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Human Rights Council holds interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights

​22 September 2020

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH THE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE NEGATIVE IMPACT OF UNILATERAL COERCIVE MEASURES ON THE ENJOYMENT OF HUMAN RIGHTS

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

The Human Rights Council this morning held an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights.

The Council also heard the annual briefing by the President of the Economic and Social Council, Munir Akram ; a presentation of thematic reports by the Secretary-General and High Commissioner ; a presentation by the Working Group on the right to development ; and a presentation by 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.

The Council then started its general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights.

At the request of Iran, the Council observed a minute of silence to pay tribute to the former Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, Idriss Jazairy.

Speaking on unilateral coercive measures were Burkina Faso on behalf of the African Group, Syria on behalf of group of countries, Bahrain on behalf of a group of countries, Fiji (video message), Cuba, State of Palestine, Qatar, Pakistan, Armenia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Morocco, China, Namibia, Botswana, Iran, Cameroon, Venezuela (video message), Malaysia, Zimbabwe, Russian Federation, Belarus, Sudan, Syria, Egypt, Chad, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations : Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, International Institute for Rights and Development Geneva, Caritas Internationalis, China NGO Network for International Exchanges, Action Canada for Population and Development, United Nations Association of China, Sikh Human Rights Group, Chinese Association for International Understanding, Fundación Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos y el Desarrollo Social, and International Council Supporting Fair Trial and Human Rights.

Speaking in the general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights were Germany on behalf of the European Union, Australia on behalf of a group of countries, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ukraine on behalf of a group of countries, Afghanistan on behalf of a group of countries, Czech Republic on behalf of a group of countries, Peru on behalf of a group of countries (video message), Denmark on behalf of a group of countries, Estonia on behalf of Nordic and Baltic countries, Azerbaijan on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, Panama on behalf of a group of countries, Belgium on behalf of a group of countries, New Zealand on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, El Salvador on behalf of a group of countries, Australia on behalf of a group of countries, China on behalf of a group of countries, United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Armenia, Togo, Venezuela, Republic of Korea, Nepal, Spain, Sudan and Philippines (video message).

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.

At 3 p.m., the Council will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar.  The Council will then hold an interactive dialogue with the Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.  The general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights will resume on Thursday, 24 September.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Negative Impact of Unilateral Coercive Measures on the Enjoyment of Human Rights

Presentation of the Report

ALENA DOUHAN, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, presenting her report on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures : priorities and road map, said one of the main challenges faced today by the world community was the absence of consensus about nearly everything that related to unilateral sanctions : including their notion, characteristics, legal grounds and humanitarian impact.  Unilateral sanctions had changed today so much that many existing forms had not been envisaged even five years ago, such as so-called "sectoral" sanctions, which applied non-selectively to individuals and organizations acting in a particular sphere of the economy without any identifiable reason or violation from their side.  Moreover, unilateral sanctions had started to be applied to international civil servants for doing their job, inter alia, in the sphere of human rights.  The world community must take proportionate responses to guarantee that human rights were observed.  The current situation clearly demonstrated that the tasks and the spheres for the fulfilment of the mandate had expanded accordingly.  No pursuit of "common good" could justify the violation of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to health and the right to food, especially in respect of those whose rights unilateral sanctions sought to promote.

Discussion

Speakers said that under no circumstances should access to humanitarian commodities be blocked due to unilateral coercive measures and deplored that calls to lift such sanctions to facilitate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic had been unheeded.  There needed to be clarity in distinguishing unilateral coercive measures from lawful actions, particularly to expose illegality masqueraded as lawfulness.  Several speakers criticized universal coercive measures imposed by some States despite the pandemic, and highlighted their adverse effects on access to food, water and medical supplies.  In seeking remedy, countries that had been targeted by such measures should have access to a dedicated international mechanism.

Interim Remarks 

ALENA DOUHAN, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, said unilateral coercive measures could impact nearly all human rights, notably in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The blurry definition of unilateral coercive measures remained confusing ; this issue had to be solved for a distinction to be made between illegal and lawful practices.  The role of the United Nations must not be undermined by unilateral coercive measures, she added.

Discussion

Concerns about sanctions leading to civilian deaths too often fell on deaf ears.  Some speakers underlined the risks related to imposing sanctions whose negative consequences on the population were not predictable.  Other speakers encouraged the Special Rapporteur to adopt a feminist and intersectional approach.  The definition of unilateral coercive measures should encompass sanctions targeting civil society organizations. 

Concluding Remarks 

ALENA DOUHAN, Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, said States and their populations should never be deprived of their means of self-subsistence.  States had an obligation to protect human rights and settle disputes through peaceful measures.  Neither political interest nor any reference to common good could justify violations of human rights.

Annual Briefing by the President of the Economic and Social Council


MUNIR AKRAM, President of the Economic and Social Council, said the COVID-19 pandemic had crystallized the interface between poverty and human rights.  The legacy of colonialism and racism was a major systemic cause of inequality today.  In the COVID crisis, the world had seen some shameful demonstrations of discrimination against and victimization of the poor, the vulnerable and minorities.  In order to build these inter-linkages, Mr. Akram said he planned to convene a special meeting of the Economic and Social Council in 2021 to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Durban Conference against Racism and Inequality.  Urgent debt relief and adequate finances were essential to enable developing countries to respond to the COVID crisis.  He welcomed the recent report of the International Expert on the effects of foreign debt on the full enjoyment of all human rights, Yuefen Li.  She had proposed several practical solutions to address the debt challenge from a human rights perspective.

Presentation of Thematic Reports by the Secretary-General and the High Commissioner for Human Rights


MAHAMANE CISSE-GOURO, Director of the Human Rights Council and Treaty Mechanisms Division at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, outlining key findings of several thematic reports, said deaths and grievous injuries sustained by women during pregnancy and childbirth resulted from discriminatory laws and practices as well as failures to establish and maintain functioning health systems.  While there was a trend towards universal abolition of the death penalty, a minority of States continued to use the death penalty, in contravention of their international human rights law obligations.  He flagged the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on indigenous peoples.  Turning to the right to development, the preparatory committee of the Least Developed Countries' Conference should ensure broad, active, free and meaningful participation open to all stakeholders.  In a significant number of States, counterterrorism legislation employed broad definitions of terrorism-related offences that were contrary to the principle of legality.  The COVID-19 pandemic had further exacerbated the inequalities and threats that migrants endured.  Because of the liquidity crises faced by the Organization, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had not been able to prepare reports on the effects of artificial intelligence ; the intersessional round table on the participation of indigenous peoples in meetings of the Human Rights Council ; and the contribution of Special Procedures to the prevention of violations and abuses.

Presentation by the Working Group on the Right to Development

ZAMIR AKRAM, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the right to development, said the Working Group had been working on a draft legally binding instrument on the right to development.  In that context, he had conducted consultations with Member States, the Special Rapporteur on the right to development, the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights, United Nations agencies, regional economic commissions, and other relevant organizations.  Further, he had met with representatives of States and non-governmental organizations.  After having requested the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights to provide him with support to fulfil this mandate, it had agreed to create a drafting group comprised of five experts, who had met in October in New York and adopted a first draft of the instrument.  Ten human rights scholars had then reviewed the draft text and provided comments and suggestions.  Mr. Akram had reviewed and endorsed the final version draft which was now available on the Working Group's website.

Presentation by 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


NOZIPHO JOYCE MXAKATO-DISEKO, Chair-Rapporteur 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, said the second session of the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group, which was to be held from 11 to 15 May 2020, had not taken place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The open-ended intergovernmental Working Group would therefore submit to the Human Rights Council its report at a future date to be determined.

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

Speakers said the death penalty, in particular against minors, was a cruel and inhumane punishment that violated the inalienable right to life and was incompatible with human dignity.  Providing quality sexual and reproductive healthcare services was necessary to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.  Raising concerns about the use of arms, some speakers stated that it sometimes was related to nefarious expression of masculinity and urged the adoption of a gender perspective to address this matter.  The practice of blacklisting compounded the effects of climate change, natural disasters and the COVID-19 pandemic in several countries.  Maternal health was a matter of human rights, which was deeply intertwined with other human rights, such as the rights to health and education.  Poverty eradication should be addressed in a holistic and coordinated manner ; States should take a people-centred approach to promote well-being.  There was an urgent need to build a consensus-based approach and avoid selectivity in the Council's approach to human rights.  Strengthening States' capacities was key to realizing human rights, and this required that the Council further enhanced its advisory role and increased technical cooperation efforts.

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For use of the information media; not an official record 

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