HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS GENERAL DEBATE ON IMPLEMENTATION OF THE VIENNA DECLARATION AND PROGRAMME OF ACTION
27 September 2011
The Human Rights Council this morning held its general debate on the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.
During the general debate speakers indicated that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, adopted in 1993, constituted a milestone in many respects. It reaffirmed the importance of fighting impunity in expressing its concern about the issue and in calling on States to abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations such as torture and to prosecute such violations, thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Some speakers expressed concerns about countries that had not persecuted perpetrators and failed to hold them accountable and said they had therefore fully supported the recent action of this Council to appoint Special Procedures and dispatch Commissions of Inquiry when Governments were unwilling to investigate human rights violations. Concern was also raised about persistent cases of persecution of human rights defenders and speakers condemned all acts of intimidation and violence against them. Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.
The Vienna Declaration was one of the guiding documents on promoting and protecting human rights around the world, speakers said. The right to development was a universal human right and the Vienna Declaration called on the international community to promote international cooperation to ensure the right to development, including exerting all efforts to reduce the debt burden of developing countries. The human rights of women and girls were inalienable and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called for female participation in all forms of political, social and cultural life as well as efforts to combat violence against women. Freedom of the media was essential for efficient human rights education. The Vienna Declaration also underlined the importance of the media, for whom freedom and protection should be guaranteed within the framework of national law. According to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, special attention should be paid to ensuring non discrimination and the equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, including their active participation in all aspects of society.
Poland, Uruguay, United States, China, Algeria, Slovenia, Azerbaijan and Morocco took the floor during the general debate.
Representatives from Movement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, International Association Against Torture, Organisation pour la Communication en Afrique et de Promotion de la Cooperation Economique Internationale, Verein Sudwind, Press Emblem Campaign, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, World Muslim Congress, Agence International pour le Developpement, World Environnent Resource Council, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, Liberation, International Buddhist Relief Organisation, Comité International pour le Respect et l’Application de la Charte Africaine des Droits de l’Homme et des Peuples, Action international pour la paix et le développement dans la région des Grands Lacs, Commission to study the organization of Peace, and International Harm Reduction Association also made statements.
The Council will be meeting from 10:30 a.m. to noon in private to take up its Complaint Procedure. At noon, the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism and the Working Group on people of African descent. This afternoon at 3 p.m. the Council will hear the report of the Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards before holding a general debate on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance.
General Debate on “Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action
REMIGIUSZ A. HENCZEL (Poland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted in 1993 in a spirit of cooperation and trust to create a better future for humanity. The Vienna Declaration was firm about the importance of fighting impunity in expressing its concern about the issue and in calling on States to abrogate legislation leading to impunity for those responsible for grave violations such as torture and to prosecute such violations, thereby providing a firm basis for the rule of law. The European Union was concerned about countries that had not persecuted perpetrators and failed to hold them accountable and had therefore fully supported the recent action of this Council to appoint Special Procedures and dispatch Commissions of Inquiry when Governments were unwilling to investigate human rights violations. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had grown into a structure that employed a staff of more than 1,000 with a presence in many countries across the globe. The European Union could not support any attempt to interfere with the established programme and budget oversight mechanisms that operated in New York and with the letter and spirit of General Assembly resolution 60/251. The European Union was concerned about persistent cases of persecution of human rights defenders and condemned all acts of intimidation and violence against them. The European Union also refuted any attempts to endanger journalists in their profession or to censor the Internet or media.
FEDERICO PERAZZA (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of the Common Southern Market (MERCOSUR), said MERCOSUR had many instruments and mechanisms aiming to defend human rights and it had also created mechanisms on the rights of the elderly and on child migrants. MERCOSUR had resolved to support the International Labour Organization Convention on decent standards for domestic workers. MERCOSUR had conducted awareness raising campaigns for the rights of migrants and refugees. MERCOSUR had a standing committee that exchanged experiences on Memory, Truth and Justice and suggested methods of restitution. MERCOSUR was following closely the discussion on the possible creation of a Special Rapporteur on the right to truth and reconciliation. MERCOSUR had met with representatives of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the region and discussed implementation strategies on recommendations from the Universal Periodic Review. MERCOSUR had submitted a draft resolution on the incompatibility of democracy and racism and hoped it would find support in the Human Rights Council.
EILEEN CHAMBERLAIN DONAHOE (United States) said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed the universality of human rights and fundamental freedoms to which the United States and other members of the Council were committed. The United States called upon governments to promote and protect human rights in the context of peaceful protests, thus honouring obligations that were clearly reaffirmed as universal in the Vienna Declaration. The United States remained deeply troubled by the continued use of violence by some governments to quash universal rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, strongly condemned brutal methods of silencing dissent and encouraged all States to renew their commitments to upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. Democracy, development and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms were interdependent and mutually reinforcing. Accordingly, the United States asked the Council to consider ways to work constructively and make the right to development a uniting, rather than divisive issue on the international human rights agenda. While the United States was committed to international development both in words and action, it had significant concerns about some understandings and interpretations of the right to development. The United States remained firmly committed to ensuring that the human rights of all persons were protected. The danger was particularly acute for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, whose very existence was denied by some governments. The Council had taken bold, assertive action to highlight violence and human rights facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons, creating the first United Nations resolution solely focused on the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons. The resolution commissioned the first United Nations report on challenges faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons around the world and paved the way for sustained Council action on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in the future.
YANG CHUANHUI (China) said that 18 years ago the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had been adopted and became one of the guiding documents on promoting and protecting human rights around the world. The right to development was a universal human right and the Vienna Declaration called on the international community to promote international cooperation in ensuring the right to development, including exerting all efforts to reduce the debt burden of developing countries. China was the first country in the world to reach the Millennium Development Goal on poverty reduction and had recently provided more than Chinese Yuan 400 million in food aid to the stricken countries in the Horn of Africa. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action also pointed out that the human rights of women and girls were inalienable and called for female participation in all forms of political, social and cultural life as well as efforts to combat violence against women. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action established the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote and protect human rights around the world. Although the Government of China commended the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, at the same time there had been slow progress in poverty reduction. China was concerned that 60 per cent of the Office’s daily operation costs came from voluntary contributions and hoped that the source and expenditure of the funds would be transparent to Member States so that they could know in which areas the Office faced difficulties. China urged all States to promote the rights of women and the right to development.
BOUALEM CHEBIH (Algeria) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was a milestone in the promotion of human rights. Many developing countries faced the high cost of life through the consequences of the global economy and drought. This was the situation in the Horn of Africa. International help should go not only though emergency aid but also through the creation of an environment conducive to development. Under the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, Algeria was aiming to promote the rights of women and encouraged a greater role of women in decision making processes. Algeria had submitted a draft law that composed important reforms. At least 30 per cent of this law had now been read by parliament. The international community should take measures to end foreign occupation based on the right to self-determination.
URSKA CAS SVETEK (Slovenia) said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action was a milestone in many respects. Slovenia underlined the World Programme for Human Rights Education in promoting the establishment of national programmes, strategies and policies for human rights education in different segments. States along with other actors and expert bodies had made important progress regarding human rights education since the adoption of the Vienna Declaration. As a member of the platform for human rights education, Slovenia expressed satisfaction over the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training in the Council. Freedom of the media was essential for efficient human rights education. The Vienna Declaration also underlined the importance of the media, for whom freedom and protection should be guaranteed within the framework of national law. Media freedom was still a challenge for States all over the world. Slovenia expressed concerns over the repression of free press among others in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Sudan and others, and called on all States to stand in line with the Vienna Declaration guarantee of freedom and protection of the media within the framework of national law. The Council should render hope and meaning to the work of countless nameless people around the world seeking to uncover human rights violations and demanding justice for the perpetrators.
SAMIRA SAFAROVA (Azerbaijan) said that according to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, special attention should be paid to ensuring non discrimination and the equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by persons with disabilities, including their active participation in all aspects of society. The Government of Azerbaijan was of the view that the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities formed a universal framework for the promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities and referring to Article 32 of the Convention, would like to focus on the issue of international cooperation in this field. The thematic study by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the role of international cooperation in support of national efforts to realize the rights of persons with disabilities indicated that international cooperation had not appeared to have consistently applied a twin-track approach, as cooperation focused overwhelmingly on disability specific projects and less on mainstreaming disability rights into broader international cooperation. Azerbaijan shared the view that international cooperation should encompass not only capacity building, information sharing, training and development cooperation but also other possible areas of cooperation such as research, technology transfer and humanitarian assistance.
HASSANE BOUKILI, of (Morocco) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action focused on human rights. The basic principle was for States to promote human rights on the territories that they had control over. One Member State must take up its responsibility that it had avoided by claiming it had passed this responsibility to local forces. This was a flagrant breach. Two principles of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were territorial integrity and self-determination. The objective shared by the two principles was to establish territorial integrity by democracy taking into account local peculiarities. It was only by negotiations that cooperation between neighbours would be achieved.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l'amitié entre les peuples, in a joint statement with Women's Human Rights International Association, International Educational Development and France Libertés – Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said that the World Conference in 1993 reiterated people’s rights to self-determination and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development. This was a core right enshrined in the Charter and the human rights covenants, and was not subject to restrictions by governments or occupying powers. The popular uprisings witnessed this year brought to the forefront people’s rights to self-determination and to enjoy democracy within their own boundaries. They welcomed the decision by the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees to consider the demands for asylum put forward by the inhabitants of camp Ashraf in Iraq; and appealed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights to send a mission to Ashraf to investigate the massacres that took place in July 2009 and April 2011.
ANDREA CALFUNAO, of International Association Against Torture, said that in Chile Mapuche women were the most affected. Many such women had seen their familes broken apart and suffered from discrimination and political persecution. Under the mandate of Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile, a high number of Mapuche women suffered severe human rights violations. Some were arrested and detained under inexistent laws, their rights were severely violated and these events were denounced. Chile had ratified many International Labour Organization conventions on women and labour rights. States that ratified such conventions were committed to promoting equal opportunities. Such conventions must be backed up by a will to implement and these were rights to which women and in particular Mapuche women did not have access to.
SARDAR AMJAD YOUSAF KHAN, of Organisation pour la communication en Afrique et de promotion de la coopération économique internationale (OCAPROCE International), said that there was an issue of enforced and involuntary disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir where over 10,000 people had gone missing while in custody. Around 3,000 of them were married and their wives had assumed the title of half widows, half wives, and had to wait for an investigation. The recent report released after a probe by the investigative wing of the State Human Rights Commission of Jammu and Kashmir revealed that there were 21 unmarked graves in Baramulla, 3 each in Bandipore and Handwara and 11 in Kupwara. The Council should consider with urgency this issue before the remains in the unmarked graves were destroyed and hundreds of half widows would lose the opportunity of starting a new life.
SHOLEH ZAMINI, of Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had emphasized the universality and indivisibility of all human rights; 18 years after the adoption of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, a State in the Human Rights Council had confirmed and supported juvenile execution in contradiction with the international commitments of the State. States should commit to their international obligations and no excuses based on cultural diversity, tradition or religion were acceptable for any kind of human rights violations. News reporters working for BBC Persia were accused of engaging in espionage on behalf of the news service. Sudwind urged all States to fulfill their obligations under international law as well as the Human Rights Charter and promote the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action and its Programme of Action.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Press Emblem Campaign, said States, in adopting the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, underlined the importance of objective, responsible and impartial information about human rights and humanitarian issues and encouraged the increased involvement of the media, for whom freedom and protection should be guaranteed. Since 1993 hundreds of journalists had lost their lives in performing their duty. As of today in 2011, 78 journalists had died. In Mexico 12 had died so far. A total of 30 journalists had been killed in Latin America in 9 months. The international community had to find the means and ways to better guarantee the freedom and protection of journalists.
ALTAF HUSSAIN WANT, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said violence against women and girls was one of most widespread violations of human rights.
The impact of violence against women in Indian-occupied Kashmir had received little or no attention. Rape had been systematically used as a weapon of war by the Indian Army in Indian-occupied Kashmir. A study conducted by Medicin sans Frontiers in 2005 reveled that Kashmiri women were amongst the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. The International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations urged the Government of India to facilitate the visit of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women to Indian-occupied Kashmir.
SYED FAIZ NAQSHBANDI , of World Muslim Congress, said that the people of Kashmir had been demanding their right to self-determination but India had not only denied the implementation of the United Nations resolution but was perpetuating heinous human rights violations to harass the people in Kashmir and continue its occupation. In this situation, women were the main target. Women had been kept as hostages by the Indian occupation forces and were subjected to rape and other inhuman and degrading practices as they were used as political weapons to demoralize the Kashmiri people. The Council should send a fact-finding mission to Indian-occupied Kashmir to assess the human rights violations there.
HAMDI CHERIFI, of Agence Internationale pour le Devlopment, said that the protection and promotion of human rights was the first responsibility of governments. The right to freedom of expression was a fundamental human right but there were militias that had failed to implement and respect the human rights expressed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. An example of this was the Polisaro militia which had illegally kept prisoners in their militia prison camps.
UVARAJA CHINNASWAMI KANDASAMY, of World Environment Resource Council, said equality could only be guaranteed under democratic governments. It was incumbent for the international community to encourage States to adopt democratic governments, rather than the reality of military juntas and power elites. On the political front some countries believed that providing sanctuary to terrorists was legitimate. It was not surprising that in those nations child education was at the lowest global levels. The international community should call a spade a spade and should not let diplomatic niceties impinge on progress. The twin ideals of meaningful globalization and international solidarity should be realized.
ISHTIYAQ HAMEED, of International Human Rights Association of Minorities, said Kashmiri women were among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. Some 2,157 unmarked graves were found in the four districts of the occupied valley. International Human Rights Association of Minorities had reminded the Human Rights Council of this issue since 2005.
INDRA ATHAWALT, of Liberation, said that the human rights of Dalit women who constituted eight per cent of the total Indian population faced humiliation, segregation and exclusion. The crimes against women in India forced females to live under constant fear. The law criminalized rape, including spousal rape. Official statistics pointed to rape as the fastest growing crime in the country. The UN-Jagori summary report revealed that two of three women in Delhi had been victims of sexual harassment and the situation of women from lower castes was even worse. Other problems affecting Dalit women included high education drop-out rates and high mortality rates of Dalit during delivery.
CATHERINE ACASO, of International Buddhist Relief Organization, said domestic violence was a fact of life in all societies and cultures. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recognized gender violence, including those resulting from prejudice and international trafficking. These offenses were incompatible with human rights and should be eliminated. According to the United Nations Population Fund 70 per cent of married Indian women were probably victims of such crimes. Indian husbands could hold their heads high in society even after committing acts of violence against their wives. Children who witnessed injuries could themselves become abusers at an older age. Perpetrators should be held accountable.
VIBHAWARI KAMBLE, of International Committee for the Respect and the Application of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, said one of the worst forms of discriminatory practices was the Devdasi system, meaning female servants of God, where young girls from the Dalit or untouchable communities in southern and western India, were forced to be devoted to the deity Yellamma. Under the tradition, young girls were married pre-puberty to the God and were forced to serve in the temple and upon puberty would provide a sexual service to the priests and the landlords of the village. These girls then would become the property of the males of all castes in the village and eventually would be auctioned into an urban brothel.
HASNA BOUJERFAOUI, of Action internationale pour la paix et le developpement dans la region des Grands Lacs, said the provisions of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action continued to be violated on a daily basis all over the world. In the absence of international interventions, the populations that were victims of these conflicts were at the mercy of armed militias and had no opportunity to enjoy the rights as guaranteed by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. One example of such a violation was the people imprisoned in the Polisaro camps in Tindouf. The right to self-determination was being used as a pretext and excuse to violate the human rights of individuals and the integrity of States and the persistent violations of the human rights of populations held in these camps should be addressed by the Council.
CHARANJEET AJIT SINGH, of Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, said the realization of human rights solidarity was essential. Be it floods in Pakistan or earth quakes in Japan, the mobilization of aid had been extraordinary. Often there was lacuna where political or economic considerations impacted on the degree of international support. The same was true where people were affected by violence and discrimination. Even though there was documented evidence of gender discrimination, champions of globalization were often hesitant to take action.
EKATERINE LAKODISHUMI, of International Harm Reduction Association, speaking on behalf of 30 non-governmental organizations working in areas of harm reduction and HIV/AIDS, said in two weeks State leaders would gather in Moscow for the G8 summit on the Millennium Development Goals. In Russia there were 1.7 million opiate users, accounting for 80 per cent of HIV cases. The Millennium Development Goals summit in Moscow would serve as a magnifying glass on this problem. Participants should give attention to injecting drug use and the HIV/AID epidemic in Russia.
For use of the information media; not an official record