to overlooking some of the rights enshrined in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the best interest of the child, and favouring the lowest common denominators. SOS Kinderdork International also regretted the choice of the Chairperson to suspend the formal session of the Open-ended Working Group on the last day of negotiations, which had effectively excluded civil society and child rights actors from participating in the debate at the time where critical decisions were made.
MICHAEL INEICHEN, of International Service for Human Rights, regretted that the report of the Secretary-General on reprisals against individuals had been postponed to the September session and added that if this report was to be an effective tool to prevent intimidation and reprisals against those that provided the Council with information, it had to be timelier. The part of the mandate of the Secretary-General to develop recommendations on how to address the issues of intimidation and reprisals had not been implemented to date. Protecting victims of reprisals was a crucial aspect of the response of the Human Rights Council and the International Service for Human Rights looked to all involved to improve their record in this regard. The International Service for Human Rights concluded by saying that the report of the Secretary-General was an important opportunity for victims of reprisals to have their story told and for States to reflect on more adequate response and looked forward to the presentation of the report in September.
IAN SEIDERMAN, of International Commission of Jurists, said that the objective of establishing a communication procedure under the Child Rights Convention was in order for States to ensure access to justice for child victims of human rights violations. While the International Commission welcomed the efforts taken by the Open-ended Working Group, the International Commission of Jurists was disappointed that the opportunity had been missed to elaborate an instrument that was meaningfully tailored to the particular needs of child victims of human rights violations. Despite the shortcomings, the International Commission of Jurists believed that the communication procedure provided in the draft Protocol would effectively allow for child victims to vindicate their rights through an international procedure.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, appreciated the intentions underlying the Optional Protocol and stated that children stood to gain from ratification of the Optional Protocol. Concern remained, however, about countries which had ratified the Convention but had failed to observe their commitments. Sudwind was disturbed by the continued use of children in armed conflicts, the forced marriages of child brides and the imposition of the death penalty for juvenile offenders in countries such Iran. As to the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on the right of peoples to peace, Sudwind asked the Council to find ways and means to create a world free of nuclear energy and nuclear arms. Sudwind asked for the brutal suppression by certain States in the Middle East and North Africa to be stopped immediately.
RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, inquired about the Committee on Treaty Agreements and other constructive agreements between States and indigenous peoples. The Indian Council of South America was a body for continuing work on indigenous peoples supported by the Council’s Resolution 5/1 and therefore asked for further consideration of issues related to indigenous peoples in expert mechanisms. The Indian Council and other indigenous organizations preferred to have the next seminar on the Committee on Treaty Agreements and other constructive agreements between States and indigenous peoples in Geneva, Switzerland to ensure broad participation and representation. The Indian Council called on the Human Rights Council to maintain an open-ended mandate to include further analysis of the right to self-determination of people, so that violations of this right could be considered appropriately.
DAVID FERNANDEZ PUYANA, of International Association of Peace Messenger Cities, said that the report of the Advisory Committee spoke of over 40 possible definitions to include in the draft Declaration on the Right of Peoples to Peace. Civil society supported the norms proposed by the Advisory Committee. Some other norms needed to be included as well. The Association asked the Human Rights Council to expand the mandate of the Advisory Committee to continue with the questionnaire and consultations and to report back to the Council in June 2012.
CYNTHIA SALIM, of International Catholic Migration Commission, said that there were rising incidents of kidnapping for ransom of African migrants in the Sinai. About 400 African migrants were today being held for ransom. They were beaten, held underground, and survivors reported forced removal of organs. The Commission requested the human rights bodies and mechanisms to urgently respond to requests for protection by migrants, as this was an international problem which required international response.
1Joint statement: SOS - Kinderdorf International, International Save the Children Alliance, World Organisation Against Torture, Plan International, Inc., Kindernothilfe, Help for Children in Need, Defence for Children International, and International Federation Terre des Hommes.