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Sixty-ninth session,
21st & 22nd Meeting (AM & PM)
GA/SHC/4107

Forensic Proof, Medical Records Key in Halting Torture, Special Rapporteur Tells Third Committee as Human Rights Debate Begins

Experts Insist Evidence, Training Could Help States End Impunity, Prosecute Perpetrators, Detect, Prevent Cruel Practices

Forensic science played a key role regarding the obligation of States to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, a special rapporteur said today, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) began its discussion on human rights.

“Effective medical and forensic documentation can bring evidence of torture and other ill-treatment to light so that perpetrators may be held accountable,” said Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  Indeed, the lack of investigation and of accountability perpetuated the practice of torture and other ill-treatment.  The Special Rapporteur’s fact-finding mission had discovered that States were reluctant to carry out criminal investigations into torture allegations and accurate statistics on its incidence were difficult to obtain.

However, scientific evidence obtained by an effective investigation, including impartial, independent and thorough forensic evaluations, assisted States to comply with their obligations systematically and to investigate, prosecute and punish each incident of torture.  Instrumental in overcoming a lack of objective evidence were medical records, which played a major role in preventing future acts of torture, he said.  In addition, adequate, extensive forensic evaluation and the effective training of health, legal and other professionals involved in documenting and investigating cases of reported torture and other ill-treatment could positively impact the detection and prevention of its practice.

The Committee also heard briefings from other four United Nations experts: Claudio Grossman, Chair of the Committee against Torture; Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture; Maria-Virginia Bras Gomes, Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, reading a statement on behalf of its Chair, Zdzislaw Kedzia; and Nigel Rodley, Chair of the Committee on Human Rights.

Mr. Grossman said the Committee against Torture had registered 627 complaints presented by individuals alleging violations by a State party.  Individuals from only 66 of the 156 States parties had had that possibility, he said, because 90 States parties had not yet declared their recognition of the Committee’s competence, thereby limiting available tools to supervise the full compliance with the Convention.

Mr. Evans said the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was not a source of abstract legal obligations, but a set of practical tools in the form of independent national preventive mechanisms.  He also underlined the need to be open and honest about the reality of governance within places of detention, reminding delegates that “it is the Subcommittee’s role to understand and advise rather than to investigate, expose or condemn”.

Ms. Gomes said the General Assembly had referred to direct assistance to States parties at the national level by building and developing institutional capacity for reporting and strengthening technical knowledge through ad hoc training.  Turning to the post-2015 agenda she said it must be linked with human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.  The new development goals, as well as its indicators and benchmarks, needed to be explicitly aligned with human rights principles and standards, she added.

Mr. Rodley said failure to promote and protect all human rights contributed to the root causes of escalating violence in certain regions of the world.  In that regard, the Committee on Human Rights had assisted States parties in meeting their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Stressing that a lack of implementation undermined the Committee’s credibility, he encouraged all States parties to give great weight to the Committee’s advice and follow-through on its recommendations.

Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced four reports of the Secretary-General related to the implementation of human rights instruments.  He also provided an overview of how United Nations voluntary funds reached victims of torture and contemporary forms of slavery.

Also delivering statements on human rights were representatives of Italy, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Japan, Nicaragua, Iran, China, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Yemen, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Mongolia, Indonesia, Venezuela, Armenia, as well as the European Union delegation.

A representative of the International Labour Organization also delivered a statement.

The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 22 October, to continue its discussion on human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to begin its discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.

For its discussion on human rights instruments, the Committee had before it reports of the following: Human Rights Committee (documents A/69/40 (Vol. I), A/69/40 (Vol. II, Part One), A/69/40 (Vol. II, Part Two)); Committee against Torture (document A/69/44); and Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/69/48).  Also before it were reports of the Secretary-General on: the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/69/290); United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/69/296); Status of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol thereto (document A/69/284); and the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (document A/69/289).

Also before members were notes by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies (document A/69/285) and the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/69/387).

The report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/69/36) was also before the Committee.

Interactive Debate

IVAN ŠIMONOVIĆ, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, introduced four reports of the Secretary-General on the implementation of human rights instruments, providing an overview of recent activities.  On the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery, he said that despite the limited contribution of $409,000 received from donors, the Fund was able to support 35 organizations in all five regions of the world.  They provided rehabilitation to victims of trafficking, forced and early marriage, the worst forms of child labour, domestic servitude, bonded and forced labour, sexual exploitation and traditional slavery.

Turning to the report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, he said it supported the rehabilitation of victims of torture worldwide thanks to the disbursement of some 270 grants to non-governmental channels of assistance.  Through competitiveness and clearer parameters for time-bound support to projects, he added, the Fund’s portfolio would be better balanced geographically and better able to respond to new and emergency situations.

On the Secretary-General’s note transmitting the report of the Chairs of the human rights treaty bodies, he said that the main items of the agenda included a simplified reporting procedure, constructive dialogue and concluding observations.  Turning to another report of the Secretary-General, he said the Special Fund established by the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture was supporting projects in countries the Subcommittee had visited, and publishing visit reports.  It had supported 22 projects since it became operational since 2012, for a total sum of just over $600,000, he added.

CLAUDIO GROSSMAN, Chair of the Committee against Torture, said that, out of 193 Member States, 156 had ratified or acceded to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to date.  However, 26 had never submitted a report to the Committee, violating their obligations and preventing the body from fulfilling its monitoring mandate.  Regarding individual communications, the Committee had registered 627 complaints presented by individuals alleging violations by a State party.  Individuals from only 66 of the 156 States parties had that possibility, he said, because 90 States parties had not yet declared their recognition of the Committee’s competence, thereby limiting available tools to supervise the full compliance with the Convention.  He called on States that had not yet ratified the Convention to do so, and for others to accept all procedures of the Convention in order to enable the Committee to fulfil its mandate.

Recalling the Convention against Torture Initiative, a 10-year initiative launched in 2014 for the universal ratification and implementation of the Convention, he said topics to be highlighted included the sharing of implementation experiences and best practices, and identification of quantitative measures to assess compliance.  The Committee against Torture had been actively engaged in the treaty body strengthening process, including the organization of a dialogue process with treaty body chairs, States and civil society organizations.

Providing information on accomplishments and challenges, he emphasized that the Committee had received continuous reports of intimidation and reprisals against individuals and groups.  It had, in that regard, designated two rapporteurs to address reprisals, and created a dedicated web page, publicly stating its concerns.  The Committee also sought to improve its working methods to face challenges that arose regarding the implementation of the Convention against Torture.  Concluding, he commended States on the thirtieth anniversary of the Convention, and called upon all stakeholders to commit themselves to the full implementation of all of the Convention’s obligations.

In the ensuing interactive dialogue, representatives of Switzerland, United Kingdom, Chile and the European Union asked about measures taken to address the problem of reprisals on individuals or groups who engaged with treaty bodies and on a pilot project to create a platform assessing the work of those bodies.  Other questions related to practical opportunities to advocate for the universal ratification of the Convention and to follow-up activities.

Mr. GROSSMAN said all actions of the Committee had to be guided by the principles of legality, independence and autonomy, as well as interpreted as serving humanity and looking primarily at the victims.  On initiatives to improve the work of treaty bodies, he said the Committee did not have a meeting on that issue, but all coordination initiatives were welcomed.  Reprisals needed to be dealt with, he said, announcing that a special sitting of the Committee would be organized if the question of reprisals arose.  Additional work also needed to be done on prevention, he said, welcoming suggestions from Member States.

On practical measures to encourage universal ratification, he noted that there were no countries that were allowing confessions under torture or accepting the utilization of torture for any means.  Therefore, he noted, an international legal framework to deal with torture was already in place.  However, he said, it was important to promote constructive dialogues and to have meetings on capacity-building and other initiatives.  On follow-up activities, he said it was important to insist that Member States met their obligations.  Civil society, he added, also had an important role to play, as it had the capacity to mobilize volunteers as well as provide extensive experience and enthusiasm.

MALCOLM EVANS, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, presented that body’s seventh annual report, providing an update on its activities.  Pressure on the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture to undertake more field visits had increased as the number of States parties to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture rose.  Due to a lack of capacity, the Subcommittee had scheduled six visits in 2013, with that number increasing to eight in 2014, including Nicaragua, Ecuador, Malta and Azerbaijan.

The Optional Protocol was not just a source of abstract legal obligations, he continued, highlighting its establishment of a set of practical tools in the form of independent national preventive mechanisms.  Those tools had proven to be of real worth, he said, noting that the Subcommittee would continue to focus on ensuring that national preventive mechanisms were established and operated as the drafters of the Optional Protocol intended.  However, despite very clear convention commitments, the Subcommittee had experienced increasing delays in receiving the required information and facilities to undertake visits efficiently.

Turning to the idea of cooperation in the interests of prevention, he said that increasing attention was being paid to responses to its reports and recommendations as more visits had taken place.  Delighted by a strong trend in favour of publishing its reports, he expected to see a similar trend towards the implementation of its recommendations.  In that regard, the Subcommittee sought to expand the number of short follow-up visits.  Concluding, he underlined the need to be open and honest about the reality of governance within places of detention, reminding delegates that it was the Subcommittee’s role to understand and advise rather than to investigate, expose or condemn.

Delegates then asked about a range of issues, including cooperation with regional organizations, trends and developments on national preventive mechanisms, identification and prevention of reprisals and the implementation of recommendations.

Mr. Evans said that there had been an increase in the ratification of the Convention, which currently had 74 States parties.  On regional cooperation, he said the Convention required working with all organizations including local, regional, and international.  As the number of States parties to the Optional Protocol rose, the Subcommittee was expected to undertake field visits within a short period of time and to properly fulfil the Convention’s mandate.  In that regard, it was important to keep an open dialogue with the Subcommittee and States.  Due to technical and practical reasons, increasing the number of visits was hard to achieve.  However, the Subcommittee was always excited to address questions and requests coming from States parties, he said.

Every country had its own national preventive mechanisms, he said.  Stressing the importance of sharing experiences and best practises, the Subcommittee was always pleased to read country reports on such mechanisms.  On reprisals, he said the measures had already been tested and the risk analysis had been completed, with outcomes to be published at the end of next calendar year.  He noted that reprisals came from many places, including from those managing detention facilities and sometimes from detainees themselves.  In that regard, the presence of national preventive mechanisms was an invaluable safeguard.  Concluding, he underlined that there must be new and innovative ways to implement the recommendations while the process was going on.

JUAN MÉNDEZ, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said his report reflected on the key role that forensic science played regarding the obligation of States to investigate and prosecute allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, especially with regard to individual responsibility and the fight against impunity.  “Effective medical and forensic documentation can bring evidence of torture and other ill-treatment to light so that perpetrators may be held accountable,” he said.  Medical records could be instrumental in overcoming a lack of objective evidence with which survivors of torture were confronted, given that torture mostly took place without witnesses.

During fact-finding missions, he had observed that States were reluctant to carry out criminal investigations into torture allegations and that accurate statistics on the incidence of torture were difficult to obtain.  The lack of investigation, together with a lack of accountability, perpetuated the practice of torture and other ill-treatment.  Scientific evidence obtained by an effective investigation, including impartial, independent and thorough forensic evaluations, assisted States to comply with their obligations systematically to investigate, prosecute and punish each incident of torture.  Such evidence also played a major role in preventing future acts of torture by fighting impunity and holding perpetrators accountable.

International law prohibited torture and ill-treatment, he said, and the three pillars in the fight against torture were the obligations of States to ensure justice and to prevent and to redress all acts of torture.  The obligation to investigate was central to the realization of all three pillars, he added.  States were obliged to undertake an effective investigation whenever there were indications of torture or other ill-treatment, he said.  Adequate, extensive forensic evaluation and the effective training of health, legal and other professionals involved in documenting and investigating cases of reported torture and other ill-treatment, he noted, could positively impact the detection and prevention of its practice.

During a lively interactive segment, issues were raised by delegates from the United States, Switzerland, Bahrain, Brazil, Denmark, Norway, Argentina, Maldives, Morocco, Liechtenstein, United Kingdom, Mexico and the European Union.  Questions related to ways to make the best resources available to victims of torture, as well as to best practices of successful training for legal and medical professionals.  Other speakers asked about how to step up mechanisms to improve the use of forensic evidence in countries and about country visits.

Mr. Méndez encouraged potential for exchanges for medical associations from around the world on techniques to identify torture, calling for shared best practices and technical cooperation.  Making medical examinations available at critical moments of detention was crucial to prevent torture and should be integrated into procedural codes.  On the impact of cancellations and postponements of his visits, he said his mandate relied on the cooperation of States and that last-minute cancellations had a negative impact on the organization of his work.  He also insisted on being able to visit certain countries and on the conditions he could accept, in order to conduct free and independent investigations.  

On reprisals, he said there was anecdotal evidence of them, and called for devices and systems to track them.  It was also important to maintain the level of attention his visits brought to engage civil society, medical professionals and the State.  On best practices on forensic sciences, he applauded Mexico as the only country where the Istanbul Protocol [a manual on the effective investigation and documentation of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment] was very well known and implemented, urging the sharing of best practices.

Responding to a question on the responsibility of the executive branch of government, he said the exclusionary rule was mostly incumbent on the legislative branch but if the executive was involved in an investigation, they could also be informed of it.  He also mentioned the dialogue with the Deputy Secretary-General concerning the Human Rights up Front initiative, saying he looked forward to including a human rights approach in peacekeeping and in humanitarian operations.

EVA CHARLOTTA SCHLYTER, of the European Union delegation, said that human rights treaty bodies were fundamental in the translation of universal norms into practical measures.  Welcoming the adoption of resolution 68/268 on strengthening those bodies, she added that technical assistance and institution-building was also vital to fostering the effective implementation of human rights obligations.  The European Union appreciated the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and welcomed the attention paid to the situation of human rights defenders.

The Vienna Declaration on human rights, she added, remained a key reference document for the advancement of human rights worldwide.  Sadly, many countries, civil society representatives and organizations continued to experience increasing restrictions on their work and access to funding, facing intimidation and even violent attacks.  The European Union was fully committed to the defence of civil society spaces and also strongly believed that the Human Rights Council must remain a safe space to express concerns.  Human rights were not something separate or technical to be relegated to mechanisms and experts, she said.  Human rights, she said in conclusion, provided the basic guidance for all areas of the Organization’s work.

MARIA-VIRGINIA BRAS GOMES, Rapporteur of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, read out a statement on behalf of its Chair, Zdzislaw Kedzia.  She said two years ago, the Economic and Social Council and the General Assembly had granted the Committee additional meeting time to address a growing backlog of State party reports.  That, in combination with fewer meetings for the consideration of each report, had enabled the Committee to reduce the number of pending reports.  Further, following General Assembly resolution 68/268, the Committee would have additional time for the 2015-2017 period, which would eliminate the backlog gradually.

Emphasizing the crucial importance of building capacities at the country level, she added that the General Assembly, through resolution 68/268, had referred to direct assistance to States parties at the national level by building and developing institutional capacity for reporting and strengthening technical knowledge through ad hoc training.  Further, the General Assembly had called on Member States to cooperate with regional human rights mechanisms, developing a roster of experts on treaty body reporting and facilitating the sharing of best practices among States parties.

Noting continuing progress in the ratification of the Optional Protocol, she added that the number of States parties to that instrument had now reached the level of 16.  In conclusion, she stressed that the post-2015 development agenda must be linked functionally with human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights.  The individual must be at the heart of that agenda so that the new goals, indicators and benchmarks would be explicitly aligned with human rights principles and standards.

Delegates from Argentina, Belgium, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Lao, Norway, South Africa, Switzerland, as well as the European Union then asked about several matters, including the best ways to increase the efficiency of the treaty bodies system and how austerity measures taken by States as a result of the global financial crisis may have affected the delivery of economic, social and cultural rights.  Delegates also asked how the Committee planned to deal with overdue reports and emphasized that optional protocols must be ratified as widely as possible and that the protection of rights must begin at the national level, with international mechanisms monitoring their implementation.

Responding, Ms. GOMES said that enhancing working methods was a high priority for her Committee, and General Assembly resolution 68/268 had supported that.  By improving time management and the quality of the dialogue with States parties, the Committee was planning to deal with its backlog.  In order to deal with overdue reports, the Committee would be reminding States parties that it was in their interest to meet their reporting obligations as it was an opportunity to analyse their public policies and dialogue with civil society.

Continuing, she said the Committee was developing a more consistent approach to indicators and benchmarks.  Austerity measures had resulted in cutting down social spending, which had negatively affected the implementation of social and cultural rights.  In May 2012, the Chair of the Committee had written a letter to the States parties to remind them of their obligations, especially in times of crisis.  Policy changes in response to financial crises must still meet the minimum standard of rights, she stressed.

NIGEL RODLEY, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, presented that body’s annual report, saying the failure to promote and protect all human rights contributed to the root causes of escalating violence in certain regions of the world.  In that regard, the Committee had assisted States parties in meeting their obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The General Assembly’s support marked a turning point in the recognition of the treaty bodies and the need to ensure they were all sufficiently resourced.

Since the previous General Assembly, he said, the Committee had undertaken a substantial amount of work, including the adoption of decisions on 94 communications, an increase of 22 per cent over the norm of recent years.  Stressing that a lack of implementation undermined the Committee’s credibility, he encouraged all States parties to give great weight to the Committee’s advice and to follow through on its recommendations.

The Committee was constantly revising its working methods to make it more efficient, he continued.  Two recommendations in response to General Assembly resolution 68/268 offered ways and means for States as well as the Committee to improve efficiency and effectiveness.  Furthermore, the Committee hoped to adopt its General Comment on Article 9 relating to the right to liberty and security of persons at its current session.  Concluding, he recalled the twenty-fifth anniversary of the adoption of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, and reiterated the appreciation for the support States parties had provided.

Mr. RODLEY then responded to a question posed by a representative of the European Union about challenges in the implementation of the General Assembly resolution and heard comments from a delegate of Belarus, who spoke about the role of civil society in the Committee report.  He said the Committee had very little experience in evaluating the preliminary assessment.  Translating reports and the issue of “using time efficiently” were among other challenges they faced, he continued.  In that regard, States were grateful when the Committee spent extra time to cover the State delegates and questions as more participation meant more justice.  Furthermore, he said the Committee was given power to adopt its own rules and procedures, which were available to the public.  In addition, he said the Committee had the right to decide on the registration of cases and their admissibility procedures.

He also responded to questions raised by representatives of Switzerland and Norway asking about the best way to deal with acts of intimidation and reprisal against human rights defenders and how civil and political rights could best be represented in the post-2015 development agenda.  On reprisals, he said that such issues were taken up during the session and in concluding observations.  But there was a whole menu of further actions, including drawing the matter to the attention of the Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders.  Further, the Secretariat’s annual report on reprisals could also reflect the problems that the treaty bodies had encountered.

Turning to the question of the post-2015 development agenda, he added that the treaty bodies as a whole had come up with a set of principles that they wished to see reflected in the agenda.  It was not clear what the fate of those recommendations was.  It would be extremely deleterious to the human rights project if the guarantees of good governance and civil and political rights were not fully and visibly reflected in the post-2015 agenda, he said.

Statements

SEBASTIANO CARDI (Italy) said his country had been at the forefront of a cross-regional coalition that had brought the question of the death penalty to the General Assembly in 2007.  As negotiations began for the fifth resolution establishing a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, Italy stood ready to offer its experience.  The aim of the resolution was not to indict any one system or culture.  Italy was also committed to the promotion of interreligious and intercultural dialogue.  His country was convinced that religion could play a pivotal role in preventing conflicts.

MAYANK JOSHI (India), welcoming resolution 68/268, which aimed at strengthening the human rights treaty body system, said that his country was a State party to the principal covenants on human rights and practically all other major human rights instruments.  While the Constitution of India guaranteed its citizens fundamental civil and political rights, an independent judiciary, a progressive Parliament and a free media had reinforced those safeguards.  His Government’s priority was to ensure sustained, inclusive socio-economic development with special attention on gender issues.  Further, in a paradigm shift from a welfare to a rights-based approach, India had enacted the landmark National Food Security Act of 2013.

THIPHASONE SENGSOURINHA (Lao People’s Democratic Republic) said his Government was implementing different policies, strategies, programmes and projects to create necessary conditions for the enjoyment of human rights for its citizens.  National reporting mechanisms had also been enhanced by setting up committees and commissions for the purpose of reporting.  Awareness-raising and the dissemination of information on human rights treaties as well as the observations and comments from the treaty bodies and the Universal Peer Review were among the main focuses on human rights issues in his country, he added. 

ARINO YAGUCHI (Japan) said that her country, under the leadership of Prime Minister Shinzō Abe, had been engaging enthusiastically in measures promoting women’s rights.  Japan was also faithfully implementing the Universal Periodic Review and all relevant international human rights treaties.  Further, the country had ratified the Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2014 and had set a target to increase the proportion of women in leading positions in the political and public sectors to at least 30 per cent by 2020.

JUANA SANDOVAL (Nicaragua) said her Government was committed to guaranteeing human rights, ensuring the well-being of all its citizens.  Nicaragua was making efforts to eliminate poverty, which was a major challenge for her country to protect human rights. The Government was also taking necessary steps to eliminate all types of human rights violations, specifically related to violence against women, sexual diversity and people living with HIV/AIDS.  Further, the Government had carried out significant activities, including continuous learning on ethnics, police activities, prison system efforts and a code on children and adolescents.  It was also important, she said, that the Government had set up a national mechanism for the prevention of torture and was working with community organizations.  Concluding, she reiterated her country’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights.

FOUROUZANDEH VADIATI (Iran) said his Government had presented and defended, over the course of the past three years, its periodic reviews.  No ready-made model for human rights should be imposed on States, he continued.  He then called on the international community to deepen a common understanding of universal human rights and allow different cultures and civilizations to follow their own interpretations.  Turning to sanctions, he called on the High Commissioner for Human Rights to condemn them as a violation of the United Nations Charter and international human rights law, including the rights to development, to health and to food.

REN XIAOXIA (China) said that her country supported various human rights treaty bodies and had fulfilled its obligations in good faith.  Over the past two years, China had conducted dialogues with the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights.  Turning to resolution 68/268, she added that its effective implementation hinged on good communication between States parties, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and human rights treaty bodies.  While States parties were obliged to comply with reporting requirements, any requests beyond the scope of the Convention and without consent of States parties would increase the burden and make it harder for them to implement the Convention.  Further, all responsible international mechanisms should be subjected to effective monitoring.  Treaty bodies should be accountable as well, she said, and should carry out their work objectively and without exceeding their mandates.  While non-governmental organizations could play a useful role in promoting human rights, it was necessary for treaty bodies to screen the information submitted by them for veracity.

DINARA IZANOVA (Kazakhstan) said that her country had ratified most human rights treaties and was working on bringing national legislation in line with the Conventions.  Kazakhstan was currently considering ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  Welcoming measures to improve the effectiveness of treaty bodies and to provide technical assistance to countries, she said that it was vital to promote religious cooperation.  Accordingly, Kazakhstan was organizing a meeting of leaders of traditional religions.  Further, Kazakhstan was especially concerned about the rights of children and was considering establishing an ombudsman institute to enhance their protection.

PHILLIP TAULA (New Zealand) welcomed the establishment of a mandate for a Special Rapporteur for persons with disabilities by the Human Rights Council, saying it was another step towards bridging the gap between simple words and the actual realization for the rights of all persons.  Since persons with disabilities were often disproportionately represented among those left behind in the development process, he emphasized the importance of mainstreaming disability issues as an integral part of relevant strategies on sustainable development.

INTISAR NASSER MOHAMMED ABDULLAH (Yemen) said continuous progress in legislation, reflected in the Constitution, gave human rights a strong foundation in her country.  The Government had adopted a number of measures in line with international criteria and had taken steady steps acceding to such instruments as the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others.  Her country also paid particular attention and enacted laws to protect the rights of special groups, such as children, women, refugees, persons with disabilities and the elderly.  She noted that the Government was working with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) to ensure children’s rights.  In closing, she drew attention to the situation of Yemeni detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, particularly those not involved in committing any offences.

OUINIBANI KONATE (Burkina Faso) said his delegation endorsed the statements delivered on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the African Group.  His Government had made significant progress in terms of rewriting its criminal code, which ensured civil and political rights.  Underlining the link between the promotion of human rights and development, he noted that the Government had implemented its national development strategy, providing free education, health care and vaccination.  However, despite efforts and progress, his country had faced challenges regarding living conditions, which had had a negative impact on the promotion and protection of human rights.

JEANNE D’ARC BYAJE (Rwanda) said that given the dark history of her country, the issue of human rights was very important to her Government, and the Constitution was based on principles of equal rights and equal treatment of all citizens.  An independent institution, the Rwanda Governance Board, regulated and guaranteed the rights of political parties, faith-based organizations and non-governmental organizations and the country had held several free and fair elections at all levels. The death penalty had been abolished, which she called “a necessary decision for a country rebuilding itself from genocide”.  Rwandan citizens could access legal aid through different mechanisms and the justice system had been restored to meet internationals standards.  Media outlets, including online ones, continued to grow, she said, as the vibrant civil society of her country played an active role in, among other things, assisting victims of human rights violations and fostering a culture of accountability.

ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR (Mongolia) recognized the centrality of human rights in development and acknowledged that human rights, the rule of law and democracy were interlinked and mutually reinforcing.  Recognizing the unique role played by the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, she said her Government had adopted an action plan to follow those recommendations on its first national report and had been engaging all relevant stakeholders.  Mongolia supported the principles of non-selectivity, universality and indivisibility of human rights and firmly believed that the promotion and protection of human rights should be based on the principle of cooperation and genuine dialogue.

INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia) said that her country believed it imperative that every dialogue between a State party and a treaty body provided added value in a holistic manner.  However, it was vital that members of the treaty bodies maintained their independence and accountability to improve the effectiveness of the system.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights and his Office was an important partner in the international community’s endeavour to protect human rights.  It was crucial to provide the political and financial support the Office needed to function fully and effectively.  Indonesia stood ready to engage with treaty bodies and had undergone a review process with the Human Rights Council in May 2012.  Her country had also welcomed the visits of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders and other special mandate holders, and was now implementing its third human rights action plan for the 2011-2015 period.

ROBERT ALEXANDER POVEDA BRITO (Venezuela) said that his Government had created various institutions to support economic, social and cultural rights and the culture of human rights was becoming stronger day by day.  The Constitution guaranteed the human rights of all people, including vulnerable groups, such as indigenous people.  In 2011, Venezuela had joined various optional protocols, including the one on the Convention on Torture.  To date, Venezuela had presented a number of country reports.  The poverty level in the country had reduced significantly over the last 15 years, thanks to public policies that placed the individual at the heart.  Further, all citizens had the right to free expression of ideas and Venezuela’s democracy was based on diversity of views, pluralism and democratic media.

SAHAK SARGSYAN (Armenia) said that his country had made undeniable progress in advancing human rights thanks to numerous measures, such as the strategic gender policy.  A national strategy on human rights protection was adopted in October 2012 and the country also fully respected the office of the ombudsman and a recently established office to defend women’s rights.  “Cruelty and violence would never contribute to human progress,” he stressed.  As a party to the Convention on Torture, Armenia strongly believed in the need to condemn torture wherever it took place and whatever form it took.  His country was shocked by the tragic death of one of its citizens while in custody in Baku.  Karen Petrosyan had been publicly humiliated and killed by the authorities of Azerbaijan and it was announced that he was an Armenian saboteur.  Such deplorable acts must be investigated and perpetrators must be held accountable.

KEVIN CASSIDY, of the International Labour Organization, said international labour standards were integral to the larger international human rights framework.  The Organization’s eight core fundamental conventions, he continued, were also human rights instruments that addressed such challenges as forced labour, child labour, discrimination in employment and occupation, freedom of association and collective bargaining.  Further, he noted that its Domestic Workers Convention addressed the deplorable working conditions, labour exploitation, and human rights abuses faced by the 53 million domestic workers worldwide.  It was also active in eradicating forced labour and human trafficking, which affected the most vulnerable and least protected people.  Concluding, he called on Member States to ratify the new Protocol on Forced Labour and to continue their efforts in protecting the most vulnerable in society through the equal provision and application of human rights.

For information media. Not an official record.