News

Motion for a resolution on mercy killings in Uganda – B8-2018-0173

The European Parliament,

– having regard its previous resolutions

– having regard to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

– having regard the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

– having regard to the United Nations Convention against Torture (UNCAT))

– having regard to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights,

– -having regard to the ACP-EC Partnership Agreement (‘Cotonou Agreement’)

– having regard to the Constitution of Uganda,

– -having regard the ACP – EU JPA report on the inclusion of people with disabilities in the developing countries of 23 November 2011, Togo

– having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), adopted in 2006, and in particular to Article 32 thereof, which states that all parties must include disability and persons with disabilities in their international cooperation efforts,

– having regard to UN Human Rights Council’s latest resolutions on the human rights of persons with disabilities of 14/04/2014 and 14/07/2014,

– having regard to the EU Guidance Note on Disability and Development for EU Delegations and Services,

– having regard to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) press releases of 19 September 2017, entitled ‘Ground-breaking step to tackle impunity for witchcraft related human rights violations’,

– -having regard the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs adopted in New York on the 25th September 2015

– having regard to Uganda’s review report on the implementation of the 2030 Agenda entitled “Ensuring no one is left behind” of July 2016 and presented to the HLPF (UN), New York

– having regard to Rules 135(5) and 123(4) of its Rules of Procedure,

A.whereas ritual killings of children are taking place in Uganda each year ; whereas many, in particular among the rich elite, believe sacrificial rituals can bring quick wealth and health; whereas many women have been also brutally killed in the name of such a “sacrifice”

B.whereas witchdoctors perform the brutal ritual that destroys the lives of the children who are dying in agony and torture; whereas survivors are usually physically and mentally damaged for life as are their families;

C.whereas in Uganda, the false association between child sacrifice and wealth acquisition poses a severe threat to children’s life;

D.whereas the government of Uganda created a National Action Plan to stop the murders and approved a bill to regulate healers, some of whom were practising as real doctors; whereas the businessmen who pay thousands of dollars for the sick rituals are rarely prosecuted because witch doctors refuse to give up their clients; whereas the majority of the witchdoctors performing the ritual killings are not prosecuted either

E.whereas other countries in Africa reported to be practising child sacrifice include Tanzania, Nigeria, Swaziland, Liberia, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe; whereas albino children and multiple births are also considered in some ethnic groups as evil spirits

F.whereas outrageous cases of mercy killings of disabled children are also taking place in some areas of the country because of the belief that they are better off dead than having to endure a painful and incurable disability and are in particular seen as a burden for their parents who are marked by poverty and social stigma and rejected by the society;

G.whereas there are no official numbers available as neither the police nor the justice system in Uganda investigate the phenomenon, whereas the lack of data makes the fight against this practice difficult;

H.whereas according to the Uganda Population and Housing Census Report 2014, for the population aged 2 years and above the disability prevalence rate was 12.4 percent while the equivalent for 5 years and above was close to 14 percent;

I.whereas the government of Uganda has a number of general laws and policies that contain clauses on disability; whereas the country has disability-specific legislation;

J.whereas in April 2016, Uganda’s record on the implementation of the CRPD was reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, whereas the Committee expressed concerns about the fact that legislation and policies fail to provide protection for the rights of children with disabilities; whereas the Committee observes with particular concern harmful practices and sexual abuse of women with disabilities;

K.whereas there is a lack of information to make the general public aware of cultural practices that stigmatize and hinder the development of persons with disabilities to enjoy rights like all other persons in society;

L.whereas disability tends to disproportionately affect vulnerable populations, where the likelihood of disability increases with the incidence of poverty; whereas disability is therefore a development issue;

M.whereas Uganda has committed to the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals; whereas the country presented its voluntary implementation report to the HLPF in July 2016 in New York; whereas there are 11 explicit references to persons with disabilities in the 2030 Agenda, and disaggregation of data by disability is a core principle;

N.whereas despite the progress made Uganda still has significant room for improvement in the sustainable development agenda as its economy is still heavily reliant on natural resources and agriculture; whereas the current demographic structure implies a high dependency ratio and low domestic savings;

1.Expresses its utmost concern over the brutal ritual killings of children and “mercy” killings of disabled children in Uganda and calls for outrageous acts of violence, cruelty and torture towards children to be ended immediately;

2.Expresses its deep concern about persisting discrimination against persons with disabilities, including in particular persons with albinism, persons with intellectual and/or psychosocial disabilities, and on other grounds, such as gender identity and sexual orientation

3. Strongly urges the government to conduct an immediate investigation into those crimes and take legal action against those responsible, to bring them to justice and hold them accountable;

4.Calls on the authorities of Uganda and all countries affected by ritual and mercy killings of children to commit to tackling the harmful superstitious beliefs perpetuating the targeting of children

5.Recalls that the primary responsibility of a state is to protect its citizens, including vulnerable groups; calls the Ugandan authorities to protect all children on its territory , to ensure their rights are defended as well as to amend the Children’s Act in line with the CRPD in order to mainstream rights of children with disabilities across all programmes and provide necessary budget and resources for their protection;

6.Calls for quality support services to families of children with disabilities in both urban and rural areas, as well as for sufficient financial support and benefits for families to care for their disabled child and to ensure the availability and effective dissemination of information on services and benefits, and training courses for parents and care-givers of children with disability so they are equipped to facilitate children’s participation in the community ;

7.Stresses the importance of an increased awareness of the rights and dignity of persons with disabilities, especially families whose children are disabled, with the aim of combating stigma which can lead to discrimination against persons with disabilities among the public in general, and in particular in rural and urban areas;

8.Urges the government of Uganda to implement measures aimed at promoting the right of children with disabilities to be consulted in all matters concerning their lives and at enabling them to receive assistance appropriate to their age and disability; to provide essential community-based services, including accessibility to education and health care,

9.Urges the authorities to ensure registration of all children with disabilities at birth

10.Welcomes the creation in 2009 of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act that aims at promoting equal opportunities for marginalised groups, including persons with disabilities;

11.Welcomes the creation of the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) under the 1995 Constitution of the Republic of Uganda; calls on the UHRC to develop a concrete national plan to guide the execution of its monitoring function

12.Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative/Vice-President for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the President of the Republic of Uganda, the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly and the African Union and its institutions.

News

General Assembly Adopts Resolution Seeking Alignment of Efforts to End Illicit Diamond Trade, Achieve 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The General Assembly, welcoming progress made by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to break links between the diamond trade and conflict, today adopted a consensus resolution aimed at intensifying that work and aligning it with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, introduced the draft resolution titled, “The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict:  breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts” (document A/72/L.41).  Noting that Australia was the outgoing Chair of the Kimberley Process — established by the United Nations in 2003 to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the mainstream market — she said that scheme had made a valuable contribution to international security, development and human rights.

“Fifteen years ago […] the global diamond trade looked very different than that of today,” she said.  At that time, diamonds were mined in conflict zones, while at the other end of the supply chain, customers had little or no way to know where the diamonds had originated.  The Kimberley Process cut the flow of diamonds to insurgencies and rebel groups, who would sacrifice peace and development for their own power.  By safeguarding the legitimate diamond trade, it improved the livelihoods of those relying on it to feed and educate their families.

Noting that young people today were three times more likely than older generations to avoid diamonds unless they had been responsibly sourced, she nevertheless emphasized that more work remained to be done.  The international community should examine new ways to align the diamond trade with the 2030 Agenda and sustaining peace, and should seek a diamond market free from human rights abuses and forced labour.  The resolution was a critical link between the Kimberley Process’ excellent work and its potential to contribute to the broader United Nations agenda by requesting the establishment of a dedicated secretariat and a multi‑donor trust fund to support broad‑based participation.

Antonio Parenti, speaking on behalf of the European Union, noted that the bloc — which had been at the forefront of the Kimberley Process from since its inception — had been selected to Chair the certification scheme for 2018.  Welcoming the decision to set up an Ad Hoc Committee on Review and Reform, which would enhance administrative and financial support to the Process, he pledged to use the 2018 Chairmanship to promote open dialogue among the three pillars of the Kimberley Process:  Governments, industry and civil society.  Overall, the European Union would aim to strengthen the mechanism’s effectiveness in peacebuilding, conflict prevention and the promotion of in‑country due diligence.

Noa Furman (Israel) declared:  “Conflict‑free diamonds bring the world a step closer to ending poverty, protecting the planet and ensuring prosperity.”  The Kimberley Process intertwined with the 2030 Agenda, as the diamond industry provided almost 40,000 jobs in sub‑Saharan Africa alone.  Revenues had broadened access to education and health care.  What had appeared as an unprecedented goal in 2003 had today become a reality, with 99.8 per cent of the world’s diamonds being considered conflict‑free.  However, that 0.2 per cent must be addressed, she said, emphasizing that Israel had been the first to harness technology for use in the Kimberley Process by computerizing diamond imports, which were examined at customs, and leaving zero margin for error.

Charles T. Ntwaagae (Botswana) said his country had benefited from diamond‑related socioeconomic gains over the past century, having graduated from being one of the world’s poorest countries to a middle‑income nation.  Indeed, diamond sales had fostered the implementation of national development plans alongside the 2030 Agenda and the African Union Agenda 2063.  The proper management of diamonds was crucial to achieving peace.  Noting that Botswana was a founding member of the certification scheme, he cited a 2017 report detailing significant strides in regulating and monitoring the diamond trade.  However, there was an urgent need to reform and strengthen the Kimberley Process to address the emerging challenges of synthetic diamonds and Government capacity constraints in establishing regulation.

In other business, the Assembly took note of the decision by the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States to appoint Brazil to the Committee on Conferences for a term beginning on 7 March 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2020, as well as Ecuador for a term beginning on 7 March 2018 and expiring on 31 December 2018.

The Assembly also took note of the letter from the Secretary‑General to the President of the Assembly (document A/72/713) and its addenda (documents A/72/713/Add.1, A/72/713/Add.2 and A/72/713/Add.3 ), in which he informed that Dominica, Grenada, the Marshall Islands and Suriname had made the necessary payments to reduce their arrears below the amount specified by Article 19 of the United Nations Charter.

[Article 19 states that a member of the United Nations which is in arrears in payment of its financial contributions to the Organization shall have no vote in the General Assembly if the amount of its arrears equals or exceeds that of its contributions due for the preceding two full years.]

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced.

News

Daily News 05 / 02 / 2018

European Commission and European Court of Auditors meet to discuss their cooperation and the future of Europe

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the College are meeting Mr Klaus-Heiner Lehne, President of the European Court of Auditors, and Members of the Court of Auditors (“ECA”) in Luxembourg for the regular meeting between the two institutions. The meeting will begin with a working lunch chaired by President Juncker and President Lehne, followed by discussions between the Commissioners and the Members of the Court of Auditors that will be structured around the Commission’s Reflection Papers on the Future of Europe. The meeting will conclude with a plenary session chaired by President Lehne and First Vice-President Timmermans. (For more information: Alexander Winterstein – Tel.: +32 229 93265; Maria Tsoni – Tel.: +32 229 90526)

Apply now: Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for outstanding journalism in development

Applications for the European Commission’s 2018 Lorenzo Natali Media Prize, which recognises journalists doing outstanding reporting on sustainable development topics, are open from 5 February to 9 March for online, print and audio-visual works. Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “In an era of disinformation, fake news and digital algorithms, we need professional and fact-based journalism more than ever. The important work of journalists is not only crucial for democracy across the globe, but also gives visibility and a voice to those who would otherwise not be heard. Through their stories they inform, inspire, and call for much-needed change. With this prize, we thank them for their determination and encourage them to keep up the fight.”The Prize has two categories based on age groups and for each category there will be a winner from each region: Africa; the Arab World and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Latin America and the Caribbean; and Europe. A “Grand Winner” will be selected among the regional winners, and an additional thematic prize will be awarded for work focused on the elimination of violence against women and girls. Find more information on the specific rules and criteria online and in our press release. (For more information: Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322; Christina Wunder – Tel.: +32 229 92256)

World Cancer Day: knowing more means helping more

Discussing cancer related issues is never easy. At the same time, given that the disease is still the second leading cause of death in the EU, there is a constant need for a robust, well informed response to it in order to contribute to the prevention, early detection, and adequate treatment. The European Cancer Information System (ECIS) website launched on the occasion of World Cancer Day by the Joint Research Centre (JRC), the European Commission’s in-house science and knowledge service, allows experts and practitioners to explore geographical patterns and trends. It gathers data from around 150 European population-based cancer registries covering 25 EU Member States and 7 non-EU European countries providing valuable information on howwell national cancer programmes are actually working, and address shortcomings. Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, highlighted: “Reliable data is an important aspect of the EU’s approach to cancer, along with tackling risk factors such as tobacco, alcohol, pesticides and pollution, screening for diagnosis and treatment, research, and connecting expertise through the European Reference Networks and joint actions “.  “The European Cancer Information System is an excellent example of our support for decision-makers and researchers across the EU and beyond. It allows for the assessment and monitoring of the disease across regions and countries, following trends over time and helping to gather information that could lead to a further decrease of cancer rates.” explained Tibor Navracsics, Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sports, responsible for the Joint Research Centre. EU has been supporting research to fight cancer since 1985 through its research and innovation programmes. These efforts focus on developing patient-oriented strategies to prevent, cure and help people live with cancer. With funding totalling €2.4 billion since 2007, European #cancer research has been leading personalised medicine approaches and efforts to understanding cancer biology as well as better prevention, treatment and care solutions.You can find more information here and here. Read some of the success stories of EU funded cancer research here. (For more information: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nathalie Vandystadt – Tel:+32 22967083; Aikaterini Apostola – Tel.: +32 229 87624)

Mozambique joins the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and Southern African States

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) became the first regional EPA in Africa to be fully operational after its implementation by Mozambique. Mozambique was the last piece of the SADC-EPA jigsaw to fall into place. The other five countries – Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South-Africa, and Swaziland – have been implementing the agreement since October 2016. Implementing the EPA means that Mozambique will not have to pay customs duties on its exports to the EU. The EU is the largest export market for Africa. Exports to the EU represent 22% of SADC EPA countries’ exports. The EU-SADC EPA provides opportunities for SADC countries to create jobs, attract more investment, industrialise, integrate into global value chains. On the EU side, European businesses are increasingly investing in the region. For its part, Mozambique will progressively, over the course of several years, reduce or eliminate customs duties for many of EU exports. Trade between the EU and Mozambique is currently about €2 billion annually. Mozambican exports to the EU include aluminium and raw cane sugar. For more information see here. (For more information: Daniel Rosario – Tel.: +32 229 56185; Kinga Malinowska – Tel: +32 229 51383)

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij by Waterland

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of De Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij B.V. by Nuts Groep B.V, ultimately controlled by Waterland Private Equity Investments B.V. (“Waterland”), all of the Netherlands. Nederlandse Energie Maatschappij supplies electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands. Nuts Groep is active in the supply of electricity and gas to small customers in the Netherlands and Belgium. Waterland is an independent private equity firm. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the companies’ moderate combined market position resulting from the proposed transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.8781. (For more information: Ricardo Cardoso – Tel.: +32 229 80100; Maria Sarantopoulou – Tel.: +32 229 13740)

Eurostat: Décembre 2017 comparé à novembre 2017 – Le volume des ventes du commerce de détail en baisse de 1,1% dans la zone euro, en baisse de 1,0% dans l’UE28

En décembre 2017 par rapport à novembre 2017, le volume des ventes du commerce de détail corrigé des variations saisonnières a diminué de 1,1% dans la zone euro (ZE19) et de 1,0% dans l’UE28, selon les estimations d’Eurostat, l’office statistique de l’Union européenne. En novembre, le commerce de détail avait progressé de 2,0% dans la zone euro et de 2,1% dans l’UE28. En décembre 2017 par rapport à décembre 2016, l’indice des ventes de détail s’est accru de 1,9% dans la zone euro et de 2,4% dans l’UE28. Par rapport à 2016, le volume moyen des ventes de détail a progressé en 2017 de 2,6% tant dans la zone euro que dans l’UE28. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations:Lucía Caudet – Tel.: +32 229 56182; Victoria von Hammerstein – Tel.: +32 229 55040; Maud Noyon – Tel. +32 229-80379)

 

Eurostat: Consommation d’énergie en 2016 – La consommation dans l’UE est au-dessus de l’objectif d’efficacité énergétique

L’Union européenne (UE) s’est engagée à réduire sa consommation d’énergie de 20% par rapport aux projections d’ici à 2020. Cet objectif est également connu sous le nom d’«objectif d’efficacité énergétique de 20%». En d’autres termes, l’UE a pris l’engagement de parvenir à une consommation d’énergie primaire inférieure ou égale à 1 483 millions de tonnes équivalent pétrole (Mtep) et une consommation d’énergie finale inférieure ou égale à 1 086 Mtep en 2020. Un communiqué de presse est disponible en ligne. (Pour plus d’informations: Anca Paduraru – Tel.: +32 229 91269; Nicole Bockstaller – Tel.:+32 229 52589)

STATEMENTS

Joint Statement on International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

On International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, HighRepresentative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini and Commissioners Johannes Hahn, Neven Mimica, and Vĕra Jourová, made the following statement:”We confirm our firm resolve to put an end to this practice which is painful, traumatic and causes long-term health consequences. A practice that is nearly always carried out on children. A practice that is a fundamental human rights violation and an extreme form of discrimination against women and girls. Despite the efforts of the EU and its partners, 200 million girls are still suffering from this violation, which occurs in all parts of the world. […] In Europe itself, girls are still today subject to this illegal practice. […] We have put laws in place, to ensure that there can be no impunity in Europe for this practice. Female genital mutilation is a crime in all EU Member States […]. At the international level, together with the United Nations, we have launched an unprecedented initiative – the Spotlight Initiative – to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. […]. Through these actions we provide direct and targeted support to the victims of such harmful practices. The EU will […] continue building strong partnerships through bilateral, as well as multilateral cooperation. […] We want a society where women are free from violence and free to change the world.” Please read the full statement here and find more information on EU actions to counter Female Genital Mutilation in a memo here. (for more information: Christian Wigand- Tel.: +32 229 62253; Maja Kocijancic – Tel.: +32 229 86570; Carlos Martin Ruiz De Gordejuela – Tel.: +32 229 65322)

Upcoming events of the European Commission (ex-Top News)

News

General Assembly: plenary

Note: A complete summary of today’s General Assembly meetings will be made available after their conclusion.

Statements

COURTENAY RATTRAY (Jamaica) said there was a mutually reinforcing relationship between the efforts made to implement the Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons.  Jamaica had made a strong political commitment not only in prevention and protection, but also in prosecuting crimes of human trafficking.  It had developed a sophisticated legislative and institutional framework to cope with that heinous practice.  The country had also appointed a National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, the first to have been appointed in the Caribbean.  Since 2010, 76 victims had been rescued, with sentences ranging between 16 and 18 years, four human traffickers had been convicted and restitution costs had been paid to victims.

PER-ANDERS SUNESSON (Sweden), associating himself with the European Union, said cooperation on counter-trafficking measures must be based on the common definition of the practice, and a shared view of relevant legal definitions.  It was crucial that all States ratify international instruments and share data and best practices.  Warning against selective efforts to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals as counterproductive, he called for work across all three of the Agenda’s pillars.  Requesting the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to produce an annual report on measures to reduce demand — especially for sex trafficking and slave labour — he said weak national laws allowed such demands to flourish.  Legislation much be revised, he stressed, adding that all States bore an obligation to deliver on their commitments to support victims.  That required cooperation between Government and civil society, and adequate funding, he said, endorsing the work of the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in that regard, and announcing Sweden’s decision to commit $100,000 in 2017.

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) highlighted the need for greater attention to trafficking victims and adopting more effective countering measures at the national level.  Assistance to victims must be guaranteed to prevent them from becoming victimized twice‑over through indictments for any unlawful conduct in which they were forced to engage.  In April 2016, Italy’s Parliament addressed the legal protection of undocumented migrants arriving in the country.  A new law harmonized existing legislation and activated additional resources that were tailored to the specific needs of migrant minors without families.

VIVIAN NWUNAKU ROSE OKEKE (Nigeria), aligning herself with the Group of Friends United against Trafficking in Persons, said the causes of trafficking were complex and multi‑dimensional, with “push and pull” factors such as inadequate employment, poor living conditions, conflict, war, famine, loss of livelihood, forced marriage, dissolution of families and natural disaster.  She highlighted the role of the family as a “basis of unity”.  Nigeria, a destination and export country, had zero tolerance for trafficking and had put in place strong institutional measures and legislation to ensure prosecution, including the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons, and a review of relevant laws to combat the crime.  It also had scaled up domestic laws under the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Enforcement and Administration Acts of 2015, expanded its prosecutorial mechanism and strengthened international partnerships.  She urged greater support for the Voluntary Trust Fund, reaffirming Nigeria’s commitments to UNODC and the Inter-Agency Coordination Group against Trafficking in Persons.

 CHARLES T. NTWAAGAE (Botswana) said his country was a party to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime [also known as the Palermo Convention], and had taken stern measures to combat trafficking by passing the Anti-Human Trafficking Act in 2014 and establishing the Human Trafficking (Prohibition) Committee.  Highlighting the importance of adequate funding for programs, he commended UNODC and other United Nations agencies for their support.  On a regional level, Botswana had collaborated with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on data collection and analysis to improve the effectiveness of anti-human trafficking initiatives.

LAZAROUS KAPAMBWE (Zambia), associating himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the African Group, expressed concern that women and children in developing countries, especially sub‑Saharan Africa, continued to be the largest category of victims of trafficking.  Zambia had not been spared from that scourge, as victims continued to be exploited in urban areas in domestic servitude, and other types of forced labour.  The Government had adopted a new national policy that aimed to eradicate all forms of human trafficking through combined measures to raise awareness and address the causes, while ensuring that victims were protected and perpetrators brought to justice.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) described a 2004 national law on combating human trafficking and efforts to enforce legislation through training of judicial and law enforcement departments.  Noting the interrelated root causes of trafficking, he said interventionist and destabilizing polices in the Middle East and Africa had served as breeding grounds for criminal networks to engage in trafficking.  He called on Governments to share information, and provide both capacity building and technical assistance to developing countries.  He reiterated the importance of education and awareness of trafficking in countries of origin, transit and destination, as end users of services provided by trafficked persons required as much training as those who were vulnerable to trafficking.  There was a need for impartial and reliable data, and he questioned the “moral authority”, competency and integrity of Member States whose “destructive” foreign policy options left people at risk of exploitation and trafficking.  He commended UNODC for its Global Report on Trafficking in Persons as a follow up to the Global Action Plan, and reaffirmed the role of that body in promoting partnerships in support of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Ms. JOHNSTONE (United States) said while the world’s collective understanding of trafficking had grown significantly in recent years, efforts to support victims remained “appallingly” low, due largely to widespread impunity.  “We must expand our collective response to this crime,” she stressed, adding that resources and strong collaboration were critical.  The United States had taken a victim‑centred approach to its national efforts on those issues, she said, having increased funding for services and the number of victims supported.  On the enforcement side, it had convicted 439 human traffickers in 2016, and established a national council composed of trafficking survivors to provide guidance to the Government.  It had also recently provided $25 million to promote anti-trafficking efforts around the world and was working to raise an additional $1 billion from other donors.

GILLIAN BIRD (Australia) welcomed collective efforts to improve international cooperation to address migration and displacement.  Whenever people were on the move, they were vulnerable to exploitation.  The Global Compacts on Refugees and Migration would provide an opportunity to build global consensus for practical action.  Regional action was also critical.  Noting that more than 50 per cent of the world’s people subject to forced labour were in the Indo‑Pacific region, she said Australia worked closely with its neighbours in Southeast Asia to combat trafficking and forced labour, and funded the largest single anti-trafficking investment in that region.  Domestically, Australia was establishing a new reporting requirement for large businesses to publish annual statements outlining their actions to address modern slavery in supply chains.

RODOLFO REYES RODRÍGUEZ, Director General for Multilateral Affairs and International Law at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said there was a low prevalence of human trafficking in his country.  In February, the Government approved the national action plan for the 2017‑2020 period, coordinating its actions with civil society to implement a “zero tolerance” policy.  Cuba’s experience had demonstrated it was possible to achieve results in the fight against trafficking in persons even with few resources, under a tight blockade and amid the growing complexity of the crime.

ISMAIL CHEKKORI (Morocco) said his country was an origin, transit and destination country for trafficking.  The Political Declaration would strengthen the international resolve to protect victims, and to that end, Morocco had prioritized the issue.  In line with the National Policy for Migration and Asylum, Morocco had taken measures to ensure the integration, preservation and protection of migrants and refugees, notably through the establishment of a legal and institutional framework to address asylum and migration, while adhering to the main human rights conventions.  He called for the adoption of a global, multi‑sectoral approach to combat trafficking in persons.

MAURO VIEIRA (Brazil) said States must enhance efforts to tackle trafficking in persons and bring perpetrators to justice.  Noting that restrictive immigration policies could compound the effects of trafficking, he called for effective approaches that ensured fundamental rights.  Discussions on the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration could also help to eliminate the practice, while safeguarding migrants’ rights.  As a global network to protect and assist victims would discourage demand and prevent re-victimization, Brazil had adopted a national law to prevent and suppress domestic and international trafficking.  It also was working on its third national anti-trafficking plan with involvement from civil society.  He called for greater cooperation among Member States, as well as with the Secretary-General, UNODC and International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), commending the work of the Inter-Agency Coordination Group.

IB PETERSEN (Denmark), associating himself with the European Union, said the Global Plan of Action was a critical instrument, but would only be useful if States implemented it.  Trafficking in persons was an offense of human dignity and rights that understood no borders, he stressed, pledging that Denmark would do its part, including as a candidate for the Human Rights Council for the period 2019‑2021.  “We must raise awareness about this issue, and make sure that no one can ever say again that they did not know about modern slavery,” he said, urging States to put in place flexible and adaptable policies, and work harder to prosecute perpetrators.  Denmark supported victims all over the world, he added, announcing that it would contribute $160,000 to the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund.

SANDI ČURIN (Slovenia), associating himself with the European Union and the Human Security Network, and noting that trafficking in persons and related forms of modern slavery were on the rise, said their underlying causes included exploitive tendencies, loss of values, increased demand for cheap labour and global poverty.  The increasing shadow economy, underground labour market and unfair competition reflected a cheap labour force, which too often, stemmed from trafficking.  Calling for a multidimensional approach, he drew attention to Slovenia’s appointment of a National Anti-Trafficking Coordinator in 2002, enhanced efforts to prosecute perpetrators and strong cooperation between law enforcement authorities and non-governmental organizations.

HAU DO SUAN (Myanmar), expressing concern that millions of people were being exploited in forced labour around the world, said trafficking could not be resolved by Governments alone.  Thanking Malaysia and Australia for organizing the Bali Business Forum in an effort to engage the private sector, he noted that Myanmar was a source country.  The Government had adopted an anti-trafficking law in 2005, and recently reviewed its national action plan, with a focus on such issues as forced marriage, debt bondage and forced labour.  The industries in which Myanmar migrant labourers suffered the most included fisheries and forced prostitution.  In response, the Government was cooperating with countries in the region that received large numbers of people trafficked from Myanmar, and had signed on to several regional agreements in that regard.  Voicing concern that people fleeing across the border into Bangladesh could be at risk of trafficking, he said that flight had resulted from terrorist violence by “the so-called Arankhan Rohingya Salvation Army” in Rakhine State on 25 August, whose “scorched earth” tactics had spread fear among the population.

JAN KICKERT (Austria) said his country was a transit and destination country for human trafficking, mainly involving cases of sexual and labour exploitation, and forced begging.  Austria paid particular attention to the linkages between migration and trafficking in persons, as it had lately been affected by large mixed migration movements.  It had intensified efforts to identify victims, or those at risk of being trafficked, and supported both regional and international organizations in assisting victims along migration routes.  Advocating a victim‑centred approach, with a focus on prevention, he expressed support for UNODC and the involvement of civil society, especially in protecting victims.

MANUEL ALBANO (Portugal), recalling that his country along with Cabo Verde had co‑facilitated negotiations for of the 2010 United Nations Global Action Plan, said all his country’s national efforts were in line with that instrument as well as the 2030 Agenda.  Portugal had joined the “Blue Heart” global awareness campaign, provided support to victims and was working on its fourth national action plan which took both a victim‑centred and gender‑based approach.  Its Support and Protection Network for Victims of Trafficking had improved coordination between police forces, justice systems, civil society and victims, among others.  The Observatory of Trafficking in Human Beings, created in 2008, also had allowed Portugal to reinforce its referral mechanisms and consolidate and share both data and best practices.

Ms. PELAEZ (Mexico), recognizing the links between inequality and marginalization in relation to human trafficking, called for enhanced regional cooperation to address that crime.  Only by renewing support to people‑centred policies could States make progress in implementing the 2030 Agenda and the Global Action Plan.  To that end, Mexico enforced a robust legal framework to care for victims.  It had increased sentences for traffickers and created a reparations fund for victims, working with academic and civil society groups to bolster such work.  At Mexico’s request, UNODC had conducted a national diagnosis which identified gaps in anti‑trafficking efforts.  As a result, Mexico established a national system that featured an information database, care and protection services for victims, and improved reporting, tools and maps.  Those improvements would be used to support investigation and prosecutorial activities, and efforts to protect victims, including through the “Blue Heart” campaign and a new telephone hotline.

REYNALDO A. CATAPANG (Philippines) said the threat of human trafficking could not be overemphasized.  With 10 per cent of its population working abroad, the Philippines adhered to the mandate of migrant protection.  To better serve vulnerable populations, the Government had moved to criminalize attempted trafficking.  Stressing that effective mitigation efforts must acknowledge the link between migration and trafficking, he said multi‑sectoral approaches focused on enshrining cooperation between civil society groups, the private sector and Government.  That approach had energized stakeholders to devise robust responses to trafficking, he said, also noting the benefits of international cooperation in the region.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru), voicing support for the Political Declaration, said human trafficking was as complex as the horrors it generated.  It resulted from various dynamics, including the use of social networks, the exploitation of migrants and refugees and armed conflict situations.  Peru’s national strategy to combat trafficking was anchored by such activities as caring for victims, protection and reintegration and prosecution.  However, “we cannot wage this war alone”, and the support of the United Nations was crucial.  The specific challenges and circumstances of certain regions also highlighted the important role to be played by regional organizations, he said.

JULIO CÉSAR ARRIOLA RAMÍREZ (Paraguay), pointing out that the crime of human trafficking also threatened sustainable development, outlined national strategies to combat the practice in cooperation with civil society and others.  Paraguay’s national convention against trafficking provided comprehensive care for victims, while a related 2012 law levied a maximum 20‑year sentence for anyone involved in the crime.  Calling for international support in several areas, he stressed that migration must not be criminalized.  States should highlight the link between drug trafficking and human trafficking, while efforts to prosecute offenders must be effective.

JAIDEEP GOVIND (India) said his country had adopted a multi‑pronged, multi‑stakeholder approach to tackling human trafficking, with 264 anti‑trafficking units and 150 investigative units for crimes against women established across the country.  Capacity building for law enforcement agencies and the judiciary had been accorded high priority, while special “Operation Smile” drives were conducted regularly to rescue trafficked children.  The “Track Child” and “Khoya Paya” portals, which showcased the innovative use of information technology, had also produced results.  Greater focus must be placed on development in the countries of origin, and on demand for trafficked persons for exploitative purposes in the destination countries, he said.

TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon) said trafficking in persons had worsened as increased migratory movements had made people more vulnerable.  New forms of trafficking, by groups such as Boko Haram, were also on the rise, marked by the recruitment, forcible removal or luring of girls and boys, who were then exchanged for ransom, indoctrinated or forced into marriage and sexual slavery.  Boko Haram also used young people as “human bombs”, sending them into civilian populations to carry out suicide attacks.  Cameroon had become a party to the Palermo Convention and its Additional Protocols, as well as to the 1949 Convention on the Suppression of Trafficking in Human Beings and International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions 105 and 138 respectively on the abolition of forced labour and the minimum age of work.  In addition, it had enacted a national law to combat trafficking, regularly organized awareness-raising campaigns in its most vulnerable regions, and cooperated with other States in West and Central Africa under a UNODC supported initiative.

SHEILA CAREY (Bahamas) said that due to its geographic location and porous borders, the Bahamas experienced large mixed migration and was used as a trafficking transit point.  The Government had signed the United Nations Convention and passed the Trafficking in Persons Prevention and Suppression Act in 2008, which criminalized the practice and prescribed strict penalties for offenders.  Working with non-governmental groups, the Bahamas had created the national anti‑trafficking strategy for the 2014‑2018 period.  It also had established coordination groups, police and task forces, a nationwide campaign, and developed standard operating procedures and protection services for victims.  In August 2017, the Bahamas had convicted two people of trafficking and several trials were ongoing, he said, adding that the success of the national action plan had led to the development of similar models in other Caribbean countries.

JUNGMIN SEO (Republic of Korea), emphasizing that human trafficking “preys on the weakness of individuals and thrives in conflict”, expressed support for the Global Plan of Action and outlined national efforts taken in line with it.  The Republic of Korea had codified human trafficking as a serious crime in 2013 and had ratified the United Nations Convention and its trafficking Protocol in 2015.  As prevention played an important role in combating the practice, the Government sought to build capacity at the national level while addressing social inequalities and discrimination, among other root causes.  “Perpetrators of such crimes thrive in the shadows of lawlessness and must be brought to justice,” he stressed, adding that the sharing of best practices and lessons learned should be more broadly shared and promoted between States.

JÜRGEN SCHULZ (Germany) said his country’s resolutions in the Human Rights Council, submitted alongside Philippines, underscored the need to support victims and employ a human rights approach in all anti-trafficking measures.  “Traffickers treat their victims as mere commodities,” he said, calling for States to address that gross abuse of human dignity.  Describing his country’s support for anti‑trafficking efforts in various regions, including the Sahel in Africa, he underscored the transnational nature of the practice and the fact that refugees and migrants were particularly at risk.  Preventing human trafficking involved many facets, he added, citing the example of forced labour and noting that companies with international supply chains bore a particular responsibility to protect victims and their human rights.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), associating himself with the Group of Friends against Human Trafficking, said political will and cooperation were required to achieve results.  Balanced attention must be paid to both countries of origin and destination, and he thus echoed support for a comprehensive approach and efforts to combat root causes, such as the legalization of prostitution, poverty and unemployment.  Recalling that the Russian Federation had hosted a conference on public‑private‑partnerships to combat human trafficking in July, he outlined its involvement in similar efforts under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and spotlighted the central role of the United Nations, especially UNODC.  Every country had the right to define its own optimal mechanisms to combat human trafficking, he asserted.

KHALIL HASHMI (Pakistan) called for international resolve and commitment to clear away bottlenecks and obstacles in implementing the Convention and relevant laws.  Financial and technical support would help developing countries streamline processes, collect and share data, and implement grassroots projects.  Drawing attention to the legislative and regulatory measures that Pakistan had taken, he said there must be coordination and cooperation among stakeholders to develop synergies policies to address human trafficking.

JORGE SKINNER-KLÉE (Guatemala) said comprehensive, people-centred approaches were needed to guarantee safe migratory flows and respect for migrants’ human rights.  The dangers of irregular migration must also be discussed.  He advocated cooperation as a way to strengthen the protection and repatriation of victims, as well as the prosecution of traffickers.  Noting that Guatemala was the first country in Central America to join the UNODC campaign to fight trafficking in persons, and would continue to comply with its commitments, he said the Government also had developed a database and reference cards to assist in tracking missing persons.  To protect victims, it had established temporary shelters, medical programmes, psychological and social support, and initiatives to promote technical and labour training.  On the prosecution front, Guatemala had passed 19 sentences against traffickers, two of which had received 28‑year sentences.

ELMAHDI S. ELMAJERBI (Libya) said armed conflict, unemployment, poverty and natural disasters were factors that prompted migration, displacement and trafficking.  The conditions fostering the expansion of criminal networks must be also examined, he said, citing the role of preventative diplomacy in the cessation of conflict.  He also advocated support for developing countries to address poverty, hunger, unemployment and service‑sector performance, while encouraging cooperation in efforts to prosecute traffickers and criminal networks, including by building human and institutional capacities.  He called for solidary in providing new resources to refugees and migrants, as well as improved data collection and analysis, and information sharing related particularly to disasters and migration.  In partnership with the United Nations and others, Libya’s coast guard had saved thousands of migrants on route to Europe, he said.

JONATHAN GUY ALLEN (United Kingdom), calling for further political attention to the “hidden nature” of human trafficking, drew attention to the United Kingdom’s establishment last week of a “Call to Action to end Forced Labour, Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking” plan, which had already been endorsed by 37 nations, and urged others to join it.  All countries should create policies based on prevention, prosecution, protection and partnership, and consider producing domestic “estimates of prevalence” reports.  Trafficking must also be stamped out in countries’ economies, which required better regulated labour policies.  The United Kingdom had enacted a Modern Slavery Act and introduced a comprehensive legal framework which was resulting in a growing number of convictions.  To address the scale of the problem, United Nations agencies must join together, rather than fight over turf.  “We have reviewed our plan, now let us act,” he concluded.

VITAVAS SRIVIHOK (Thailand) said his country had made the eradication of human trafficking a national priority, adopting a policy based on prosecution, protection, prevention and partnership.  On prosecution, he said Thailand had recently convicted 62 offenders involved in the Rohingya case, with some sentences up to 94 years.  On prevention, the Government was working to establish a national screening mechanism for undocumented immigrants, trafficking victims and refugees, which would identify those in need of protection.  It had also signed labour cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries to facilitate legal employment in Thailand for some 400,000 migrant workers from four countries, and had strengthened public-private-civil society partnerships.  “We have to step up our efforts to make sure that trafficking is a ‘high‑risk, no reward’ business,” he stressed, advocating stronger support for victims and improved data collection and analysis.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said the fight against trafficking must be holistic and include a variety of stakeholders at all levels.  Argentina had focused on preventing trafficking, and providing assistance to victims, in accordance with Sustainable Development Goal 5 to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Welcoming the adoption of the Political Declaration, he said Argentina had taken measures to protect victims’ privacy and to ensure their physical, psychological and social recovery through safe housing, counselling, medical and material assistance, as well as offers for employment, education and training.  Victims were given the option to remain in Argentina by filing for refugee status, or offered repatriation assistance.  The Government also had carried out awareness raising, particularly in border areas.

MARÍA EMMA MEJÍA VÉLEZ (Colombia) expressed support for the Political Declaration and Sustainable Development Goal targets 5.2, 8.7 and 16.2 to combat human trafficking.  Noting the links with transnational organized crime, he described the challenges in terms of prevention, investigation and prosecution.  Each year, Colombia identified and assisted victims of all kinds of trafficking.  It had established sexual and reproductive rights training programmes for children and adolescents, strengthened the legal branch through training initiatives and provided assistance to victims.  He called for greater international commitment, notably through enhanced work with UNODC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

SUSAN WANGECI MWANGI (Kenya) said people from areas of conflict were especially vulnerable to being trafficked, as they experienced such “push factors” as a lack of economic opportunity, poverty and low education rates.  It was important to consider the causal link between racism, bigotry, prejudice and human trafficking so as to enhance legal and policy responses.  Noting that Kenya had signed protocols and formulated laws to combat trafficking, she said the Government also had created an advisory committee to guide inter-agency activities, developed a national action plan to promote cooperation, and set aside $800,000 through the Counter Trafficking in Persons Secretariat.  To protect workers, the Government in 2014 had revoked the licenses of more than 900 agencies recruiting workers for jobs in the Middle East and the Gulf region.  Today, it continued to vet agencies, requiring them to apply annually for fresh licenses, she added.

News

General Assembly Debates Breadth of Human Rights Council’s Mandate as Members Consider Its Annual Report

While some delegates spotlighted the link between ensuring fundamental freedoms and achieving sustainable development, several others expressed concern that the Human Rights Council was overstepping its mandate, the General Assembly heard today, as it considered that body’s annual report.

Briefing Member States on the Council’s latest report, Choi Kyonglim (Republic of Korea), its President, said it was exploring new opportunities to advance human rights based on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.  In its many debates, the Council had focused on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in preventing abuses, women’s equal rights and business and human rights.

Given its many resolutions on a wide range of issues, the Council had demonstrated its ability to overcome political differences, he continued.  Despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the wider United Nations, however, human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage.  “But we cannot lose our hope and optimism,” he emphasized.  “These two words are our guiding lights, with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world.”

Over the course of 2016, he noted, the Council had established an Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development.  Challenges persisted in regards to the universality of its work and small countries had been encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement.  The active participation of civil society was also central to the work of the Council, he said.

General Assembly President Peter Thomson (Fiji) said the Council had time and again indeed “shone a light” on human rights violations, helping to establish new international norms and provide accountability.  It now had a central role in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.  With much more work remaining to be done in the decade ahead, the international community must stand firmly in its support of the Council’s work, however difficult that might be, he stressed.

In the ensuing discussion, many delegates expressed concern that the Council may be overstepping its mandate, with several speakers citing the adoption of resolution 32/2, titled “Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.  The Russian Federation’s representative said the Council had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States.  He expressed alarm at relentless efforts to bring up matters unrelated to its work, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Elaborating on that issue, Botswana’s representative, on behalf of the African Group, expressed deep concern over attempts to focus on certain persons on the basis of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring the existence of other types of intolerance and discrimination.  Concerned that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, he said notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.

However, the representative of the United States emphasized that those issues clearly belonged on the Council’s agenda.  No one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, he added.

Delegations raised other concerns, with some saying they had been unfairly targeted.  Israel’s representative said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations had characterized the attitude of the Council towards her country.  “Instead of trampling in the political swamp,” she said, “it is crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights.”  While Israel had faced many security challenges, it remained committed to upholding human rights.

Raising a similar concern, Iran’s delegate said it was regrettable that certain countries had been persistent in politicizing the issue of human rights.  He urged the Council to firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures while refraining from imposing a single lifestyle on others.  It was more important to focus on issues such as confronting violent extremism and raising awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, he said.

Many delegates welcomed the Council’s universal periodic review process for enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries.  The representative of Maldives said that as a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, it had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens.  Despite its situation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council.  “We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community,” she added.

Also speaking today were the representatives of Liechtenstein (also on behalf of Iceland), Australia, Mongolia, Cuba, Kuwait, India, Switzerland, Argentina, Hungary, Costa Rica, Norway, Colombia, Philippines, Georgia, Ukraine, Cameroon and Qatar, as well as an observer for the European Union.

Speaking in exercise of the right of reply were representatives of the Russian Federation, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia and Ukraine.

The General Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m., Monday, 7 November, to begin its consideration of the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council and other related matters.

Opening Remarks

PETER THOMSON (Fiji), President of the General Assembly, said the comprehensive human rights mechanisms the Council oversaw, particularly the universal periodic review, special procedures mandate holders and treaty bodies, had put it at the forefront of upholding human rights.  “They have allowed us to establish new norms, provide accountability and remedies for violations and ensure that the human rights dimensions of emerging challenges are elevated and understood,” he said.  Time and again, the Council had “shone a light” on human rights violations requiring urgent action by the international community.  The universal periodic review had been key in enabling all Member States to engage with one another on equal footing in order to improve human rights in all countries.  The open and inclusive nature of the review process had also been fundamental to its credibility.

He welcomed the participation of civil society and encouraged Member States to support national institutions, academia and other human rights defenders so that they could conduct their work freely.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, if implemented effectively, would build peaceful and inclusive societies, empower women and girls, tackle discrimination and inequality, promote rule of law, eliminate extreme poverty and fight climate change.  The Council had a central role to play in promoting the 2030 Agenda and ensuring that its implementation was pursued in a manner consistent with international human rights standards.  With much more work remaining to be done, the international community must, in the decade ahead, stand firmly in its support of the Council’s work, however difficult that might be.  It was essential for the Council to remain credible and retain its universal character.

CHOI KYONGLIM, President of the Human Rights Council, said many of its resolutions, including country-specific issues, were cross-regional initiatives, affirming the body’s capacity to overcome political differences and take unified action.  With Syria remaining high on its agenda throughout the year, the Council had, in October, held a session on the deteriorating situation in Aleppo.  The Council had requested its Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to conduct an investigation and identify all those responsible for alleged violations and abuses of human rights law.  The Council had also considered updates of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and the report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi, having dispatched a mission of independent experts to the latter country to investigate human rights violations.

Recalling the findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he said a group of independent experts were mandated to focus on issues of accountability, in particular to violations amounting to crimes against humanity.  The experts were expected to deliver their report to the Council in March 2017, when a report stemming from monitoring the situation in South Sudan was also expected to be presented.  In 2016, the Council had extended the existing country-specific special procedures mandates to Belarus, Central African Republic, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia and Sudan.

He said the Council was exploring new opportunities in advancing human rights based on the 2030 Agenda, including discussions on how to help to bring the three pillars of the United Nations closer together.  To that end, the Council had engaged in a range of thematic debates, holding 20 panel discussions specifically focusing on the relationship between climate change and the rights of the child, the contribution of civil society in the prevention of human rights abuses, women’s equal rights and business and human rights.  The Council had also focused on the issue of improving accessibility for people with disabilities, pursuant to obligations arising from the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The special procedures of the Human Rights Council, he said, had acted as its “ears and eyes”, constituting one of the main sources of reliable information on human rights situations around the world and providing a solid basis for debate.  In 2016, the Council had established an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and a Special Rapporteur on the right to development.  The Council had also amended the mandate of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to represent each of the seven indigenous sociocultural regions.

Regarding the universal periodic review, he said one challenge to the principle of universality had been the participation of small countries that did not have representation in Geneva.  To that end, regular attention had been given to those States’ needs through programmes and activities that had contributed to keeping them engaged in the process.  Going forward required strengthening the focus on follow-up and implementation in order to safeguard the mechanism’s effectiveness and credibility.  States were also encouraged to strengthen national processes to enable more engagement with and follow-up on recommendations.  The active participation of civil society was central to the work of the Council and its representatives must be afforded adequate protection to operate in open and safe environments.

Highlighting the many resolutions the Council had adopted, he said it had recommended that the Assembly submit the reports of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic to the Security Council for appropriate action.  The Council had also requested the Assembly to submit to all relevant organs of the United Nations the report of the Commission of Inquiry in Eritrea and that the world body remain apprised of the matter of ensuring justice for all violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.  Turning to challenges, he said the Council continued to adopt a high number of resolutions, which carried significant resource implications.  While the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights had been requested to comply with Council decisions, its regular budget had not kept pace with the growth.  The Council was also faced with the real possibility of having its meeting time reduced, which would impact its responsiveness to address human rights issues worldwide in an efficient and timely matter.

He said that despite the tireless efforts of the Council and the United Nations, as a whole, to effectively respond to the multiple crises that the world faced in 2016, the current situation did not appear to have vastly improved.  Human rights abuses were still rampant, humanitarian conditions were worsening and armed conflicts continued to rage.  “But, we cannot lose our hope and optimism,” he said.  “These two words are our guiding lights with which we illuminate the darkest corners of the world.”

Statements

FRANCESCA CARDONA (European Union) underscored the severe consequences of the Syrian crisis and violations that had been committed by all parties.  Any breaches of international law, especially humanitarian and human rights law, which might constitute war crimes or crimes against humanity, must be brought to justice.  The Council’s ongoing response to the crisis remained vital, as mirrored by related efforts to foster accountability and fight impunity.  The Council had also provided technical assistance to authorities in Côte d’Ivoire, Libya and Mali to promote human rights and continued to assist the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Guinea, South Sudan and Ukraine.  It should continue to closely monitor situations where technical assistance and capacity building could make a difference and should act when necessary.

She expressed concern over a draft resolution, tabled in the General Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), on the Council’s report.  That text sought to subvert a legitimate Council decision by deferring one particular resolution from its report — Human Rights Council resolution 32/2 on “protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity”.  Any attempt to call into question the legitimacy of the Council resolution had no legal foundation, she said, noting that based on its adoption, Vitit Muntarbhorn had been appointed the new Independent Expert in September, with the agreement of all 47 Council members.  Questioning that mandate was to question the delicate institutional relationship between the Council and the Assembly.

CHARLES THEMBANI NTWAAGAE (Botswana), speaking on behalf of the African Group, emphasized the importance of universality, objectivity and non-selectivity in the Council’s work.  Expressing support for the Council’s agenda item on technical cooperation and capacity building on human rights issues, he stressed that related advisory services should only be issued upon the request of the State concerned, based on its priorities and national ownership and with full respect for sovereignty and political independence.  Deploring all forms of stereotyping, exclusion, stigmatization, prejudice, intolerance, discrimination, hate speech and violence, he expressed deep concern over attempts to introduce and impose new notions and concepts that were not internationally agreed upon, particularly in areas where there was no legal foundation in any international human rights instrument.  The Group was even more disturbed at attempts to focus on certain persons on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviours, while ignoring that other types of intolerance and discrimination regrettably still existed.

Spotlighting the Council’s adoption of resolution 32/2 as such an attempt, he expressed concern that such efforts were being pursued to the detriment of issues of paramount importance, such as the right to development.  Alarmed that the Council was delving into matters that fell within the domestic jurisdiction of States, the African Group believed that notions of sexual orientation and gender identity should not be linked to existing international human rights instruments.  Recalling that the Group had tabled a resolution to defer the consideration of resolution 32/2 in order to engage in further discussions on the matter, he reiterated a call for the suspension of the appointed Independent Expert’s activities, pending the determination of clarity on the issue.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein), also speaking on behalf of Iceland, said that what had begun in 2006 as a project that had faced opposition from different sides had now become one of the international community’s most important instruments in promoting universal respect for all human rights.  Unfortunately, the Council had recently become more polarized, with opposition to certain country-specific and thematic issues being a matter of politics and the actual human rights of thousands of people sometimes taking a backseat.  Noting that Member States’ voluntary pledges and commitments now barely factored into the selection of the Council’s members, he stressed that overall political commitments, such as support for the Accountability, Transparency and Coherence Group’s code of conduct on mass atrocities, should play an important part in decision making in Council elections.  Expressing particular concern about the Council’s insufficient action on the situations in Yemen and Syria, he called on all countries to cooperate with the body’s special procedures, such as by issuing standing invitations and enabling them to conduct their work independently and without interference.

CAITLIN WILSON (Australia) welcomed the Council’s increased focus on improving the human rights outcomes for indigenous peoples, including through strengthening of the expert mechanism.  She supported the body’s resolution on protection against violence and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, saying it represented a significant step towards protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  However, it was disappointing to hear that some States were challenging the appointment of the independent expert.  Furthermore, she noted that Australia had put forward its candidature for the Human Rights Council for 2018-2010.  Given the opportunity to serve, her country would focus on five key areas, including good governance, freedom of expression, national human rights institutions, and the rights of women, girls and indigenous peoples.

SUKHBOLD SUKHEE (Mongolia) said that as a newly-elected Council member, his country was focusing on a wide range of issues in the promotion and protection of equitable rights and fundamental freedoms that were at the core of all governmental policies.  Mongolia’s report had been reviewed a second time and a national action plan, developed through consultation with all stakeholders, had been adopted to implement the resulting recommendations.  He called for more focus in the Council on such implementation through constructive engagement, cooperation and technical support.  Commending efforts that had been aimed at improving the Council’s working methods, he affirmed his Government’s commitment to continue to contribute to the body’s activities.

SARAH MENDELSON (United States), expressing her delegation’s strong support for resolution 32/2, said no one should face violence or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and that those issues clearly belonged on the Council’s agenda.  She strongly supported the appointment of an Independent Expert.  Yesterday, the African Group had tabled its annual resolution on the Report of the Human Rights Council, which, during the current session, had contained “incredibly problematic language” and had attempted to delay consideration of resolution 32/2.  Such actions could undermine the Council’s ability to function if countries could reopen any mandate they deemed objectionable under the guise of legal concerns.  Warning that the African Group would set a dangerous precedent, she recalled that the Latin American Group would table an amendment removing the language that went against the Council’s decision.  She strongly urged all Member States to vote in favour of the amendment, and, if that failed, to vote against the resolution itself.

ANA SILVIA RODRÍGUEZ ABASCAL (Cuba), underlining the need for the Council to avoid a repeat of the negative practices that had discredited the Human Rights Commission, expressed regret over the former’s increasing trend to impose double standards in its consideration of human rights.  “The Council must be rescued from a situation in which selectivity and political manipulation will prevail,” she stressed, noting that the universal periodic review, which was the sole comprehensive mechanism for the consideration of human rights, had distinguished itself from the Human Rights Commission through its respect for the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity.  Stressing the need for those principles to also be observed by the Council’s special procedures and its treaty bodies, she said that, as long as the current unfair and exclusive international economic and political order continued, the Council must take a stand in favour of equity and democracy.  In particular, it must reject such universal and coercive measures as the one which had faced Cuba for more than 50 years.

NOUR KHALED ALDUWAILAH (Kuwait) said promoting and protecting human rights was the full responsibility of States.  She welcomed the adoption of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and international efforts to promote the sustainable development agenda.  For its part, Kuwait had already implemented national plans to promote human rights and public freedoms in line with international conventions.  Indeed, the concept of human rights was closely linked to sustainable development.  The United Nations Charter urged the international community to promote human rights and preserve fundamental freedoms.  Having hosted three international conferences to address the humanitarian situation in Syria, Kuwait called for a concerted international effort to find a political settlement to the crisis.  Her Government also strongly condemned Israel for violating the most fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

Mr. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said international cooperation was increasingly important and the United Nations must ensure ongoing dialogue between States.  While the Council played a particularly crucial role, its agenda had become a tool for airing political grievances and demonizing certain States.  Citing certain dubious actions that had diluted the work of intergovernmental bodies, he said the Council itself was becoming a platform to test-run politically loaded matters.  United Nations bodies with human rights mandates should not encroach on matters of international security, development, counter-terrorism and human trafficking.  They must also have limits and avoid duplication.  The Council’s agenda went beyond its mandate and jurisdiction, he said, expressing alarm at “relentless efforts” to bring up other matters, including issues of sexual orientation and gender identity.  Overstepping its mandate was becoming a typical characteristic of the Council.  While welcoming the objectivity of the universal periodic review process, he raised concerns about other worrisome trends that could discredit the work of the United Nations in protecting and promoting human rights.

MAHESH KUMAR (India) said that intrusive monitoring and finger-pointing while dealing with specific human rights situations was inimical to the Council’s objectives.  The Council must continue to strengthen its adherence to principles of universality, transparency, impartiality, objectivity and non-selectivity, bearing in mind the significance of national and regional particularities and historical, cultural and religious backgrounds.  The universal periodic review mechanism provided a forum for non-politicized, non-selective and non-confrontational discussions.  The mechanism should not be adjusted, as any such attempt could dilute the universal support it currently enjoyed.  Related issues could not be approached in isolation, nor could addressing them ignore the complex relationship between human rights, development, democracy and international cooperation, he said.

AISHA NQEEM (Maldives) underlined the importance of the Council’s work, as human rights violations and abuses were rapidly increasing.  The universal periodic review process had come to be widely recognized as the biggest achievement of the Council.  Special attention must be given to the situation in Syria, particularly the grave human rights violations being committed in Aleppo, she said.  She called on the Council to step up efforts and adopt a more proactive role in addressing the grave violations being committed against the women, men and children there and the violations Israel was committing against the Palestinian people.  As a small island developing State at the forefront of climate consequences, Maldives had long advocated that the climate change issue and its impact on populations be viewed through a human rights lens.  Despite its limitation, Maldives had maintained a strong presence at the Council.  “We are proud to have given a voice to the smallest members of the international community,” she added.

OLIVIER MARC ZEHNDER (Switzerland) said the draft resolution on the Human Rights Council’s report was not necessary, as it aimed at isolating Council resolution 32/2 in its call to defer its consideration.  The relationship between human rights and peace and security was worthy of special attention, not least because of its conflict-prevention potential.  While the Council’s increasing workload had confirmed the relevance of its mandate, that pace was not sustainable over the medium-term.  It was crucial to continue reflecting on optimizing working methods and implementing relevant proposals to do so.  Stressing the importance of improving its working atmosphere, he pointed out a lack of transparency in a number of negotiations and resolutions, a growing and combined use of written and oral amendments and requests to vote on concerns that had never been expressed during informal negotiations.  Such issues fostered a mood of confrontation, he said, calling on all States to work constructively to enhance the body’s credibility and efficiency.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) said his Government had always been a strong defender of the Council’s independent efforts to protect human rights and believed that the body should be placed on an equal footing with the United Nations main organs.  Among other things, he said, the Council had increased dialogue between States on crucial human rights issues.  Expressing concern over recent actions aimed at undermining the Council’s legitimacy, including questions posed about the legal basis for its appointment of an Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, he said it was unacceptable that attempts, through the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), had been made to disregard the mandates created by the Council.  Pointing to other important issues on the body’s agenda, he spotlighted the protection of the rights of older persons and the consideration of human rights and transitional justice, noting that the latter could contribute to the prevention of grave violations of human rights and international law.

KATALIN ANNAMÁRIA BOGYAY (Hungary) said her country had been active in the work of the Council, having led various initiatives on a number of thematic issues, including the independence of the judiciary and the prevention of reprisals against individuals cooperating with the United Nations.  Hungary had also facilitated the exchange of views and disseminated knowledge about the Council and its mechanisms.  In that regard, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade had continued to host the annual Budapest Human Rights Forum, which had been launched in 2008.  The upcoming forum would focus on major human rights issues such as the prevention of mass atrocities and the implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

NELLY SHILO (Israel) said special items, politicized debates, preposterous reports and unfounded accusations characterized the attitude of the Council towards Israel.  “Instead of trampling in the political swamp,” she said, “it was crucial that the Human Rights Council finally focus on promoting human rights.”  The United Nations faced an unending list of calls to address the situation in Syria.  Meanwhile, others worldwide continued to face torture, rape and starvation.  Israel was a strong democracy in the Middle East region.  While facing many security challenges, Israel would remain fully committed to upholding human rights and would continue to firmly object any attempts for the political abuse of the Council.

VERONICA GARCIA GUTIERREZ (Costa Rica) said the work of the universal periodic review was guided by principles of cooperation and constructive dialogue.  She reiterated firm support for the Council’s work and its independence while expressing concern that some practices could undermine its legitimacy.  The Council must be recognized as the main international body to promote and protect human rights, and all efforts must be focused on strengthening that system.  Costa Rica had historically been committed to human rights.  To stray from independence would be to deny the universality of human rights, she said, adding that the system could be further refined through increasing support and maximizing resources and capacities.  The Council must avoid scattering its efforts and must focus on grave and systematic violations around the world.  Women, children and the most vulnerable deserved the protection of the international community now more than ever before.

MAY-ELIN STENER (Norway) stressed that when the Council adopted a resolution, the General Assembly had no role in reopening or overturning those decisions.  Such a step undermined the very role and independent mandate that States had given that body.  She called on States to respect the Council’s decisions, including those specifically establishing special mandate holders.  “There is no shortage of rights to be implemented,” she said.  “It is the implementation itself that is the problem.”  Special mandate holders were crucial to implementing commitments that had been made.  Norway was disappointed and troubled by the decision to again bring forward a resolution in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), aiming at reopening the Council’s report.  She strongly opposed the attempt to defer the decision establishing the Independent Expert on the protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, stressing that the attempted deferral had no legal basis.

CARLOS ARTURO MORALES LÓPEZ (Colombia), spotlighting the Council’s transformative impact on the lives of millions of people around the world, emphasized the need to continue to work towards streamlining the number of resolutions to be adopted and items to be considered.  Noting that controversy and dispute were inherent in the Council’s work, he stressed that “we should not fear the differences” that arose between States, as critical and constructive debate was positive and enabled gradual progress towards consensus.  In that regard, he called on Member States to avoid polarization and redouble their efforts to strengthen the Council’s work.

THERESE RODRIGUEZ CANTADA (Philippines) said her country remained committed to actively participating in the Council’s work, while recognizing the growing complexity and breadth of human rights issues.  The performance of special procedures mandate holders must always be in accordance with General Assembly resolution 60/251, which recognized that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principles of cooperation and strengthening the capacity of Member States to comply with their obligations.  The universal periodic review was a very useful tool in upholding and allowing Governments concerned and members of the international community to engage with each other.  However, the review process should not be the “end-all and be-all” of the human rights protection process.  Given that migrants were recognized as positive contributors to inclusive and sustainable development in origin, transit and destination countries, she urged everyone to respect their economic, social and cultural rights.

TAMTA KUPRADZE (Georgia) said that, over the past decade, the Council had stood at the forefront of protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Nevertheless, systematic human rights violations remained a common phenomenon worldwide, and violence and brutality continued to infest the world.  Welcoming the body’s work in addressing the human rights situation in Syria, Ukraine, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, South Sudan, Burundi and other countries, as well as its adoption of several landmark thematic resolutions, she underscored the importance of universally applying universal periodic review regulations.  The effective participation of civil society representatives in the Council’s work was instrumental, she said, noting that such organizations were actively involved in all of Georgia’s major reform processes.  The basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of residents of Georgia’s occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions continued to be violated in a systematic manner.  The attention of the Council and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to that matter was of paramount importance.

DARYNA HORBACHOVA (Ukraine), associating himself with the European Union delegation, said his country had been suffering from military aggression and the grave human rights violations caused by the Russian Federation.  The human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine continued to document numerous compelling accounts of violations, he said, expressing concern that international organizations still had no access to Crimea, where the situation was worsening.   The systemic character of the ongoing situation required a separate detailed OHCHR report.  Transparency, dialogue and cooperation were essential in achieving human rights around the world.  Further evidence-based research must advance understanding and ensure the effective implementation of measures that could prevent human rights violations.  In that regard, the Council had adopted a resolution requesting an expert workshop be held to discuss the role of civil society and other groups.  Despite challenges in the field of security, Ukraine had embarked on the path of comprehensive reform, with human rights at its core.

MOHAMMAD REZA GHAEBI (Iran) said the universal periodic review had the potential to translate human rights discourse from confrontational to cooperative.  Iran had begun implementing the latest review recommendations.  Despite the existence of cooperative mechanisms, it was regrettable that certain countries were persistent in continuing their “worn-out policy of confrontation”.  Their sinister ways of politicizing human rights was hard to comprehend, he said, urging them to stop “naming and shaming”.  He disassociated himself with part of the report that included the situation in Iran.  The Council should firmly maintain its fairness and mutual respect for different religions, values and cultures, and should refrain from imposing a single lifestyle on others, he said, emphasizing that Iran did not recognize the body’s work in sexual orientation or gender identity.  He highlighted the important role of the Council in confronting and addressing violent extremism and raising global awareness towards the imminent threat of terrorism, which was “creeping throughout the Middle East” and beyond.

MICHEL TOMMO MONTHE (Cameroon), associating himself with the African Group, said the Council served as a platform for dialogue and exchange of views between States on human rights issues.  Cameroon hosted the United Nations Sub-regional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, which held capacity-building seminars on human rights and submitted regular activity reports to the Assembly and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Expressing hope that the latter would provide increased attention to the Centre and bolster its financial and human resources, he went on to say that human rights were enshrined in Cameroon’s Constitution and its national laws, policies and programmes.  Among other things, his Government published an annual report on efforts to promote and protect civil, political, economic and cultural rights, in particular those of vulnerable groups.  In December 2015, Cameroon had also adopted a national action plan for the protection and promotion of human rights.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), emphasizing the Council’s importance as the most appropriate international human rights mechanism, said the body was faced with new burdens emerging from recent increases in conflict, extremism and terrorism.  Spotlighting the gravity of the violations committed against the Palestinian and Syrian people in particular — which required the prompt attention of the international community — she said Qatar was sparing no effort to address those matters and ensure peace throughout the world.  Among other things, the country was working to build the capacity of States to address human rights violations and it had launched numerous initiatives aimed at promoting the right to education, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities and ending human trafficking.

Right of Reply

The representative of the Russian Federation, replying to the statements by Georgia and Ukraine, said that Georgia should recognize the political reality on the ground.  South Ossetia and Abkhazia existed as autonomous republics and any concerns of human rights there could be referred to their governments.  In regards to the Ukraine, the people of Crimea and Sevastopol had voted and, just like any other individuals under the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation, enjoyed all the human rights ensured under Russian law.  If they had any concerns, the appropriate Russian bodies would respond to them accordingly.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea called the accusations made by the European Union groundless and said that the European Union was the main violator of human rights.  The European Union had a “deplorable” human rights record, especially in its treatment of refugees, who were far from being protected.  The European Union and other Western countries should address their own human rights records first and refrain from interfering in the sovereignty of other countries.  They should focus on engaging in constructive dialogue instead.

The representative of Georgia, replying to the Russian Federation, said that she did not mention the Russian Federation in her statement.  In regards to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, she said that the Russian Federation was an occupying Power and that human rights were systematically violated in those territories.  She reiterated her call for the monitoring of human rights in the occupied territories and said that given the Russian Federation’s role as occupying Power, its statements on the matter had no credibility.

The representative of Ukraine, responding, stressed that the conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk had begun with the Russian Federation’s occupation of Crimea.

News

AU Advisory Body Slams International Criminal Court

by Nick Long July 16, 2016
Ahead of an African Union summit that begins Sunday, a key advisory body of the organization has condemned the International Criminal Court, saying its focus has been limited to Africa since its founding in 2002.
The Econom…