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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES THE USE OF MERCENARIES AND THE MANAGEMENT OF HAZARDOUS WASTE

Hears Address by Panama’s Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation
12 September 2018

The Human Rights Council in a midday meeting held a clustered interactive dialogue with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, and the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes.

The Council also heard an address by Maria Luisa Navarro, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, who said that while completing its third year as a member of the Council, Panama was proud to have promoted principles that were not unanimous, just to show that pointing to possible violations was not tantamount to condemning one country or another, and that all States were obliged to honour their commitments.  Panama had also supported the Special Procedures as they were the best way to effectively address allegations and violations of human rights.  The Deputy Minister, however, spoke out against blaming and vilifying any given State, or hiding practices and justifying impunity.  She regretted that this year in particular, the Council sometimes seemed to return to the era of confrontations.  There was a clear correlation between some geopolitical interests and speeches heard in the Council to justify human rights violations.
 
Saeed Mokbil, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, presented a report by the Working Group about the use of children by non-state armed groups, including mercenaries and foreign fighters.  He stressed that this type of action was one of the six grave violations identified by the United Nations Security Council, as it threatened the protection of children’s rights and the need to protect their dignity.  He said while forcible recruitment was frequent, poverty and hunger were also a factor in the recruitment of children by mercenaries.  The punitive approach taken by some States toward children associated with armed groups was also worrying, as they should be focusing on the reintegration of the children instead.  He spoke about the Working Group’s visit to Ghana.

Ghana spoke as a concerned country.

Presenting his annual report on the situation of workers implicated and affected by occupational exposure to toxic and hazardous substances, Baskut Tuncak, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, said that the exploitation of workers could take many forms, but toxic exposure was particularly vicious.  The report offered 15 principles for the consideration of the Council to better protect the human right of all workers to safe and healthy working conditions.  The International Labour Organization estimated that 160 million cases of occupation diseases were reported annually.  Women, children, migrant workers, people with disabilities and older people were most vulnerable to toxic exposure.  He spoke about his visits to Denmark and Sierra Leone.

Denmark and Sierra Leone spoke as concerned countries. 

In the ensuing discussion on the use of mercenaries, speakers raised concerns about the recruitment of children, noting that States needed to investigate, prosecute and sentence those responsible, and to provide reparations.  Numerically, the greatest number of children were recruited in the armed forces of States, due to the inadequate legal protection against the direct deployment of children in hostilities.  A vast number of children also willingly joined private armed groups.  However, the consent of the minor was no excuse for recruitment.  Speakers regretted that the report of the Working Group had failed to highlight the adverse impact of private military and security companies in the occupied territories recognized by the United Nations. 

On hazardous waste, speakers stressed that exposure to dangerous waste and poor management had a particularly negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights.  It was alarming that children were affected disproportionally from toxic substances and exposure to those substances had been linked to multiple adverse health outcomes.  Those impacts carried across generations, had economic impacts upon society, and exacerbated inequalities.  There were many actors involved in the sound management of chemicals and waste.  Tackling global challenges required cooperation across all stakeholders, sectors and borders.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Togo on behalf of the African Group,  Tunisia on behalf of the Arab Group, European Union, France, Maldives, Pakistan, Israel, Togo, United Nations Children’s Fund, India, Russia, Philippines, China, Tunisia, Cuba, Ukraine, Morocco, Sudan, Benin, Venezuela, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Algeria, Senegal, Nepal, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Iceland, Ecuador, Botswana, Lebanon, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Gambia, United Nations Environment Programme, Mexico, and Bahamas.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: International Association for Democracy in Africa, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, World Environment and Resources Council, FIAN International, iuventum e.V., Humanist Institute for Co-operation with Developing Countries, Center for Environmental and Management Studies, Human Rights Now, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, Alsalam Foundation, Make Mothers Matter, International Fellowship of Reconciliation, Health and Environment Program (HEP), China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS), Association of World Citizens.


The Council will next hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on the right to development, and on the impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights.


Address by Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama

MARIA LUISA NAVARRO, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Cooperation of Panama, welcomed the arrival of Michelle Bachelet, an extraordinary Latin American woman, at the head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and expressed Panama’s support for her mandate.  She also paid tribute to the outgoing High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his moral clarity and genuine struggle for the promotion of human rights around the world.  Ms. Navarro said the current session would close with a record of unjustified political attacks on the Council, which might have a detrimental impact on this vital organ of the United Nations.  While completing its third year as a member of the Council, Panama was proud to have promoted principles that were not unanimous, just to show that pointing to possible violations was not tantamount to condemning one country or another, and that all States were obliged to honour their commitments.  Panama had also supported the Special Procedures as they were the best way to effectively address allegations and violations of human rights. The Deputy Minister, however, spoke out against blaming and vilifying any given State, or hiding practices and justifying impunity.  She regretted that this year in particular, the Council sometimes seemed to return to the era of confrontations.  There was a clear correlation between some geopolitical interests and speeches heard in the Council to justify human rights violations.

Panama's Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs concluded by urging a moral surge to promote respect among people of different ethnic, cultural and religious identities, and rejecting exclusionary policies that endangered many regions.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination (A/HRC/39/49).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination – mission to Ghana (A/HRC/39/49/Add.1).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes (A/HRC/39/48).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes – mission to Sierra Leone (A/HRC/39/48/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes – mission to Denmark and Greenland (A/HRC/39/48/Add.2).

Presentation of Reports by the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries and the Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Waste

SAEED MOKBIL, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the right of peoples to self-determination, presented a report by the Working Group about the use of children by non-state armed groups, including mercenaries and foreign fighters.  Mr. Mokbil stressed that this type of action was one of the six grave violations identified by the United Nations Security Council, as it threatened the protection of children’s rights and the need to protect their dignity.  The Working Group welcomed the cooperation of States through the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child by more than 160 Member States. 

The Working Group noted that while most situations included forcible recruitment, socio-economic conditions such as poverty and hunger could intervene in the recruitment of children by mercenaries.  There was concern about the phenomenon of having children who had been forcibly recruited, later become active members of the armed group that initially abducted them.  Private military and security companies were sometimes involved in the recruitment of children to take part in hostilities.  The Working Group voiced its worry about the punitive approach taken by some States towards children associated with armed groups, and insisted that the best interest of the child approach should be the primary interest.  The responses to the phenomenon should focus on the separation, rehabilitation and reintegration of children, while taking account of their social and psychological needs.

On the visit to Ghana, Mr. Mokbil said that private security companies widely outnumbered the police force in Ghana, including 1,900 illegal companies.  He stated the need for an independent mechanism to oversee the private security industry.  The Working Group took note of positive initiatives on the national level, such as the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights and the establishment of the Association of Private Security Organizations in Ghana.

BASKUT TUNCAK, Special Rapporteur on toxic waste, said that the exploitation of workers could take many forms, but the exposure of workers to toxic substances was particularly vicious.  The diseases and disabilities resulting from toxic exposure were cruel and furthering the suffering was the audacious behaviour of certain States and businesses that denied the health impacts, set permissible exposure levels and even blamed the victims themselves. 

In his annual report, he offered 15 principles for the consideration of the Council to better protect the human rights of all workers to safe and healthy working conditions, which had near universal recognition.  The principles were based on nearly 25 years of cases of workers poisoned around the world and four of those principles concerned the right of victims or their families to access an effective remedy.  It was far too often in his work, he said, that victims were unable to access any semblance of a remedy because the burden of proof was placed upon the worker, victim or their family.  Recalling the case of Hwang Yumi, who died of leukemia at the age of 23 after working at a job manufacturing consumer products, Mr. Tuncak said that Samsung electronics had recently agreed to arbitration for that case and 150-250 other cases of disease and disabilities and premature deaths linked to the production of electronic products in the Republic of Korea.  The International Labour Organization estimated that 160 million cases of occupation diseases were reported annually and Mr. Tuncak cited that the absence of effective remedies for millions of workers was of grave concern.  Workers most vulnerable to exploitation were also those who bore the brunt of toxic exposure: the poor, women, children, migrant workers, people with disabilities and older people. 

On his visit to Denmark, Mr. Tuncak spared no words of praise for the efforts by the country to minimise toxic exposure, particularly of children, in both legislation and practice.  However, it was disheartening to learn of practices by Danish businesses and the exposure of their workers to toxic substances abroad.  For example, he regretted that the Danish shipping company Maersk had recently reversed the decision to halt the dismantling of its ships on Asian beaches.

As for his visit to Sierra Leone, Mr. Tuncak cited the social and economic situation of the country which posed challenges toward protecting human rights from pollution and other sources of toxic exposure.  However, even countries with the most limited resources could put in place measures to reduce risk, he said, and encouraged the authorities to implement the recommendations from his report.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Ghana, speaking as a concerned country, welcomed the Working Group’s recognition of the free and robust media and civil society space in Ghana, where all practiced their work without suppression of any kind from the Government.  Massive unemployment, porous borders and illegal mining had reaffirmed the Government’s long-held belief that they constituted threats to the country’s peace and stability.  In July 2017, the authorities had begun combatting operations of illegal miners, resulting in the destruction of several sets of illegal mining equipment, as well as in the arrest of more than 1,000 illegal miners.  In addition, the Government had started a recruitment exercise aimed at increasing the police personnel to some 5,000.  That exercise was part of the Government’s strategy to gradually increase the police-citizen ratio in the country.  The Government had also launched a programme to decrease unemployment among youth to prevent the risk of radicalization and violent extremism.

Denmark, speaking as a concerned country, noted that ensuring a high level of protection from hazardous chemicals was a high priority for the Government.  Denmark actively supported the establishment of a new long-term framework to enable and ensure sustainable chemicals and waste management globally beyond 2020.  It was party to the European Union ship recycling regulation that would enter into force at the end of the year.  Denmark was deeply concerned about the lack of environmental and work safety standards as seen in Alang Bay and other ship recycling facilities in southern Asia.  The Danish company Maersk had informed that they had implemented a programme that served to upgrade the ship recycling facilities in Alang Bay in order to meet environmental and workers’ safety standards.  As for the extra-territorial conduct of Danish businesses in general, the Government had established a mediation and complaints-handling institution for responsible business conduct.  Greenland had also committed itself to advancing best environmental practices and best technology.      

Sierra Leone, speaking as a concerned country, stated that its commitment to human rights protection was demonstrated by its open approach to the promotion of fundamental freedoms.  It reiterated its standing invitation for all Special Procedure mandate holders.  Since the visit of the Special Rapporteur, Sierra Leone had provided responses to some issues brought to its consideration.  It should be noted that multiple steps had been made towards the establishment of regulatory frameworks to promote sustainable waste management, such as the Environment Protection Agency in 2008 and the National Waste Management Policy.  Sierra Leone appreciated the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur but raised the opinion that technical and financial assistance would be needed to help the country to meet some of these challenges.  Since waste management was deemed to be a global problem, Sierra Leone called on the international community to assist impoverished countries that were struggling with this issue.  The Special Rapporteur's fair assessment of the situation threw light on the Government's relentless efforts and portrayed the complex and multi-dimensional issues faced by Sierra Leone.

Interactive Dialogue

Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, restated concern about the recruitment of children and said that States needed to investigate, prosecute and sentence those responsible for that crime, and provide reparations.  On hazardous waste, the African Group stressed that exposure to dangerous waste and poor management had a particularly negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights.  Tunisia, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said mercenaries violated human rights and prevented the right to self-determination.  The Arab Group welcomed efforts to address this issue from a human rights angle and from a political, civil, social and cultural angle, including the right to development.  The study on the recruitment of children by non-State groups highlighted the importance of the work of the Working Group.  The Arab region faced many security challenges in this area and would like to study further ways in order to put an end to the recruitment of children.  European Union reminded that it had a well-developed and long-established policy and legislation on chemicals to effectively protect the health and safety of workers.  On the recruitment of children, it was concerned about the way the Working Group seemed to be confusing the concepts of non-State armed groups, mercenaries, private military and security companies, and foreign fighters, in relation to child soldiers.  France welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s report on workers who were exposed to toxic waste and products.  His 15 principles were a framework to guarantee the human rights of workers exposed to dangerous substances.  France shared the Special Rapporteur’s concern and it had recently commissioned two reports, one on exposure to chemical agents and the other on occupation health. 

Maldives said it had established Waste Management Corporate Limited which contributed toward the efficient waste management disposal in the country.  The inception of the coordinated and planned approach to waste management was done by the Government to replace the previous ad-hoc system.  Pakistan stated that children and pregnant women should never be exposed to toxic substances at work and that by filling legislative gaps, victims could be protected from exploitation by companies.  However, Pakistan regretted that the Working Group’s current report failed to highlight the adverse impact of private military and security services in the United Nations recognized occupied territories.  Israel stated that Israeli employers were required by law to explain all safety and health risks incorporated in the employee’s job during the process of admission to the work place.  Health conditions that arose from exposure to hazardous substances in the work place were considered a working accident and the employee was entitled to financial assistance and benefits. 

Togo took note of the factors that explained the recruitment of children by non-State armed groups.  The country did not currently have research that measured the impact of toxic substances, however, the Constitution ensured a healthy environment for its citizens.  In 2017 an inventory of pesticides that were found to be obsolete had been destroyed.  United Nations Children’s Fund said that children were affected disproportionately by toxic substances and exposure to those substances had been linked to multiple adverse health outcomes.  Those impacts carried across generations, had economic impacts upon society, and exacerbated inequalities.  India believed that outsourcing military functions to private military companies undermined the rule of law of democratic institutions.  India would fight against the stigmatization of child soldiers recruited by non-state armed groups.  To fix accountability concerning toxic waste management, the Indian Hazardous and Other Wastes Rules required employers to be responsible for the management of toxic wastes.

Russia said that it was necessary to create a set of measures to protect children’s rights, and especially to reintegrate them in society after their affiliation with an armed group.  Russia shared the concerns about the negative impact of hazardous substances on workers, but asked how control measures could be implemented.  Philippines stressed that hazardous substances and toxic wastes especially affected vulnerable groups like children and indigenous people, who were often unknowingly exposed to them.  It agreed with the conclusion that exposure to harmful products was a global challenge and a form of exploitation.  China agreed that children must be protected from having their rights violated in armed conflicts and that it was necessary to set measures to reintegrate children in society and help them to lead a normal life.  China had strengthened law enforcement on pollution since 2016 and had developed the concept of clear water and clear mountains. 

Tunisia noted a worsening in the situation for children recruited in non-state groups, as it also exacerbated the migration phenomenon.  It stressed the need to implement mechanisms to genuinely protect children from being used as human shields during armed conflicts.  Cuba voiced its concern about the persistence of the practice of recruiting children inti non-State armed groups and stressed the need to take the necessary measures to combat it.  It noted that it was necessary to take measures to protect workers from exposure to toxic waste in less developed countries that did not necessary have the means to protect their workers from this hazard.  Ukraine stated that the wicked practice of the recruitment of children by non-State armed groups was not only present in the countries mentioned in the report, but also in Europe.  It voiced its concern about State-sponsored recruitment of mercenaries, especially those brought by the Russian Federation to Ukraine in order to undermine its territorial integrity and constitutional order. 

Morocco was aware of the consequences stemming from poor waste management so it had put in place a strategy to promote economic activities in line with environmental sustainability.  Morocco had hosted a COP22 in 2017.  Sudan said that rebels in Sudan murdered and kidnapped children and were involved in illegal trafficking and trafficking of organs.  The international community was called on to put pressure on States to expel rebel movements.  Benin stressed that it was committed to protecting workers from hazardous waste.  This included the right to information, right for decent working conditions, and right to remedy. 

Venezuela shared concern over the recruitment of children in armed conflict.  Concerns over private military companies were reiterated, as they were involved in crimes and trafficking of arms.  Iran was ready to continue sharing concerns with neighbouring States in order to formulate regional and international action plans to address challenges undermining the work situation of all workers in the region.  Iraq pointed out that it had expelled terrorist gangs and as a precaution had put children affiliated with those gangs in specific sites, while awaiting their reintegration.  Children were a top priority as they would be the ones to shape the future.

Comments by the Mandate Holders

SAEED MOKBIL, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, said the discussion had been constructive and very rich.  He thanked the delegation of Ghana for their cooperation extended to the Working Group upon their visit.  He also thanked the African Group, Arab Group and other States on their comments on the report.  Examining a comment by Sudan, he said they would follow up on their request concerning the recruitment of children into militia.  Returning to the statement made by the European Union that concerned the specific mandate of the Working Group, Mr. Mokbil expounded that the mandate fell well within the means of the Council.  The mandate, he said, had to be looked at from a human rights based approach on the basis of universality, interrelatedness, interdependence and indivisibility.  Under the mandate, the Human Rights Council also asked the Working Group to study emerging issues and sources, manifestations and trends related to mercenary activities.  Regarding national legislation concerning mercenary activities, he noted gaps in domestic laws and international binding instruments and asked for strengthened cooperation between the Working Group and States.

BASKUT TUNCAK, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, first drew the Council’s attention to the case of a radioactive ship under the control of Danish Company Maersk and Brazilian company Odebrechct, which was to be dismantled on the beaches of Bangladesh in unsafe and unhealthy conditions.  Turning to the situation of Greenland, Mr. Tuncak encouraged Denmark to include the people of Greenland in matters of foreign military forces stationed in the country, as well as better implicate the Greenlandic people in Danish Parliament.  Concerning his visit to Sierra Leone, Mr. Tuncak was concerned about the level of protection for agricultural workers using pesticides on palm oil plantations, particularly women of reproductive age and children living nearby.  He said that children, using or being exposed to pesticides in their work, was one of the worst forms of child labour.  In reply to a question asked by the delegation of France, Mr. Tuncak replied that countries should have clear requirements that health and safety information should never be confidential, as inherent under international treaties.  In Morocco, the development of an environmental police force was a novel solution to ensuring public safety where toxic substances were concerned.  He took note of the concern by the delegation of Iran regarding sand and dust storms, a phenomenon that would likely increase due to climate change.

SAEED MOKBIL, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, turning to a point made by Pakistan, agreed that the gap in the international legal framework to regulate private military and security companies should be filled.  Effective remedy for victims should also be taken into consideration.

Interactive Dialogue

Bangladesh stated that it was fundamental to protect workers from hazardous forms of labour.  In Bangladesh, the Labour Act from 2006 incorporated detailed provisions related to the regulation of toxic wastes in relation to work, and the country committed to ban any form of dangerous child labour by 2021.  Algeria considered that it was necessary to act on two respects about the recruitment of children by mercenaries: combatting impunity and establishing measures to reintegrate children to society.  Algeria adhered to the 15 principles proposed by the Special Rapporteur and encouraged other States to collaborate with companies to protect workers from dangerous substances.  Senegal voiced its concern about the phenomenon of mercenaries and private security services in a military context.  It shared the conclusion that the problem of labour and hazardous substances was a global issue regardless of the level of development of the State in question.

Nepal stressed that unknowing exposure to hazardous substances was an abominable form of human rights violation.  Nepal said that it was time to make sure that companies knew that responsibility in that respect was expected from them.  South Africa denounced the absence of a uniform regulatory international mechanism to hold businesses accountable about their dealing of toxic wastes.  South Africa stated that the children engaged in the commitment of crimes might circle back to criminality, so it was important to focus on the essential importance of reintegration.  Côte d'Ivoire expressed its concern about the continued existence of child soldiers in conflict areas, necessitating the cooperation of States to protect the dignity of children.  It denounced the working conditions of workers who were highly exposed to toxic wastes, especially when due to a lack of protective measures. 

Iceland said that millions of workers did not enjoy their right to be safe at work and States were fully responsible for it.  States should not tolerate short-term profit over human health.  Ecuador highlighted problems faced by vulnerable groups such as women, children, and elderly people.  The proposed 15 principles ensured the right of workers and Ecuador was committed to incorporating them.  Botswana said that principles set out by the Special Rapporteur could be linked to existing mechanisms, such as the Basel Convention whose aim was to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effect of hazardous wastes.  The Convention continued to be limited in its function due to some States’ inability to fully support it. 

Lebanon paid tribute to recommendations contained in the report and stressed that it was necessary to prevent the recruitment of children and develop adequate reintegration programmes.  Azerbaijan said there were official statements in recent years by senior officials in Armenia to use nuclear waste from the Metsamor nuclear power plant, which failed to meet the internationally accepted safety standards and was a clock bomb threatening the South Caucasus region.  Bolivia said that the protection of the health of its workers was a priority and principles by the Special Rapporteur were welcomed, including the corporate responsibility.  The use of mercenaries was a violation of human rights.

Gambia noted that it was committed to ensure environmental protection against hazardous and dangerous materials that potentially had adverse effects on its citizens and the environment.  In addition to being party to relevant international and regional instruments, The Gambia had also enacted supplementary legislation to complement its effective protection of the environment.  United Nations Environment Programme highlighted that there were many actors involved in the sound management of chemicals and waste.  Tackling global challenges required cooperation across all stakeholders, sectors and borders.  It encouraged all stakeholders to consider those important topics, particularly in relation to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

Mexico underlined the global problem of workers exposed to toxic substances, noting that workers were entitled to know about the consequences of such exposure and that they had the right to effective remedy.  It thanked the Special Rapporteur for having held a dialogue with States on those topics.  Bahamas drew attention to the trans-shipment of hazardous waste and substances through the Caribbean Sea, which posed a serious threat to the well-being of its people, economy and fragile coralline ecosystem.  It was also clearly linked to the right to safe working conditions in the context of management, trade and disposal of toxic and dangerous products and wastes.

International Association for Democracy in Africa warned that mercenaries were freely operating in Pakistan.  The education system, including numerous madrasas close to radical groups, were directly promoting extremist values and becoming breeding grounds for Islamic militias.  International Association of Democratic Lawyers stressed that Japan had to face its human rights obligations with regard to Fukushima decontamination workers, both international and national.  Tens of thousands of workers had been recruited under decontamination programmes, including migrant workers, asylum seekers and homeless people.  World Environment and Resources Council drew the Council’s attention to the phenomenon of State financing of terrorist networks, which destabilized regional and international security.  Pakistan had long been a destabilizing neighbour to Afghanistan, providing weapons for the Taliban.

FIAN International noted that the Special Rapporteur’s 15 principles demonstrated that the best form of prevention of exposure to hazardous substances was their elimination.  States were urged to implement the principles as soon as possible by adopting necessary measures for a transition to a world free of hazardous substances.  Iuventum e.V praised the work of Special Rapporteur who had to face severe issues concerning huge corporations and powerful governments.  Many of the chemical hazards had long incubation periods before the symptoms appeared.  Humanist Institute for Cooperation with Developing Countries said that in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, the effectiveness of their environmental measures was questionable as there was insufficient information.  Information was a fundamental condition which needed to be fulfilled in order to end the impunity. 

Centre for Environmental and Management Studies stressed that the recruitment of mercenaries should be treated as a serious crime by all countries.  However, that was not the case in Pakistan where the recruitment of ISIS fighters had been going on for years while the authorities ignored it.  Human Rights Now expressed concern about the negative health impacts and labour exploitation of clean-up workers at the decommissioned Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, where 76,951 workers had been recruited to do clean-up and related work up to 2016.  It called on the Japanese Government to expand its verification system to ensure that contractors were following relevant duties.  Commission to Study the Organization of Peace warned of 150,000 religious schools in Pakistan that trained extremists and exported terrorism to neighbouring countries, such as India and Afghanistan.  Armed groups in Pakistan continued to recruit children from religious schools, using them to perpetrate suicide attacks. 

Alsalam Foundation noted that Bahrain’s security forces, made up mainly of foreign citizens, discriminated against the indigenous population.  Only a few indigenous persons served in low level positions in the army and security forces.  The police force was more than 50 per cent foreign.  Make Mothers Matter reminded that women faced more risk due to the exposure to hazardous substances because they were more likely to store higher levels of environmental pollutants, but also due to accumulated risk factors, such as poverty, migration, informal work and their strong presence in high-risk sectors like manufacturing and agriculture.  International Fellowship of Reconciliation pointed out that numerically the greatest number of children were recruited in the armed forces of States, due to the inadequate legal protection against direct deployment of children in hostilities.  A vast number of children also willingly joined private armed groups.  However, the consent of the minor was no excuse for recruitment.

Health and Environment Programme encouraged all States to eliminate the use of children in armed groups that were under the age of 18 and called for action plans to be put in place to prevent that recruitment.  They added that the rights of workers needed to be respected to avoid dangers to healthy living.  China Society for Human Rights Studies (CSHRS) wished to mark the tenth anniversary of an earthquake that claimed the lives of 70,000 people.  As China was a disaster-prone State, the Chinese Government had mobilized resources according specific law and policy for disaster relief and prevention.  Association of World Citizens said that with respect to mercenaries, people in refugee camps in Iraq and Syria were trying to purchase children with large sums of money, and asked how States were addressing that issue.  Turning to toxic waste, families living next to riverbanks were often subject to toxic exposure and needed greater surveillance. 

Concluding Remarks

SAEED MOKBIL, Chair of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, thanked the speakers from civil society and asked States to continue the dialogue with his Working Group.  He asked States to continue to work with the Working Group by supplying them with information on situations relevant to their mandate.  He concluded by thanking all the States and speakers for their constructive discussion as well as those Member States that provided feedback on the Working Group’s report, adding that the Working Group was ready to cooperate on issues of concern.  He also thanked States that effectively regulated private military security companies.  He looked forward to future dialogues with all States. 

BASKUT TUNCAK, Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, thanked all the States and non-government organizations for their questions and comments.  As for the expectations of States concerning the implementation of the 15 principles, Ecuador provided an example on how that could be done: they should consider the principles vis-à-vis their national policies and guidelines.  There were solutions to mobilize resources so that the financial burden was not solely on the national budget.  Many countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development adopted cost-recovery measures.  There was no major innovative approach, most measures had to do with a life-cycle approach.  The Government of Japan had been previously asked to extend an invitation for a visit and a response was yet to be made, which was unfortunate.  Thus, the Government of Japan was encouraged to extend the invitation.  Concerning the implementation of the first principle, Japan had to protect all workers from occupational exposures.  This included workers in Fukushima, whether at the power plant or in the countryside.  The solutions to prevent workers from exposure were available and they would benefit the whole of society.  Workers’ rights were human rights and it was about time for the international community to acknowledge that.


For use of the information media; not an official record 

HRC18/126E