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Sixty-ninth session,
48th Meeting (PM)
GA/SHC/4123

Third Committee Sends Text Asking General Assembly to Demand States End Honour Killings, Extrajudicial Deaths Targeting Vulnerable Groups

Delegates Approve Texts on Administration of Justice, Anti-Racism Convention

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved three draft resolutions today, including one on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, in a meeting marked by heated discussion.

By the terms of the draft text on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, approved by a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 1 against (Kiribati), with 64 abstentions, the General Assembly would demand that all States ensure the practice of extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was brought to an end.

Further terms to that text would have the Assembly urge all States to ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty were treated humanely and with full respect for international law.  The draft text also included a list of more than a dozen vulnerable groups, including those targeted in honour killings and those murdered because of their gender identity.

Some delegates, including from the United States and Singapore, pointed out that unlike previous sessions, intense negotiations and compromise over the last month had produced a draft resolution that should garner broad support. 

A draft amendment, introduced by Saudi Arabia on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, that would have replaced the specific vulnerable groups with a more general phrase, was rejected, by a recorded vote of 53 in favour to 82 against, with 24 abstentions.

During action on the draft resolution and amendment, delegates expressed differing points of view.  The representative of Finland, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said that the proposed amendment would delete from the resolution the list of people who were more vulnerable than others.  It was important to the co-sponsors to keep it.  “Nothing more, nothing less,” he stated.

Costa Rica’s delegate noted that reports had confirmed that some groups were more vulnerable than others to extrajudicial killings because of the stigmatization of their identities.  A representative of Albania said that the amendment would have narrowed the scope of the resolution.

However, delegates in favour of the amendment stated that it was impossible to list all types of vulnerability.  “We believe that people are not inherently vulnerable, but some people are made vulnerable because of socioeconomic settings,” Saudi Arabia’s delegate said.  Positive discrimination at the expense of others’ rights could run against the principle of non-discrimination, he said.

Condemning all forms of extrajudicial killings, Jamaica’s representative called for a more holistic approach.  The paragraph in question “amounted to a shopping list of vulnerable categories”.  Iran’s representative expressed her delegation’s reservations saying that the language of the list, with references to gender identity, was not internationally agreed upon.

Also approved today, without a recorded vote, was a resolution on human rights in the administration of justice.  By the terms of that text, the Committee would have the General Assembly call upon States to ensure that anyone who is deprived of his or her liberty through arrest or detention has prompt access to a competent court and legal counsel.  That text would also have the body call upon States to investigate all alleged human rights violations suffered by persons deprived of their liberty and would urge States to endeavour to reduce, where appropriate, pre-trial detention.

The Committee also approved by consensus a draft text on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Committee also heard the introduction of a new draft resolution on the rights of the child.  By its terms, the General Assembly would reaffirm that violence against children is never justifiable and that it is the duty of States to protect them, including those in conflict with the law.

Other provisions of that draft would call upon States to protect children affected by armed conflict and call upon the international community to hold those responsible for violations accountable, inter alia, through the International Criminal Court.

An oral amendment to that draft text, introduced by the delegate of Djibouti, on behalf of the African Group, that proposed a revision of language relating to evidence-based education on human sexuality, was defeated by a recorded vote of 66 in favour to 81 against, with 17 abstentions.

Also speaking today were representatives of Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Slovenia, Austria, Finland, Switzerland, Argentina, Norway, South Africa, Palau, Egypt, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.

The Third Committee will meet next at 10 a.m. on Friday, 21 November, to take action on a number of draft resolutions.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its consideration of a draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/69/L.33).  For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/4122 of 18 November.

The Committee was then expected to take action on draft resolutions on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/69/L.24/Rev.1) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/C.3/69/L.57).

Under its agenda item on the promotion and protection of human rights, the Committee would also take action on three draft resolutions.  One draft text was on human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/69/L.37/Rev.1).  It would also consider a draft text on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/C.3/69/L.47/Rev.1) and an amendment to that draft, contained in document A/C.3/69/L.64.

Action on Draft Resolutions

The Committee continued its consideration of the draft resolution on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (document A/C.3/69/L.33), which it had approved 18 November by a vote of 78 in favour to 35 against, with 69 abstentions.

A representative of Brazil said her delegation had abstained during the vote on that draft resolution as her country recognized the efforts made by Iran to address human rights issues.  Recognizing also the remaining challenges, including the promotion and protection of human rights of women, human rights defenders and religious minorities, she called on the Government to enhance its cooperation with human rights mechanisms and allow country visits.

Mexico’s representative said cooperation with human rights mechanisms was needed when there were shortcomings on the promotion and protection of human rights in the country.  The result of the vote showed that country-specific resolutions were not the most appropriate way to address human rights issues, she said, calling on sponsors to think of other ways to promote those rights.  The reports of the Secretary-General and the Special Rapporteur had noted important challenges, including the use of capital punishment, which were the reasons for her delegation’s vote in favour of the resolution.  She then called on Iran to strengthen its cooperation with human rights mechanisms.

A representative of Bolivia, believing that the promotion of human rights could be achieved only through constructive dialogue, said the draft resolution undermined the sovereignty of states and affected cooperation among them.  She then underscored her position against country-specific resolution.

Making a general statement, Costa Rica’s delegate said that despite having voted in favour of the resolution, her delegation believed that the Human Rights Council had the primary jurisdiction on such matters.  The universal periodic review was the appropriate tool to deal with human rights issues, she added, saying that strengthening that mechanism would strengthen the Human Rights Council.

Nicaragua’s representative said her delegation supported the efforts of the international community to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights.  However, she lamented that the Third Committee was being used by some Member States against other Member States.  She reiterated Nicaragua’s position against country-specific resolutions, as they were driven by selectivity and the politicization of human rights.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/C.3/69/L.57).

Speaking on behalf of main sponsors and co-sponsors, a representative of Slovenia orally revised the draft text and said that approving it by consensus was an important step in the necessary fight against racism and racial discrimination.

The Committee then approved the draft text, as orally revised, without a vote.

The Committee then took up a draft text on human rights in the administration of justice (document A/C.3/69/L.37/Rev.1).  By the terms of that draft text, the General Assembly, aware of the need for special vigilance with regard to the specific situation of children, juveniles and women in the administration of justice, in particular, while they are deprived of their liberty, and their vulnerability to various forms of violence, abuse, injustice and humiliation, would appeal to Governments to include, in their national development plans, the effective administration of justice and equal access to justice as an integral part of the development process.

Making a statement, a representative of Austria said that her country had a long-standing tradition of presenting resolutions on human rights in the context of the administration of justice.  Individuals were often the most vulnerable when facing criminal justice proceedings.  The current draft resolution focused on two segments of society that were most vulnerable.

Making a statement after the adoption, a representative of the United States said that the resolution reaffirmed the importance of rule of law in the administration of justice.  Her delegation welcomed the focus on women in the justice system.  However, the United States was unable to co-sponsor because the resolution contained several principles that did not reflect international laws but treaty-based obligations.

The draft resolution was then approved without a vote.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/C.3/69/L.47/Rev.1).  By the terms of operative paragraph 6 (b), the Assembly would urge all States to ensure the effective protection of the right to life of all persons to conduct, when required by obligations under international law, prompt, exhaustive and impartial investigations into all killings, including those targeted at specific groups of persons, such as racially-motivated violence leading to the death of the victim, killings of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities or because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, killings of persons affected by terrorism or hostage-taking or living under foreign occupation, killings of refugees, internally displaced persons, migrants, street children or members of indigenous communities, killings of persons for reasons related to their activities as human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists or demonstrators, killings committed in the name of passion or in the name of honour and killings committed for discriminatory reasons on any basis, to bring those responsible to justice before a competent, independent and impartial judiciary at the national or, where appropriate, international level and to ensure that such killings, including those committed by security forces, police and law enforcement agents, paramilitary groups or private forces, are neither condoned nor sanctioned by State officials or personnel.

Introducing that draft, a representative of Finland said that at the core of the draft resolution stood two important issues, namely, the right to life and the fight against impunity.  The changes introduced since the tabling of the resolution had addressed the fact that arbitrary deprivation of life could be the result of many causes.  The imposition of capital punishment that violated international law was one of those causes, but not the only one.  “The revised text was the best available compromise we could achieve,” he said.  Therefore, the proposed amendment, “L.64”, was not acceptable to Finland as the main sponsor of “L.47/Rev.1”.

The Third Committee then took up a draft resolution (document A/C.3/69/L.64) containing an amendment to “L.47/Rev.1”.  That draft text, sponsored by Egypt, was proposed to replace operative paragraph 6 (b) of “L.47/Rev.1” with the following text:  “to ensure the effective protection of the right to life of all persons, to conduct, when required by obligations under international law, prompt, exhaustive and impartial investigations into all killings, including those targeted at specific groups of persons, and killings committed for discriminatory reasons on any basis whatsoever, to bring those responsible to justice before a competent, independent and impartial judiciary at the national or, where appropriate, international level and to ensure that such killings, including those committed by security forces, police and law enforcement agents, paramilitary groups or private forces, are neither condoned nor sanctioned by State officials or personnel”.

Speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), a representative of Saudi Arabia said that all human rights were universal, inter-related, inter-dependent and mutually reinforcing.  No territory could claim that they had achieved all human rights.  “We believe that people are not inherently vulnerable but some people are made vulnerable because of socioeconomic settings,” he said.  That included women, children, elderly, people under foreign occupation, refugees and migrants.  It was impossible to list all types of vulnerability.  Therefore, the language in operative paragraph 6 should not include types of vulnerability.  Positive discrimination at the expense of others’ rights could run against the principle of non-discrimination.  Therefore, OIC members had proposed an amendment to that paragraph.

Finland’s representative, making a general statement, said the Nordic countries had objected to the proposal to amend operative paragraph 6.  The sponsors of the amendment had de facto proposed to delete the whole list of vulnerable groups in that paragraph.  The list referred to people who were more vulnerable than others and it was important to the co-sponsors of the resolution that the list containing the most vulnerable groups was kept in the resolution.  “Nothing more, nothing less,” he said.  The list included killings due to racially motivated categories, to minority religions or languages, to their sexual orientation and identity and to their activities as human rights defenders and for reasons of passion or honour.  Operative paragraph 6 reflected the realities on the ground, he said.

A representative of Switzerland said that his delegation was against the amendment because it removed from the list groups that must be specially protected.

A representative of Argentina said that while the list in “L.47/Rev.1” was not exclusive, it spoke about some of the most serious human rights violations.  No State could accept any form of execution.  “We must be as broad as possible,” he said.  Therefore, Argentina would vote against the amendment and would encourage all States to do so.

A representative of the United States expressed her concern over the reasons to drop agreed upon language, as deleting it would suggest that the killing of people mentioned therein did not enjoy the same right of life as others.  The full list of people mentioned in “L.47/Rev.1” was comprehensive as it had been reported that they faced discrimination.

Norway’s delegate said “L.47/Rev.1” sent a clear message that extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions were unacceptable.  Deeply regretting the amendment, he urged for a strong support to the draft resolution, including operative paragraph 6 (b).

A representative of South Africa said it would vote against “L.64” as the amendment cancelled an important part of the draft resolution.  The list presented in the draft resolution was fundamental and should remain in the text, he added.

The Committee then took action on the amendment (document A/C.3/69/L.64), rejecting it by a recorded vote of 53 in favour to 82 against, with 24 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, a representative of Palau said the United Nations had a universal declaration on human rights, as well as specific conventions addressing vulnerable groups.  Listing them individually would bring a focus on their vulnerability and their need for protection.

Making a general statement after the vote, a representative of Albania said that the amendment had sought to delete a very important section of operative paragraph 6.  The amendment did not improve the text, but narrowed the scope of the resolution.  Therefore, Albania could not support “L.64”.

The Committee then took action on the draft resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (document A/C.3/69/L.47/Rev.1).

The Chair informed the Committee that a recorded vote had been requested.

Making a general statement, Finland’s representative said that his delegation had been hoping that consensus could be restored on the resolution.  He asked to know who had called the vote as the co-sponsors had worked hard to arrive at a consensus.

The Chair responded that the delegation of Egypt had requested the vote.

Finland’s representative, continuing his statement, said that everything to be said on the draft resolution had been said on many occasions.  “The text as put forward is as good as we think,” he added, asking all Member States to support it by voting in favour.

Also making a general statement, a representative of Costa Rica said that the message of the draft resolution was very simple – all people had a right to life.  The co-sponsors of the resolution had looked carefully at the interests of all countries and had incorporated many of their observations.  Additional efforts had been made to find the greatest possible consensus during the current session.  Reports had confirmed that some groups were more vulnerable than others to extrajudicial killings because of the stigmatization of their identity.  It was necessary that States be guided by that fact.  Therefore, Costa Rica would vote in favour of the draft resolution.

Egypt’s representative said that extrajudicial killings must not take place for discriminatory reasons of any kind.  In view of systematic attempts to misinterpret the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by forcing some notions that had not been agreed upon, his delegation would not be able to support such an important resolution.

Norway’s representative said that it was deeply regrettable that a vote had been requested for that important resolution.  The draft text contained many important measures and it was crucial that all countries voted in favour of it.

Trinidad and Tobago’s representative said the right to life needed to be protected, which was her reason to vote in favour of the draft resolution.  However, she expressed a reservation on operative paragraph 6 (b), specifically on the definition of gender identity, which was still under consideration in national gender policies.

A representative of Sudan expressed regret over the rejection of the amendment, saying the views of some delegations were not taken into consideration.  Agreeing that extrajudicial killings should not be allowed, he disassociated himself from the International Criminal Court and said he would abstain from voting. 

Iran’s representative disassociated her delegation from operative paragraph 6 (b) as the language contained therein was not nationally agreed upon, including its use of gender identity.  Based on national laws and legal systems, she said her delegation would abstain from voting.

The Committee then approved the text by a recorded vote of 111 in favour to 1 against (Kiribati), with 64 abstentions.

Explaining her vote after the vote, a representative of Singapore said that two years ago, her delegation had abstained because of preambular paragraph 8 [which referred to continuing instances of the arbitrary deprivation of life, as a result of the imposition and implementation of capital punishment in a manner that violates international law].  During the current session, the co-sponsors had accommodated Singapore’s reservations and her delegation was pleased to vote in favour of it.  Capital punishment, when carried out under due process, was not prohibited under the draft resolution and was not in the same category as extrajudicial killings.

Explaining her vote after the vote, a representative of the United States said that her delegation was pleased to vote in favour of the draft resolution.  Joining the co-sponsors in condemning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, she praised their flexibility in accommodating various Member States’ reservations.  While the draft text covered a variety of situations, the international community must not lose sight of the fact that there were two bodies of laws relating to extrajudicial killings.  Those two bodies of law were complementary, but international humanitarian law was the lex specialis with regard to armed conflict.  All States had obligations to combat extrajudicial killings and punish perpetrators.  “Countries such as ours that had capital punishment should abide by international obligations such as due process and fair trial,” she added.

A representative of Kenya said that he had not been able to vote and would like to register as abstaining.

A representative of Kiribati said that the voting machine had recorded her vote as against the draft resolution and that she would like to register her vote as an abstention.

The Secretary said he would take note of their statements but the record would not reflect the abstentions.

Explaining her vote after the vote, a representative of Jamaica said that her delegation condemned all forms of extrajudicial killings in any context and supported all efforts to combat them.  At the same time, Jamaica had reservations on operative paragraph 6 (b) that went beyond the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity.  “We hold the view that a more holistic approach was required,” she said calling that paragraph “cumbersome”.  It was not necessary to include “what amounted to a shopping list of vulnerable categories”.  The focus should have been on the broad concept and she hoped that the co-sponsors would consider a more general wording in future resolutions.  Given how important that issue was, the resolution should not be worded in such a way as to privilege one value system over others.

The Committee then took up a draft resolution on the rights of the child (document A/C.3/69/L.24/Rev.1).  The 51-paragraph draft text covers a range of issues, including children’s economic and social well-being, child labour and the prevention and elimination of violence against them.  The draft text also covers the growing number of migrant children and addresses the situation of children affected by armed conflict.

By the draft text’s terms, the General Assembly would, among other things, call upon all Member States to take all appropriate measures to safeguard the realization of the rights of the child in a manner conducive to his or her fullest possible social inclusion and individual development.

A representative of Uruguay requested a suspension to continue discussions on that draft text.

The Chair suspended the meeting.

When the meeting resumed, a representative of Uruguay made an oral revision to the draft resolution.

The Secretary then requested a hard copy of the amendment that was being proposed.

A representative of Djibouti, making a general statement on behalf of the African Group, said the Group was strongly committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, and Member States had continued to strengthen their national capacities to ensure the full realization of those rights.  On the draft resolution, she emphasized that facilitators had shown zero flexibility on operative paragraph 40 (l) [which would have the Assembly call upon all States to,among other things, develop and implement programmes and teaching materials, including comprehensive evidence-based education for human sexuality and on harmful social and cultural patterns of conduct of men and women of all ages].  Accordingly, she proposed, orally, to replace “comprehensive evidence-based education for human sexuality” with “age-appropriate sex education”, calling all Member States to vote in favour of the amendment.

Uruguay’s representative said amendments must be submitted 24 hours prior to taking action.

In response to Uruguay’s statement, the Secretary said based on the traditional practices, the delegates of the Third Committee made amendments orally.

A representative of Barbados said comprehensive education supported the integrity of the draft.

A representative of Costa Rica said Member States had agreed on comprehensive sexual education as a compromised solution.  For that reason, her delegation was going to support the draft resolution without any amendment.

Uruguay’s representative said his country had worked with other Member States for more than a month.  Noting that the European Union and Uruguay would vote against the amendment, he encouraged other States to do the same.

A representative of Austria said her delegation regretted that it was too late to make changes on the amendment.  Echoing previous statements, she said her country would vote against the proposal.

A representative of Palau, making a general statement, said it would vote against the oral amendment.

Ireland’s representative said his country would vote against the amendment as it did not support the integrity of the draft resolution.

A representative of Norway, making a general statement, said the language in the draft text was not about sovereignty but education.  Her delegation did not understand why “comprehensive evidence-based education for human sexuality” was proposed to be deleted.

The Committee then took action on the oral amendment proposed by the African Group, rejecting it by a recorded vote of 66 in favour to 81 against, with 17 abstentions.

Speaking after the vote, Uruguay’s representative requested a vote on the draft resolution “L.24/Rev.1”.

Due to the late hour, the Chair postponed the vote of draft resolution “L.24/Rev.1”.

For information media. Not an official record.