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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogues on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions ; and on freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

Human Rights Council

9 July 2020

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  The Council also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.

Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that while her report centred on the use of force under drones technology, she emphasised the importance of protection of the right to life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and police violence in the context of demonstrations, such as those linked to the Black Lives Matter movement or the democracy movement in Hong Kong. 

In the ensuing dialogue, speakers welcomed the report and strongly condemned violations of the right to life, particularly in cases of extrajudicial killings with the targeted use of drones.  They raised questions on practices in transparency and accountability, and ways of supporting family members of victims of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings. 

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were European Union, Iceland on behalf of Nordic countries, Iran, Liechtenstein, Cuba, State of Palestine, Libya, Afghanistan, Venezuela, France, Pakistan, India, Australia, Syria, Panama, Iraq, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Netherlands, South Sudan, Turkey, Uruguay, Switzerland and China.

The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Law Council of Australia (video message), Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Asociación Civil (video message), Human Rights Watch, Conectas Direitos Humanos, Commision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociación Civil (video message), World Organization against Torture, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (video message), Edmund Rice International Limited, International-Lawyers.Org and Union of Northwest Human Rights Organization.

The Council then began its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Clement Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted that 2020 marked the tenth anniversary of the mandate, a decade which had seen many hard-fought achievements in human rights, peace and development.  Most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement had shown all how injustice in one part of the world and mobilization could trigger significant change globally, opening discussions about racism, history, violence and discrimination across borders.  It had shown the power of protest and triggered significant and overdue policy changes in many places.  This report took stock of the 10 years since the creation of the mandate and reflected on the progress made possible by the work of the Special Rapporteur.  

In the ensuing discussion, speakers emphasised that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, both online and offline, played an important role in allowing people around the world to achieve their full potential, joining the celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the mandate.  Speakers expressed deep concern about the shrinking civil society space in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  There was a need to respond to the growing trends of the violations of these rights. 

Speaking were Czech Republic on behalf of a group of countries, Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Lithuania on behalf of Nordic-Baltic countries (video message), European Union, United Nations Children’s Fund, State of Palestine, China, France, Cuba, Austria, Montenegro, Ireland, Armenia, Tunisia, Venezuela, India, Philippines (video message), Spain (video message), Jordan and Indonesia.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons.  The interactive dialogue started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here

In the discussion, speakers recognised that persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by situations of internal displacement and that they had an active role to play in shaping the policies that affected their lives.  Concrete results such as better laws and practice were reached thanks due to the work of the Special Rapporteur, said speakers, who expressed their support for the mandate. 

In her concluding remarks, Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, said that, in order to uphold the rights of internally displaced persons, the world needed to change mindsets. 

Speaking during the interactive dialogue were the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (video message), Austria, Ukraine, International Committee of the Red Cross (video message), Switzerland, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Mali and the Holy See (video message).

The following civil society organizations also took the floor : Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (video message), Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Alsalam Foundation, China Society for Human Rights Studies (video message), Iraqi Development Organization, International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva and International Disability Alliance.

The Human Rights Council will next meet at 3 p.m. this afternoon to conclude its interactive dialogue with the Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and hold separate interactive dialogues on human rights and international solidarity, and on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons

The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons started in a previous meeting and a summary can be found here

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers recognised that persons with disabilities were disproportionately affected by situations of internal displacement and that they had an active role to play in shaping the policies that affected their lives.  Speakers noted that concrete results such as better laws and practice had been reached due to the work of the Special Rapporteur, and expressed their support for the mandate.  Information on the most optimal methods of strengthening accountability for human rights violations of the most vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, was sought by speakers.  The support of the international community was needed to solve protracted conflicts that prevented internally displaced persons with disabilities from reaching durable solutions.  It was critical to identify the specific needs of, and risks to, persons with disabilities, moving beyond a reactive approach towards being proactive and working together to prevent displacement and support displaced persons.  Forced displacement exacerbated existing marginalisation and discrimination faced by persons with disabilities.  Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, speakers asked the Special Rapporteur about the effects of the pandemic on internally displaced persons with disabilities.  Speakers also supported the conclusion of the report on the need for donors to include the issue of disability in their project proposals.  Speakers noted that the lack of specific data on this group was a significant obstacle in defending their human rights, and that internally displaced persons affected by mental disabilities such as autism were particularly vulnerable. 

Concluding Remarks

CECILIA JIMENEZ-DAMARY, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, in her concluding remarks, said that in order to uphold the rights of internally displaced persons, the world needed to change mindsets.  It was necessary to go beyond mere consultation, and ensure the effective implementation of the rights of internally displaced persons, with their participation.  This was notably true for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (A/HRC/44/38).

Presentation of Report by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that while her report centred on the use of force under drones technology, she wished to emphasise the importance of the protection of the right to life in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, and police violence in the context of demonstrations, such as those linked to the Black Lives Matter movement or the democracy movement in Hong Kong.  She called for the implementation of strong measures to eliminate the disproportionate use of force, particularly that of so-called less lethal weapons and techniques, and to eradicate racial profiling and discrimination.  Turning to drones, she said the mere existence of armed drones did not justify their indiscriminate deployment.  However, to date, there were no robust standards governing drones’ development, proliferation, export, or capability for use of force.  No transparency.  No effective oversight.  No accountability.  In the context of drone usage, a small number of rather influential States had sought to reinterpret the law of self-defence under article 51 of the United Nations Charter by fostering distortions of applicable law, which drew out low-intensity conflicts, with few if any geographical or temporal boundaries.

An adequate international response to these serious threats to global peace and security had been hampered by : first, the poor quality of reports submitted to the Security Council by States that claimed a targeted killing had been in self-defence ; secondly, the ineffective process at the United Nations meant that Member States were often not properly informed as a matter of routine that article 51 reports had been lodged, which led to a third problem, namely their silence.  It was not just the States that were largely silent.  So was the Security Council.  The Special Rapporteur recommended that, to be lawful, a drone strike must satisfy specific requirements under all applicable legal regimes, namely : the law regulating inter-state use of force (jus ad bellum) ; international humanitarian law, and international human rights law, which were complementary in armed conflict situations.  Further, the United Nations Security Council should meet in formal session to review and debate all claims received under article 51, and the High Commissioner should produce an annual report on drone strikes casualties for discussion by the Human Rights Council.  She called on States to support the proposal by Mexico to establish an article 51 discussion forum, for exchange about the operation, scope and limits to the right to self-defence and to establish a transparent multilateral multi-stakeholder process for the development of robust standards and accountability mechanisms for the use and export of armed drones.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers welcomed the report and expressed regret that the mandate was still needed, strongly condemning the violations of the right to life, particularly in cases of extrajudicial killings with the targeted use of drones.  Best practices in transparency and accountability, and ways of supporting family members of victims of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings were raised by speakers.  The recommendation of the report to set up a transparent multilateral process for the development of international standards on the use of drones was welcomed.  The Council should take further measures to assist the fight against impunity.  A broad range of States and non-State actors had access to drone technology, and speakers expressed concern that the technology could end up in the hands of armed terrorist groups that targeted innocent civilians.  The fight against summary executions was a fundamental aspect of the return to peace and stability in many countries, and speakers called for stronger regulation of drone technology, bringing them in line with the regulation of other arms.  Speakers emphasised that States had been warned of the dangers of the proliferation of this technology since 2010, although the majority of targeted killings had often gone unnoticed by international scrutiny since there was no accountability due to permissive interpretations of the existing legal framework - a status quo that was unacceptable, and was contributing to strengthening the stereotypes of violent masculinity. 

Interim Remarks

AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noted the uncontrollable proliferation and use of armed drones, including by armed groups.  While armed drones were not unlawful weapons, the lack of regulations and international standards, due to their counter-terrorism tool status, had led to their spread.  The Islamic State, for instance, had used quite sophisticated drones to counter the action of the Iraqi and other governments.  Should the international community not control the armed drone markets, it would become the victim of their use.  The vast majority of instances of use of armed drones were in contexts where there were no recognized armed conflicts.  At the time of the strike against General Suleimani, there was no armed conflict between the United States and Iran taking place on Iraq’s territory.  Very few parliaments around the world were ready to provide oversight on the use of these weapons, and this was why she did not have good practices to share.  States should come together and create an expert group that would produce standards for the purpose of every Member State to review and possible adopt at the national, regional and international levels.  She urged action to fill the standards gap, noting that the Human Rights Council could play a role in that regard.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers noted that the report was a useful contribution to the important debate on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions with the use of armed drones, applauding the Special Rapporteur for her tireless work.  Human rights defenders and journalists were particular targets of summary executions, engendering a chilling effect on free speech and the ability of civil society to report on human rights violations.  Killings by armed drones presented a new challenge to international law, as speakers encouraged countries to enact stricter national regulations on the use and sale of drone technology and carry out impartial and exhaustive inquiries into extrajudicial killings on their soil.  Speakers welcomed the recommendation of the report to adopt a strong political declaration on strengthening the protection of civilians from the harm arising from the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, calling for a declaration to commit countries to avoid the use of explosive weapons with a wide area of effect in these circumstances.  Impunity for extrajudicial killings of lawyers, judges and legal workers additionally undermined the rule of law, by impairing access to legal representation and remedies for rights violations. 

Concluding Remarks

AGNES CALLAMARD, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in concluding remarks, thanked those present for their comments and questions, and noted that evaluations after drone strikes had contributed to the decrease in the number of collateral victims.  She urged Member States to strengthen civilian protection, in line with the efforts of the Secretary-General of the United Nations on that front.  There was insufficient international legal ground to define “terrorism”, hence her rare use of that term.  She pointed out that her remarks regarding the protests in Hong Kong were based on international human rights law, as were her comments on the Black Lives Matter movement and other protests.  That was the beauty of international human rights law : it did not change based on the identity of the people involved, but rather applied to all.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on Ten Year Protection Civic Space Worldwide (A/HRC/44/50).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his visit to  to Sri Lanka (A/HRC/44/50/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his visit to Zimbabwe  (A/HRC/44/50/Add.2).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association on his visit to ZimbabweComments by the State (A/HRC/44/50/Add.3).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association - Observations on communications transmitted to Governments and replies received (A/HRC/44/50/Add.4).

Presentation of Reports by the Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association

CLEMENT NYALETSOSSI VOULE, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, noted that 2020 marked the tenth anniversary of the mandate, a decade that saw many hard-fought achievements in human rights, peace and development.  Most recently, the Black Lives Matter movement had shown all how injustice in one part of the world and mobilization could trigger significant change globally, opening discussions about racism, history, violence and discrimination across borders.  It had shown the power of protest and triggered significant and overdue policy changes in many places.  On the other hand, experts agreed that this decade had seen the most comprehensive attack against these freedoms since the end of the Cold War.  This report took stock of the 10 years since the creation of the mandate and reflected on the progress made possible by the work of the Special Rapporteur. 

Three key impacts were the contributions to articulate, reinforce and expand international norms, the impact on domestic laws, decisions and policies, and the building of a global movement to promote an enabling environment for the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Special Rapporteur was concerned about the adoption of sweeping emergency laws and measures to rule by decree that had been adopted in several countries and geared towards cementing control and cracking down on oppositional figures rather than ensuring public health.  The report reiterated 10 key principles to respect these fundamental freedoms during the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, calling on States to refer to them.  Civil society had an important role in helping countries mitigate, adapt and transform from the devastating and long-term socioeconomic effects of this crisis : no Government could solve the crisis alone and civil society should be a strategic partner. 

Regarding the visit to Sri Lanka, the report acknowledged some key achievements with regard to democratization, good governance, post-conflict reconciliation and transitional justice.  It also highlighted areas where there had been a lack of progress, particularly in implementing some of the commitments contained in Council resolution 30/1. 

Regarding the visit to Zimbabwe, the Special Rapporteur said efforts and steps taken by the Government had opened democratic space and enabled a multi-party democratic political system, which he welcomed.  However, Zimbabwe also faced serious challenges, particularly in the legal framework, as laws did not give full effect to constitutional rights and failed to comply with the State’s international human rights obligations. 

During the reporting period, the Special Rapporteur said he sent 168 communications to 81 States and 6 other actors, receiving 105 responses.  He concluded by thanking the countries which had fully engaged and cooperated with the mandate and provided detailed information in response to the allegations addressed in the communications sent. 

Statements by Concerned Countries

Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, noted that, as acknowledged by the Special Rapporteur in his report, the Government of Sri Lanka had extended full cooperation and support to the Special Rapporteur “before, during and after the visit, especially given the great difficulties presented at the time”.  With reference to reports of alleged surveillance and intimidation, Sri Lanka reiterated its invitation to the parties concerned to make formal complaints to law enforcement authorities or to independent national institutions such as the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka or the National Police Commission.  The Government remained committed to promoting and protecting civil society space, and ensuring that complaints received on alleged intimidation were investigated and prosecuted.  Sri Lanka also reiterated that, apart from operating routine security networks in the interest of national security, in particular after the devastating Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, the security forces and intelligence agencies were not engaged in monitoring any specific group of people in the country.

Zimbabwe, speaking as a concerned country, said that in general, the Special Rapporteur's report fell short of the standards set out in the Code of Conduct for Human Rights Council Special Procedures Mandate Holders which, inter alia, enjoined mandate holders to always conduct their work in an impartial, transparent and independent manner.  This was so because his report was heavily punctuated by subjective language and biases against the Government, as well as being over prescriptive in some instances.  Such an approach by the Special Rapporteur therefore left the report unbalanced and biased.  Noting that the Special Rapporteur described the land reform programme in Zimbabwe as "highly criticized", ignoring the fact that the Zimbabwean land reform programme was a progressive policy designed to redistribute the primary means of production in developing countries, whose people had suffered from the policies of disempowerment by the former colonial masters.  It was worrying that the Special Rapporteur had ignored the major cause of economic fragility, namely, the sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by some Western countries prescribing restrictive measures against Zimbabwe. 

Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe welcomed the report and its recommendations, some of which the Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe had itself outlined in its own reports.  The Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe recommended that legislation that was inconsistent with the Constitution, notably as regarded the freedom of peaceful assembly and association, be repealed.  The Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe recalled that the primary responsibility to put in place mechanisms ensuring the practical enjoyment of these freedoms lay with the State.  The Human Rights Commission of Zimbabwe denounced the abduction and torture of three female members of an opposition movement.  Vowing to continue to conduct monitoring activities to ensure the enjoyment of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association by all, the Human Rights Commission noted and appreciated the good practices outlined in the Special Rapporteur’s report.

Interactive Dialogue

Speakers emphasised that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, both online and offline, played an important role in allowing people around the world to achieve their full potential, joining the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the mandate.  The right to peaceful assembly lay at the core of a thriving democracy.  Speakers expressed deep concern about the shrinking civil society space in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, as several governments used the crisis to attack the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.  Speakers asked the Special Rapporteur about best practices to ensure that governments kept their populations safe from the COVID-19 pandemic while also defending their right to peaceful assembly.  New concerns had emerged for civic space with the general move towards online methods of communication, as Internet shutdowns and digital surveillance further impeded the right to peaceful assembly given how difficult it already was to come together in person.  There was a need to respond to the growing trends of the violations of these rights and thus, more than ever, it was crucial to guarantee the access of civil society to the United Nations.  Children were now taking to the streets, seeking to play an active role in public life and expressing their right to peaceful assembly and association in unprecedented numbers, as speakers noted the need to protect them from being deliberately targeted.  Other speakers expressed concern over some of the report’s recommendations on the use of Special Procedures mandate holders, noting that they reflected a politicised approach. 

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For use of the information media; not an official record
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