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Human Rights Council begins general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights

AFTERNOON

17 September 2015

Concludes Clustered Interactive Dialogue on a Democratic and Equitable International Order and on Unilateral Coercive Measures

The Human Rights Council this afternoon started the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development, after hearing presentations by the Intergovernmental Working Group on the regulation of private military and security companies and the Intergovernmental Working Group on the right to development, and on thematic reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner and his Office.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order and the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures.

Abdul Samad Minty, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies, presented the Intergovernmental Working Group’s activities during its third and fourth sessions, including the adoption of conclusions and recommendations, noting the multi-faceted and diverse issues raised, including the distinction between the activities of private military companies and private security companies, ensuring accountability and provisions of assistance for remedies for victims, the possibility of an international framework, and the use of private security companies by the United Nations. The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group would take place from 23 to 27 May 2016.

Zamir Akram, Chair-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development, presented the report on its sixteenth session and said that the right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the making of a universal climate change agreement at COP 21 in Paris. Differences remained during this session. The Working Group had continued its work towards elaborating a comprehensive and coherent set of standards for the implementation of the right to development.

Eric Tistounet of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights introduced a series of thematic reports by the United Nations Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office.

During the general debate that followed, speakers insisted on the necessity to realize the right to development, which was paramount to the enjoyment of all human rights, and called for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Agenda in this regard. Speakers expressed divergent views regarding the use of the death penalty, some supporting its abolition while others were of the view that this was a sovereign prerogative of States. Delegations expressed concerns about sexual violence, including in the context of armed conflicts.

Speaking during the general debate were Morocco on behalf of a group of countries, Luxembourg on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Iran on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Singapore on behalf of a group of 26 countries and Croatia, also on behalf of Austria and Slovenia.

At the beginning of the afternoon, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order and the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures. The interactive dialogue on an equitable international order and on unilateral coercive measures started this morning and a summary can be seen here.

Speakers stressed that unilateral coercive measures had a negative impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development. Such measures were often politically motivated, they were contrary to international law, they violated the principle of sovereignty enshrined in the United Nations Charter, and they led to increased tensions among States.

As for an equitable and democratic international order, speakers recognized that trade and investments had an important contribution to make to human rights, but raised concerns over the negative impacts on human rights of some trade and investment agreements, which were seeking profit before economic growth and development. Speakers highlighted the issue of extra-territorial application of the laws and their impact on human rights.

Speaking during the clustered interactive dialogue were Egypt, Algeria, Syria, China, Namibia, Venezuela, Russian Federation, Iran, State of Palestine, Belarus, Ecuador, El Salvador, Cuba, Armenia, Eritrea and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Indian Council of South America, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Agence pour les Droits de l’Homme, Institut International pour la Paix, la Justice et les Droits de l’Homme, Global Network for Rights and Development, Africa Speaks, Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, Europe-Third World Centre, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Libération, International Committee for the Indians of the Americas, and Iranian Elite Research Centre also spoke.

In concluding remarks, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, said that the current international investment regime made it nearly impossible to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, not to mention their aspirations to attain self-determination. Globalisation had led to growing inequalities between and within States and to the retrogression of some human rights.

Idriss Jazairy, Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, appealed to States to consider setting up a register of unilateral coercive measures as about a third of the world’s population was affected by unilateral coercive measures. Source countries should make a registry of the countries under their embargo to make it easier to compare the impact of coercive measures on human rights and improve the transparency of international law in general.

The Council will resume its work on Friday, 18 September at 10 a.m. to continue its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Interactive Dialogue on an Equitable International Order and on Unilateral Coercive Measures

Egypt said that unilateral coercive measures impeded the right to development and full enjoyment of all other rights. Thus, the creation of the Special Mandate was a landmark decision. As for the mandate on an equitable and democratic international order, it was timely to investigate the effect of trade and investment agreements on human rights. Developing countries should put in place measures that would permit their full development, and ensure access to medicines and health. Algeria stated that given the negative effect of unilateral coercive measures, the international community should treat them in line with international standards which prohibited their use. Algeria shared the view of the Independent Expert that States’ ability to conduct development should not be compromised by the investment interests of transnational companies. Syria noted that some States had resorted to unilateral coercive measures to interfere in the domestic affairs of countries, especially developing countries. Such measures violated the United Nations Charter and human rights in general. It was therefore ironic that States which imposed such coercive measures used human rights as a pretext. China said that the establishment of an equitable and democratic international order was a key goal. In that endeavour, States should safeguard the principles and values of the United Nations Charter. States should not use sanctions as a way to impose economic and political pressure. China expressed hope that States would undertake relevant actions in order to support the work of the Special Rapporteur.

Namibia said that many of the international investment agreements, bilateral investment treaties and multilateral free trade agreements had been concluded between unequally dominant and weak partners, rendering them not being mutually beneficial, but abusive and breaching fundamental norms of international law. Unilateral coercive measures severely affected the more vulnerable members of the society, and needed to be not only restricted but eliminated. Venezuela said that the use of unilateral coercive measures violated international law, adding that Venezuela had been the subject of destabilizing actions. Russia called on the Special Rapporteur to continue the study on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights. Trade and investments had an important contribution to make to human rights, and Russia recommended that the Independent Expert give attention to the important issues of extra-territorial application of the laws and their impact on human rights. Iran said that States that used economic sanctions as a way to achieve their political ambitions should manifest their respect for the international law by immediate lifting such unjust measures. The Special Rapporteur should continue working with those States to prevent the violation of human rights caused by unilateral coercive measures.

State of Palestine said Israel’s blockade of the occupied Gaza Strip constituted an act of collective punishment and violated the economic, social and cultural rights of the people there, including their right to health, property, water and sanitation, adequate standard of living, freedom of movement and their right to food. Belarus said States imposing unilateral coercive measures did not care about assessing the human rights impacts of sanctions, and stated that such measures increased tensions between States. Ecuador said international trade agreements needed to create jobs and wealth, and regretted that free-trade agreements today were an end to themselves and often had the opposite impact. El Salvador said the right to life, the right to self-determination, the right to safety, and the right to participate in public life were affected by the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, and underlined the importance of domestic dialogue and cooperation with the United Nations to foster peace processes. Cuba agreed with the Independent Expert that the international order of sovereign and equal States could not be undermined by private interests of transnational companies that lacked democratic legitimacy. It highlighted the negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on human rights, especially on economic, social and cultural rights, and the right to development. Cuba asked for continued international support in its fight against the embargo imposed by the United States.

ALFRED-MAURICE DE ZAYAS, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, reiterated that the international community should strive for an international order that implemented the United Nations Charter, based on the principle of sovereign equality of States and self-determination of people. As for the suggestion that pertinent legal questions be referred to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion, there was no follow up on that. States would find it easier to put in practice the Charter principles if the Court passed its opinion on it. Referring to proposals for the adoption of a binding treaty on corporate responsibility, he welcomed it and said that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights provided the basis for it.

IDRISS JAZAIRY, Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, regretted that source countries that imposed sanctions had not taken part in the discussion on the effects of unilateral coercive measures, noting that there was a need for the expression of different opinions. International norms on the application of unilateral coercive measures were contentious, and still much had to be clarified within the United Nations system.

Armenia said unilateral coercive measures had a negative impact on human rights, international relations, trade and development; were contrary to international law; and they exacerbated migration. Eritrea said the use of coercive measures infringed on the right to development and created alarming consequences. The survival of a democratic and equitable international order required a fundamental change in the functioning of the United Nations, and an end to the practice of targeting specific countries. Organization of Islamic Cooperation underlined the importance of drafting guidelines to assess the impact and legality of unilateral coercive measures, and of a monitoring mechanism that would promote accountability.

Indian Council of South America raised issues over the violation of the right to self-determination and the right to sovereignty over natural resources, and over the fact that the Guidelines on Business and Human Rights did not include references to the right to self-determination. International Human Rights Association of American Minorities said that States could not guarantee self-determination of indigenous peoples and protect their environment from destruction. The topic of self-determination should be returned as a topic of high importance at the Human Rights Council. Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom stated that the international legal framework needed to be improved when it came to the respect of human rights by businesses. States had to take responsibility when concluding trade agreements and avoid any violations of human rights. Agence pour les droits de l’homme said that international free trade agreements had a negative effect on good governance and universal human rights principles. Recently, the European Commission had not conducted a human rights impact study when conducting a free trade agreement with Viet Nam. Institut international pour la paix, la justice et les droits de l’homme said that foreign investors needed to continue to address the issues of protection and promotion of human rights. Member States were urged to ensure that trade and investment agreements did not restrain their ability to meet their human rights obligations.

Global Network for Rights and Development said that the 1997 sanctions against Sudan and the seizure of assets of Sudanese in the United States had put pressure on the economy of Sudan. Africa Speaks was deeply concerned about the detrimental effect of unilateral coercive measures on Sudan which had caused an increase in maternal and infant mortality rates. Maarij Foundation for Peace and Development said that the use of unilateral coercive measures to get concessions from sovereign States and to seek advantages jeopardized the three United Nations pillars of peace, security and development. Commission to Study the Organization of Peace said that the Islamic State had become an increasingly threatening organization from Iraq whose message was not just a hatred for democracy and the freedoms of the West, but a sick and demented interpretation of Islam, calling for genocide or annihilation of Christians, Jews and anyone who stand in their way.

Europe-Third World Centre, in a joint statement with International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said free-trade agreements had become in practice an instrument to impose political and economic dominance leading to human rights violations, and strongly supported calls to revise existing agreements and assess their human rights impacts. Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association voiced concerns over the misuse of anti-terrorism laws in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, leading to racial discrimination and inhumane treatment. Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy was concerned about arbitrary arrests, the caste system and the lack of fair trials in India, which mocked the idea of democracy and equitable order in the country. Liberation underlined the importance of taking the rights of indigenous people into consideration, particularly their right to self-determination.

International Committee for the Indians of the Americas emphasized that all investors were called on to ensure that their investments were ethical and in line with human rights. Comprehensive human rights assessments should be conducted. Iranian Elite Research Center stated that there should be an equitable order around the world. Police were reluctant to register crimes based on caste, which was why the statistics on such crimes were largely underestimated.


Concluding Remarks

ALFRED-MAURICE DE ZAYAS, Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, said that the current international investment regime made it nearly impossible to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, not to mention their aspirations to attain self-determination. In Canada, for example, the mineral extraction industry put immense pressure on the Government so that the interests of the indigenous people would not be taken into consideration. Constraints on civil space were not only the result of international deals by corporations, but also of actions taken by national business entities. It would be good to see the European Union taking the lead in that regard and ensuring the human rights of everybody by making businesses accountable. Courts worldwide should be reminded not to execute arbitrary awards based on the abuse of rights. Globalization had allowed for the empowerment of individuals and communities in numerous domains and eased financial flows, but it had also led to growing inequalities between and within States. It had often affected the international equitable order and led to retrogression of some human rights, such as the right to participate in public affairs, the right to food, the right to health or the right to work. Rule of law should not be replaced by an order based on vested interests. The international investment regime should not be thrown out of the window and not all bilateral and multilateral free trade investments should be abandoned. Those provisions should be brought in line with ius cogens or otherwise removed.

IDRISS JAZAIRY, Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures, in his concluding remarks, thanked delegations and civil society organizations for their comments and feedback. He noted the proposal that other mandate holders and Special Rapporteurs also analysed the effect of unilateral coercive measures on human rights in their domains. He appealed to States to consider setting up a register of coercive measures as about a third of the world’s population was affected by unilateral coercive measures. Such an endeavour required research by various stakeholders. Some 37 countries were included in the European Union’s list of coercive measures, and 32 countries on the list of the United States. As various lists overlapped, it would be better if all source countries could make a registry of the countries under their embargo. In that way it would be easier to make a comparison of the impact of coercive measures on human rights and to improve the transparency of international law in general. Mr. Jazairy also proposed holding of a mainstreaming meeting of the Council with other agencies in order to involve others and achieve an objective evaluation of the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights. He appealed to all groups to make their contribution with respect to the issue.

Documentation

The Council has before it report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group to consider the possibility of elaborating an international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies on its fourth session (A/HRC/30/47)

The Council has before it report of the Working Group on the Right to Development on its sixteenth session (A/HRC/30/46)

Presentation of Reports of Intergovernmental Working Groups on Activities of Private Military and Security Companies and on the Right to Development

ABDUL SAMAD MINTY, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the international regulatory framework on the regulation, monitoring and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies, said that the Intergovernmental Working Group had addressed a range of issues and challenges relating to the effective regulation of the activities of private military and security companies. During its third session in July 2014, delegations reaffirmed the shared goal of protecting human rights and ensuring accountability for violations and abuses related to the activities of private military and security companies, and agreed about gaps in the current regulatory framework. At the end of its fourth session on 1 May 2015, the Intergovernmental Working Group had adopted conclusions and recommendations in which it had noted the multi-faceted and diverse issues raised, including the distinction between the activities of private military companies and private security companies, ensuring accountability and provisions of assistance for remedies for victims, possibility of an international framework, and the use of private security companies by the United Nations. While the fourth session had demonstrated that differences in opinion continued to persist, the Chairperson underlined the importance of continuing to work together in a constructive and positive manner. The fifth session of the Intergovernmental Working Group would take place from 23 to 27 May 2016.

ZAMIR AKRAM, Chair-Rapporteur of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development, presented the report on the Intergovernmental Working Group’s sixteenth session which had concluded on 4 September and said that the imminent adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and the eve of the thirtieth anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration of the Right to Development, presented a unique opportunity to define the synergies between them, with a view to realizing an inclusive, equitable and sustainable development for present and future generations. The right to development must be central to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the making of a universal climate change agreement at COP 21 in Paris. In this session, the Intergovernmental Working Group had continued to consider, revise and refine the right to development criteria and operational sub-criteria, at its second reading, which did not help to bridge differences but had widened the gap in positions. For the sake of progress, all must show flexibility and mutual accommodation.

The Working Group had requested the Chair-Rapporteur to prepare a set of standards to implement the right to development for the consideration of the Working Group at its next session, which would be without prejudice to the discussions on the draft right to development criteria and operational sub-criteria. The Working Group had agreed to complete its second reading at the seventeenth session and decide on further action thereafter, with the objective of elaborating a comprehensive and coherent set of standards for the implementation of the right to development. The Working Group had also decided to discuss the post-2015 development agenda in the context of the right to development and encourages all United Nations agencies, international organizations and civil society and other stakeholders to actively contribute to those deliberations.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report on capital punishment and the implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty - Yearly supplement of the Secretary-General to his quinquennial report (A/HRC/30/18)

The Council has before it the report on human rights implications of over incarceration and overcrowding - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/19)

The Council has before it the report on the study on the prevention of human rights violations and its practical implementation - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/20)
The Council has before it the summary report on the high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/21)

The Council has before it the report on the right to development - Consolidated report of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/22)

The Council has before it the summary report on the panel discussion on realizing the equal enjoyment of the right to education by every girl - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/23)

The Council has before it the report on the evaluation of the implementation of the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/24)

The Council has before it a corrigendum to the evaluation of the implementation of the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/24/Corr.1)

The Council has before it a report on the rights of indigenous peoples - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/25)

The Council has before it a report on best practices, experiences and challenges and ways to overcome them with regard to the promotion, protection and implementation of the right to participate in public affairs in the context of the existing human rights law - Study of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/26)

The Council has before it a Communications report of special procedures (A/HRC/30/27)

The Council has before it a report on cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights - Report of the Secretary-General (A/HRC/30/29)

The Council has before it a summary report on the full-day meeting on the rights of the child on the theme “Towards better investment in the rights of the child” - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/62)

The Council has before it a report on ways and means, as well as obstacles and challenges and proposals to overcome them, for the enhancement of international cooperation in the United Nations human rights machinery, including the Human Rights Council - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/30/63)

The Council has before it a summary report on the panel discussion on the effects of terrorism on the enjoyment by all persons of human rights and fundamental freedoms - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/64)

The Council has before it a study on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights - Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/65)

The Council has before it a report of the Secretary-General on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity - Note by the secretariat (A/HRC/30/68)

The Council has before it a summary report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the annual-full day of discussion on the human rights of women - Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/30/70)

Presentation of Reports on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

ERIC TISTOUNET, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that in the current session, the Council would consider 15 reports of the Secretary-General and of the High Commissioner covering a range of thematic issues. One report would serve as a basis for a separate panel discussion during the session – on the impact of the world drug problem on the enjoyment of human rights. The report on the death penalty studied multiple aspects associated with it. Imposition of the capital punishment was clearly incompatible with international human rights standards. The Secretary-General had called for universal accession to the Second Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The report on over-incarceration and overcrowding pointed to a number of effective measures, including proportionate sentencing, using alternatives to custodial measures and using effective rehabilitation services. The study on the prevention of human rights violations said that domestic laws and policies should be regularly reviewed by independent entities and effective, independent, transparent monitoring of their implementation should also be undertaken. The report on the right to development underscored the need to identify potential synergies between monitoring and accountability mechanisms and the progressive realization of the right to development.

Turning to the report on the rights of indigenous peoples, Mr. Tistounet stated that it was necessary that Member States, with the help of the United Nations, followed-up on the Conference on Indigenous Peoples and adopted national plans of actions. The report on the safety of journalists described how the digital world was expanding the capacity of journalists and media workers to operate, but also pointed to the challenges that brought. The report on the second phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education encouraged States to institutionalize human rights training for targeted professional groups and take advantage of the third phase of the programme. Obstacles remained when it came to the right to participate in public affairs, which was the topic of another report. Participation was best ensured when the right itself was recognized in national legislation, when limitations to that right were exceptional and when the right was enforceable. Finally, the report on reprisals against those cooperating with the United Nations described cases of alleged intimidation and reprisal, and highlighted efforts made by the United Nations system and beyond in tackling that serious issue.

General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, including the Right to Development

Morocco, speaking on behalf of a Group of Countries, reminded that the Declaration on Human Rights Education underscored the fundamental importance of education and training in the promotion and protection of human rights. It welcomed assistance to States in order to integrate human rights education in their national systems, and noted that various stakeholders, including civil society, should be encouraged to contribute to the realization of human rights objectives.

Luxembourg, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it was aware of the need for the international community to redouble its efforts to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights. To that end the European Union actively pursued the abolition of the death penalty, the elimination of discrimination again women, and the promotion of indigenous peoples. As for the supervision and control of the activities of private security companies, the report did not reflect all the difficulties in achieving a convergence of views.

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed concern over the persistent deadlock in the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Right to Development, noting that States should not be held hostage to various interpretations of the right to development. It urged all stakeholders to build on the thirtieth anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development, and address huge financial debts, food insecurity, rampant unemployment, abject poverty and widening regional inequalities.

Iran, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said it was concerned over the lack of progress relating to the right to development, and called on all to redouble efforts for the realization of this right. The Non-Aligned Movement was also alarmed at unilateral coercive measures and their negative impacts on the enjoyment of human rights, including the rights of women, children and other vulnerable groups. International cooperation in the field of human rights could address new and complex challenges. The enhancement of international cooperation had not been sufficiently explored, and should take into account the necessity to achieve a democratic and equitable international order.

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, said a new international instrument should regulate the activities of private security and military companies, and insisted on the importance of investigation mechanisms and reparation to victims of human rights abuses by such companies. The African Group highlighted the importance of achieving the objectives enshrined in the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which was the responsibility of the international community as a whole, and called on the Intergovernmental Working Group to strengthen its efforts towards the adoption of a legally binding instrument on the right to development.

Singapore, speaking on behalf of a group of 26 countries, said the death penalty remained an important component of the criminal justice system of 97 countries and territories, and constituted an important deterrent to the most serious crimes. States had the responsibility to provide remedy and justice to victims, and the death penalty was used in full respect of fair-trial standards. There was no international consensus regarding the abolition of the death penalty, and every State had the sovereign right to choose its own justice system without interference from foreign countries.

Croatia, speaking also on behalf of Austria and Slovenia, said that despite specific provisions prohibiting sexual violence in international humanitarian law, conflict-related sexual violence continued to spread around the world, with devastating consequences for victims. It could not be tolerated that United Nations peacekeepers, who came to protect, became perpetrators themselves.

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