#UNGA71 | Interactive dialogues

01.11.2016

Over the last several weeks the UN’s Third Committee has been holding interactive dialogues with 55 human rights experts including special rapporteurs, independent experts, chairs of working groups and chairs of treaty bodies. The following update provides highlights of some of the key discussions between the Third Committee delegates and UN experts. 

Country interactive dialogues

Belarus

Whilst noting a couple of positive developments, including the definition of a national action plan to implement recommendations from treaty bodies, the Special Rapporteur on Belarus mostly spoke of ongoing human rights violations in the country. These include limitations on key freedoms including the right to association, with criminalisation of protest increasingly prevalent.  Mr. Haraszti noted that the environment for defenders is ‘forbidding’.  Several States, including Germany, Poland, and the USA foregrounded the experience of civil society in their interventions and asked how best they could be assisted.

Eritrea

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of Eritrea first briefed the Third Committee in her capacity as a member of the former Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea.  This briefing occured after objections were made by Eritrea to the Commission providing an oral statement.  The Commission of Inquiry’s task was to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights, including where these establish may amount to crimes against humanity.  Ms Keetharuth noted that the Commission did establish that some violations may constitute such crimes, and called on the Third Committee to ‘pay heed to the victims of crimes against humanity in Eritrea.’

The Special Rapporteur noted that whilst visiting diplomats and OHCHR have reported positive signs in Eritrea, ‘systematic, widespread and gross violations are taking place’ where ‘casual visitors, journalists and regrettably diplomats’ have no access.  In these places, said the Special Rapporteur, regrettably there has been no improvement.  The Special Rapporteur called for the Security Council to refer the situation of Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC). 

In response to accusations from several States that the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea was evidence of a politicised system that unfairly targets developing States, the Special Rapporteur noted that she was ‘(c)onscious of need to respect developing countries, but the fact you are developing country doesn’t allow for violation of rights.’

Myanmar

The non-continuance of the traditional EU resolution on Myanmar provided the backdrop to the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar’s presentation to the Third Committee. In that regard, he noted that the fact the OHCHR office had not been established – a key component of prior resolution calls – ahead of deciding to stop the resolution is ‘a major concern to many of us’.  ‘The people of Myanmar are still waiting for their government to meet these benchmarks. The people of Myanmar deserves an explanation.’  There was no reference made by any State or group of States to an alternative resolution being advanced.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)

 Several States, including the Czech Republic, the Republic of Korea and the US welcomed the appointment in September of two independent experts to support the work of the Special Rapporteur.  The Special Rapporteur was asked how he would encourage the DPRK to provide him access to the country.   Reflecting on his previous role as Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Mr Ojea Quintana noted that Myanmar had opposed the mandate as a matter of principle but had nevertheless cooperated with him.  He said he would have to see what was possible in the case of the DPRK. 

Iran 

The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of Iran was presented by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. The Special Rapporteur acknowledged some progress by Iran in regard to cooperation with the UN mechanisms. However, he emphasised that there is still much to be done, expressing concern over laws restricting fundamental freedoms and the detention of human rights defenders.  The Special Rapporteur stressed ‘that increasing engagement with the Iranian government and continued focus on their human rights record, are not and need not be, mutually exclusive realities’ and called for the international community to continue to find effective and creative ways to engage with Iran on human rights issues. 

 

Thematic interactive dialogues

Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples

The lack of meaningful consultation over the use of land was a concern at the heart of the Special Rapporteur’s report. This was one of many violations– including killings and violent evictions - she highlighted of the rights of indigenous people.  The Special Rapporteur gave the example of the murder of human rights defender Berta Caceres, killed last March because of her protests against large scale development projects in Honduras.  She noted that she will continue to monitor the investigations into the murder, and urged the Honduran State ‘to hold the perpetrator accountable and break the vicious cycle of impunity’.  

Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association

‘Many of those in power often don’t want to hear what people have to say,’ said Mr Kiai in regard to what he terms ‘counterproductive measures to close the space for civil society voices and actions.’ He emphasised that ‘unless there is renewed commitment from the world’s leaders, away from fear and control of their own people, and toward respecting the dignity of all, the situation will remain precarious for civil society globally.’

Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression 

In his report focusing on laws and practices that do not meet the requirements of legality, necessity and proportionality, Mr Kaye noted that restrictions that single out a specific group have an illegitimate objective. He gave ‘laws that explicitly attack expression on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity’ as an example. The Special Rapporteur also referred to the increasing number of cases of reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN and his mandate. ‘These acts of reprisals, such as surveillance, detention or revocation of citizenship constitute an additional layer of unlawful repression that further restricts freedom of expression’ he noted.

Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises

The Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights are helpful to address the impact of business-related activities on the rights of indigenous peoples, said the Chair of the Working Group, also emphasising the role of business enterprises and financial institutions in upholding the rights of communities. ‘The absence of robust recognition and protection of communities’ rights by States makes it all the more important for businesses to exercise due diligence and take serious measures to prevent, mitigate and remedy negative impacts on communities’, he said. He confirmed that the UN Forum on Business and Human Rights seeks to provide a platform for those working to ensure businesses operate in full respect of human rights. 

Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights

A human rights approach is key to preserving cultural heritage, Ms Bennoune said, noting, ‘(i)t is impossible to separate a people’s cultural heritage from the people itself and their rights.’ ‘Cultural heritage defenders’ who have lost their lives in the course of their work, she noted, and called on States to provide them with an environment that enables their work.  The Special Rapporteur said that cultural heritage defenders fit within the notion of economic, social and cultural rights defenders agreed by the Human Rights Council.  Norway and the European Union agreed with the notion that those defending cultural heritage as human rights defenders. 

 

Category:

Topic
  • Freedom of expression, association and assembly
  • Human rights defenders
  • NGOs
  • Reprisals and intimidation
  • United Nations
  • Women's rights and WHRD
Mechanism
  • Special Procedures of the UN Human Rights Council
  • UN Special Rapporteur on HRDs
  • UN General Assembly
Country
  • Belarus
  • Eritrea
  • Honduras
  • Iran
  • Myanmar
  • North Korea
  • Norway