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Human Rights Council holds dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples and begins dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

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24 septiembre de 2020

24 September 2020

Concludes Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, and began an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.  It also concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples were Australia, Finland on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, Guatemala on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil, Indonesia, China, Iran, Venezuela, Nepal, Peru (video message), Russian Federation and Guyana.

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations : World Organisation Against Torture, Conselho Indigenista Missionário CIMI, Réseau International des Droits Humains, Peace Brigades International Switzerland, International Committee for the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas, International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights, Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, International-Lawyers.Org, International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and China Society for Human Rights Studies.

The Council then began its interactive debate with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.

Speaking were the European Union, Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Guatemala on behalf of a group of countries, UN Women, Holy See (video message), Brazil, Ecuador, Indonesia, Morocco, Chile, China, Australia, Thailand, Paraguay, Honduras, Iran, Cameroon, United Nations Population Fund, Venezuela and Nepal.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Speaking were Japan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Australia, Czech Republic, China, Colombia, Switzerland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation, Belarus, Albania, New Zealand, Marshall Islands, Poland, Iran, Syria, United Kingdom, Denmark, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Slovakia, Georgia, Organization of American States, and Austria.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Amnesty International, International Commission of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, International Service for Human Rights, CIVICUS - World Alliance for Citizen Participation, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Next Century Foundation, International-Lawyers.Org, and International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Brazil spoke in right of reply at the end of the meeting.

The webcast of the Human Rights Council meetings can be found here.  All meeting summaries can be found here.  Documents and reports related to the Human Rights Council’s forty-fifth regular session can be found here.

The Council will meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 25 September, to hold an interactive dialogue with its Advisory Committee, followed by the presentation of the oral update of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Venezuela, and a general debate on its agenda item on country situations that require the Council’s attention.  The interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples will resume at 3 p.m. tomorrow.

Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

The interactive dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela started in previous meetings on 23 September and a summary can be found here and here.

Discussion

Some speakers deplored the escalating erosion of democracy by the Venezuelan authorities, who, in seeking to hold elections in December, were guided by an illegitimate electoral commission and a biased judiciary.  The international community could not ignore the fact that the crimes described in the report continued to affect not only the people of Venezuela but all of humanity.  Other speakers, rejecting the Fact-Finding Mission’s findings, urged the Council and the Office of the High Commissioner to observe the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity enshrined in the United Charter.  They denounced the interventionist policies of empires and the singling out of developing countries, which affected the peoples of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in particular.  Some speakers stated they did not support overlapping mandates imposed on a single country, notably at a time when the Organization faced a financial crisis.  The report’s findings shed light on the role of the judiciary in Venezuela in conducting arbitrary arrests.  Speakers inquired how the Fact-Finding Mission could capitalize on the recent positive developments regarding Venezuela’s collaboration with the Office.  What role did they see for the Human Rights Council in ensuring accountability for violations in Venezuela? 

Concluding Remarks 

PAUL SEILS, Member of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, said that while it undoubtedly made things more difficult, it was not uncommon for mechanisms like the Fact-Finding Mission to conduct investigations remotely.  It was very hard to respond to criticism about the methodology that did not specify what aspects of it were deemed faulty.

FRANCISCO COX VIAL, Member of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called on the Venezuelan authorities to ensure that detainees could communicate with their families and lawyers, as well as ensure full access to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to detention centres.

Interactive Dialogue with the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Presentation of Reports 

LAILA SUSANNE VARS, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, presenting the report of the Expert Mechanism on the “right to land under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples : a human rights focus”, said land was not only, or even primarily, an economic asset, and the protection of lands, territories and natural resources was necessary to guarantee other rights of indigenous peoples.  These rights included the right to self-determination, right to culture, dignity, health, water and food, not to mention, their right to life.  The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was the only international human rights legal instrument with a specific focus on the all-encompassing significance of lands, territories and resources for indigenous peoples.  Some States had established sophisticated means of granting land tenure to indigenous peoples through demarcation, land treaties, agreements on reserved lands, land tribunals, and recognition of land rights in constitutions and legislation.  Other States had failed to recognize indigenous peoples at all, let alone their right to land.  The implementation gap remained wide and failure to recognize land rights contributed to ongoing violence in many regions ; the militarization of indigenous lands also played its part. 

On the Expert Mechanism’s second report, which dealt with the “repatriation of ceremonial objects, human remains and intangible resources”, the Chair-Rapporteur said that it recommended a human rights-based approach to repatriation, and called for a recognition of the applicability of indigenous peoples’ own laws, traditions and customs.  The Expert Mechanism had received approximately 15 requests so far from all regions and on a variety of different issues under the Declaration.  An ongoing challenge was the lack of responses from States.

Discussion

Speakers noted that the right to land had a particular meaning for indigenous peoples’ identity and culture, indigenous customs and traditions, as well as the collective nature of the indigenous land ownership.  The repatriation of intangible cultural heritage was crucial for indigenous peoples to protect their intellectual property and traditional cultural knowledge, and they should play a central role in locating their heritage.  Noting that the report raised the issue of whether a general assembly resolution created binding international obligations for States, speakers stated that it did not.  What role could the Council play to foster the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?  Other speakers said that, for the Declaration to be implemented in a meaningful manner, attention should be given to the particularity of every State, including factors such as colonization and decolonization.  There was a general tendency to use violence against people defending land rights.  Emphasising that land was not a commodity, speakers warned that the rights of indigenous peoples were threatened by Western ideologies. 

Concluding Remarks

LAILA SUSANNE VARS, Chair-Rapporteur of the Expert Mechanism on the rights of indigenous peoples, welcomed the positive efforts made by several States.  On means to address the implementation gap, she stressed the importance of country engagement and dialogue between States and indigenous peoples, and noted that there was information on this matter on the Expert Mechanism’s website.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Presentation of Reports

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALI, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the COVID-19 pandemic had created an unprecedented wave of fear, sadness and hardship for many peoples across the globe, yet indigenous peoples felt particularly forgotten and left behind.  Indigenous peoples were especially vulnerable to the disease because of their inadequate access to healthcare and clean water, and due to their prior health conditions.  Presenting three reports prepared by his predecessor Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, he explained that the first report highlighted examples of positive impacts on the protection of the rights of indigenous peoples from the work that was carried out during the period of her mandate 2014-2020.  The second report was a regional overview of the situation of indigenous peoples in Asia.  The third report concerned a country visit to the Congo, and welcomed the legal framework adopted to protect and promote indigenous peoples’ rights since the last visit of the mandate in 2010.  Nevertheless, it noted the continued marginalisation of indigenous peoples living in extreme poverty, forced away from their forests to make way for commercial and conservation projects, or as a result of past and continuing assimilationist approaches.

Statement by Concerned Country

Congo, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its support for the visit carried out by the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples.  As regards access to justice, there was no particular judicial order applicable to indigenous peoples, even though they could use customary law to settle differences, as all people in the Congo could do.  People had been detained because they had violated criminal law, not because they had practiced traditional forms of hunting.  On the environmental guards, while there had been abuses against indigenous peoples, the perpetrators had been duly punished.  The legal framework was solid in the Congo, and it protected the rights, culture and identity of indigenous peoples.  Despite the financial situation, the protection of the indigenous peoples was a cornerstone of the country’s policy. 

Discussion

Some speakers touted their Governments’ efforts to co-design policies with indigenous peoples, including in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Others spotlighted measures aiming to bolster the rights of indigenous peoples, such as the performance of risk analysis focusing on specific indigenous communities.  Because of historical circumstances related to colonial and neo-colonial policies, indigenous women were less likely to be medically insured, and this made indigenous communities highly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.  Concurring with the Special Rapporteur, speakers pointed out that measures such as consultations benefitted not only indigenous communities, but also the broader local communities. 

Interim Remarks

JOSÉ FRANCISCO CALI, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the measures that States had adopted, such as confinement and other restrictions on free movement, had disproportionately affected indigenous peoples, in particular those living in urban areas and communities that were not self-dependant.

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For use of the information media; not an official record

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