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Human Rights Council hears presentation of reports by Experts on the Right to health and on Trafficking in persons

AFTERNOON

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea also Addresses the Council

GENEVA (14 June 2016) - The Human Rights Council this afternoon heard a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, who was joined by the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery in presenting their joint report based on their visit to Nigeria to examine measures taken to rehabilitate and reintegrate women and children who escaped or were liberated from Boko Haram captivity.  The Council also heard a presentation by the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons. 

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea also addressed the Council.

Presenting his reports, Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, said that investing in the right to health of adolescents offered huge potential to capitalize on investments in early years, while providing the opportunity to compensate negative early experiences and build resilience to mitigate future harm.  The report on sport and healthy lifestyles as contributing factors to the right to health stressed the important obligations of States and other actors to maximize individual capacity to exercise and to live healthfully.  On the joint mission to Nigeria, he said that rehabilitation and reintegration measures should be implemented with the aim to transform society by addressing the root causes, especially poverty, discrimination, lack of security and deprivation, stigma, exclusion and gender inequality.

Maude de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that the international community had witnessed the complexity of the process of reintegration into society.  Addressing the issue required investment both in humans and in financial resources.

Condemning the systematic and widespread enslavement of girls at the hands of Boko Haram extremists, Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, said the key challenge of rehabilitation and reintegration was that it had to include everyone, and take into account cognitive-psychosocial challenges.  Access to justice of the victims was imperative.

Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, said her report focused on the issue of trafficking in persons in conflict and post-conflict situations and on protecting victims of trafficking and people at risk of trafficking, especially women and children.  Trafficking in persons in conflict and crisis situations was not a mere possibility, it was a consequence of conflict but was rarely detected and addressed.  She pointed at the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, as well as the trafficking of children for forced military service.  The Special Rapporteur then drew attention to the specific vulnerability of persons fleeing conflicts.  For migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers, the clandestine nature of their journey, the corrupt conduct of their facilitators, and restrictive migration policies, all operated to exacerbate opportunities for traffickers. 

Osman Saleh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, referring to the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, rejected the findings of the report that there were grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed, saying that this did not support the reality of the country for several reasons, including in the method of gathering information from witnesses, and selectivity in choosing the sources of information and reports.

Ethiopia and Eritrea spoke in right of reply.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 15 June, to continue the clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to health and on trafficking in persons.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/32/32).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – mission to Paraguay (A/HRC/32/32/Add.1).

The Council has before it addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – mission to Nigeria (A/HRC/32/32/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – mission to Paraguay – comments by the State (A/HRC/32/32/Add.3).

The Council has before it Sport and healthy lifestyles as contributing factors to the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health - Study of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/32/33).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children (A/HRC/32/41).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children – mission to Jordan (A/HRC/32/41/Add.101

Presentation of Reports
 
DAINIUS PURAS, Special Rapporteur on the right to health, in the presentation of his reports, said that adolescence was not only a transition between childhood and adulthood, but also a life stage where inequities became more differentiated in terms of access to services, life decisions and future trajectories.  Investing in the right to health of adolescents offered huge potential to capitalize on investments in early years, while providing the opportunity to compensate negative early experiences and build resilience to mitigate future harm.  States should remove all legal barriers to access health facilities and services that infringed upon the right of adolescents to be heard and that limited their right to make autonomous decisions.  Foundations laid down during adolescence would have profound implications for the social, economic and political development not only of adolescents but of society as a whole.  Therefore, the costs of failing adolescents were simply too high. 

Mr. Puras said the report on sport and healthy lifestyles as contributing factors to the right to health stressed the important obligations of States and other actors to maximize individual capacity to exercise and to live healthfully.  Discriminatory laws and policies in sport, including those that hindered participation, must be immediately removed, and discriminatory attitudes and practices must be tackled.

Turning to his country visits, the Special Rapporteur commended Paraguay for improving basic health-related indicators and harmonizing the normative framework in line with its international human rights obligations, and there were also important achievements in the expansion of primary care.  Challenges persisted in the implementation of the existing normative framework, prevalence of inequalities, discrimination and violence against certain population groups, and structure and financing of the health sector. 

The visit to Nigeria was the first joint visit with a very specific aim of examining the measures taken to rehabilitate and reintegrate the women and children liberated from Boko Haram captivity and control.  Nigeria spared no effort in responding to the crisis and the resulting violations of human rights and international humanitarian law, but the extent of the challenges and the number of people in need remained overwhelming and well beyond the reach of current responses.  The crisis had exacerbated the existing structural problems for the population of north-east Nigeria, including poor access to services, vulnerability of certain groups to discrimination, violence and abuse.  There were gaps at various levels, in collecting disaggregated data, ensuring security, coordination of interventions, combatting stigma and providing access to justice.  Only a comprehensive, holistic and integrated approach would provide opportunities not only to reintegrate the victims, but to strengthen the institutional system and this was particularly the case in health and education sectors which were crucial for peace, security and sustainable development.  Rehabilitation and reintegration measures should be implemented with the aim to transform society by addressing the root causes, especially poverty, discrimination, lack of security and deprivation, stigma, exclusion and gender inequality.

MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that the international community had witnessed the complexity of the process of reintegration into society.  Addressing the issue required investment both in humans and in financial resources. Once they were rescued, many victims who had been sexually abused were not just suffering from the trauma they were subjected to, but also had to face difficulties returning to their families because there was an inherent suspicion that they were siding with the Boko Haram insurgency.  That problem showed that rehabilitation and reintegration of victims should be addressed both by dealing with victims on an individual basis, and with a wider perspective.

Urmila Bhoola, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, conveyed her gratitude to the Government of Nigeria for facilitating her visit and granting access to camps, and for the participation of the Government in meetings at the United Nations during the previous days.  She condemned the systematic and widespread enslavement of girls at the hands of Boko Haram extremists.  The imperative was rehabilitation of the victims and their reintegration in communities, as well as ensuring their access to justice and remedies for mass violations.  The long-term objective was social cohesion, economic recovery, and peacebuilding, among other objectives.  All these initiatives had to be victim-centred and had to comply with international norms and standards.  The key challenge of rehabilitation and reintegration was that it had to include everyone, and take into account cognitive-psychosocial challenges.  Access to justice was imperative, especially for the women and girls that had been forced into marriage and needed their marriages annulled.  Appropriate remedies had to include compensation as well as economic empowerment.  The stigma and fear of discrimination affected all rehabilitation and reintegration efforts.

MARIA GRAZIA GIAMMARINARO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, presented her report which focused on the issue of trafficking in persons in conflict and post-conflict situations and on protecting victims of trafficking and people at risk of trafficking, especially women and children.  Trafficking in persons in conflict and crisis situations was not a mere possibility, it was a consequence of conflict, she stressed, but it was rarely detected and addressed.  She pointed at the trafficking of women and girls for sexual exploitation, which featured within the broader picture of sexual violence against civilians during conflicts.  Women were subject to sexual exploitation also as a result of so-called negative coping mechanisms of their families, as was seen in temporary or forced marriage of refugees.  Another issue was the trafficking of children for forced military service which led to children performing a variety of combatant and supportive roles, and even being used as suicide bombers and human shields.  In post-conflict situations, it was common for societies to experience a rise in trafficking for sexual exploitation purposes, as well as a rise in migration schemes resulting in trafficking and labour exploitation.  Peacekeeping operations unfortunately continued to be the occasion for shameful incidents of sexual abuses, she deplored.  Persons in conflict situations and fleeing conflicts could also be vulnerable to trafficking for purposes of organ removal, she added. 

The Special Rapporteur then drew attention to the specific vulnerability of persons fleeing conflicts.  For migrants, internally displaced persons, refugees and asylum seekers, the clandestine nature of their journey, the corrupt conduct of their facilitators, and restrictive migration policies, all operated to exacerbate opportunities for traffickers.  In the Syrian refugee crisis, the first imperative was to rescue human lives.  The second imperative was to put in place adequate screening procedures to protect the human rights of migrants, adjudicate asylum claims, and identify viable protection patterns.  A shift was needed in anti-trafficking policies, she underlined, from an approach aimed at identifying trafficked persons to an approach focused also on prevention.  Indicators of risks of trafficking should be used by trained personnel in every entry point of the large influx of migrants.  Anti-trafficking measures should be incorporated in all humanitarian interventions in conflict zones, and United Nations agencies should carry out trafficking prevention activities. 

The Special Rapporteur then turned to her recent visit to Jordan, in February 2016, and recognized the country’s commitment to combatting trafficking in persons through protection legislative and policy frameworks.  She referred to key challenges and issues of concern, including the neglect of trafficking for sexual exploitation, begging and organ transplant, as well as the absence of an updated national strategy to combat trafficking.  She encouraged the Government to address gaps in the assistance provided to victims and providing them with effective remedies and was pleased to learn that the Government was already taking steps to revise its anti-trafficking legal and policy framework. 

Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea

OSMAN SALEH, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Eritrea, expressed satisfaction with the continued engagement with the Human Rights Council and noted that the Council’s adherence to the principles of objectivity, neutrality and impartiality still remained elusive, as evidenced by the proliferation of country-specific mandates.  Several days ago, the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea had claimed that it had reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea since 1991.  The Commission had made extreme and unfounded charges without any solid evidence to support the conclusions.  The report did not support the reality of the country for several reasons, including in the method of gathering information from witnesses, and selectivity in choosing the sources of information and reports.  The resolution that had created the Commission of Inquiry had been the result of the pressure of the neighbouring country and not because of human rights concerns.  Eritrea had issued its preliminary response to the report of the Commission of Inquiry and Mr. Saleh urged States to consider both the report and the response of Eritrea carefully, all the while taking into account the political context and the fact of foreign occupation.  Eritrea was actively working on developing its national human rights action plan which would incorporate the Universal Periodic Review recommendations that the country had accepted.  Eritrea would remain open and committed to constructive engagement on peace and effective protection of human rights and making this body relevant to all stakeholders.

Right of Reply

Ethiopia, speaking in a right of reply, said that unprovoked attacks had been launched against Ethiopia, and that the Eritrean regime was fully engaged with destabilizing the region and beyond.  Eritrea was in breach of international law.  The Eritrean regime always chose when to divert the attention of the international community.  There were reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity had been committed in Eritrea since 1991.  Ethiopia had taken appropriate measures in exercising its right to self-defence.  The international community should not permit Eritrea to allow diversion from its gross violations of human rights.

Eritrea, speaking in a right of reply, said that Ethiopia continued to occupy Eritrean territory, categorically rejecting the allegations.

Ethiopia, speaking in a second right of reply, said that Eritrea was attempting to link the problems it had with the international community regarding its human rights violations with the dispute it had with Ethiopia, and was doing that to divert the attention of the international community from its human rights situation.  Despite its frantic efforts, it had not been successful, and no country would buy that argument.  Ethiopia believed the only solution to the problem was to embark on a dialogue.  Ethiopia had always been ready to start a dialogue.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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