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Human Rights Council discusses extrajudicial and summary executions and internally displaced persons

AFTERNOON

12 June 2014

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons, Chaloka Beyani.

Mr. Heyns, introducing his reports, said that law enforcement officials played a pivotal role in enforcing one of the State’s central duties, namely the protection of life; the modern State could not function and the human rights system could not be effective without the police. The extensive powers vested in the police could be easily abused in any society and the excessive use of force was a worrying matter. The report aimed to contribute towards and to encourage law reform in those States whose laws may be out of line with international standards as a first step towards greater global protection of the right to life. The report also dealt with the issue of autonomous weapons systems, such as armed drones, which had far-reaching implications on human rights, notably the right to life and dignity. Mr. Heyns also spoke about his visit to Mexico.

Introducing his reports, Mr. Beyani said that the Kampala Convention, which came into force on 6 December 2012, marked a milestone for internally displaced persons in Africa and throughout the world. It was unique in that it considered situations of natural or human-made disasters as causes of displacement and specified not only roles and responsibilities of States, but also those of non-State armed groups, private companies, humanitarian agencies, internally displaced persons and communities. Globally, the strengthened framework laid out by the Kampala Convention should also increasingly inform international and regional responses to relevant crises in Africa, including through the Security Council. Mr. Beyani also presented reports on country visits to Georgia, Serbia including Kosovo, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Kenya.

Mexico, Georgia, Serbia, South Sudan and Sri Lanka spoke as concerned countries.

In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed that States were required to take reasonable precautions during law enforcement operations to prevent loss of life through necessary legislation; while some thought that it was the right of each State to decide about its criminal legal system in view of its emerging security challenges, others said that the States should not use emergency situations or terrorist threats as a pretext to erode the right to life by granting unchecked powers on the use of force to their law enforcement officials. There were significant differences between norms prescribing the use of force by law enforcement agencies and their accountability and delegations asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on accountability systems.

Delegations were alarmed by the record number of 33.3 million internally displaced persons in 2014 and they asked how the international community could better assist the implementation of the Kampala Convention. Speakers invited Mr. Beyani to elaborate on the priority initiatives that could play a central role in improving the situation of internally displaced persons in the Central African Republic and to highlight examples of best practices of States finding durable solutions for internally displaced persons. They stressed the need to strengthen the link between humanitarian aid and development which meant that displacement must be included in development plans and in the post-2015 development agenda.

The following delegations took the floor during the interactive dialogue: Pakistan (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), European Union, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States), Algeria, Ethiopia (on behalf of the African Group), Cuba, Egypt, China, Argentina, United Kingdom, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, Indonesia, Norway, Russia, Palestine, Ukraine, Angola, Sweden, Pakistan, United States, India, Chile, Thailand, Brazil, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Armenia.

Armenia, Sudan, Georgia and Azerbaijan spoke in right of reply in response to statements made during the clustered interactive dialogue on violence against women and extreme poverty this morning.

The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Friday, 13 June to conclude its clustered interactive dialogue on extrajudicial executions and on internally displaced persons. It will then start a clustered interactive debate with the Independent Expert on international solidarity and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Mr. Cristof Heyns (A/HRC/26/36), as well as on his country mission to Mexico (A/HRC/26/36/Add.1)

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons, Mr. Chaloka Beyani (A/HRC/26/33), as well as on his missions to Georgia (A/HRC/26/33/Add.1), Serbia including Kosovo (A/HRC/26/33/Add.2), South Sudan (A/HRC/26/33/Add.3) and Sri Lanka (A/HRC/26/33/Add.4)

Presentation of Reports by Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial and Arbitrary Executions and on Internally Displaced Persons

CHRISTOF HEYNS, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said that law enforcement officials played a pivotal role in enforcing one of the State’s central duties, namely the protection of life. The modern State, which had to deal with a range of challenges, could not function and the human rights system could not be effective, without the police. However, the extensive powers vested in the police could be easily abused in any society, and the protectors of rights could become the violators of rights. It was thus in everyone’s interest that powers granted to police were the subject of constant vigilance. The excessive use of force was a worrying matter. The report built on earlier reports which considered the protection of the right to life in demonstrations and addressed the use of force in the context of arrest. Its focus was to contribute towards and to encourage law reform in those States whose laws may be out of line with international standards as a first step towards greater global protection of the right to life. Law enforcement officials should be accountable to the population. Bringing domestic laws on the use of force into line with international standards should be a top priority of States and of the international community.

The distinction between armed drones and autonomous weapons systems was that, in relation to the former a human operator ultimately took the decision on whom to target and when to release deadly force, whilst in relation to the latter the decision to select and engage targets once activated, rested with a machine free of real time human intervention. Autonomous weapons systems had far-reaching implications on human rights, notably the right to life and dignity. Much had been done by various United Nations bodies to address this emerging weapons system. At the same time, it was of great importance that the Human Rights Council would remain seized with the issue of autonomous weapons systems because of its implications for human rights during armed conflict as well as law enforcement.

With regards to a visit to Mexico, violations of the right to life continued to occur at a high rate, whilst impunity remained a serious concern at the individual and systemic levels. The protection of the right to life in the country was particularly problematic in relation to vulnerable groups. There was an urgent need to decrease the involvement of the military in policing and to ensure that civilian courts tried members of the military accused of committing human rights violations, among others. A visit to Papua New Guinea had been conducted and a detailed report would be presented at a future session of the Human Rights Council in 2015, in accordance with its programme of work.

CHALOKA BEYANI, Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons, said that the Kampala Convention, which came into force on 6 December 2012, marked a milestone for internally displaced persons in Africa and throughout the world. It was unique because it considered also situations of natural or human-made disasters as causes of displacement and specified not only roles and responsibilities of States, but also those of non-State armed groups, private companies, humanitarian agencies, internally displaced persons and communities. The report contained a set of recommendations to key stakeholders including the call for the domestication and implementation of the Kampala Convention. Globally, the strengthened framework laid out by the Kampala Convention should also increasingly inform international and regional responses to relevant crises in Africa, including through the Security Council.

Mr. Beyani also presented reports on country visits and commended the commitment of Georgia to improve the living conditions of persons displaced in the 1990s and to provide durable housing to those who had been displaced as a result of the conflict in 2008 or due to natural or human-induced disasters. The search for durable solutions was still hampered by political deadlock and the Special Rapporteur called upon all to address the issue of internally displaced persons as a humanitarian one to allow those displaced wishing to return to their areas of origin to do so voluntarily, in safety and dignity. Although the Government of Serbia and the authorities in Kosovo had made significant progress in their response to internal displacement, notably by considering all durable solutions as options, including local integration, more still needed to be done to ensure internally displaced persons’ access to adequate housing and livelihoods in their current locations and to provide them with adequate services. The effective resolution of property disputes was another key issue to address.

Many internally displaced persons in South Sudan were in a very dire situation, often unable or fearful to access basic services and humanitarian assistance. Following the large-scale internal displacement due to the deterioration of the situation, the Special Rapporteur warned that the safety and security of the displaced population must be the absolute priority for the United Nations, including in efforts to decongest overcrowded United Nations Mission in South Sudan sites in Juba and Bor. While commending the positive efforts of Sri Lanka, the Special Rapporteur stressed the need to effectively guarantee the rights of internally displaced persons, including protection from sexual violence and choice of residence. The Government should address the situation of protracted displacement and returnees to the North who still lived in very precarious conditions and needed more durable housing, access to social services, and livelihood opportunities. The Special Rapporteur commended Kenya for enacting the Prevention, Protection and Assistance to Internally Displaced Persons and Affected Communities Act 2012, and for the notable efforts it had taken to support durable solutions for those displaced during the post-election crisis in 2007/2008, but stressed that education, health and livelihoods still remained critical gaps. Mr. Beyani had visited Azerbaijan in May 2014 and would present this report to the Council at its twenty-ninth session in June 2015.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Mexico, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions for his visit, which reflected Mexico’s policy of full cooperation with human rights institutions. Mexico had made substantial progress in the protection of human rights and the report reflected the structural and legal reforms undertaken, including the reform of the military justice code that ensured that violations perpetrated by military personnel were prosecuted in civil courts. The Government had also worked on draft legislation, with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross, concerning the regulation of the use of force. Several federal states had already adopted legislation regulating the use of force. The navy and defence ministry had also published guidance in this area. Mexico continued to make progress in the development of justice system reform, including the creation of an adversarial system and the combat against impunity, the Executive Commission for the attention of victims, and the establishment of an independent office of a public prosecutor to replace the former Attorney General’s Office. Human rights constituted a key stone on which the State apparatus and the rule of law were built. While recognising remaining challenges, Mexico would continue to work with civil society and the international community

Georgia, speaking as a concerned country, thanked the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons for the report on his mission to Georgia, which constituted an important milestone in documenting the current state of internally displaced persons in Georgia and assessed the Government’s efforts in search for durable solutions and identifying the challenges related to the implementation of the right to return in safety and dignity. There had been no progress in the past two decades and victims of several waves of ethnic cleansing conducted in the occupied regions of Georgia were constantly denied the exercise of their right to return by the occupying regime. The applicability of their internationally recognised rights continued to be rejected within the format of the Geneva International Discussions established in the immediate aftermath of the Georgia-Russia war in August 2008. With no human rights monitoring mechanism inside the occupied regions, it was deplorable that the Special Rapporteur has been blocked by the occupying authorities from entering and Georgia reminded the Council that just a month ago the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been refused access by the same regime. Georgia hoped that the situation of internally displaced persons in Georgia would remain high on the agenda of the mandate holder.

Serbia, speaking as a concerned country, said that it was aware of the grave human rights concerns as a consequence of displacement. Serbia appreciated the support of the Special Rapporteur towards finding durable solutions for internally displaced persons. While recognizing that local integration was one answer, Serbia believed that the prospect of return as a durable solution should be given due attention. The international presence in Kosovo was tasked with providing for a safe and free return of displaced persons and refugees to their homes. However, their return remained disappointingly low. Less than 5 per cent of the total internally displaced population had returned to Kosovo and only 1.9 had achieved sustainable return. Indeed, mechanisms for the restitution of property had proven ineffective, thus significantly affecting the process of return of internally displaced persons. Serbia would continue to address the human rights situation of these internally displaced persons and refugees.

South Sudan, speaking as a concerned country, appreciated the visit of the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons. The Government agreed with his manner of presentation of his findings because most of these were actually in line with the challenges faced by the country. However, the report contained a number of issues it felt had to be clarified. The report mentioned that the reason for the current crisis was blamed on the government reshuffle of June last year. It was not. The dissolution of the last cabinet was based on the request of the people. The report stated that armed forces and government officials attempted to force their entry into the United Nations compound, where there were a lot of internally displaced persons, and that there was a significant recruitment of children into the military. The Government honoured its obligations and was conscious of the fact that any such forced attempt of entering into the compound would constitute a violation of agreements. On recruitment of children, such recruitment of children was prohibited by the Constitution and applicable law in the country. South Sudan was facing tremendous challenges and would continue to do so for many more years. It was important that any approach should be based on the understanding of this.

Sri Lanka, speaking as a concerned country, was pleased to have facilitated the visit of Mr. Beyani and provided him with unfettered access, including interactions with civil society. Following the Government’s response to the draft report, the discrepancy in the figures of internally displaced persons had been reconciled. Over the previous 10 years, the Government had built more than 200,000 homes for the resettlement of internally displaced persons in the northern and eastern provinces. Sri Lanka believed that Mr. Beyani had exceeded his mandate and compromised on his impartiality and objectivity. Downplaying the tremendous humanitarian efforts of Sri Lanka showed disrespect to the Government and those who had emerged from the suffering of the 30-year long conflict.

Interactive Dialogue

Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, stated that Mr. Heyns had rightly pointed out that States were required to take reasonable precautions during law enforcement operations to prevent loss of life through necessary legislation. It was nonetheless the right of each State to decide about its criminal legal system in view of its emerging security challenges. European Union highlighted Mr. Heyns’ recommendation to States that domestic law should be brought in line with international standards. Combating impunity was an important priority to the European Union. The record number of 33.3 million internally displaced persons in 2014 was alarming, and it was the primary responsibility of States to protect human rights of such persons on their territory. Costa Rica, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries, noted that there were significant differences between norms prescribing use of force by law enforcement agencies and their accountability. A plan of action for the Latin American and Caribbean region put citizens’ security in the forefront, and a meeting would be organized on that subject matter in Chile in the second half of 2014.

Algeria said that States had to take precautions during law enforcement operations in order to protect the right to life, which was enshrined in various laws and constitutions around the world. Algeria underscored the responsibility of providing help to internally displaced persons without discrimination. Cuba believed that the study carried out by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions was extremely interesting with respect to the use of force by law enforcement agents. Cuba shared concerns about the negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights, particularly the right to life, by the use of drones and autonomous lethal robots, among others. Argentina was grateful that the issue of norms for the use of force and firearms was addressed. Back in 2003, Argentina had prohibited the use of firearms in the context of public demonstrations, seeking to ensure that security forces would be able to fully respect human rights and ensure the resolution of a conflict in the least violent manner possible. Staff had to match the use of force with the seriousness of the offence, and had to shoulder responsibility for their actions. Egypt agreed that in facing some situations the use of force by law enforcement officials was legitimate, while acknowledging the particular difficulties associated with ensuring effective regulation of the use of force, even when the use of force was justified and legitimate. Egypt agreed that States should consider integrating displacement issues and durable solutions into national development plans.

China said that it had adopted strict rules and regulations on the use of force by police and security officers. The illegal use of weapons which led to casualties or loss of property constituted a crime and would be subject to criminal prosecutions. The law enforcement entity would provide compensation to victims. Internal displacement issues had complex causes and it was hoped that Governments would focus on root causes with a view to their elimination. Ethiopia, speaking on behalf of the African Group, acknowledged the efforts of the Special Rapporteur to examine the African Union Convention for internally displaced persons. The Kampala Convention set standards and guarantees and could serve as good practice. The African Group shared the view that the misuse of legitimate force to violate human rights law was unacceptable, and the need for capacity building for law enforcement officers.

United Kingdom said that the Council was not the appropriate venue to discuss the legal framework of remotely piloted aircrafts systems or any other weapon systems and said that their use was sufficiently covered by the existing international law. The United Kingdom had no plans to replace military pilots with fully autonomous systems; its military personnel would always be involved in the decision to employ weapons. Ireland welcomed the recommendation that States should not use emergency situations or terrorist threats as a pretext to erode the right to life by granting unchecked powers on the use of force to their law enforcement officials. Regarding the current crisis in the Central African Republic, Ireland invited Mr. Beyani to elaborate on the priority initiatives that could play a central role in improving the situation of internally displaced persons in this country. Austria requested the Special Rapporteur to highlight examples of best practices of States finding durable solutions for internally displaced persons and asked how the international community could better assist in the implementation of the Kampala Convention.

Switzerland asked how States could ensure that police renounced the use of force or used it minimally during illegal but peaceful demonstrations and it also stressed the need to strengthen the link between humanitarian aid and development which was outlined in the Kampala Convention. This meant that displacement must be included in development plans and the post-2015 development agenda. On the issue of autonomous lethal weapons, Indonesia asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate what he meant when he said that clear and appropriate international standards were needed; how could they be formulated? Indonesia stressed that addressing the issue of displacement could not be divorced from other more important issues such as poverty alleviation and development, in particular since many conflicts that caused displacement were related to development and socio-economic inequalities. Norway noted that there were 33 million internally displaced persons in the world today and appreciated that two countries with the highest number of displaced persons, Nigeria and Somalia, were taking this issue seriously. Norway had been a strong supporter of the mandate on internally displaced persons from the beginning and appreciated that the Special Rapporteur had raised the issue of displacement due to natural disasters, which was not sufficiently addressed by the international community.

Russia said that bringing domestic legislation in line with international obligations should be a priority concerning the use of force by law-enforcement officials; it drew attention to the use of force by Ukrainian authorities during recent protests. Russia asked how realistic it was to promote accountability for civilian casualties due to drone strikes and lamented that the politicised rhetoric of the Georgian leadership was blocking progress on the improvement of the human rights situation in the region. Palestine said that Israeli forces had a long record of using excessive force against Palestinians in peaceful demonstrations, including against children, journalists, medics and human rights defenders; concerning the situation of internally displaced persons, Israel’s record was not better and it persisted in its policies of occupation, colonization and apartheid. In 2014 alone 492 Palestinians had been displaced and 12,500 remained displaced following previous Israeli military operations. Ukraine said that the problem of internally displaced persons had become most acute, with the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees estimating thousands of persons had left Crimea since its occupation by Russia. The situation of internally displaced persons leaving the eastern regions terrorised by heavily armed separatists was alarming and the Government, committed to upholding its international obligations, invited the Special Rapporteur to pay an official visit.

Angola said that its Constitution prohibited the death penalty, demonstrating the importance given to this inalienable right in Angola. States should put in place accountability mechanisms for violators concerning the legitimate use of force. Sweden noted that several of the recommendations in the report concerning the protection of the right to life during law enforcement included recommendations concerning the rule of law and the importance of capacity building. How could the European Union and other international organizations best assist States in capacity building? Pakistan believed that the right to life was non-derogable and must be respected in all circumstances. The Council should express its views on how the relative normative framework applied to the use of armed drones, setting out the basic interpretation of international law that was applicable; it should remain seized of the issue of autonomous weapon systems. Concerning the situation of internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteur had presented the Kampala Convention as a model instrument which could serve as the basis for regional normative frameworks, but Pakistan believed that a regional instrument like this convention could not address the differences and challenges of other regions.

United States said that its own experience had shown that the Government could curb unlawful practices by police officers through increased training and greater transparency, including installation of cameras on police vehicles and uniforms. The United States supported continuing discussions about various implications associated with lethal autonomous weapons systems. The entry into force of the Kampala Convention was a significant step forward in setting standards for increased protection of internally displaced persons. India said that there was an imperative for law enforcement officials to protect life in the line of duty, but it was not clear what international standards were exactly. An appropriate legal framework for the use of force by police was a necessary first step. Both academic and practical training of law enforcement officials was needed. Domestic laws had to be aligned with international obligations undertaken by those countries. Chile welcomed the growing number of countries to have ratified and started implementing the Kampala Convention. The Governments of Chile and Australia had recently organized a meeting of the Security Council members on the protection of internally displaced persons, which had confirmed the need for other parts of the United Nations system to take a more active role. Chile believed that internally displaced persons should be trained to be able to demand and access their own rights and deal with justice systems.

Thailand believed in the importance of integrating a human rights-based approach to internal displacement and the linkage between humanitarian response to displacement and the involvement of development actors. One needed to understand the root causes of internal displacement in order to address the problem efficiently and in a sustainable manner. Thailand shared the concern that natural disasters had become a more and more important cause of displacement, especially in the Asia and Pacific region. Brazil stated that law enforcement activities had to be in accordance with human rights norms and standards. In 2011, the Government had established guidelines for the use of force by agents of public safety, which incorporated principles of necessity, proportionality and moderation. Brazil supported the Council’s efforts to regulate the use of armed drones and establish internationally accepted parameters on that issue.

International Committee of the Red Cross said rules and standards of law on law enforcement applied in all circumstances. Integrating law into proper training and education was necessary, as well as a comprehensive set of sanctions. The total number of internally displaced persons would remain high or increase unless better protection to civilians caught up in armed conflicts could be provided. States involved in the conflict had primary responsibility but States as a whole also had a role to play. Armenia said that it attached high importance to continued international attention to the issue of internally displaced persons, and closely supported the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons. Armenia took note of the role attached to the Kampala Convention. Armenia’s policy was the full integration of internally displaced persons, with the possibility of their voluntary return.

Right of Reply

Armenia, speaking in a right of reply with regards to remarks by Azerbaijan, said that it was dangerous to open a Pandora’s Box and talk about conflict resolution. Azerbaijan had twice quoted the recommendation of the Special Rapporteur regarding the resolution of the conflict. Armenia regretted Azerbaijan’s rhetoric, which attempted to use the Human Rights Council’s meeting to present misleading accusations against Armenia.

Sudan, speaking in a right of reply in response to statements made by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and the United Kingdom, reiterated that it was too early to draw conclusions on the case of a woman sentenced for apostasy, since judicial procedures were still ongoing. It was important to distinguish between the judicial system and the executive branch. Sudan continued to combat violence against women in accordance with its constitutional provisions.

Georgia, speaking in a right of reply, said that the plight of many internally displaced persons continued to be ignored in the occupied areas. In 2008 Russia had committed a military aggression against Georgia and it continued to occupy Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and it had carried out ethnic cleansing there. Russia, as the occupying power, was responsible for the situation in these territories, including for human rights and the situation of internally displaced persons, until the full de-occupation of Georgia.

Azerbaijan, speaking in a right of reply, said that Armenia was making accusations not only against Azerbaijan but also against the whole United Nations system, including its Special Rapporteurs. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan continued to suffer from Armenian aggression over the past two decades. Azerbaijan asked whether Armenia was aware of the General Assembly resolution on the situation in Azerbaijan’s occupied territories.

Armenia, speaking in a second right of reply, said this was the first time that Azerbaijan had expressed satisfaction with a Special Rapporteur’s report. Armenia hoped that it meant some of the recommendations would be applied. Armenia emphasized that the Human Rights Council was not the right forum to discuss the issue of Nagorno Karabakh.

Azerbaijan, speaking in a second right of reply, said that the statement by Armenia was based on a falsification of facts and it was regrettable that Armenia continued to lie in the Human Rights Council. How could a country which was conducting aggressions against a sovereign country speak of human rights? Nagorno Karabakh was an integral part of Azerbaijan, and this was well documented. Armenia should start to implement relevant international documents, which should help solve the root causes of the problem of displaced persons in Azerbaijan.

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For use of the information media; not an official record