Mercenaries, Private Military Contractors Can Destabilize Rule of Law, Expert Tells Third Committee, amid Calls to End Racism, Respect Migrant Rights
Mercenaries and private military companies can violently destabilize a country, rendering it helpless and ineffective, the mandate holder tasked with monitoring those activities told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as delegates explored such challenges to building just, inclusive societies.
Saeed Mokbil, Chairperson-Rapporteur for the Working Group on the use of mercenaries, said mercenary‑related activities can jeopardize the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions) — in particular — its target 16.2 to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children. Goal 16 is considered particularly important, he said, as it enables achievement of the others.
As such, the fight against impunity — including for violations committed by non‑State armed actors — is essential in promoting the rule of law, as outlined in target 16.3, he said. Yet, pervasive impunity for crimes committed by mercenaries is a common challenge. He recommended the adoption of an international legally binding instrument to address their activities, and that domestic regulatory legislation be put in place, alongside procedures for oversight, registration, licensing and vetting of such private contractors.
When the floor opened for questions, the European Union’s delegate expressed concern about the Working Group’s examination of private military and security companies, which amounts to an expansion of its mandate. They are essential service providers for both the private and public sectors.
To that point, Mr. Mokbil responded that private military and security companies, like mercenaries, can threaten the enjoyment of human rights, as some of their personnel are involved in violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws. Therefore, their activities fall within the Working Group’s purview, as per resolution 2005/2.
Also today, delegates resumed general discussion on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self‑determination. Echoing a common view, Cameroon’s representative expressed concern about the global rise of racism and nationalist discourse that leads to political exclusion and feeds into doctrines of racial superiority. Anti‑discrimination instruments have been passed by the Government, she said, as has a law, in 2005, on the status of refugees.
Jordan’s representative expressed heartfelt condolences to the United States and the families of the victims of the terrorist attack that took place in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Despite challenges, Jordan has set an example of tolerance, modernity and hospitality in dealing with influxes of refugees. Everyone in Jordan is protected from discrimination and has the right to address such complaints to courts. Violence against a group or persons, or propaganda based on racial discrimination, are prohibited by law.
Turkey’s representative said that the common struggle against racism and Islamophobia is more relevant than ever. Members of religious or ethnic groups are increasingly subject to hostile acts, while many displaced people — refugees and irregular migrants alike — are heading to countries far from home, potentially facing unprecedented racism and xenophobia. It is critical to ensure Islamophobia does not increase, as these scourges have evolved into threats to global peace.
Also addressing the links among migration, xenophobia and racism, the representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said that over the last year there has been an increase in the reported number of violent attacks and hate crimes against migrants, paired with a political atmosphere marked by anti‑migrant rhetoric. While racism and xenophobia disproportionately target “people on the move”, they can easily end up jeopardizing the lives of everyone, as history clearly demonstrates.
Indeed, racial prejudice is increasingly intertwined with other forms of discrimination, said India’s delegate, as race is conflated with ethnicity, religion and culture. Comprehensive legal and administrative responses are needed to challenge terror groups’ growing use of digital space to spread hateful ideologies and xenophobic material. Immunities enjoyed by social media platforms must be counterbalanced with responsible content moderation and norms, she said, calling for context‑specific guidelines on moderation.
Nigeria’s delegate recalled that his country’s commitment to end racial discrimination springs from its heritage as home to the largest concentration of black men and women from around the world. “We cannot afford to fold our arms and continue to witness the resurgence of a series of hate campaigns and discrimination based on race or religion”, he said. Nigeria has created mechanisms to arrest and punish people or groups who manipulate technology to promote racial superiority, ethnic or religious intolerance and divisiveness, he said, backing the proposal to create a permanent forum for people of African descent.
Also speaking today were representatives of Liechtenstein, Cuba, Iraq, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Canada, Israel, Egypt, Ecuador, Jamaica, Brazil, South Africa, Georgia, United States, Costa Rica, Namibia, Algeria, Iran, Syria, Gabon, Romania, Armenia, Lebanon, Ghana, Ukraine, Libya, Singapore, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Morocco, as did observers of the State of Palestine and the Holy See.
The representatives of Pakistan, China, Israel, Russian Federation, Ukraine and Georgia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) will reconvene at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 31 October, to hold a dialogue with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its debate on the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, as well as the right of peoples to self‑determination. For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4245.
Use of Mercenaries
SAEED MOKBIL, Chairperson-Rapporteur for the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self‑determination, said the report highlights links between pertinent findings of the Working Group and Sustainable Development Goal 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions). Through its visits, the Working Group observed that mercenaries, private military and security companies can destabilize a country by violent means, rendering it helpless and ineffective, and affecting local populations. The Working Group documented violations instigated by mercenaries and private military and security companies, including summary executions, forced disappearances, abductions, arbitrary detention and sexual violence to name a few.
He said mercenary‑related activities undermine target 16.2 to end abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children, who are commonly the victims of torture, detention, sexual slavery and forcible recruitment as child soldiers. The fight against impunity — including for violations committed by non‑State armed actors — is among the key factors to achieve sustainable development under target 16.3 (rule of law and equal access to justice for all). A lack of accountability and severe challenges to victims’ access to justice, a lack of judicial independence, threats of reprisals and corruption all allow impunity to persist, he said, as do weak justice systems embedded within weak State institutions, contrary to the objectives of target 16.6 (effective and transparent institutions). He recommended initiatives to help realize Goal 16, noting that in terms of accountability, it is paramount to ensure mercenaries and rights violators are held accountable, and that an independent complaints mechanism is established. For private military and security companies, he recommended the adoption of an international legally binding instrument, outlining a regulatory framework, and a single dedicated body to address their activities, including remedies for victims. Domestic regulatory legislation and procedures for oversight, registration, licensing and vetting of private military and security companies is also needed.
When the floor opened for questions and comments, the representative of the European Union noted the connection between the activities of mercenaries and Sustainable Development Goal 16. Stressing that the industry is an essential service provider, she expressed concern about the Working Group’s examination of private military and security companies, which amounts to an expansion of its mandate.
The representative of Syria voiced regret that the report dealt with political and development concepts as well as the rule of law, as those issues have nothing to do with mercenary activities. Addressing this issue is not solely an individual responsibility of States.
The representative of the Russian Federation said that States bear responsibility for the actions of non‑State actors they use. There is a need to work on legal and international measures to address this problem. While acknowledging the need to combat States’ illegal activities, he said efforts deployed to that end must respect States’ sovereignty. Further, more efforts are needed to find judicial solutions to mercenary activities and assist States in that regard.
The representative of Cuba reiterated her country’s will to submit a draft resolution on the use of mercenaries, based in part on the Working Group’s report. She asked if a new definition of mercenaries should be developed in light of recent events.
Mr. MOKBIL replied to the question by the European Union delegate, noting that discussions have been held on this issue. The Working Group’s mandate was established by resolution 2005/2, requiring it to monitor and study the effects of mercenaries and mercenary‑related activities — including private military and security companies — on the enjoyment of human rights, and to prepare draft international principles accordingly. Further, the Working Group found links between mercenary activities and private military and security companies. Both can threaten the enjoyment of human rights, as some private military and security personnel have been involved in violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The Working Group has not exceeded its mandate, he assured.
He underlined the similarities between mercenaries and foreign fighters, despite the absence of a legal definition for the latter. Both categories are comprised of external fighters that intervene in conflicts, motivated by financial gain and ideology. Responding to the Russian Federation’s representative, he said that the Working Group is conducting its work without any interference, within its mandate. To Cuba’s representative, he recalled that the international convention on mercenaries was established a long time ago. Since then, new trends and issues have emerged, requiring the definition to be reviewed.
MATTHEW EDBROOKE (Liechtenstein) said that self‑determination is not a right that pertains once, at the moment of independence, but belongs to all peoples at all times. Liechtenstein does not recognize an unconditional right to secession outside the context of decolonization, but rather seeks ways for self‑determination to coexist with the principle of territorial integrity. To that end, the State should engage in good‑faith dialogue with communities seeking greater self‑governance so as to prevent grievances from escalating into conflict.
Ms. VALLE (Cuba) said her country ended institutionalized segregation and condemned crimes of slavery. Cuba will continue with firm steps forward to eradicate all forms of discrimination, she said, underlining the importance of respectful dialogue and self‑determination. International cooperation is needed. Calling the United States economic, trade and financial blockade against Cuba “most unfair” and a breach of the rights to peace and self‑determination, she said the current United States Government chose confrontation as a way to destroy Cuba’s revolution and pressed it to lift the blockade.
Ms. PISHDARY (Iraq), stressing her country’s stand against discrimination, said that article 34 of its Constitution outlines that Iraqis are all equal before the law and seeks to guarantee the freedom of all religions and beliefs. The Government aims to foster tolerance by organizing workshops and campaigns. Calling all Iraqis “components of society” rather than “minorities”, she said Iraq is working to remove negative effects of terrorism by setting up procedures to deal with stress. Iraq also presented its first comprehensive report on racial discrimination. On Israel’s efforts to undermine Palestinians’ right to self‑determination, she urged respect for international law, relevant resolutions and the Geneva Conventions. Israel must withdraw from all occupied lands; the inhumane home destructions will not bring peace. She pressed the international community to provide protection to Palestinians.
MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said that the right to self‑determination must be exercised freely and cannot lapse with the passage of time. The legitimate struggle for self‑determination must not be obfuscated or eclipsed by efforts to conflate it with terrorism. Despite these clear injunctions of international law, millions continue to live under alien domination, notably in Indian‑occupied Jammu and Kashmir. India’s forces have unleashed a reign of terror, she said, pointing out that gross violations committed by occupying forces have been repeatedly documented by human rights observers. Pakistan endorses the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ recommendation that a United Nations inquiry commission be constituted to investigate them.
Mr. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) stressed that xenophobia, racism and discrimination are related to intolerance. Noting that information and communication technology is used to spread extremist ideas, he underlined the need for a clear distinction in the context of freedom of speech. Countries in Central Europe suffered the most during the Second World War, he said. “We have to work on limiting racial discrimination as set forth in the [International] Convention [on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination]”, he said. More than 300,000 non‑citizens in the Baltic region are suffering discrimination, notably against the use of the Russian language. The right to self‑determination is hardly a historical question today and he cautioned against double standards.
KAITLYN SHELAGH ELIZABETH PRITCHARD (Canada) said racism must be uprooted from hearts and minds, calling on leaders to set a respectful tone, and on States to amplify the voices of those promoting inclusion. Second, institutional measures must be put into place to tackle systematic forms of racism that prevent people from reaching their full potential. It is important to build inclusive societies where everyone is able to fully participate, she said, pressing States to implement the International Convention, and those that are not yet party to indeed become so.
Mr. CAPPON (Israel) said the recent massacre at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is a clear example of the need for today’s topic of discussion. It is worrisome that some Member States are guilty of anti‑Semitism. Some try to redefine anti‑Semitism, which is anti‑Semitic in itself. Where such practices and behaviours are allowed to exist, other forms of racism will thrive as well, she warned. The worldwide momentum of anti‑Semitism — the “canary bird” of other forms of racism — must be countered.
PAULOMI TRIPATHI (India) said that racial prejudice is increasingly intertwined with other forms of discrimination, as race is conflated with ethnicity, religion and culture. Comprehensive legal and administrative responses are needed for terror groups’ growing use of digital space to spread hateful ideologies and incite violence. Calling for full implementation of the International Convention, she said that poverty and economic disparities are closely associated with racist discrimination, and in turn, generate more poverty. She expressed concern that digital space is being used to propagate xenophobic material. Immunities enjoyed by social media platforms must be counterbalanced with responsible content moderation and norms. Developing context‑specific guidelines for moderation will also support such endeavours.
MOHAMED ABDELRAHMAN MOHAMED MOUSSA (Egypt), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that stronger political will and more concerted action is needed to reverse racism and xenophobia, citing a lack of progress despite global efforts. Stressing the need for commitment and cooperation by political and religious leaders, as well as from the public and national media, he advocated zero‑tolerance policies in condemning hate speech and incitement. He expressed regret over the lack of new normative standards to combat contemporary racism. On Palestinians’ right to self‑determination, he underscored their right to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources, pressing all Member States to assist the United Nations in carrying out its duties in relation to that right.
MARIO A. ZAMBRANO ORTIZ (Ecuador), aligning himself with the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), said racism divides and creates fear in all societies. More than 50 years after the adoption of the Convention, he deplored that discrimination persists. Calling the Durban Declaration a “solid and unique” instrument aimed at social integration, equality and inclusion for all, he said that Ecuador views diversity as a source of wealth and a fundamental pillar of society. Hatred is classified as a crime under Ecuador’s comprehensive criminal code, which punishes hate crimes up to three years. He stressed the importance of education and dialogue in the fight against discrimination, racism and xenophobia.
TYESHA O'LISA TURNER (Jamaica), aligning herself with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), CELAC and the Group of 77, said her country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms provides specific protection against racial discrimination, and prevents both Parliament and State organs from taking any action that infringes on these rights. Noting that Jamaica contributed to the creation of a permanent memorial honouring the victims of slavery and the transatlantic trade, the Ark of Return, she said the country’s long‑standing conviction that a culture of tolerance and understanding is key to lasting peace was immortalized in the lyrics of national icon Bob Marley who proclaimed “One Love, One Heart, One Destiny”.
RICARDO DE SOUZA MONTEIRO (Brazil), recalling that 2018 is the third year of the International Decade for People of African Descent, said little progress has been made. It is time to engage with two fundamental issues: the creation of a permanent forum and negotiation of the declaration of rights. While welcoming awareness‑raising by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), he said the Office has limited personnel, as do the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, and the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Further, people of African descent are underrepresented in international organizations, non‑governmental organizations and multinationals, a situation that would greatly improve with the creation of a permanent forum.
Mr. MAPOKGOLE (South Africa) advocated an inquiry into war crimes in Palestine, stressing that perpetrators should be held to account. The use of violence on both sides makes peace tough, and the two‑State solution is the only way forward. He also called for a just resolution to the “Sahara issue” and expressed support for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el‑Hamra and Rio de Oro (POLISARIO Front) in its quest for peace. Stressing that any delay has consequences for peace in Africa, he said “let us get rid of suffering”. On efforts to end racism, he recalled that under colonialism and apartheid, black Africans were dispossessed of their land and other means of livelihoods. The Government directs all its energy towards redressing past inequalities, notably the land issue. During the first 20 years of democracy, more than 1,200 laws and amendments were adopted to dismantle apartheid. Yet, South Africa still feels the effects of racism today.
EKA KIPIANI (Georgia) said that after accession to the International Convention, Georgia’s legal system underwent necessary reforms to comply with human rights standards to fight and eradicate discrimination based on race, skin colour, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, political or other grounds. The anti‑discrimination law, adopted in 2013, was accompanied by other legal amendments to harmonize all relevant statutory acts. Noting that the new Constitution will come into force after Presidential elections this fall, she drew attention to violations against ethnic Georgians, intensified by the Russian occupation of the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. On grounds of ethnic origin, local Georgians are compelled to register as foreign citizens. A ban on education in native languages is another concern. The human rights situation in those areas is alarming, given that no international monitoring mechanisms are allowed entry and that, despite repeated attempts, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs and other human rights bodies are routinely denied access.
Ms. INANC-ORNEKOL (Turkey) said that fighting discrimination requires combined national, regional and global efforts. Today, the common struggle against racism and Islamophobia is more relevant than ever. Members of religious or ethnic groups are increasingly subject to hostile acts, while flows of displaced people, whether refugees or irregular migrants, are heading to countries far away from their homes, potentially facing unprecedented racism and xenophobia. It is critical to ensure Islamophobia does not increase, as these scourges have evolved into threats to global peace. The international community has a moral obligation to protect individuals.
Mr. MCELWAIN (United States) condemned all forms of violence, noting that in China, possibly millions of Uighur Muslims were put into re‑education camps. In Tibet, China targets cultural groups, while in “Burma”, the Rohingya are stateless, due to the severe discriminatory acts against them.
Mr. CARAZO (Costa Rica) said hatred pervades communities and immigration is inciting violence against minorities. Populist rhetoric is increasingly used in political campaigns to gain votes. Costa Rica’s multi‑ethnic culture provides equal treatment in political and social life for all persons and groups, no matter their language identities. It is committed, domestically and internationally, to promoting the rights of Afro‑descendants, and just this year carried out a plan to foster cultural diversity in efforts to augment social cohesion. Reforms to school curricula have also been made to foster multiculturalism.
LAHYA ITEDHIMBWA SHIKONGO (Namibia), recalling that her country is a child of international solidarity midwifed by the United Nations, urged a positive, peaceful and permanent solution that meets the aspirations of the people of Western Sahara. Relevant United Nations resolutions must be implemented. It is concerning that the expectation of the 1991 referendum backed by the United Nations is outstanding. She reaffirmed support for the people of the occupied territory of Palestine in the pursuit of self‑determination, justice, freedom and independence. The Jerusalem mayor’s recent proposal to remove programmes run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) would worsen already harsh conditions. She called on all parties to return to negotiations to ensure that Palestinians are able to exercise their inalienable rights in an independent State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and as a rightful member of the United Nations.
Mr. LATROUS (Algeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, expressed regret that racism continues to spread and that modern forms of discrimination seek to gain political legitimacy. Expressing deep concern over the resurgence of such abuse, he outlined Algeria’s efforts to promote respect and tolerance, referring to the Constitution’s article 32, which provides equality under the law. Noting that the criminal code outlines imprisonment for up to three years for hate crimes, he expressed regret over people’s inability to accept differences and drew attention to efforts to foster human fraternity and rapprochement among civilizations. He urged Member States to assume responsibility to face hate speech.
NADYA RIFAAT RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Palestine is an occupation without an end. Israel is more interested in its “colonial expansion” than ending its occupation, as called for in relevant United Nations resolutions. The longer the occupation, the greater the onus on Israel to prove its need for it. Noting that there are 230 settlements on confiscated Palestinian land, she said they are designed to isolate areas in a walled enclave, obstruct movement and impair normal social and economic life. She pressed the international community to take real action to end such subjugation, which is akin to apartheid.
ALEXANDER TEMITOPE ADEYEMI AJAYI (Nigeria), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said that his country’s commitment to end racial discrimination springs from its heritage as home to the largest concentration of black men and women from around the world. “We cannot afford to fold our arms and continue to witness the resurgence of a series of hate campaigns and discrimination based on race or religion”, he stressed, calling on States to redouble efforts to eliminate racial intolerance. Nigeria has created mechanisms to arrest and punish people or groups who manipulate technology to promote racial superiority, ethnic or religious intolerance, divisiveness and other malicious acts. He called on all signatories of the International Convention to work towards its global ratification and voiced support for the creation of a permanent forum for people of African descent.
Ms. RASHEED, observer for the State of Palestine, said that Israel’s occupation violates Palestinians’ right to self‑determination, while its settlement enterprise transfers more than 500,000 Israeli settlers to occupied Palestine in the grave breach of international law. For as long as the illegal occupation has existed, racism has been driven by a mission to preserve Israel as a strictly Jewish State, with more than 65 laws discriminating against Palestinians. Most recently, the Knesset passed the Nation‑State law that features elements of apartheid, allowing Jewish citizens a right to self‑determination.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) expressed concern about the promotion of racial hatred by political figures and the enactment of racist legislation, such as the “Muslim ban” in the United States. The situation of Islamophobia, particularly in the Western hemisphere, is concerning, he said, citing plans to bar religious symbols — including headscarves for Muslim women — for people in authority positions in Quebec, Canada. The recent ratification of the law on “the Nation‑State of the Jewish people” in Israel is another affront to Palestinians’ inalienable right to self‑determination, international law and United Nations instruments and resolutions, as it institutionalizes “racial supremacy, in other words, racism and apartheid” in Israel, he stated.
KOUSSAY ALDAHHAK (Syria) noted the close relationship between occupation and discrimination, stressing: “Our region and the world have for many decades discussed war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli forces.” Those forces are an incarnation of racism in the most hateful form, behaviour which would not persist without the protection from accountability offered by others. On the Syrian Golan, he drew attention to municipal elections and said that occupation of that area violates the United Nations Charter, the Geneva Conventions and various Security Council resolutions. “The Syrian Arab Golan is a territory which we will recover sooner or later”, he said, urging an end to that occupation and to attempts at a coup d’état.
BLANCHARD ONANGA NDJILA (Gabon) said that national institutions and regional organizations must be used to eliminate discrimination. In Gabon, a draft law on tribalism and religious intolerance has been submitted to the National Assembly for examination. Further, the President supported a study on racism, which found that racism barely exists in Gabon, as the country has welcomed asylum seekers from around the world. Racism and discrimination are dangerous threats to peace, he asserted.
MARIA-IULIANA NICULAE (Romania), aligning herself with the European Union, underscored the need for greater coherence in implementing anti‑discrimination legislation already in place. Education is the main tool for combating such abuse. People are more confident in using existing tools in requesting protective measures or reporting discriminatory treatment, for example on grounds of ethnic origin or disability. She also highlighted the substantial role of domestic courts in ensuring respect for non‑discrimination as a principle. Romania’s most important result of its International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Chairmanship, between March 2016 and March 2017, was the adoption of a working definition of anti‑Semitism which was subsequently included in a law combating that behaviour.
Ms. BANAKEN (Cameroon) said that racism is on the rise globally, especially due to racist charters that target minorities. She expressed concern about nationalist discourse that has led to political exclusion and fed into doctrines of racial superiority. For its part, Cameroon set up a national commission on multiculturalism and bilingualism, including English and French, citing various examples of how these activities are promoted. Anti‑discrimination instruments have been passed, as has a law, in 2005, on the status of refugees.
ZOYA STEPANYAN (Armenia) said that the existence of the United Nations and the expansion of its membership is the best reflection of how the right to self‑determination has been realized. That right is included in Article 1 of the United Nations Charter, thus marking universal recognition of this important principle as a fundamental component of international norms. The use of force against realization of the right to self‑determination could evolve into mass atrocity, she said, citing the need for a conducive environment to exercise that right. The international community should be prompt in responding to those who elevate xenophobia.
KIERAN GORMAN-BEST, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that over the last year, there has been an increase in the reported number of violent attacks and hate crimes against migrants, paired with a political atmosphere marked by anti‑migrant rhetoric. He stressed the need to recognize that incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence has a profound impact on individual lives. Contemporary use of digital technology can also stigmatize people of different origins and spread hate speech. Racism and xenophobia disproportionately target people who are on the move, but they can easily end up jeopardizing the rights and lives of everyone, as history clearly demonstrates.
AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) said that political polarization and economic predicaments are translating into dangerous xenophobia. The “other” has become the culprit of political distress and economic instability. Yet, healthy and prosperous societies are not achieved by diminishing the meek, weak and “different”, nor by discriminating against minorities. “We must grow as societies by embracing them and protecting them from discrimination,” she emphasized. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is enshrined into Lebanon’s Constitution and the Government is committed to embodying its principles in all areas, without exception. This is reflected in Lebanon’s engagement with the displaced and refugee populations, despite its own limited national resources, political challenges and security concerns. She also underscored the Palestinian people’s right to self‑determination as well as their right to a sovereign State.
Mr. ANYANAH (Ghana) said that despite global efforts, digital technology has been used to spread racism and discrimination. Ghana enacted legislation to address this trend by ensuring racist comments and hate speech are duly punished. Noting that existing international human rights instruments provide an adequate framework for action, he urged Member States to commit to their implementation. He welcomed the OHCHR fellowship for people for African descent and encouraged additional similar initiatives. There is a need for stronger international cooperation to assist Member States, regional organizations, civil society and other stakeholders in implementing the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and fulfilling their obligations under international law. He urged efforts to promote intercultural dialogue, tolerance and respect at all levels.
Ms. HORBACHEVA (Ukraine), aligning herself with the European Union, expressed regret that racial discrimination and xenophobia persist in all regions, with countless victims. She stressed the importance of effectively applying existing legislation and focusing on actions that make a real difference on the ground. The Russian aggression against Ukraine and the temporary occupation of parts of Ukrainian territory are accompanied by systematic discriminatory acts. The International Court of Justice ordered the Russian Federation to lift its ban on activities of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars and ensure the availability of Ukrainian‑language education. State‑owned media meanwhile use hate speech propaganda, provoking ethnic hostilities. She urged the Russian Federation to immediately stop all acts of racial discrimination, in particular in the occupied territories.
Mr. MELAD (Libya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and the African Group, said contemporary forms of racism, discrimination and intolerance persist. Islamic culture establishes that all individuals are equal in dignity, and in Libya, all citizens are equal before the law. He recalled that his country helped the people of South Africa at a time when racial discrimination was supported by influential countries. Denouncing the violence perpetrated by the occupying power against Palestinians, he called on all States to join the consensus that led to the adoption of the Durban Declaration and to honour their obligations in that regard. He urged additional international efforts to achieve a world without racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance — one where all can live independent and free from all racial strife.
JEREMY SOR (Singapore), associating himself with the Group of 77, said that his country has made significant progress in advancing racial and religious harmony over the past 53 years. “This is not by chance but [by] design,” he said. Singapore’s Constitution affirms that all are equal before the law. However, legal frameworks alone cannot sustain racial and religious harmony. Eliminating racial and religious discrimination is about changing people’s attitudes towards differences. Singapore aims to do just that by promoting policies that maximize common spaces for interaction and forging shared experiences among various communities. “We ensure that all races live together as one community in our public housing,” he said, adding that employment policies also prohibit racial and religious discrimination. However, new threats have emerged. Technology has made it easier to create, disseminate and receive content designed to incite ill will. Globally, differences have divided communities and polarized societies. For these reasons, Singapore continues to work closely with religious and community leaders to build trust and understanding.
HABIB MIKAYILLI (Azerbaijan) said that amid rising xenophobia, it is imperative to promote tolerance and respect for diversity, which is a priority for the Government and includes such initiatives as the “Baku Process”, begun in 2008, and strengthened dialogue between the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Council of Europe. In addition, Azerbaijan hosted the 1st European Games, the 7th Global Forum of the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and the fourth Islamic Solidarity Games. The right of self‑determination applies to people of Non‑Self‑Governing Territories and those subjected to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation. Recalling that the Security Council condemned the use of force against Azerbaijan and the occupation of its territories, and confirmed that Nagorno‑Karabakh is part of the country, he said claims to exercise the right to self‑determination have been unequivocally qualified.
BERNARDITO CLEOPAS AUZA, Permanent Observer for the Holy See, describing an upsurge of suspicion, fear, contempt and hatred towards individuals and groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity, said that some in politics are tempted to exploit fear by using illusory promises for short‑sighted electoral interests. With new forms of xenophobia and racism, all religious leaders must impart God’s ethical principles and values into people’s hearts. Religious leaders and believers have not lived up to this, he deplored, adding that many acts of religiously motivated intolerance are used as a pretext for homicidal madness misusing God’s name to cause death “as part of play for domination and power”. Practices, such as monitoring and investigating hate speech and hate crime, are good as long as States do not use such regulation for censorship. “We must not lose sight of our principles and never justify the adoption of discriminatory or repressive measures against those who defend the dignity of every human life,” he said.
PANGERAN IBRANI SITUMORANG (Indonesia), expressed concern with the Special Rapporteur’s finding about a growing number of States threatening to adopt blanket bans against refugees, as well as the trend of adopting counter‑terrorism policies that are blatantly discriminatory and legitimize profiling. The core issues of the mandate must be first addressed before venturing into the so‑called intersectionality with other issues that are not clearly provided in the mandate or in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. He called for the Special Rapporteur to prioritize issues that are clearly aligned to the mandate so that the work will resonate much wider among the Member States. He noted the lack of mention of the Palestinian plight, and called on the Special Rapporteur to include the issue of discrimination against Palestinians in her future work.
Ms. ALZAROONI (United Arab Emirates) said that the International Convention is the charter on which her country based its fight against racism. The United Arab Emirates made major advances in the area of law, notably through the 2015 Decree No. 2, on fighting discrimination and hate, which penalizes actions that create disaccord among people and groups. She drew attention to the protection of religious locations, citing 83 religious non‑Muslim sites, as well as the establishment of both a ministry and a centre for tolerance in stressing that the United Arab Emirates will also host an international conference on tolerance.
JAGDISH DHARAMCHAND KOONJUL (Mauritius) said that the right to self‑determination is among the most essential principles of international law, having been recognized by the General Assembly as a fundamental right as far back as 1950 and as an erga omnes norm by the International Court of Justice. State practice in the Assembly and the Security Council throughout the 1950s was marked by the emergence of self‑determination as a fully‑fledged right which has provided the legal underpinning for decolonization. Colonial powers were obliged to move swiftly to grant independence to all colonial territories which desired it. In the case of an excision carried out in total disregard of the right to self‑determination, the decolonization process cannot be said to have been lawfully completed. This is a wrongful situation which should be brought to an immediate end.
NORA IMANE BELLOUT (Algeria) said that the violation of the right to self‑determination through occupation is a form of racial discrimination. This right is a binding rule of international law, enshrined as such in the United Nations Charter. Algeria continues to support the exercise of the right to self‑determination through free and fair referendums in line with relevant international instruments.
SHAH ASIF RAHMAN (Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77, denounced any form of oppression and discrimination, recalling that the Constitution guarantees equality for all citizens under the law. As a State party of the International Convention, Bangladesh is committed to fulfilling its obligations. He stressed the need for political will to overcome the spread of hate speech through information and communication technologies. He also urged Member States to adhere to the underlying rules and values of the Global Compact for migration, stressing the need to curb ultranationalism globally and locally. He also expressed concern about Islamophobia which is often used to cover up social problems that have nothing to do with Islam. Bangladesh is fully supportive of Palestinians’ inalienable right to self‑determination, pressing the international community to step up its positive efforts as it has the obligation to promote it.
YE MINN THEIN (Myanmar) said that his country opposes racism and xenophobic crimes, expressing his objection to paragraphs 24 and 43 of the report of the Special Rapporteur on Contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Stressing that Myanmar will not condone any violations, let alone international crimes, he urged victims to come forward with hard evidence. The Government has established a four member independent commission of inquiry to investigate alleged rights violations and related issues. While assuring that the Government takes the United Nations seriously, he said it is discouraging to see that its principles are misused by countries and United Nations experts who fall prey to populist rhetoric and prejudices against Myanmar.
OMAR RABI (Morocco) said self‑determination and its legal framework have been misinterpreted. Self‑determination is not synonymous with independence, and since General Assembly resolution 1514 (1960), several other texts have shaped the way in which that right is exercised. Stressing that the exercise of self‑determination could not infringe on the sacrosanct principle of territorial integrity, nor used as a pretext for interference in States’ internal affairs, he clarified that a State cannot support separatist activities in another State, as such interference constitutes a violation of international law. The right to self‑determination is exercised daily through democracy and elections, he said, adding that autonomy is a concept of self‑determination that is authentic and modern.
RASHA MOH'D KHEIR OMAR SHOMAN KHOT (Jordan) expressed condolences to the United States and to the families of the victims of the terrorist attack on Pittsburgh’s synagogue, saying the surge of racism and xenophobia, even in developed nations, is cause for grave concern. In the Middle East, Jordan is a driver of peace and security. It plays a key role in global efforts to foster mutual respect through the Amman Message and the World Interfaith Harmony week. Also, Jordan has set an example of tolerance, modernity and hospitality dealing with various influxes of refugees. Everyone in Jordan is protected from discrimination and has the right to address complaints to the courts. Violence against a group or persons, or propaganda based on racial discrimination, is legally prohibited. No excuse can be invoked to deprive people of the right to self‑determination, she said, expressing support for Palestinians exercising that right to establish a sovereign, viable State with East Jerusalem as its capital, and calling for an end to Israel’s occupation.
Right of Reply
The representative of Pakistan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said India uses hollow rhetoric rather than respond to substance. Pakistan will not allow India to hide the facts. At no point in history was the State of Jammu and Kashmir a part of India, and it will never be.
The representative of China expressed regret over the discriminatory words used by his counterpart from the United States, and deeds concerning migrants in that country, especially prejudices regarding Asians who have made distinguished contributions to United States history. He also expressed concern about tightening visas for Chinese nationals, especially science students, amid charges by the United States that they are spies and security threats. He strongly urged that Government to reconsider such decisions.
The representative of Israel said his country had extended its hand in peace, but the same cannot be said of the Palestinian Authority, as it lacks control over half its population, which prefers to be ruled by Hamas, a terrorist group. The Palestinians continue to choose the path of war and hatred. If they truly desire peace, they must abandon that path. In Israel, all Israelis have the possibility to participate in real democratic elections, he assured.
The representative of the Russian Federation said the republic of Georgia and South Ossetia are sovereign States. On the Ukraine statement, she reaffirmed that Crimea and Sevastopol joined the Russian Federation in exercise of their right to self‑determination. The referendum was organized in full compliance with international law. Recalling the armed conflict in the Donbass region, she called on Ukraine to fully comply with the Minsk Agreement and end the blockade of south‑east Ukraine.
The representative of Ukraine said holding a referendum “under the barrels of the guns of Russian Federation forces” is not in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Such rhetoric is dangerous for the Russian Federation itself: on that basis, any of its regions might hold a referendum, separate from it and join another State. The Russian Federation should be extremely cautious when it puts forth such principles at the United Nations. Further, the Russian Federation is the only State speaking of a worsening human rights situation in Ukraine. In every possible way, Ukraine is cooperating with OHCHR. Pointing out that Russian media focuses on Ukraine rather than report on the situation in the Russian Federation, he exhorted that country’s delegate to examine what is happening in his own country and to stop armed aggression against Ukraine.
The representative of Georgia expressed regret over the Russian Federation’s misleading comments. The Russian Federation continues to violate Georgia’s integrity and commit military aggression, he said, noting that all violations are reflected in the report of the Independent International Fact‑Finding Mission on the Conflict in Georgia.