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HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL HOLDS INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH ITS ADVISORY COMMITTEE

Hears Presentation of Reports on Reprisals against Persons Cooperating with the United Nations and on a Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants
20 September 2017

The Human Rights Council this afternoon held an interactive dialogue with its Advisory Committee after hearing the presentation of its reports by Mikhail Lebedev, Chairperson of the Advisory Committee.

The Council also heard the presentation of the Secretary-General’s report on reprisals against persons cooperating with the United Nations, presented by Andrew Gilmour, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights; and the report of the Open-Ended Group Intergovernmental Working Group with the mandate of negotiating, finalising and submitting a draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, presented by the Working Group’s Chair-Rapporteur Nardi Suxo Iturry.

Mr. Lebedev said the Advisory Committee had continued to give priority to requests from the Human Rights Council and had begun its work on five new mandates. He presented the final report on the study on the global issue of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights, and the progress report of the Committee’s research-based study on the impact of the flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights.

Mr. Gilmour said there was something grotesque and entirely contrary to the United Nations Charter and its spirit that people got punished for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights. The report of the Secretary-General was a compilation of cases where action had been taken by various United Nations actors, and that more cases were included in the annual report than ever before. Twenty-nine States were mentioned. Nevertheless, the phenomenon was much more widespread than the report indicated.

Ms. Iturry said that the Working Group was established to negotiate, conclude and present the draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other individuals working in rural areas. A very constructive atmosphere followed the drafting of the revised version of the resolution. The Working Group was pleased that the revised draft resolution had been met positively by stakeholders. The draft declaration tackled some of the most urgent challenges, such as reaching zero world hunger, the contribution of peasants to food development, economy, job creation and stability, as well as their economic, social and environmental challenges.

In the interactive dialogue with the Advisory Committee, speakers noted that without effective repatriation of the stolen assets, developing countries were deprived of much needed resources and economic momentum. All States had the responsibility to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children were not deprived of their rights. Accordingly, they needed to approach the migration issue in a more open manner. Speaking about the Advisory Committee, speakers stressed that it needed to be independent and impartial, and that it should be comprised of experienced members with considerable expertise and creative ideas. The interaction between Member States and the Advisory Committee should be increased, and the Advisory Committee should make further research on numerous human rights violations in order to bring them to the attention of the Council.

Speaking were European Union, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Russian Federation, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, Japan, Venezuela, Tunisia, China, Republic of Korea, Azerbaijan, Pakistan and Egypt.

Also taking the floor were the following non-governmental organizations: Jssor Youth Organization, American Association of Jurists, Save the Children International (in a joint statement), Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc., Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII (in a joint statement), Prahar, and Association of World Citizens.

Bahrain spoke in a right of reply.

The Council will next meet at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 21 September, to consider the Universal Periodic Review outcomes of Bahrain, Ecuador, Tunisia, Morocco, Indonesia, Finland, United Kingdom, India and Brazil, to be followed by a general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Global issue of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights - Final report of Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (A/HRC/36/51).

The Council has before it the Research-based study on the impact of flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights - Progress report of Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (A/HRC/36/52).

The Council has before it a corrigendum to the Research-based study on the impact of flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights - Progress report of Human Rights Council Advisory Committee (A/HRC/36/52/Corr.1)

The Council has before it the Reports of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on its eighteenth and nineteenth sessions - Note by the Secretariat (A/HRC/36/59).

The Council has before it the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the rights of indigenous peoples (A/HRC/36/22).

The Council has before it the Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights - Report of the Secretary General (A/HRC/36/31)

Presentation of Report by the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

ANDREW GILMOUR, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, noted that there was something grotesque and entirely contrary to the United Nations Charter and its spirit that people got punished for cooperating with the United Nations on human rights. Mr. Gilomour said that the Secretary-General, who was alarmed by the growing number of cases and recognized the need for a more comprehensive approach, last October designated him to lead efforts within the system on intimidation and reprisals. He was working to enhance coordination with the Council and its Presidency, the Special Procedures, and the human rights treaty bodies for addressing cases and trends in reprisals. He was also engaging with United Nations country teams and peace operations to ensure a more systematic and comprehensive response. Mr. Gilmour explained that the report was a compilation of cases where action had been taken by various United Nations actors, and that more cases were included in the annual report than ever before. Twenty-nine States were mentioned. Nevertheless, the phenomenon was much more widespread than the report indicated. Only cases that had been raised publicly and where there was express informed consent of the victim were mentioned. Mr. Gilmour referred to the Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances reporting on an Egyptian member of civil society who had been detained at the airport in Cairo before traveling to Geneva. In another egregious case, since 2016 Bahraini civil society groups attempting to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms had been interrogated, intimidated, subject to travel bans, and even arrested or detained, causing an atmosphere of fear. Civil society representatives coming directly from Bahrain had significantly decreased over the past year.

Some States had been mentioned in several of the Secretary-General’s annual reports since 2010. China and Saudi Arabia had been mentioned in six of them; Bahrain, Iran and Sri Lanka in five; and Algeria, Israel, Sudan, Tajikistan and Venezuela in four. Intimidation and reprisals undermined several human rights, in particular the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly. Reprisals took many forms, including intimidation, harassment, threats online and offline, and derogatory media campaigns. Individuals had been disbarred or dismissed from employment, their homes searched, and their offices raided. Some individuals had been abducted, detained, held incommunicado or disappeared in the midst of their cooperation with the United Nations. There were also many cases involving prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, whereas one case involved forcible psychiatric treatment. In some of the most severe cases, brutal measures imposed by States as reprisals had been justified by claiming that the individuals concerned had been charged with terrorism or cooperation with foreign entities. As the United Nations relied to a large extent on the information provided by civil society partners, Mr. Gilmour saluted the extraordinary courage of the victims and their families to come forward and share their stories.

Presentation by the Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee

MIKHAIL LEBEDEV, Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, addressing the Human Rights Council in the context of the annual report of the Advisory Committee which covered the Committee’s eighteenth and nineteenth sessions, said during the period covered, the Committee had continued to give priority to requests from the Human Rights Council and had begun its work on the five new mandates stemming from the Council’s thirty-fourth and thirty-fifth sessions. The annual report also covered thematic reports on two of the mandates of the Committee. The first thematic report was the final report on the study on the global issue of unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights. The report aimed to provide a comprehensive analysis of the situation of unaccompanied migrant children from a human rights perspective, and underlined that the rights of children were not limited by borders. While it noted the good practices in some regions and countries, one concern the Advisory Committee expressed therein was the fact that States often reacted to emergency situations instead of taking preventive measures. The report highlighted the need for cooperation between countries of origin, transit and destination, to ensure safe migration of children in general, and unaccompanied migrant children in particular. The Advisory Committee recommended that countries of origin should reinforce efforts to protect the rights of children to prevent them from having to flee.

The second report presented the progress report of the Committee’s research-based study on the impact of the flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The report emphasised the need for the use of a broad definition of illicit financial flows and based on this, considered estimations of the amount of illicit funds leaving developing countries per year. It also examined best practices in the return of illicit funds. The non-repatriation of illicit financial flows had several negative consequences on the enjoyment of human rights, including increasing the fracture between developed and developing countries, and hindering the socio-economic development of developing countries. The report identified several challenges inhibiting the return of illicit funds, namely a lack of political will in destination countries to take action against powerful financial domestic institutions. The Advisory Committee recommended the prompt and unconditional repatriation of funds of illicit origin to the countries of origin, and adequate sanctioning of crimes that were at the origin of illicit financial flows and grand corruption, ensuring accountability for banks and financial intermediaries for their involvement in illicit financial flows, and support for the suppression of tax havens and regulation of offshore companies.

The Committee had discussed a draft progress report on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights, which would be presented in the thirty-ninth session. It had also started working on five new mandates entrusted to it by the Council, namely on the impact of the flow of funds of illicit origin and the non-repatriation thereof to the countries of origin on the enjoyment of human rights; activities of vulture funds and the impact on human rights; national policies and human rights; the contribution of development to the enjoyment of human rights; and the negative effects of terrorism on human rights. Mr. Lebedev invited all present at the Human Rights Council to respond to the circulated questionnaires and Notes Verbale to this effect. He finally informed that the Committee had also continued its practice of having informal exchanges with the Bureau of the Human Rights Council. In conclusion, he assured that the Committee would continue its efforts towards bringing issues to the attention of the Council as appropriate.

Interactive Dialogue with the Advisory Committee

European Union appreciated the initiative of the Advisory Committee to hold an exchange of views as part of its nineteenth session in August with the Bureau of the Human Rights Council and coordinators of regional/political groups. The discussion confirmed that it was worth it to further reflect on the role of the Advisory Committee. Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, welcomed the fact that the request of resolution 35/32 on national policies and human rights was considered during the nineteenth session of the Advisory Committee. This resolution emphasised possibilities of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda for inclusive and participatory implementation of national policies while mainstreaming human rights. Russian Federation stressed that the Advisory Committee was the most appropriate expert mechanism to study various relevant issues falling in the purview of the Council. The fact that the Committee had examined the negative repercussion of terrorism on human rights was particularly appreciated. The Russian Federation believed that regional development was a must in order to improve human rights.

Organization of Islamic Cooperation welcomed the ongoing work of the Advisory Committee on a report to identify and address the obstacles faced by regional human rights mechanisms with a view to better promoting and protecting universal human rights values. Regional human rights bodies could provide comparative advantages in better understanding specific human rights issues of their own region of work. Japan appreciated the work of the Advisory Committee and expected it to promote an open exchange of views with Member States and non-governmental organizations. At the previous session, a decision was made to establish a Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against people affected by leprosy. It was important that the Advisory Committee provided a range of advice and cooperation to this Special Rapporteur. Venezuela welcomed the work of the Advisory Committee, particularly on the issues of the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and the impact of the non-repatriation of illicit funds. Venezuela recalled that the right to development was a right without which no other rights would be achieved.

Tunisia paid tribute to the work of the Advisory Committee, in particular on the negative impact on illicit funds and their non-repatriation on the enjoyment of economic and social rights, and the right to development. Fighting corruption had become a focus for all democratic societies. China welcomed the focus on unaccompanied minors who were more subjected to human rights violations. All States should approach the migration issue in a more open manner. As for the non-repatriation of illicit funds, all countries should strengthen bilateral and multilateral cooperation in that respect. Republic of Korea stressed the need for the independence and impartiality of the Advisory Committee. The Committee should be comprised of experienced members with considerable expertise and creative ideas. The interaction between Member States and the Committee should be increased.

Azerbaijan welcomed the mentioning of good practices with respect to unaccompanied migrants. The Advisory Committee should make further research on numerous human rights violations in order to bring them to the attention of the Council. Pakistan noted that without effective repatriation of the stolen assets, developing countries were deprived of much needed resources and economic momentum. All States had the responsibility to ensure that unaccompanied migrant children were not deprived of their rights. Egypt highlighted the study on the negative impact of funds of illicit origin on the enjoyment of rights, especially the right to development, and agreed with the conclusion that without the repatriation of illicit funds the development of countries was hindered. Egypt agreed that it was highly important to ensure the repatriation of illicit funds and to hold banks of such flows accountable, so as to enable the enjoyment of rights of people.

Jssor Youth Organization said according to the United Nations collected data, 1.65 per cent of parliamentarians were in their 20s and 11.87 per cent were in their 30s. The role of the younger generation was vital in the promotion of human rights. One of the obstacles behind the lack of engagement between young people and the political elite was the lack of strong and global institutions that incorporated youth in policies. American Association of Jurists took note of the report presented by the Advisory Committee, supported its recommendations and suggested the inclusion in the study of two fundamental aspects related to the flow of funds of illicit origin: the link between those funds and the right to self-determination, and the inclusion of funds from economic activities in occupied territories in the broader, two-tiered interpretation of the word “illicit.”

Save the Children International, in a joint statement with World Vision International, welcomed the Advisory Committee’s report on unaccompanied migrant children and human rights, which should be seen as a contribution to the Global Compact for safe, orderly and regular migration, which represented a historic opportunity to provide a much needed comprehensive human rights based global framework on migration. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik appreciated the comprehensive and qualitative report on the “Unaccompanied Migrant Children,” however one category which could be added was “the migrant children who had been made unaccompanied by the force of authorities.” Since September a strike plan had led to the seizure of working children in open spaces in Tehran, where 70 per cent of the children had been repatriated to Afghanistan without informing the families.

Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain Inc. expressed concern over continued reprisals against those who cooperated with the Council. In recent years, the Bahraini Government had targeted dozens of civil society and human rights defenders for judicial harassment both before and after the Council sessions. Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII, in a joint statement with several NGOs1, voiced concerns about the situation of children’s human rights. Large numbers of children went missing from reception centres or disappeared from the care of child protection facilities or immigration authorities in many countries. These children, being unaccompanied, were at very high risk of abuse and exploitation. Prahar outlined that the situation of indigenous peoples in the state of Assam was worsening. People in that state now had to prove their own land rights. Brutalities had happened in front of police personnel. The Council should act to improve the protection of indigenous people in Assam. Association of World Citizens stressed that follow-up should be granted to former leprosy sufferers. Medication free of charge was granted by the World Health Organization. Now there was a need to look into epilepsy. The situation of people who had been tortured and faced illnesses which did not exist before was particularly alarming.

Concluding Remarks

MIKHAIL LEBEDEV, Chairperson of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, thanked all participants for their interesting statements. He highlighted the fact that it had been pleasant to hear the support and enthusiasm regarding the Committee’s work. The Advisory Committee entertained a business-like atmosphere of dialogue and analysis. Its approaches were pragmatic and realistic. Mr. Lebedev apologised for not being able to respond to all issues and questions raised. Regarding a question posed by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on how the Advisory Committee could more effectively cooperate with national and regional human rights mechanisms, he said that the Committee expected a greater contribution from them to its work, just as it expected a greater contribution from States. On how cooperation could be enhanced, he informed about the Committee’s website, and noted that dialogues were held with the human rights community. The Advisory Committee would continue to hold these dialogues. Between theory and reality there was a large gap. In response to a question on what themes were disappearing, many issues were beyond the field of vision of the Committee. The dialogue continued with a view to improving its methodology and the Committee would continue to discuss this matter. Mr. Lebedev welcomed the praise regarding the work of the Committee on non-repatriated funds and looked forward to future discussions on that issue.

Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on the draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas (A/HRC/36/58).

Presentation on a Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas

NARDI SUXO ITURRY, Chair-Rapporteur of the Open-Ended Group Intergovernmental Working Group with the mandate of negotiating, finalising and submitting a draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, said that the Working Group was established to negotiate, conclude and present the draft United Nations declaration on the rights of peasants and other individuals working in rural areas. A very constructive atmosphere followed the drafting of the revised version of the resolution. The Working Group was pleased that the revised draft resolution had been met positively by stakeholders. The draft declaration tackled some of the most urgent challenges, such as reaching zero world hunger. A roundtable had been held with experts from all parts of the world on the contribution of peasants to food development, economy, job creation and stability, as well as economic, social and environmental challenges. Differences of opinion had generated a useful debate to tackle unique challenges faced by peasants and States’ efforts to promote their rights. The report of the Working Group summarised the discussions. The Working Group urged the Council to support the draft resolution and called on all Member States to take part in the Group’s work. Some 80 per cent of individuals suffering from hunger lived and worked in rural areas, whereas 70 per cent of the food was produced by small-scale farmers who, with their knowledge, improved seeds. Small-scale farmers also contributed to environmental sustainability.

Right of Reply

Bahrain, speaking in a right of reply, rejected the allegations made against it about acts of intimidation committed against human rights activists. Bahrain reaffirmed its commitment for the rules of participation of civil society and its contribution to the work of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council. Bahrain regretted to hear such inaccurate and baseless observations. The Mission of Bahrain in Geneva continued to exchange information with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in total transparency regarding one mentioned case. Moreover, all prisoners and detainees had the right to submit complaints related to acts of torture. Bahrain was committed to cooperate fully with all international mechanisms by providing information and answering questions.


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1Joint statement on behalf of: Associazione Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII; Alliance Defending Freedom; Heart's Home; International Catholic Child Bureau; International Volunteerism Organization for Women, Education and Development VIDES; Istituto Internazionale Maria Ausiliatrice delle Salesiane di Don Bosco; International Movement of Apostolate in the Independent Social Milieus; Passionists International; Pax Romana (International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs and International Movement of Catholic Students); Teresian Association; World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations.



For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC/17/139E