Where global solutions are shaped for you | News & Media | HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES HUMAN RIGHTS AND TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS, AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES AND LAWYERS

ACCESSIBILITY AT UNOG A A A A The United Nations in the Heart of Europe

HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL DISCUSSES HUMAN RIGHTS AND TRANSNATIONAL CORPORATIONS, AND THE INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES AND LAWYERS

25 June 2018

The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with Anita Ramasastry, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and with Diego García-Sayán, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers.

Ms. Ramasastry said the thematic report examined how States could incentivise corporate respect for human rights, especially in trade promotion and finance, the so-called economic diplomacy, and urged States to use their leverage by requiring companies to demonstrate a commitment to the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights as a precondition for receiving Government support.  She spoke about the Working Group’s visits to Canada and Peru.

In the presentation of his thematic report on the role of judicial councils, Mr. García-Sayán noted that establishing an independent body tasked with the protection of the independence of the judiciary was a good practice, and urged States to consider establishing national judicial councils or any other body that would ensure judicial independence.  He spoke about his visit to Poland.

Canada, Peru and Poland spoke as concerned countries.  The Commissioner for Human Rights of Poland also spoke, as a national human rights institution from a concerned country.

In the discussion that followed, delegations highlighted the role of the State as the gatekeeper in the promotion of trade and providing a human-rights-friendly trade environment.  Some expressed concern over the abuse of the human rights agenda in the context of trade, and noted the urgency of holding companies accountable for human rights violations.  The regulation of the activities of transnational corporations must be guided by an ethical approach to ensure a decent standard of living realized through respect of human dignity rather than a mere economic interest; it must also include a critical evaluation of the environmental impact of economic decisions, in order to properly account for their long-term human and environmental costs.

Many speakers valued and underscored the independence of the judiciary and the need to insulate and protect the judiciary and judicial career processes from any political pressure, and outlined their national efforts to ensure the separation of powers and judicial independence.  They recognized the important role of national judicial councils which were key to safeguarding judicial mechanisms and the rule of law, and asked how a comprehensive set of principles for their establishment, composition and functioning could be developed and how the judicial councils’ performance could be enhanced.  Speakers stressed that there was no one-size-fits-all model for national judicial councils and that the national specificities of each country must be taken into account in their creation.

Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the European Union, Peru on behalf of a group of countries, Togo on behalf of the African Group, Montenegro, State of Palestine, Pakistan, Brazil, Belgium, Thailand, France, Namibia, Egypt, Iraq, Estonia, Germany, Australia, Holy See, Netherlands, Chile, Sudan, Spain, Hungary, Togo, Botswana, Greece, Tunisia, Venezuela, China, Russia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Azerbaijan, Council of Europe, Ecuador, Ukraine, Myanmar, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, International Development Law Organization, Mozambique, Norway, Morocco, and Kenya.

The following civil society organizations also spoke: International Bar Association (in a joint statement with several NGOs1); International Commission of Jurists; International Service for Human Rights ; Conectas Direitos Humanos; Amnesty International; Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil; Human Rights House Foundation; European Centre for Law and Justice; Human Rights Law Centre; Iraqi Development Organization; International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities; Sikh Human Rights Group; Human Rights Now and Nonviolent Radical Party Transnational and Transparty.


Next, the Council will hear Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore present thematic reports by the Secretary-General, High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which will be followed by a general debate on the promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.


Documentation

The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises (A/HRC/38/48).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises – mission to Canada (A/HRC/38/48/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises – mission to Peru (A/HRC/38/48/Add.2).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises - The third consultation for Latin America and the Caribbean on the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights within the framework of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (A/HRC/38/48/Add.3).

The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers (A/HRC/38/38).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the – mission to Poland (A/HRC/38/38/Add.1).

The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the – comments by Poland (A/HRC/38/38/Add.1).

Presentation of Reports on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

ANITA RAMASASTRY, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, presented a thematic report on how States could incentivise corporate respect for human rights, and on country visits of the Working Group to Canada and Peru.  In Canada, the Working Group was impressed by the federal Government’s effort to promote gender equality, and it positively noted the Government’s policy on supporting human rights defenders who were impacted by business activity.  The Working Group had also identified areas where there was a need to improve, such as the need for a more holistic and updated environmental impact assessment strategy, more clearly set forth expectations relating to free, prior and informed consent with indigenous peoples, and creating enhanced protections for migrant workers susceptible to exploitation.  The current federal and provincial environmental assessment processes needed to be more sensitive to indigenous peoples’ interests.  Despite the recognized legal duty of the Government to consult with indigenous peoples, there was limited Government oversight, and limited awareness of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights among businesses.  Ms. Ramasastry encouraged the Canadian Government to establish an Extractive Industries Human Rights Ombudsperson. 

Turning to Peru, Ms. Ramasastry noted that a major issue was the high number of social conflicts, resulting in often violent confrontations between communities and security forces.  Consultations with indigenous peoples on issues that might affect their communities should aim as obtaining their free, prior and informed consent and the agreements reached in that process should be closely respected and monitored.  One concern that had repeatedly been voiced was about the arrangement whereby police officers who were not on official duty were paid to provide security services to private companies and wear official police uniforms and carry official weapons.  Such arrangements should be discontinued.  The Working Group recommended that the Government develop mechanisms to protect human rights defenders from attacks and threats, and to allow them to raise legitimate concerns about adverse business-related human rights impacts.  It encouraged the Government to take an inclusive multi-stakeholder approach, involving business, trade unions, civil society organizations, and indigenous peoples. 

As for the thematic report, Ms. Ramasastry explained that it focused on an area where States played an important role as economic actors: trade promotion and finance, also referred to as economic or commercial diplomacy.  States could use their leverage by requiring companies to demonstrate a commitment to the Guiding Principles as a precondition for receiving Government support.  It was with Guiding Principle 4 in mind that the Working Group had decided to focus on three key areas of economic diplomacy: export promotion, trade finance and export credit.  Civil society groups had consistently raised concern about specific projects financed by export credit agencies that had had negative effects on human rights.  While many States had established export and trade promotion services as part of their economic development strategies to promote export-driven growth, there had not been adequate attention to the significant adverse human rights impacts that trade, exports and imports of goods within the global supply chain could have on individuals and communities.  States needed to align their trade promotion with the Guiding Principles and further develop and improve their screening process to include the determination of a company’s record and its commitment to respect human rights. 

DIEGO GARCÍA-SAYÁN, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, introducing his reports to the Council, said that his thematic report this year focused on the role of judicial councils, noting that presently, there was no set of internationally agreed rules on the composition of such bodies, nor did there exist an ideal model of a judicial council, which hampered the analysis of their efficiency.  Nevertheless, establishing an independent body tasked with the protection of the independence of the judiciary was a good practice, said the Special Rapporteur, and urged States to consider establishing such a body, or any other body that would ensure judicial independence.  One of the most important roles of a judicial council was the selection and appointment of judges, which must be done on the basis of merit alone, and consider the integrity and professionalism of appointees.  Further, the judicial councils should be composed both of judges and non-judicial staff, such as lawyers, law professors or reputable and experienced citizens.

On his mission to Poland, the Special Rapporteur said that the Government of Poland, like any other sovereign State, had the right to reform the judiciary to strengthen its efficiency and accountability.  However, the measures adopted by Poland were not sufficient to realize the stated objectives, and severely affected judicial independence.  Poland had taken a number of steps which had affected the independence of the Constitutional Court, as well as the composition, organization and functioning of ordinary courts, the Supreme Court and the National Judicial Council.  The first “victim” of the reforms was the Constitutional Court, undermined by a severe political interference in its composition.  The Court today could not guarantee an independent and efficient review of the constitutionality of legislative acts adopted by the legislature and the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The Special Rapporteur also expressed concern about the measures which had changed the composition and functioning of ordinary tribunals, the Supreme Court and the National Judiciary Council, and that the reform was being accompanied with a vast propaganda campaign against the judges, portrayed as an “autonomous organization that only looks after its own interests and is not responsible to the society”. 

The cumulative effect of those measures was to affect constitutionally protected principles, and the independence of the judiciary; the legislative was placing the judiciary under its control, putting democracy in Poland at risk, said the Special Rapporteur, noting with concern the complex situation in Poland.  In closing, Mr. García-Sayán commended the willingness of the Government to receive his visit and called on it to continue bilateral discussions on the matter; appealed to all States to uphold the basic principles of 1989 on judicial independence; and invited national human rights institutions, civil society organizations, judges and others, to also contribute their experiences.

Statements by Concerned Countries

Canada, speaking as a concerned country, noted that it had implemented a number of offered recommendations, and that it had taken measures to strengthen corporate responsibility at home and abroad.  The Government of Canada expected all Canadian companies active abroad to respect human rights, that they confirm to norms in a given country, and that they conduct their activities in a socially and environmentally responsible way.  Canada had announced earlier in 2018 that it would establish a national ombudsperson responsible for enterprises.  Recently, it had also set up a consultative multipartite group to provide advice on the conduct of Canadian businesses abroad.  Canada believed in inclusive prosperity, in line with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  What suggestions would the Working Group give to States on how to better protect women who defended human rights, particularly in the context of corporate activities, bearing in mind numerous risks that women faced, such as sexual violence and sexism?

Peru, speaking as a concerned country, stated that it had made legislative and administrative changes to improve the wellbeing of its people.  It reiterated its commitment to the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, and commended the fact that the Working Group had recognized Peru’s progress in fulfilling international standards, especially with respect to the rights of persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples, child labour, women’s rights, forced labour, and the management of social conflict.  Peru agreed that the key role of the State was to protect all citizens from human rights violations.  Peru provided a legislative framework within which enterprises could develop their activities without negatively affecting fundamental rights, and which allowed mechanisms to permit the investigation and sanctioning of any abuse. 

Poland, speaking as a concerned country, said the Special Rapporteur’s report was characterized by inconsistencies.  A fair and independent judicial system was in the interest of all Polish people.  The analysis of judicial reform required multi-dimensional approaches, something that was missing from the report.  Unreliable and biased information was used in its formulation.  Poland was strongly convinced that recent political and judicial developments must be accounted for, such as legislation regarding the Supreme Court.  These developments would improve the Polish judicial system.  A number of competencies vested solely within the Ministry of Justice were now shared with the President and National Judiciary Council.  Poland voiced regret that the report did not mention such legislative developments nor the Government’s will to address concerns raised by international organizations. 

Commissioner for Human Rights of Poland, was highly concerned about the rule of law standards in Poland.  In 2017, the Government had started the process of undermining the constitutional position of the judiciary through public statements and smear campaigns.  The National Judiciary Council had been elected by Parliament in a non-transparent manner.  Lowering of the retirement age for Supreme Court judges now meant that judges would be removed before their constitutional terms ended.  Reforms enacted by the Government created a threat to judicial independence.  Judges could be subjects of disciplinary proceedings, arbitrary removals and other forms of harassment.  For these reasons, in 2017 the Polish people had participated in intensive political protests across some 200 cities in the country. 

Interactive Dialogue

European Union said that with a smart mix of regulatory and voluntary measures, it was making progress with a clear direction of work set out in its Conclusions on Business and Human Rights of 20 June 2016.  Turning to the role of judicial councils, the European Union asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how his recommendations could be implemented in practice.  Peru, speaking on behalf of a group of countries, agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the independence of the judiciary was a key component of the rule of law, and took note of the lack of regulations in international law on the role of judicial councils.  Togo, speaking on behalf of the African Group, stated that it had become more urgent to hold companies accountable for human rights violations.  As for judicial councils, there was no single model for them, which was all the more evident in Africa with countries’ various historical, cultural and social characteristics.  

Montenegro acknowledged that while there was no one-size-fits-all model for judicial councils, their role was essential in regulating the appointment and termination of office of judges in accordance with norms and standards that guaranteed the independence of the judiciary.  Montenegro, thus, had carried out a thorough reform to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.  State of Palestine underscored that States were primary duty bearers in the protection of human rights, and that they had to ensure that business enterprises controlled by them did not sell products directly linked to adverse human rights impacts.  The use of export and import controls was a useful tool that allowed States to implement their duty to protect human rights, and to ensure transparency and compliance control.  Pakistan recognized the diversity in models around the world to ensure the independence of the judiciary.  Nevertheless, the principles of independence and responsibility to protect human rights were common denominators.  On the Working Group’s report, Pakistan stressed that while devising strategies for trade and commerce, human rights and the environment, as well as peculiar historical, cultural and development characteristics, had to be taken into account.

Brazil said its export agency was recognized for its commitment to gender equality and human rights.  Brazil was concerned about the abuse of the human rights agenda in the context of trade.  Judicial councils were key to safeguarding judicial mechanisms and the rule of law.  Brazil asked how the performance of judicial councils could be enhanced.  Belgium appreciated the recognition that efforts were underway in the country to raise awareness of human rights in business.  The diplomatic network was being provided with a toolkit to help guide private sector actors worldwide on human rights issues.  The Belgian National Judicial Council promoted the efficiency of the justice system.  Thailand shared the view of the importance of promoting business respect for human rights in the context of overseas trade, including in the role of export credit agencies.  A national action plan on business and human rights was expected to be approved this year in Thailand. 

France underscored the importance of compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  On the independence of lawyers and judges, France said independence was fundamental to the judicial system.  The Government placed great importance on the role of national judicial councils.  Namibia noted that the Working Group’s report highlighted the role of the State as a gatekeeper in the promotion of trade and providing a human-rights-friendly trade environment.  Namibia had begun awareness-raising campaigns to ensure that companies doing business in the country could be held accountable for rights violations.  Egypt agreed that national judicial councils were extremely important.  The independence and impartiality of the judiciary branch was essential to the promotion and protection of human rights. Business corporations played a key role in economic growth, yet it was essential that they respected human rights.

Iraq valued and underscored the independence of the judiciary and the need to insulate and protect the judiciary and judicial careers from any political pressure, and asked the Special Rapporteur how he would develop a comprehensive set of principles for the establishment, composition and functioning of national judicial councils.  Estonia stressed that the impartiality, independence and integrity of the judiciary must be unconditionally guaranteed in a rule of law society and asked whether the efforts of the Council of Europe in developing legal standards on the role, composition and functioning of national judicial councils could serve as a good basis for general international standards.  Germany expressed appreciation for the presentation by several countries of national action plans on businesses and human rights, and noting that so far only a minority of countries had started implementing the Guiding Principles, asked how more countries could get on board on this important process. 

Australia underlined that the rule of law facilitated confidence in the legal profession and judicial systems and, considering that Australia shared its work with States across the region, including Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, asked how States could best support national law and justice agencies to ensure judicial independence.  Holy See stressed that the regulation of the activities of transnational corporations must be guided by an ethical approach to ensure a decent standard of living realized through respect of human dignity rather than a mere economic interest, and also stressed that it must include a critical evaluation of the environmental impact of economic decisions, in order to properly account for their long-term human and environmental costs.  Netherlands had an active policy to stimulate all Dutch businesses to act in accordance with international standards such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, in particular those to which the Government offered trade and investment services.   

Chile stressed that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were key for coming up with public policies that allowed society to benefit from the benefits generated by companies.  Chile ensured that its companies active abroad were well versed in human rights.  Sudan said that a healthy judicial system was a precondition for the protection of human rights.  In 2005, Sudan had created a new body to achieve the complete independence and autonomy of judges.  Spain reminded that its 2017 National Action Plan provided an opportunity to create a working group with a mandate to examine the alignment of support policies by the State with the Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights.  It asked the Working Group to share its analysis on how States could withdraw their financial support for non-compliant companies?

Hungary said it was fully committed to the principle of the rule of law and the separation of powers, adding that one of the important elements of judicial independence was the principle of the irremovability of judges.  What could the United Nations system do to assist States to share information and experiences regarding the proper functioning of national judicial councils?  Togo agreed that candidates for State financing should sign a declaration in which they committed to never commit acts of corruption within the framework of their activities, and supported the recommendation of the Working Group that enterprises be bound by respect for human rights.  Botswana concurred that promoting and protecting the independence of the judiciary was a critical ingredient in ensuring the separation of powers.  It agreed with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that there was a need to set out principles on national judicial councils at the international level. 

Remarks by the Chair of the Working Group on Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

ANITA RAMASASTRY, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, said efforts were underway to investigate how States and corporations could incorporate gender issues.  The Working Group would emphasise how due diligence efforts must account for risks of human rights defenders, especially women human rights defenders.  Trade and investment promotion and human rights must be discussed in many other fora outside the Human Rights Council.  The Working Group’s mandate was the implementation of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.  Export credit agencies should take human rights into account when deciding what projects to work on.  The Working Group was pleased to work with States through regional dialogue to develop a body of practice that could guide national action plans. 

DIEGO GARCÍA-SAYÁN, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said that countries that already had national judicial councils in place must work to strengthen those institutions as a means to strengthen the independence of the judiciary.  Countries without such councils in place must contemplate establishing them.  National associations of judges could enrich efforts to create judicial councils.  Turning to the independence of judges, he reiterated his position on the importance of cooperating with States in order to give impetus to the debate.  In response to Poland, the Special Rapporteur reiterated his gratitude for the invitation to visit the country.  The balance of powers was critical, he stressed.  In Poland, the executive branch was taking up roles of the judiciary. 

Interactive Dialogue

Greece said that the linkage between the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights was well established and that was why the independence of the judiciary must be guaranteed at the highest level.  National judicial councils were especially efficient institutions in preserving the independence of the judiciary.  Tunisia fully agreed that there was a need to establish international principles to separate powers, which was the basis of democracy; this was enshrined in the Constitution in Tunisia, which had set up a new Supreme Council for Magistrates in 2016 which guided the judiciary, including appointment, transfer and retirement of judges.  Venezuela said it had put in place policies to develop an economy based on the socialist model of the society.  Venezuela had recently approved the constitutional law on productive foreign investment that called for respect of the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, and the protection of the environment.  The judiciary was supported by two per cent of the national budget, it was independent and impartial, and access to justice in the country was entirely free of charge.

To promote responsible business operations, China had put in place a policy and regulated and supervised business operations overseas to exercise self-discipline and respect for international standards and human rights.  The judicial reform was deepening to ensure that justice was served in all cases and the Constitution had provided for the independence of people’s courts.  Russia said the independence of the judiciary was key to a fair trial, adding that imposing any universal recipes for national judicial councils would be highly inappropriate, as this must take into account specific historical and other characteristics of countries.  Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the ongoing reform of the judiciary and the rule of law was a top priority, especially in the process of European integration, and noted that its legal and judicial system was one of the most complex among European countries today.

India asked that the ambit of stakeholder consultations of the Working Group widen to include inputs from credit agencies and groups of the developing world, adding that further deliberation was necessary on States’ optimal use of their leverage with respect to trade and investment promotion while promoting greater respect for human rights.  Azerbaijan regretted that there was no access to effective remedy to human rights violations by transnational corporations, especially in conflict and post-conflict situations.  Transparency in the judiciary was a key characteristic of Azerbaijan.  Council of Europe stated that the independence of judges and lawyers played a key role in ensuring the full and effective functioning of democratic institutions.  It observed that at the moment, in a small number of Member States, the organization’s standards and recommendations were not being followed. 

Ecuador warned about important risks and challenges to human rights brought about by supply chains.  That required due diligence and effective remedy to victims, as well as the withdrawal of State support and financing for non-compliant enterprises.  It regretted that the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights were not fully complied with in certain countries, including in members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  Ukraine noted that under the extreme challenges of Russian aggression, it had succeeded in adopting constitutional amendments to strengthen the independence of the judiciary and that it had been implementing reforms to curb corruption and consolidate democracy.  Ukraine’s civil society played an active role in designing and exercising oversight over the implementation of reforms. 

Myanmar concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that national constitutions had to include provisions regarding the set-up, composition, functions and autonomy of the judiciary.  Technical assistance and capacity building were essential for enhancing judicial independence.  Nigeria acknowledged the independence of the judiciary as an essential component of the right to a fair trial and the rule of law.  In Nigeria, lawyers and prosecutors did not face any obstacle in practicing their profession.  Burkina Faso agreed that the enjoyment of human rights was not possible without the separation of powers.  All stakeholders were invited to strengthen their cooperation with the Special Rapporteur and identify best practices in the creation of nation judicial councils.

International Development Law Organization commended the report for highlighting the importance of safeguarding the independence of the judiciary through the establishment of national judicial councils.  How did the Special Rapporteur envisage international cooperation for the establishment of national judicial councils, in particular in countries undergoing peacebuilding?  Mozambique cautioned about recommendations of the Working Group on the withdrawal of investment support in situations where businesses failed to meet their corporate responsibility to respect human rights.  Corporations were registered in countries of origin, but also in the countries where they operated, giving them ample room for escaping accountability.  Norway applauded the outreach work of the Working Group in the promotion of human rights and emphasised the importance of stakeholder dialogue and predictability as well as transparency.  Cooperation with the Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation was encouraged.

Morocco said it had established a new national judicial council, further ensuring the independence of the judicial system.  The judicial council was made up of magistrates with non-renewable five-year terms.  The judicial council also had consultative duties and could produce reports on legal matters.  Kenya agreed that States must support imports and exports through various measures while ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights.  In the case of abuses, States must ensure that victims were given access to remedy mechanisms.  Kenya had a national judicial council in place to ensure the transparent administration of justice.

International Bar Association in a joint statement with several NGOs1, voiced concern over widespread human rights violations against lawyers in Turkey and the suppression of the judiciary in Poland.  The Council was called on to urge Turkey to end the repression and prosecution of lawyers and release lawyers under arbitrary detention.  International Commission of Jurists urged all States to consider establishing independent national judicial councils.  To ensure the independence of such bodies, the majority of members must be judges elected by their peers.  The organization was concerned about the Working Group’s findings on Peru and asked how the Group would address the issue.

International Service for Human Rights said it was speaking on behalf of environmental activists.  The organization stressed that the situation of rights defenders must be central when considering where to provide economic support.  The organization asked how the Working Group could help address the worsening condition of rights defenders in the Philippines.  Conectas Direitos Humanos said proper enforcement mechanisms of responsible business conduct provisions must be guaranteed by States.  The organization called on the Brazilian Government to increase engagement in the implementation of the Working Group’s recommendations and urged a follow-up visit.

Amnesty International said that legislative changes introduced by the Polish Government had eroded the independence of the judiciary, threatening the right to due process and allowing for political interference in the judiciary.  The Council was urged to call on the Polish Government to engage with the Special Rapporteur and act on his recommendations without delay.  Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y promocion de los Derechos Humanos, Asociacion Civil said that human rights violations were not investigated in Mexico and impunity started with the prosecution itself.  Forced disappearances were a widespread problem and a new Attorney General was needed as well as an international mechanism to fight against impunity.  Human Rights House Foundation shared the call to the Polish Government to reconsider its ongoing reform of the judiciary.  Azerbaijan was called on to release Emin Aslan and lift the travel ban on lawyers and Hungary was urged to ensure that lawyers could exercise their duties without interference when defending migrants.

European Centre for Law and Justice drew the Council’s attention to the plight of Pastor Andrew Brunson, an innocent United States citizen who was wrongfully imprisoned in Turkey and who was currently undergoing a sham trial.  Human Rights Law Centre stressed that Australia’s recent modern slavery inquiry had exposed horrific examples of forced labour in the supply chains of some of Australia’s biggest companies.  The Government would unveil new laws requiring companies to report annually on what they were doing to address abuses.  Iraqi Development Organization drew attention to the lack of an independent national judicial council in Bahrain and the negative effects that this had on the justice system.  Judges were appointed directly by the King, from nominations made by the Ministry of Justice, headed by another member of the ruling family.

International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities drew the Council’s attention to the case of Turkish lawyer Eren Keskin who was being subjected to multiple instances of persecution and harassment, including the lodging of 120 cases against her in Turkish courts as a result of her tireless efforts to promote human rights.  Sikh Human Rights Group said it had long campaigned for a robust regime of accountability at the international level for transnational corporations and regretted that in reality, States were hesitant to take on powerful transnational corporations because of their financial muscle. 

Human Rights Now was seriously concerned about labour and human rights violations in the poultry industry in Thailand, which was the world’s third largest poultry exporter, and was especially concerned about the human rights violations of migrant workers who were particularly vulnerable.  Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty spoke of threats to and political persecution of lawyers for their professional activities in Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and other countries, noting with concern that often in those countries, lawyers were frequently the only ones who could access victims of torture.

Concluding Remarks by the Chair of the Working Group on the Issue of Human Rights and Transnational Corporations and the Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers

ANITA RAMASASTRY, Chair of the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, said technical discussions on how States could use economic incentives in their dealings must also occur outside the Human Rights Council.  Stakeholder consultations by the Working Group were open to all stakeholders and export credit was an issue that could be addressed in multiple settings.  The Working Group acknowledged that the issue of human rights compliance was further complicated when dealing with both parent and subsidiary companies.  The Working Group would continue to provide policy guidance through country visits. 

DIEGO GARCÍA-SAYÁN, Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, said he was pursuing a visit to Turkey and an official request had been made.  On Poland, he once again expressed his willingness to work with that Government and said dialogue on the matter could take place in several multi-governmental venues.  The Special Rapporteur had received information on the situation of lawyers in Azerbaijan and relevant information could be found on the mandate’s website.  The Special Rapporteur was pleased that States were reporting that national judicial councils now existed in their systems.  The number of States with such bodies had doubled over the last 10 years.  Preventing the politicization of national judicial councils was crucial.

__________

1Joint statement on behalf of: International Bar Association; Lawyers for Lawyers; Lawyers Rights Watch Canada; The Law Society and International Union of Lawyers.


For use of the information media; not an official record

HRC18.089E