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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL ADVISORY DISCUSSES TERRORIST HOSTAGE-TAKING AND INTERNATIONAL SOLIDARITY
7 August 2012

The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee today discussed issues relating to human rights and terrorist hostage-taking and human rights and international solidarity.

With regards to human rights and issues related to terrorist hostage-taking,
Wolfgang Stefan Heinz, Rapporteur of the Drafting Group and Committee Expert, introducing the first progress report (A/HRC/AC/9/CRP.1), said that it looked at the phenomenon of terrorist hostage-taking and the data on its impact on individuals and communities.  The experience of States and regional and international organizations would be addressed in the next stage of the research.  The problematic areas were drafting of recommendations on human rights based measures to address terrorist hostage-taking and the position of ransom payment which would take into account the needs of States and victims and their families.

Committee Experts said that the Committee should provide its own views on terrorist hostage-taking and so broaden the current politically-motivated approaches of States to terrorism and terrorist hostage-taking.  Addressing the human rights dimension of the phenomenon was where the expertise of this Committee was and the study should talk about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and other human rights instruments.  With regard to ransom payment, some Experts noted it was for States to decide what to do, but that the rights of victims and their families must be taken into consideration.

Algeria said that the report confirmed that terrorist hostage-taking was on the increase and reiterated the need for action by the international community to reduce the phenomenon and its impact on communities.

The following Committee members spoke on terrorist hostage-taking: Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Vladimir Kartashkin, Halima Embarek Warzazi, Coco Quisumbing, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Mona Zulficar, Laurence Boisson de Chazournes, Shiqiu Chen, Jean Ziegler, Obiora Chinedu Okafor and Alfred Ntunduguru Karokora.  Algeria also took the floor on this topic.

Concerning the issue of human rights and international solidarity, Shiqiu Chen, Chairperson of the Drafting Group and Committee Expert, introduced the draft final paper on human rights and international solidarity (A/HRC/AC/9/4) and said that the Committee was tasked to provide inputs to the work of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity on the draft declaration on the rights of peoples and individuals to international solidarity, and to the further development of guidelines, standards, norms and principles with a view to promoting and protecting that right.  Mr. Chen expressed the hope that the Advisory Committee would finalize the paper during this session and submit it to the Human Rights Council as requested.

Several Experts noted that the text referred to an ideal world in which the right to peace or the right to international solidarity were far from becoming a reality and suggested the re-drafting of some of the conditions to make them more realistic, less absolute and more helpful to the Independent Expert in drafting the text of the declaration.  Another Expert said that the Advisory Committee should not be too down to earth in its work and should not be stopped from dreaming about a better world.

Latif Hüseynov, Committee Chairperson, invited the Drafting Group to take on board comments and suggestions made by the Experts in the revision of the text.

Committee Experts speaking on the topic of human rights and international solidarity were Shigeki Sakamoto, Shiqiu Chen, José Antonio Bengoa Cabello, Mona Zulficar, Halima Embarek Warzazi, Ahmer Bilal Soofi, Vladimir Kartashkin, Dheerujlall Seetulsingh, Coco Quisumbing, Anantonia Reyes Prado and Latif Hüseynov.

The next public meeting of the Advisory Committee will be held on Wednesday, 8 August at 11 a.m., when it is scheduled to discuss the right to food of the urban poor.

Progress Report on Human Rights and Issues Related to Terrorist Hostage-taking (A/HRC/AC/9/CRP.1)

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Rapporteur of the Drafting Group on Terrorist Hostage-taking, said that the Advisory Committee had been mandated to look into specific issues related to terrorist hostage-taking, namely on the impact of the phenomenon on the human rights of victims and communities, and the role of regional mechanisms and cooperation in this field.  The Advisory Committee was asked to avoid duplication of the work done by other United Nations bodies on this subject.  The first progress report looked at the phenomenon of terrorist hostage-taking and the data on its impact on individuals and communities, as well as the effectiveness of international law in this regard.  The experience of States and regional and international organizations with terrorist hostage-taking would be addressed in the next stage of the research.  The Drafting Group would probably send out a letter to States and regional and international organizations to collect their experiences and practices.  The second progress report would be presented during the February 2013 session of the Advisory Committee.  The progress report contained recommendations on how to address terrorist hostage-taking, especially if the phenomenon increased, which was problematic because the Committee could not advise measures that involved use of force.  The issue of ransom was another problematic area; most States refused to pay ransom to avoid financing terrorist groups, but the interests and needs of families were different.  The report laid out the problem and demonstrated issues and problems but did not offer a position on ransom payment.  The final report would be presented in time to allow for its translation into all United Nations official languages.

AHMER BILAL SOOFI, Committee Expert, asked for a clarification concerning the recommendations in the preliminary report on the issue of ransom payments, because there was a contradiction between the text of the report and the presentation by Mr. Heinz.

VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Committee Expert, expressed hope that the next report would provide more details on specific issues and regretted that the present report was not translated into Russian, which would enable comparison between the original and translated text.  One of the objectives of studies by the Advisory Committee was to produce its own point of view on phenomena and provide its own assessment of issues at hand.  The Committee should provide its own view on terrorist hostage-taking and contribute to its definition.  Mr. Kartashkin recommended and expressed hope that the report, which was a timely one, would broaden the current approaches of States on issues of terrorism and terrorist hostage-taking, which were politically motivated.

HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Committee Expert, expressed her dissatisfaction with the approach of the international community to the phenomenon of terrorism and the lack of progress in addressing it.  The African Union had adopted a decision condemning the payment of ransom, but the impact on terrorism of that decision was negligible.  The Committee could not take a decision on ransom payments; it was for States to decide what to do.  Families and victims and their rights must be taken into consideration too.  The scourge must be stopped and this could be achieved with firm, definite and consistent measures by affected countries.

COCO QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, commended the research supporting the first progress report and recommended research into the application of international and regional human rights instruments on issues of terrorist hostage-taking.  Addressing the human rights dimension of the phenomenon was where the expertise of this Committee was and the study should talk about the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other human rights instruments.  The terrorist hostage-taking incidents often happened in developing countries, while victims were often Westerners.  Hostage situations were often portrayed as larger situations than assumed because many considerations of political and other nature played a part.  Hostage-taking was a niche problem, but it could also be looked into as a problem of national security and law enforcement, in which case there were human rights considerations that had to be kept in mind and observed.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that the Advisory Committee was called upon by the Human Rights Council to prepare a study, not guidelines or a draft convention on terrorist hostage-taking.  The study was for purposes of promoting awareness and understanding of the issue.  Since the study had educational purposes, it could include case studies of specific instances where ransom had been paid and the impact of this.

MONA ZULFICAR, Committee Expert, said that the role of the Advisory Committee was also to help the international community come to a consensus on difficult issues, in the interest of the promotion and protection of human rights.  The Committee was mandated to promote a better understanding of the situation and the impact of terrorist hostage-taking on victims and their families and on affected communities and countries.

LAURENCE BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES, Committee Expert, commended the new methodological approach in the drafting of the report which involved the use of a consultant and recommended that this practice continued.  Terrorist hostage-taking was first and foremost a political problem and not a human rights problem.  The issue of responsibilities needed to be addressed and the report should explore responsibilities of all actors in this field, with a particular focus on State responsibility.  Legal aspects of ransom payment should be explored before taking a position.

SHIQIU CHEN, Committee Expert, welcomed the report and said that taking a position on ransom payment was a difficult one.  Root causes of terrorist hostage-taking should be understood first and addressing armed conflict, extreme poverty and other causes could contribute to reducing the phenomenon.  The international community should also come with measures based on international solidarity to assist and build the capacity of affected States to deal effectively with those problems.

JEAN ZIEGLER, Committee Expert, commended the Drafting Group for the report and asked for a clarification of the recommendation concerning the adoption of a new instrument to criminalize ransom payment.  Mr. Ziegler noted that people on the ground, including United Nations peacekeepers, dealt with the problems of the terrorist hostage-taking on a regular basis, including negotiating ransom payments with militias and other groups.  The discussions in the Committee would assist them and provide some legal guidance in dealing with the issue.

OBIORA CHINEDU OKAFOR, Committee Expert, said that in order to fulfil its goal, the Drafting Group needed to respond to the questions it was asked: the impact of terrorist hostage-taking on human rights of hostages and their families, and the impact on the surrounding community as secondary victims, and the Group should also investigate whether ransom payments compounded the problem.  Those issues should loom larger in the final study, which could include case studies on ransom payment and their impact on the phenomenon.

COCO QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said that studying the impact of ransom payment would be a major challenge because it was seldom admitted that ransom had indeed been paid.  The study should focus on exploring the socio-economic impact of terrorist hostage-taking and on the interplay between terrorism and the enjoyment of human rights.

Algeria asked for clarification on the timeframe for the submission of the final report to the Human Rights Council.  The report confirmed that terrorist hostage-taking was on the increase and reiterated the need for action by the international community to reduce the phenomenon and its impact on communities.  Algeria encouraged the Committee to further explore the international instrument criminalizing ransom payment.

ALFRED NTUNDUGURU KAROKORA, Committee Expert, agreed that hostage-takers were criminals.  However, the Advisory Committee should not recommend criminalizing those who paid ransom to free their loved ones.

WOLFGANG STEFAN HEINZ, Rapporteur of the Drafting Group on Terrorist Hostage-taking, in closing remarks welcomed the suggestions and remarks by the Experts and said that the Drafting Group would definitely look into the more prominent role of human rights instruments, but noted that the report was of limited length and was meant to not duplicate the work of other United Nations bodies and mechanisms.  The proposal was to prepare a short paper focusing on the most important and specific issues and not those issues already explored by others.  With regard to ransom payment, Mr. Heinz recommended caution in taking a definite position on this issue, but also invited Experts to propose a specific language if they felt that the Advisory Committee should take a firm position.  The report recommended that States should abide by existing commitments in fighting terrorist hostage-taking, consider adoption of international instrument criminalizing the payment of ransom, and address the phenomenon within the wider normative and institutional framework aimed at combating terrorism in general.

HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Committee Expert, welcomed the caution in taking a position on the issue on payment of ransom and suggested soliciting the views of affected countries on what they had done to combat the scourge of terrorism.

COCO QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, noted that the international cooperation part could be more strongly addressed in the report and that the report could encourage the inclusion of human rights dimensions into discussions to counter terrorism and provide justice and reparation to victims.

Draft Final Paper on Human Rights and International Solidarity (A/HRC/AC/9/4)

SHIQIU CHEN, Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Drafting Group on Human Rights and International Solidarity and Committee Expert, introduced the draft final paper on this issue and said that the task was to provide inputs to the work of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.  The Geneva workshop held in June 2012 saw a productive exchange between the participants, and their comments and suggestions had already been included in the revised draft final paper.  The document contained seven sections on definition and scope, normative framework, value and importance of the right to international solidarity, norms and principles, basic guidelines, and measures and methods.  Mr. Chen expressed the hope that the Advisory Committee would finalize this paper during this session and submit it to the Human Rights Council as mandated.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, said that the Advisory Committee had been mandated by the Human Rights Council to assist the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity to develop a draft declaration on the rights of peoples and individuals to intentional solidarity, and to the further development of guidelines, standards, norms and principles with a view to promoting and protecting that right.  In this context, members of the Advisory Committee had participated in the expert workshop on human rights and international solidarity which had taken place on 7 and 8 June 2012 in Geneva, Switzerland, in which many mandate holders, experts and representatives of United Nations bodies and agencies had taken part.  The participants had expressed their views as to how the objectives of the draft declaration could be achieved, taking up issues such as small arms trade, foreign debt, post-2015 and post-the Millennium Development Goals agendas and developments.  Another issue taken up by the participants was foreign aid and whether it had been of use to developing countries.  The ultimate question was whether and how international solidarity could achieve betterment in the world.  The draft declaration had not been received with unanimity and a number of States had voted against it, which meant that there would be further discussions on the topic. 

SHIGEKI SAKAMOTO, Committee Expert, welcomed the draft final paper and proposed a small amendment to the text.

SHIQIU CHEN, Committee Expert, welcomed the suggestion by Mr. Sakamoto and asked whether all the Experts had received the draft final paper.

JOSÉ ANTONIO BENGOA CABELLO, Committee Expert, said that the Human Rights Council had been requesting the Advisory Committee to examine rather abstract issues such as the right to peace or the right to international solidarity and international cooperation.  Mr. Bengoa Cabello found it schizophrenic because it was sufficient to switch on the television and see that those rights were far from reality.  There was very little that the Advisory Committee could do about those issues as it did not have the mandate of the United Nations Security Council, for example.

MONA ZULFICAR, Committee Expert, said that the text referred to a world that was ideal and spoke of academic and theoretical construction of principles not rooted in the real life in which all lived.  The Advisory Committee should consider re-drafting of conditions to make them more realistic, less absolute and more in line with the operational provisions and norms.  This would also be more helpful to the Independent Expert in drafting the text of the declaration.

HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Committee Expert, said that the Advisory Committee was not allowed to make proposals that would be taken into account by the Human Rights Council; but the one thing where the Advisory Committee could not be stopped was in dreaming about a better world.  The Advisory Committee should not be too down to earth in its work and should keep trying even if the Council would not hear its voice.

MONA ZULFICAR, Committee Expert, said that the Drafting Group had done a very good work and clarified that the comments she made previously referred to the norms and principles sections of the paper.  The proposal was to review the drafting of that section so that the wording of the section was more familiar and gave the impression of being more realistic and achievable.

AHMER BILAL SOOFI, Committee Expert, said that solidarity did exist in some forms and that there were previous commitments by the international community.  The report brought out very specific elements of international solidarity and was a substantive contribution to addressing the issue that had never been addressed before.  Even though vague, it did provide useful elements for the Council to consider and examine.

VLADIMIR KARTASHKIN, Committee Expert, drew the attention of the Committee to the sections on norms and principles and said that the text should try and demonstrate how they were implemented in practice and in other parts on international relations.

DHEERUJLALL SEETULSINGH, Committee Expert, thought that the debate should be placed in its proper context and that there were theoretical and practical aspects of the mandate given to the Advisory Committee in this task. 

COCO QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said that declarations often took a long time to adopt, while guidelines might be a more effective way to approach the issue because of their faster adoption, perhaps because they were not seen as binding like declarations. 

HALIMA EMBAREK WARZAZI, Committee Expert, wondered about the difference between Independent Expert and Special Rapporteur and what it meant for their mandates.

COCO QUISUMBING, Committee Expert, said that Special Rapporteur addressed more sensitive situations, be they thematic or country specific.

SHIQIU CHEN, Committee Expert, in closing remarks said that the mandate to draft this text was quite challenging as the issue was a highly controversial one.  The Human Rights Council resolution to the subject was adopted by a vote, with quite a number of States opposing it.  International solidarity was something the world wished could be achieved.  The Advisory Committee should be carful not to present those objectives as utopian and something that could never be achieved.  The United Nations Charter provided interesting lessons in the realization of certain principles, as was the existence of the United Nations itself.  The Committee’s mandate in this regard was clear: it was not tasked with drafting a resolution or guidelines, but to provide input into the work of the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.  The paper would be submitted to the Human Rights Council as requested by the resolution; its content was drawn from all the existing commitments and responsibilities arising from the United Nations documents and documents of other relevant bodies, including complete disarmament. 

ANANTONIA REYES PRADO, Committee Expert, said that international solidarity and cooperation must involve transparency and accountability and those words should be added to the text.

LATIF HÜSEYNOV, Committee Chairperson, said that a number of Experts made suggestions for changes in the text and invited the Drafting Group to look into those comments and take them onboard.


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AC12/011E