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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE ON THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES OF LAWYERS, AND THE RIGHT TO HEALTH

Concludes Interactive Dialogue on Freedom of Opinion and Expression and on Peaceful Assembly and Association
18 June 2015

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.  It also concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.

Gabriela Knaul, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said that her thematic report this year addressed the question of protecting children’s rights in the justice system.  It went beyond the notion of juvenile justice to include the diverse experiences of children when they encountered the justice system, as victims or witnesses, or because they were in conflict with the law.  Despite the quasi-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children still counted among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse and that was why the importance of child-sensitive justice could not be overemphasized.  The Special Rapporteur also presented reports on her country visits to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Tunisia, and Portugal.

Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, said that inequalities and discrimination remained a crucial factor that hampered the full realization of the right to health and the healthy development of individuals and societies.  Unequivocal political will to apply human rights principles and standards to national normative frameworks and public policies was essential to addressing existing imbalances and power asymmetries in the formulation and implementation of health-related policies and Mr. Puras called for the promotion of a “health in all policies” approach.  In order for the health sector to play its role, healthcare systems had to be operational and well financed, as well as available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality.  Mr. Puras spoke about his visit to Malaysia.

Portugal, Qatar, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Malaysia spoke as concerned countries.  Portuguese Ombudsman and the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia also took the floor.

Speaking were the European Union, Algeria on behalf of the African Group, Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Ecuador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Syria, Israel, Venezuela, France, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia, Czech Republic, Australia,  Portugal, Estonia, Republic of Korea, Iran, Bahrain, Cuba, Norway, Namibia, Botswana, Lithuania, Hungary, Chile, Benin, New Zealand, India, Switzerland, Belgium, Thailand, Algeria, Council of Europe, Fiji, Republic of Moldova, Paraguay, Burkina Faso, South Africa, Poland, United States, Ghana, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, Slovenia, Viet Nam, Sudan, Montenegro, Togo, Panama, Sierra Leone, and State of Palestine.

Also taking the floor was the Northern Ireland Human Right Commission and the following non-governmental organizations: Allied Rainbow Communities International, Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos Asociacion Civil, Alsalam Foundation (joint statement), VIVAT International (joint statement), Agence international pour le développement, Alliance Defending Freedom, Development Innovations and Networks, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, Action Canada for Population and Development, Amnesty International, Liberation, World Barua Organization, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Human Rights Now, and Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association.  This dialogue started on 17 June and a summary can be seen here.

Several speakers expressed strong support for the principle that freedoms enjoyed offline also had to be protected online, particularly freedom of expression, and said that States had the primary responsibility to secure safe digital spaces for all individuals.  Encryption and anonymity were crucial tools in the protection of human rights defenders, journalists, activists and other vulnerable groups who needed access to safe and private communications.  A delegation said that although encryption was crucial to protecting privacy, it could also be dangerous in the hands of wrong people, such as terrorists, and that was why safeguards and limitations to the use of encryption must be in place.  Another speaker expressed concern about States increasingly focusing discussion on encryption and online anonymity on their potential use for terrorist or criminal activities. 

In the discussion on peaceful assembly and association, speakers expressed alarm that the space for civil society in many countries was being limited.  The right to freedom of peaceful assembly opened up valuable space for civil society involvement in the decision-making processes within the context of exploitation of natural resources.  States should take measures to ensure that all individuals, including human rights defenders working in the context of natural resource exploitation, were able to effectively exercise their rights.

In his concluding remarks, David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, said that a key facet of modern communications was that most communication took place online in the so-called “private space” and many expected corporate actors to protect individuals in that “private space” against harassment.  This deserved considerable study and care.

Maina Kiai, the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, in his concluding remarks reiterated his report’s call for a binding treaty on business and human rights, including both transnational and national corporations, and insisted on the need to increase space for civil society to exist, organize and challenge, and to seek and receive domestic and foreign funding. 

Togo, United Kingdom, Canada, Montenegro, Brazil, Sierra Leone, and Benin spoke in this clustered interactive dialogue, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Aliran Kesederan Negara National Consciousness Movement, Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, International Gay and Lesbian Association, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, International Service for Human Rights, Human Rights House Foundation, Article 19 (joint statement), CIVICUS, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales, Association for Progressive Communication, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Asian Legal Resource Centre, and Agence Internationale pour le Devéloppement.

The Council is holding a full day of meetings today.  At 2:30 p.m., the Council will hold a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to education and the Independent Expert on human rights and international solidarity.  At 5.15 p.m., David Donoghue, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in New York and co-facilitator for inter-governmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda, will brief the Council on the current status of negotiations.

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on freedom of opinion and expression and on peaceful assembly and association

Togo said that freedoms of opinion and expression were enshrined in its Constitution, the press could not be subjected to censorship or hindrance and there was an independent authority for oversight and the protection of press and mass media.  Only acts against national security and incitement to racial hatred were criminalized.
United Kingdom strongly supported the principle that freedoms enjoyed offline also had to be protected online, particularly freedom of expression, and recognized the importance encryption could play in protection of human rights defenders.  It was alarming that the space for civil society in many countries was being limited.  Canada said that States should not restrict access to encryption services which were critical tools for vulnerable groups, such as human rights defenders, journalists and religious groups facing repression, who needed access to safe communications.  Canada expected that its companies reflected Canadian values in all their activities abroad, including respect human rights and all applicable laws.  Montenegro said that freedom of expression was a foundation for democracy and the rule of law, and all were aware of the transformative power of technological progress.  States had the primary responsibility to secure safe digital spaces for all individuals.  Montenegro asked the Special Rapporteur about examples of frameworks for safety and security online.

Brazil recognized the usefulness of tools such as encryption and anonymity, and stressed that the main goal was to foster societies where surveillance, interception of communication and data collection were an exception rather than the rule.  The right to freedom of peaceful assembly opened up valuable space for civil society involvement in decision-making processes within the context of exploitation of natural resources.  Sierra Leone said that, although encryption was crucial to protecting privacy, it could also be dangerous in the hands of the wrong people, such as terrorist groups, and that was why safeguards and limitations to the use of encryption needed to exist.  Sierra Leone supported the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and would seek international support to implement its national action plan.  Benin said that it was important to establish space and institutional framework in order to support the work of human rights defenders and enable them to express their opinion.  Benin adhered to the recommendations by the Special Rapporteur and would continue to promote and protect universal values of freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. 

Aliran Kesederan Negara National Consciousness Movement spoke about repression and limitations to freedom of opinion and expression and the right to peaceful assembly in Malaysia, which had in place a draconian Sedition Act.  Malaysia should ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Social Service Agency of the Protestant Church in Germany explained that civil society often suffered threats and harassments in the context of natural extraction activities.  It expressed concerns about several human rights defenders killed in the Philippines for opposing mining activities, and called on the European Union to support the creation of an international instrument on business and human rights.  Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders said that the issue of the participation of individuals in social development underlined the necessity to strengthen international law in order to better regulate corporate activities. International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in a joint statement with  International Gay and Lesbian Association stated that anonymity was a crucial tool for human rights defenders and individuals forced to hide their sexual orientation.  It expressed grave concern about censorship on sexual health, safety and reproductive rights for sexual minorities, as well as the obligation to use one’s real name on certain platforms.   

Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development said that human rights defenders continued to be jailed or face threats in Myanmar and Thailand for opposing mining projects.  It supported the call on States to ensure online security for human rights defenders and emphasized the central role of National Human Rights Institutions. 
East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project was extremely concerned about the increased focus by States on encryption and online anonymity and their potential use for terrorist or criminal activities.  States should take measures to ensure that all individuals, including human rights defenders working in the context of natural resource exploitation, were able to effectively exercise their rights.  Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that in the Tibetan area of China almost any expression of opinion was deemed criminal, and the hyper-securitized framework in place limited cultural expression.  The Council and China should ensure the freedom of expression and opinion in Tibet, particularly in the light of the upcoming birthday of Dalai Lama.  International Service for Human Rights said that in many areas of the world, human rights defenders, in particular women and indigenous defenders working on issues of transparency and accountability of businesses and corporations, faced harassment, while whistle blowers lacked protection in the law. 

Human Rights House Foundation was gravely concerned by the introduction of the law prohibiting the activities of the so-called “undesirable organizations” in Russia, and said that the legislation on non-governmental organizations in Azerbaijan was used to arrest some of the most prominent human rights defenders and journalists. 

Article 19 - The International Centre against Censorship in a joint statement with International Federation for Human Rights Leagues FIDH, said that encryption and anonymity were critical to the enjoyment of freedom of expression and other rights, and for human rights defenders to avoid reprisals.  Every restriction on encryption and anonymity had to be strictly necessary and proportionate for a legitimate aim.  World Alliance for Citizen Participation CIVICUS reiterated the imperative need to include civil society in discussions relating to development and business and human rights.  CIVICUS regretted that civil society continued to be subjected to a wide range of unwarranted and illegal restrictions in Ecuador.  Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales stated that States should refrain from imposing restrictions and prior authorizations to the right to freedom of assembly, and that security forces should act to prevent violence while protecting the right to protest.  It encouraged States to investigate allegations of police violence during protests, including sexual violence.  Association for Progressive Communication was concerned about police surveillance of Internet users in Malaysia, and urged the Human Rights Council to strengthen its efforts to ensure that Malaysia implement recommendations and pledges it had made during its Universal Periodic Review. 

Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik gave the floor to an Iranian citizen who spoke about his father, a well-known author and film maker, who upon his return to Iran after several years in Canada, had been arrested and sentenced to eight years in prison for exercising his right to freedom of expression and opinion.  Asian Legal Resource Centre said that the Government of Bangladesh constantly denied the freedom of expression and assembly, and used repressive legislation and “contempt of court” charges as tools to suppress independent voices.  Agence Internationale pour le Devéloppement called the attention of the Special Rapporteurs on the non-existence of the rights to freedom of expression and of association in the United Nations recognized area of Jammu and Kashmir.

Concluding Remarks

DAVID KAYE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression stated that one of the key points that had been recognized during the interactive dialogue was that the Internet had become a central forum for freedom of expression.  The report had focused on a legal framework which dealt with privacy restrictions that implicated freedom of opinion and expression.  The legal framework was based on the standards of legality, legitimacy and proportionality, in line with Article 19 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Mr. Kaye looked forward to working with the Special Rapporteur on privacy, who would be appointed soon.  The Special Rapporteur announced that he would soon issue recommendations on the right to hold an opinion without interference.  In response to questions on harassment and offence online, he stated that human rights law did not protect against insult and offence.  Mr. Kaye stated that a key facet of modern communications was that much of daily communication took place online in the so-called “private space”.  Many expected corporate actors to protect individuals in that “private space” against harassment. This was an area that deserved considerable study and care, and his future reporting would deal with it. 

Balance was critical and central to the idea in Article 19 paragraph 3, which stated that restrictions might be legitimate when necessary and proportionate to achieve a legitimate objective, in particular with regard to criminal and terrorist attacks.  Digital insecurity created problems of its own.  The balance debate was skewed with assertions that encryption and anonymity prevented law enforcement accountability.  Very often, restrictions on encryption and anonymity followed terrorist attacks, even if those did not rely upon anonymity and encryption at all. 

MAINA KIAI, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, welcomed the support which his report had received among States, and reiterated the report’s call for a binding treaty on business and human rights, including both transnational and national corporations, with a reference to the core role of civil society.  He insisted on the need to increase space for civil society to exist, organize and challenge, and highlighted the right of civil society organizations to seek and receive domestic and foreign funding.  Mr. Kiai referred to the positive examples in Norway, Ghana, Chile and the Philippines regarding the management and extraction of natural resources.  He insisted on the importance of focusing on the content of Special Rapporteurs’ reports, and noted that disagreements did not mean that Experts lacked impartiality.  Country visits were of crucial importance for Special Procedures.

Documentation

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/29/26)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the Mission to Qatar (A/HRC/29/26/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the Mission to United Arab Emirates (A/HRC/29/26/Add.2)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the Mission to Tunisia (A/HRC/29/26/Add.3)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers on the Mission to Portugal (A/HRC/29/26/Add.4)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/29/26/Add.5)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/29/26/Add.6)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/29/26/Add.7)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/29/26/Add.8

The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (A/HRC/29/33)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health on the Mission to Malaysia (A/HRC/29/33/Add.1)

The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health – comments by Malaysia (A/HRC/29/33/Add.2)

Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on the right to health

GABRIELA KNAUL, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said in her introductory remarks that her thematic report this year addressed the question of protecting children’s rights in the justice system.  The report went beyond the notion of juvenile justice and the diverse experiences of children when they encountered the justice system, as victims or witnesses, or because they were in conflict with the law.  In all these aspects, children had special rights, needs and interests that must be considered.  The report laid out the legal framework and fundamental principles, and addressed access to justice and legal aid from the perspective of children.   It also presented an overview of the safeguards necessary to respect, protect and fulfil children’s rights at the different stages of judicial proceedings, and examined the necessity to provide for alternatives to judicial proceedings.  Despite the quasi-universal ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children still counted among the most vulnerable to human rights violations and other types of abuse.  For this reason, the importance of child-sensitive justice could not be overemphasized, and judges, prosecutors and lawyers had a great responsibility towards children.

Turning to her country visits, the Special Rapporteur said that Qatar had come a long way in a short time with respect to developing its justice system, but in spite of the progress, concerns remained about violations of due process and fair trial, and about almost insurmountable obstacles in accessing the justice system for the vulnerable populations, including migrant workers; obstacles to access to justice were compounded by the ‘Kafala’ system.  Ms. Knaul said that she was concerned about reports of serious breaches of fair trial and due process guarantees, especially in cases of alleged State security-related offences in the United Arab Emirates, and about the harassment, pressure and threats to which some lawyers were subjected, especially when they represented clients accused of State security crimes.  In Tunisia, the efforts made during the transition to start reforming and strengthening the independence of the justice system could not be overstated, but a lot of work was left in translating the new Constitution into reality and operationalizing the vision of an independent, impartial and competent justice system.  The visit to Portugal had taken place at a moment of intense debate on the functioning of the justice system in the context of implementation of a major 2014 reform in the administration and distribution of courts.  At the same time, the country was coming out of a major economic crisis that had affected justice actors and institutions as public resources became scarce.

Finally, Ms. Knaul said that during her six years as Special Rapporteur she had observed many positive developments around the world, but also witnessed deterioration of the independence of the justice system in different places, including increasing harassment, threats and attacks against judges, prosecutors and lawyers simply for discharging their functions.  Progress achieved was at risk if the international community did not constantly monitor, assess and strengthen the independence of judges and lawyers and take adequate measures when warranted.

Dainius Puras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, said that one of the most important obligations for immediate effect related to the right to health was the duty to avoid discrimination.  In presenting his report on the challenges and opportunities for the full realization of the right to health, Mr. Puras stated that inequalities and discrimination remained a crucial factor that hampered the full realization of the right to health as well as the healthy development of individuals and societies.  In addition, selective approaches to human rights only reinforced the cycle of poverty, inequalities, social exclusion, discrimination and violence.  Unequivocal political will to apply human rights principles and standards to national normative frameworks and public policies was essential to addressing existing imbalances and power asymmetries in the formulation and implementation of health-related policies.  The Ebola crisis had starkly reminded that one of the root causes was a lack of capacity or will to implement a rights based approach to health policies.  The meaningful participation and empowerment of all stakeholders should be promoted, and in this respect, trustful partnerships between policy makers, civil society, academia and professional associations were a cornerstone of effective health systems. 

The role of the health sector was increasingly important for the promotion and protection of human rights, in particular for marginalized groups, and in this respect, the Special Rapporteur called for the promotion of a “health in all policies” approach.  In order for the health sector to be able to play this role, healthcare systems had to be operational and well financed, as well as available, accessible, acceptable and of good quality.  The Special Rapporteur emphasized the importance of mental health, and stressed that it was relevant to many key elements of the post-2015 agenda, which strived to achieve universal health coverage.  The Special Rapporteur announced that he would use the life-cycle approach to address some of the issues of concern to the mandate, and would show that the effective promotion and protection of the rights of children and adolescents offered huge potential for the full realization of the right to health in societies.

Commenting on his trip to Malaysia, the Special Rapporteur recognized Malaysia’s commitment to realizing the right to health, in particular for advances made in reducing poverty, increasing spending on health, and improving basic health related indicators.  He also encouraged the Government to address a number of serious challenges, which were connected to a selective approach to human rights and discrimination against groups in vulnerable situations.  Some of the barriers to exercising the right to health were faced by women and girls, indigenous communities, migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, and persons living with HIV/AIDS.  Mr. Puras made recommendations to the authorities on the need to ratify all human rights treaties and optional protocols, and to remove all reservations and ensure timely reporting to monitoring bodies. 

Statements by Concerned Countries

Portugal, speaking as a concerned country, said it attached the highest importance to the independence of judges and lawyers.  The Special Rapporteur’s visit came at a moment of important reforms of the Portuguese justice system.  Portugal had been developing a series of measures to improve detentions conditions, including for juvenile offenders.  Portugal remained committed to ensuring the rule of law and the independence of judges and lawyers. 

Portuguese Ombudsman welcomed that Portugal had issued a standing invitation to all Special Procedures, and welcomed the opportunity it had to engage with the Special Rapporteur during his visit.  Despite all the important realizations made, issues still needed improvement.  Among them was the delay for court cases, which constituted an obstacle to the right to a fair trial.  Another was the access to the justice system, with the high costs of the judicial proceedings.

Qatar, speaking as a concerned country, said it had extended a standing open invitation to all Special Procedures, and recalled that it was the first country in the region that had established a National Human Rights Institution in line with the Paris Principles.  Qatar’s legal system recognized the separation of powers as well as the independence of judges and lawyers.  Qatar regretted that the report of the Special Rapporteur contained harsh criticism based on no evidence and selective and politicized views.  Allegations that judges and lawyers lacked independence and impartiality were baseless, and the report contained contradictions.  Qatar regretted such a lack of objectivity, professionalism and transparency, which had become a pattern of these thematic reports. 

Tunisia, speaking as a concerned country, said that the visit of the Special Rapporteur and her report had been very useful for Tunisia which was currently in the process of reform, with intense debate about the independence of judges, the status of judges and lawyers, and the reform of the judicial system in general.  The Ministry of Justice had adopted a roadmap for judicial reform to consolidate independence and efficiency of justice, guarantee professionalism of all judicial actors, humanize criminal and penitentiary systems, modernize judicial and penitentiary infrastructure, and to improve the quality of legislation, judicial procedures and transparency of the system.  A comprehensive, integrated and participative approach had been adopted for the implementation of this roadmap.  A series of measures had been taken to increase the trust of citizens in the system, including those addressing competence and professionalism within the justice system, and measures to combat corruption. 

United Arab Emirates, speaking as a concerned country, reiterated its commitment to human rights and to working with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.  The United Arab Emirates legislation guaranteed the independence of the judiciary, and judges could not be removed during their service.  The Constitution ensured safeguards in this respect.  Torture was prohibited and the United Arab Emirates was a State party to the United Nations Convention against Torture.  The United Arab Emirates rated high in terms of indicators on the rule of law and judicial independence, notably 22nd out of 144 countries in the Global Competitiveness Index in terms of independence of judges.  The promotion of human rights was an ongoing process, and the United Arab Emirates was working on realizing the additional recommendations of the Special Rapporteur, and looked forward to working constructively with her.

Malaysia said that the Government had engaged transparently with the Special Rapporteur on the right to health.  The Government was committed to improving the gaps in the quality of the health care system that the Special Rapporteur had underlined.  Malaysia took full note of all the recommendations in the report.  On the issues related to the right to health of non-nationals in the report, the Government did not consider that the same parameters of rights should be used as those for nationals.  Nevertheless, Malaysia provided assistance on humanitarian grounds, and worked with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees on a case by case basis.  Cultural and religious beliefs influenced the law and moral ethos of communities, and therefore Malaysia was entitled to keeping the laws it had with regards to the gay and lesbian communities.  Malaysia reiterated the Government’s commitment to the progressive realization of health as a human right for all.

Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, in a video message, noted that access to healthcare and healthcare infrastructures had improved in Malaysia.  It noted with appreciation the Government’s commitments on this issue, but was concerned that its strategies did not address the specific needs of vulnerable groups, including asylum seekers, migrant workers, refugees and stateless persons.  The Commission also shared the concern of the Special Rapporteur regarding Malaysia’s reluctance to accede to core international human rights treaties. 

Interactive Dialogue on the independence of judges and lawyers and on the right to health

European Union asked for examples on how the best interests of the child could be ensured as a primary consideration when children were involved in criminal and justice proceedings.  The European Union also asked the Special Rapporteur on the right to health how he intended to cooperate with other United Nations institutions, particularly the World Health Organization.  Algeria, speaking on behalf of the African Group, noted the need to protect children with a justice system adapted to them and to ensure that children in contact with the justice system did not suffer any trauma or abuse.  The enjoyment of the right to health was linked to the level of development of a country.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, stressed that country visits by Special Procedures had to be an opportunity for constructive dialogue and objective reporting on the human rights situation in the country.  The Arab Group shared the view that legal systems adapted to the needs of children would serve the rights of the child, and noted that Arab countries had taken measures in that regard. 
 
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said that judges, prosecutors and lawyers played a fundamental role in protecting children’s rights and agreed that investing in child-sensitive justice was indispensable to strengthening the rule of law and the enjoyment of human rights by all.  The Organization took note with interest of the themes which the Special Rapporteur on the right to health had identified, including global health in the post-2015 development agenda, and urged him to avoid duplication of work by other United Nations agencies.  Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, agreed that the elimination of all forms of discrimination was fundamental in the effective realization of the right to health.  Universal health coverage must be the goal of the post-2015 development agenda.  The recent Ebola epidemic had demonstrated the importance of the urgent establishment of universal and resilient health systems to prevent situations which affected human rights of vulnerable persons, particularly in vulnerable countries.  Syria said that the health system was facing challenges in light of terrorist activities and stressed the importance of providing free services to victims of war.  Syria asked about the vision of the Special Rapporteur with regard to the implementation of General Comment 14 issued by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  Israel said that its justice system paid particular attention to the needs of children.  Criminal procedures relating to children were most sensitive and must be adjusted to children’s special needs and Israel had in place a juvenile justice system and believed that with other legal measures it could support children to learn from their experiences. 

Venezuela welcomed the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, and agreed with his emphasis on discrimination as a hindrance to the full enjoyment of the right to health.  A health revolution was under way in Venezuela, with programmes such as “working in the neighbourhood.”  Regarding the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Venezuela reiterated that the State was based on the rule of law, and a fair and free-of-charge justice system.  France saluted the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and said that States needed to adopt laws on alternative measures for juvenile justice.  Punishment, however, had to be considerate of the seriousness of the crime.  On health care, France agreed with the Special Rapporteur that States had to provide it without discrimination.  Universal health care should also be part of the post-2015 agenda.  Egypt congratulated the Special Rapporteur on independence of judges and lawyers on her report and stated that her emphasis on child-sensitive justice systems was very vital and timely.  With regards to the right to health, Egypt encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue to pay attention to access to medicine as a vital component of his mandate.  Egypt cautioned against the use of concepts and notions such as “sexual orientation and gender identity” that lacked international consensus.  Saudi Arabia said the judiciary in Saudi Arabia was in full accordance with international law.  Judges were independent, could not be influenced, and followed the rules of Islamic Sharia Law. In terms of protection of the rights of children, Saudi Arabia was a signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and had hundreds of laws aimed at the welfare of the child. 

16      China said the judicial protection of minors deserved the Government’s attention.  China attached importance to the reintegration of juvenile offenders into society.  The right to health was the basis for other rights.  China described reforms of its healthcare system.  Indonesia welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s views regarding the necessity to continue efforts towards eradicating poverty for the full realization of the right to health.  Indonesia underlined the need for social responsibility, including for pharmaceutical companies.  Czech Republic said children faced multiple barriers in accessing justice, and underlined the importance of developing a child-friendly justice system, as well as of the principle of the best interests of the child and specific legal training for judges, prosecutors and lawyers.  Australia supported the recommendation that alternatives to judicial proceedings based on the principles of restorative justice should be made available by States for independent legal professionals to consider when children came into conflict with the law.  Australia agreed that the Ebola crisis had exposed weaknesses in global, regional and national preparedness for heath emergencies.  Strong leadership was crucial in that respect.

Portugal agreed that the departure from universal human rights principles and standards was a major obstacle for the effective realization of the right to health.  It asked the Special Rapporteur how he planned to promote the centrality of mental health in modern health policies, in light of the historical divide between mental and physical health.
Estonia said its strategy for preventing violence in 2015-2020 set as the overall goal the reduction of violence, including protection and support for victims of violence.   Treatment of perpetrators had become more effective and their repeat offending had decreased.  Estonia asked the Special Rapporteur about solutions for the dichotomy between formal and informal justice systems.  Republic of Korea asked the Special Rapporteur to further elaborate on the relationship between the protection of children’s rights and the independence of judges and lawyers, which was at the core of the mandate.  It also echoed observations that inequalities and discrimination remained a crucial factor impeding the full realization of the right to health.  Iran said the Government had adopted and implemented a number of programmes, including educational training and workshops for judges and other relevant authorities dealing with children.  It concurred with the Special Rapporteur that the imbalances in health-related policies and practices were often a result of power struggles which were reinforced by power asymmetries between stakeholders and interest groups.  

Bahrain took note of the Special Rapporteurs’ reports and said that it had developed an action programme for the adoption of policies and measures to ensure the safety of patients in line with World Health Organization guidelines.  Bahrain recognized the crucial role played by judges and lawyers in promoting the rights of child and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to look even further into this.  Bahrain was looking to amend its legislation so that rehabilitation instead of punishment was in place for children.  Cuba agreed with the Special Rapporteur that judges, prosecutors and lawyers had a unique opportunity in the field of their professional duties to contribute in important ways to the respect, protection and enforcement of the rights of children, in particular when many judicial systems were not adapted to the needs of children.  On the right to health, Cuba stated that there was a great deal to do and agreed with the Special Rapporteur that discrimination continued to be a hindrance to the full enjoyment of the right to health.  Norway said that investing in child-sensitive justice systems was particularly important.  In reference to the recommendation concerning children whose parents were sentenced, in particular to the death penalty, Norway underlined that it was important that judges considered the effect of their sentences on the well-being of the child.  Norway wanted to know what measures should be taken to ensure that these children’s rights were best heeded by the justice system.  Namibia welcomed the report by the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and said it considered the independence of its judiciary to be an indispensable pillar solidifying its democracy.  Regarding the diverse experiences of children, a juvenile justice system which was premised on a rights-based approach was the best model to follow.  Namibia’s judges, magistrates and prosecutors were trained to deal with juveniles and specific measures were in place to protect children who came in conflict with the law.

Botswana said it was imperative that child-friendly measures were put in place to ensure that children had access to justice, including free legal assistance in both criminal and civil proceedings.  Botswana welcomed that the Special Rapporteur had taken a human rights-based approach to the effective implementation of health policies and practices. 
Lithuania insisted on the importance of eradicating discrimination in access to health, and demanded what measures could effectively address mental health challenges.  Lithuania asked what the Special Rapporteur’s approach was towards collaboration with the Global Health Cluster in poor and conflict regions.  Hungary said children’s special rights had to be taken into account in judicial proceedings, and presented Hungary’s initiatives in this regard, including the establishment of child-friendly hearing rooms in police stations.  Hungary pointed at the importance of education, training and capacity building for those in contact with children involved in the judiciary system.  Chile noted with concern barriers to access to justice by children, and asked how restorative justice could be implemented in conflict situations.  Chile said access to healthcare without discrimination was a pillar of human rights, and asked the Special Rapporteur to give special attention to gender and the situation of other vulnerable groups’ access to healthcare.  

Benin said the justice system played an important role in the protection of human rights, especially the rights of children.  The fulfilment of the rights of children was at the heart of the Government’s efforts.  The Government of Benin had improved its legal and institutional framework to that end.  New Zealand agreed that it was vitally important to have a justice system that respected, protected and fulfilled the rights of children at all stages of proceedings: as parties of proceedings, victims, witnesses, accused, sentenced or imprisoned.  It took note of the Special Rapporteur’s suggestions that States should consider increasing the minimum age of criminal responsibility.  India concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s approach that there was no health without mental health.  Access to medicines was an essential component of the right to health, especially because the quality of medicines was increasingly threatened by secretive corporate deals.  Switzerland appreciated the focus on the need for establishing procedures to ensure the rights of the child.  It underscored the importance of having legal procedures adapted to the specific needs of children, and preferred restorative over punitive justice.  It highlighted the need to have a multidimensional approach to the right to health and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to continue his work.

Belgium noted the important conclusions of the Special Rapporteur on the protection of children and especially on children whose parents faced the death sentence.  Belgium asked the Special Rapporteur to reflect on how these important conclusions could be implemented by judges.  It reiterated the importance of the independence of judges and their training.  Thailand said that concerning the right to health, much remained to be done to ensure that everyone had access to the highest attainable standard of health.  Thailand welcomed the inclusion of universal health coverage as an important target under Sustainable Development Goal 3 in the post-2015 development agenda.  Algeria said that given the specific needs of children, justice systems had to be seen not as a punishment but as an accompanying mechanism that would allow the respect, protection and realization of the rights of children.   On the topic of the right to health, it was important to involve all stakeholders in an inclusive framework.  Algeria had an approach based on universal access to health care, which had been free since 1974.  Council of Europe said that in 2010 the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe had adopted guidelines on children-friendly justice.  The work was based upon existing international and European standards, and should serve as a practical tool for governments to use it as a basis for their law reforms.  They were considered one of the key references on how legal systems could be improved and made more adaptable to children.

Fiji underlined that child abuse was one of the most under-reported crimes, and had taken measures to address this issue, including education for police officers.  The area of access to justice required the most work.  Republic of Moldova said the right to health could only be realized through shared responsibility, and supported the Special Rapporteur’s view that access to health for vulnerable groups had to be improved.  Paraguay agreed that public health policies had to include a human rights-based approach, and underlined the necessity for regional cooperation for the realization of the right to health.  Paraguay hoped access to healthcare would be given due consideration in the post 2015 development agenda.  Burkina Faso highlighted a new law recently adopted, which improved the protection of children engaged in the judiciary system.  Major efforts remained to be made to reduce maternal and child mortality and morbidity, and to combat female genital mutilation. 

South Africa agreed that investing in child-sensitive justice was indispensable to strengthening the rule of law and the enjoyment of human rights by all, as well as to building flourishing democratic societies.  It also stressed that any hierarchy among human rights, and prioritizing one right or one group of rights over another led to detrimental outcomes and systemic violations of human rights.  Poland said that child-friendly justice systems should be designed in a way to provide adequate opportunities for children to be heard and express their views.  Professionals working with children should receive necessary interdisciplinary training on the rights and needs of children.  United States noted that the importance of child-sensitive justice could not be overemphasized.  The justice system of the United States included child-sensitive measures that allowed children’s best interests to be of primary consideration.  The United States also appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s focus on mental health and well-being, and asked the Special Rapporteur to share his plan to address the stigma surrounding mental health issues.  Ghana said it had introduced programmes to improve access to the right to health, with focus on access to medicines and mental health patients.   As for the independence of judges and lawyers, the Government ensured that the appropriate procedures were followed and that their appointment was transparent.

Morocco noted the sad reality that even though many children were involved in  the justice system, it was not adapted to their needs.  Legal aid and free legal services for children had to be considered, as did education and training for judges and lawyers when dealing with  children.  On health, Morocco commended the previous Special Rapporteur who had outlined the rights.  It fell upon the current Special Rapporteur to outline the practices.  Mexico welcomed the thematic focus of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and commended the emphasis on children.  It agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the need for a child-friendly justice system. Recently Mexico had adopted several laws in this respect, including a Protocol by the Supreme Court for those in the justice system who worked with children and adolescents.  Iraq said it was committed to helping the mission of the Special Rapporteur and to promoting the independence of the judiciary from legislative and executive branches. Iraq was making great efforts in this respect, and was facing a particularly difficult situation in which ISIL members were aiming to terrorize judicial staff.  Brazil said that promoting a child-sensitive judicial system was a great challenge.  Policies and institutional mechanisms needed to be put in place to protect children from violence, whether or not they were responsible for such acts.  On the right to health, ensuring the underlying determinants of health was a key issue and the Human Rights Council had to pay attention to it.  Brazil invited the Special Rapporteur to conduct an official visit to Brazil.

Nigeria concurred that in the context of the post-2015 agenda, the right to health framework could be a useful and powerful analytical tool for the transition to the Sustainable Development Goals.  The Nigerian national Health Bill would establish a framework for the regulation, management and development of its national health system.  
Slovenia welcomed the concept of a life-cycle approach to the right to health and said that the report could better address the rights of older people in this context.  Slovenia was drafting a comprehensive strategy for active and healthy ageing and asked Mr. Puras about his cooperation with the Independent Expert on older persons.  Viet Nam identified primary health care as a priority in its development strategy and was striving to achieve 80 per cent health insurance coverage by 2020.  Meaningful participation of all stakeholders should be promoted, particularly of vulnerable groups, and effective monitoring and accountability mechanisms needed to be put in place to ensure the full realization of the right to health.
Sudan said it had adopted a law guaranteeing the protection of children at every stage of the judicial system, as well as special courts for juveniles and appropriate judicial training.  Sudan asked the Special Rapporteur to assess the impact of unilateral coercive measures on the realization of the right to health.

Montenegro said that it had completed a “justice for children” reform last year which improved the Montenegrin justice system and proved that it was child-friendly and in line with international standards.  It was also making efforts to advance the independence of the judiciary and legal profession.  Togo took note of the thematic priorities defined in the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the right to health, which was a fundamental part of Togo’s Constitutions.  In 2012 Togo had adopted national health policies with a national plan for sanitary development.  Panama underscored the link between physical and mental health, and the need to counter the stigma associated with mental health issues.  The promotion of good mental health had to be part of Governments’ development agendas, as well as the allocation of resources for children’s health.  Sierra Leone appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s work on child-sensitive administration of justice.  In 2007 the Government of Sierra Leone had enacted the Child Protection Act, in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It highlighted equal access to health for all.  Although the right to health was guaranteed by the national law, Sierra Leone’s healthcare system was severely depleted by the unprecedented outbreak of the Ebola epidemic.  State of Palestine agreed that violence and departure from human rights principles were a major obstacle to the realization of the right to health, and said that the Israeli occupation, and its persistent and illegal policies against the Palestinian people had gravely affected the health status and health system in Palestine.  What could be done to ensure the right to health when self-determination was denied and violence was institutionalized and pursued by the occupying power as a matter of deliberate policy?

Northern Ireland Human Right Commission said in a video statement that it had launched a human rights inquiry to investigate the extent to which health authorities were respecting, fulfilling and protecting human rights of people seeking emergency care in hospitals.  The report, published in May 2015, concluded that there were individual breaches of human rights, but found no systemic violations.  Allied Rainbow Communities International in a joint statement with International Lesbian and Gay Association, called attention to the fact that criminalization of sexual orientation and gender identity acted as a barrier to access to health and that discrimination and stigma led to poor health outcomes.  Comision Mexicana de Defensa y Promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil called the attention of the Council to the alarming human rights situation which affected the selection of Supreme Court judges and asked the Council to focus on the role of institutions administering justice and their impact on human rights in Mexico.

Alsalam Foundation, in a joint statement with Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, raised concern regarding the reported roles of the royal court in the United Arab Emirates and the local ruler’s offices in interfering in the administration of justice.  It was recently reported that they maintained the practice of reviewing criminal and civil offences before they were referred to prosecutors. VIVAT International in a joint statement with Franciscans international, said that it was important to raise the issue of maternal healthcare, which was problematic largely in developing countries, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South-East Asia.  Young women were often at risk because their bodies were too young to bear birth.  Further measures could be taken to deal with the issues of prolonged and obstructed childbirth in the mentioned regions.  Agence international pour le développement appreciated the essential role that judges and lawyers had to play in the protection of the rights of children.  The situation on the ground had not changed as desired.  Children’s rights were especially in danger at times of conflict.  In India, for example, children were kept in jail.  Alliance Defending Freedom voiced concern with some findings of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers regarding maternal mortality and access to abortion.  The two issues could not be linked and changing the law was no guarantee that abortion would cease to exist.  Referring to abortion as a right did not change the fact that abortion was not a life-saving act.

Development Innovations and Networks said that in the United Arab Emirates, 200 prisoners of conscience and political prisoners were in jail and were subject to torture and ill treatment.  The new Anti-Terrorist law was a threat to freedom of expression and it contained the sanction of the death penalty in several articles.  Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said the Indian Government had spent 20 per cent less on the health than it had promised, affecting integrated childhood services, and mental health services and networks.  The most vulnerable and marginalized such as Dalits and other minorities would continue to experience lower levels of health.  Action Canada for Population and Development agreed that there was a tendency by some States to apply a narrow and selective approach to human rights which had direct implication on sexual and reproductive health rights.  The politicization of the right to health through both criminalization and the imposition of restrictions like the criminalization of sex work, abortion, same gender sexuality, drug use, and restrictions on emergency contraception, was a violation of this right.  Amnesty International said that it was important for the judiciary system in Portugal to assess the constitutionality of austerity measures.  Amnesty International was very concerned about human rights abuses carried out with impunity in the United Arab Emirates.

Liberation said there remained some international variation in the interpretation and application of the right to health due to how health was defined.  The Government of India was called upon to provide basic health services to minority citizens, such as Dalits, Sikhs and populations in the north-east of India.  World Barua Organization noted that around 10,000 children died each day in India from diarrhoea, which was preventable with basic hygiene.  The Council was requested to provide the Government of India with suggestions for the provision of basic health rights, especially for Dalits, Muslims and other citizens in the north-east of the country.  Arab Commission for Human Rights called for better coordination between the Council and the Special Procedures on the independence of judges and lawyers.  It called on States to allow for greater use of the Special Procedures, and asked the Special Rapporteurs on the best ways to ensure the separation of the judiciary and the executive branch of government.  Human Rights Now expressed concern over the health and protection of people affected by the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011.  The Japanese Government continued to ignore recommendations made by Anand Grover and the United Nations Human Rights Committee to reform its policies pursuant to international human rights standards.  Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik said that despite the absolute prohibition of execution of children in international law, 14 of those executed in Iran in 2014 had been under the age of 18 when their crimes had been committed.  Iran was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Concluding Remarks

GABRIELA KNAUL, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said that her mandate had enabled her to learn about and contribute to the independence of judges and lawyers worldwide and warmly thanked the Human Rights Council, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, States and non-governmental organizations for their support to her mandate.  Ms. Knaul expressed her full support for the campaign “Stopping the Abuse of Power through Sexual Exploitation: Naming, Shaming and Ending Sextortion.  Sextortion was particularly worrying in the judiciary given the vulnerability of victims and undermined the fundamental principles of independence and due process.  Some of the main concerns regarding the independence of the judiciary included the number of attacks against lawyers and judges, interference by the executive and legislative sectors in judicial affairs, and the renewed frequency in the use of military courts and other special courts to try civilians.  Judicial Councils must be independent bodies in both law and practice.  The Special Rapporteur pleaded for renewed attention to the independence of judges and lawyers and full autonomy of prosecution services, and for the application of the existing principles and guidelines, including the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct.

DAINIUS PURAS, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, noted that some disagreements existed relating to some health issues, and said interactive dialogues served to present alternative interpretations on how best to implement the right to health.  His reports represented current human rights understandings, and a selective approach to human rights and the right to health had a negative impact not only on the well-being of marginalized groups, but also on the entire society.  He underlined the importance of the development agenda, and of promoting synergy in relation to international solidarity.  Regarding the implementation of health policies, he encouraged States to implement analytical frameworks developed by his predecessors, and to immediately adopt measures relating to discrimination.  Special attention should be paid to non-discrimination against vulnerable and marginalized groups.  Accountability and monitoring were key elements as well for the achievement of the right to health.  Governments were encouraged to implement health policies with as much transparency as possible.  Regarding mental health, he stressed the need to invest in mental health with better quality and community-based services.  He would do his best to raise awareness on good practices on non-stigmatized mental health services, which remained unfortunately an exception.  He welcomed the World Health Organization initiative on mental health clusters, and encouraged international donors to support countries affected by humanitarian crises.  


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC15/074E