Special Report: The Human Rights Council About Violence Against Women
New York/U.S.A./United Nations/June 5, 2009/– The Human Rights Council on Wednesday afternoon discussed the reports of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, hearing presentations of their reports and then holding an interactive dialogue with them.
Philip Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, drew attention to three issues. First, he noted that intimidation of or retaliation against those cooperating with special procedure mandate-holders was a major problem. The Council should urge Governments, United Nations field presences and special procedures to give particular attention to the protection of those who had cooperated with a mandate-holder. Second, with regard to execution of juvenile offenders, the Council should designate one of its offices to seek to visit Iran to engage in consultations with all stakeholders with a view to identifying appropriate measures which could be taken in order to bring an immediate halt to the sentencing and execution of juvenile offenders. With regard to a great many reports of individuals being killed after being accused of practicing witchcraft, the Council should acknowledge that it was entirely unacceptable for individuals accused of witchcraft to be killed and should call upon Governments to ensure that all such killings were treated as murder and investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly.
Yakin Erturk, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said her final report to the Council addressed the issue of the political economy of women’s human rights. It built partly on the 2007 report on intersections between culture and violence against women, which argued that a viable strategy in addressing the issue of culture and violence against women must include a political economy perspective in order to understand the material basis of certain cultural norms and determine the distribution of productive resources, goods and services, which ultimately impacted on women’s access to justice and entitlements. The report demonstrated how power operated not only through coercion but also through the structured relations of production and reproduction that governed the distribution and use of resources, benefits, privileges and authority within the home and society at large. The report focused on the long-standing feminist critique of the dichotomisation between first generation and second generation rights as contained in the twin Covenants. Finally the report looked at the linkages between violence against women and women’s access to particular economic and social rights.
Afghanistan, Brazil, Kenya, the United States, the Republic of Moldova, Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan spoke as concerned countries.
In the interactive dialogue, concerning extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, speakers regretted the continuing non-cooperation of some States with the mandate, and agreed that the execution of juvenile offenders was a blatant violation of international law.
Witchcraft as well as extrajudicial killings linked with this practice in some parts of the world was condemned and States must take action to revoke inhuman practices attached to this concept. Speakers were shocked to learn about the attacks, intimidation and even executions of witnesses that had cooperated with United Nations special procedures. Such attacks were a flagrant threat to the very core of the basic human rights principles on which the mandate of the Human Rights Council as well as the mandate of the Special Rapporteurs were based upon. They asked what the Council could do to better protect the individuals assisting the Special Rapporteurs in their work. All Governments should investigate allegations of intimidation and retaliation in order to end impunity for the perpetrators of such acts and prevent such acts from occurring in the future.
With regard to violence against women, speakers said the international economic and financial crisis had a severe impact on the condition of women and girls worldwide, and in the report the Special Rapporteur had doubtless found the appropriate words for describing one feature of this appalling situation: feminisation of poverty. While violence against women had many dimensions, the special dimension dealt with in this report linked the current political and economic order with women’s human rights. An effective fight against all forms of violence against women could be led by a greater economic and social integration of women, coupled with appropriate judicial instruments giving body to political will. A greater place should be given to women’s professional training, in particular for those from rural areas, allowing them to avoid exclusion and poverty. One of the grounds for violence against women were gender based policies and laws. Many legal provisions, such as those with regard to marriage and family relations, political and public life, citizenship, inheritance, and sexual and reproductive health discriminated against women and continued to pose serious challenges to social, cultural, economic and political empowerment of women and gender equality.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were the Czech Republic on behalf of the European Union, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, Slovenia, Djibouti,
Burkina Faso, Austria, Australia, Sweden, Iceland, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Finland, the United Arab Emirates on behalf of the Arab Group, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Italy, Belgium, the United States, Turkey, Denmark, Cuba, the Russian Federation, Egypt, India, Brazil, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Switzerland, Japan, Algeria, Senegal, Iran, Nigeria, Palestine, the Holy See, the United Kingdom, the Maldives and Colombia.
The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission also took the floor, as did the following non-governmental organizations: Conectas Direitos Humanos, Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juarez, in a joint statement with World Organization against Torture, and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, Society for Threatened Peoples, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, Union of Arab Jurists, General Federation of Iraqi Women, Arab Commission for Human Rights, Asian Legal Resource Centre, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, in a joint statement with World Muslim Congress, and Amnesty International.
The Council today held back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. When it resumes its work at 9 a.m. on Thursday, 4 June for another non-stop day of meetings, it will hear concluding remarks by the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and States exercising their right of reply. It will then hold the annual full day discussion on women’s human rights. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay will present an update report, which will be followed by a general debate, at the end of the day. The Minister of Justice of Kenya is also expected to address the Council.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (A/HRC/11/2 and Adds.1-8), which details the principal activities of the Special Rapporteur between April 2008 and March 2009 to address the grave problem of extrajudicial executions around the world. It also examines in depth four issues of particular importance: responding to reprisals against individuals assisting the Special Rapporteur in his work; upholding the prohibition against the execution of juvenile offenders; the killing of witches; and the use of lethal force in the process of policing public assemblies. In conclusion, the Special Rapporteur notes that intimidation of or retaliation against those cooperating with Special Procedures mandate-holders is a problem that threatens the very foundations of the Council’s work. Urgent measures are needed to respond to any such reported incidents.
Addendum one contains a comprehensive account of communications sent to Governments by the Special Rapporteur between 16 March 2008 and 15 March 2009, along with replies received between 1 May 2008 and 30 April 2009. It also contains responses received to communications that were sent in earlier years.
A second addendum, the report of the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Brazil in November 2007, notes that Brazil has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with over 48,000 people killed each year. Murders by gangs, inmates, the police, death squads and hired killers regularly make headlines in Brazil and around the world. Extrajudicial executions and vigilante justice are supported by a sizable proportion of the population, who fear high crime rates and who perceive that the criminal justice system is too slow to prosecute criminals effectively. While States have an obligation to protect their citizens by preventing and punishing criminal violence, this obligation goes together with the State’s duty to ensure respect for the right to life of all citizens, including that of criminal suspects. The Special Rapporteur argues for a new approach and recommends reforms directed at the civil police, the military police, police internal affairs, forensics, ombudsmen, public prosecutors, the judiciary and the prison administration.
Addendum three, which contains findings from the Special Rapporteur’s country visit to the Central African Republic, is available in French only.
Addendum four, containing the Special Rapporteur’s report of his visit to Afghanistan in May 2008, notes that the country is engulfed in an armed conflict in which unacceptably high numbers of civilians are killed every day. Civilians are assassinated by the Taliban, or shot near checkpoints and convoys by Afghan or international soldiers. They are blown up in reckless Taliban suicide attacks carried out in public places, or killed in poorly planned or disproportionate air strikes by international forces. Or they are the victims of false tips and killed in house raids by international intelligence services for which no Government or military command takes responsibility. The Taliban, Afghan forces and international military forces all bear responsibility for unlawful killings, and each bears responsibility for reducing the numbers of civilians killed in the conflict. The international forces must review procedures for conducting air strikes and raids and military operations should not be permitted by unaccountable foreign intelligence personnel. The Taliban should cease employing means and methods of warfare that violate international humanitarian law, including the use of civilians as „human shields“ to deter attacks by international and Afghan military forces.
Addendum five is the Special Rapporteur’s report of his visit to the United States in June 2008, in which he noted that in most instances there is no lack of laws or procedures for addressing potentially unlawful killings and, at least domestically, data is generally gathered systematically and responsibly. He found, however, three areas in which significant improvement is necessary. First, the Government must ensure that imposition of the death penalty complies with fundamental due process requirements; the current systems‘ flaws increase the likelihood that innocent people will be executed. Second, the Government must provide greater transparency into law enforcement, military, and intelligence operations that result in potentially unlawful deaths. Third, the Government must overcome the current failure of political will and provide greater accountability for potentially unlawful deaths in its international operations; political expediency is never a permissible basis for any State to deviate from its obligation to investigate and punish violations of the right to life.
Addendum six is the Special Rapporteur’s report of his visit to Kenya in February 2009, whose main focus was on killings by the police, violence in the Mount Elgon District, and killings in the post-election period. The Special Rapporteur concluded that police in Kenya frequently execute individuals and that a climate of impunity prevails. Most troubling is the existence of police death squads operating on the orders of senior police officials and charged with eliminating suspected leaders and members of criminal organizations. „Carte blanche“ killing by the police does nothing to eradicate such criminality. Rather it perpetuates the sense that the police are good at killing and bad at law enforcement. Also, many of the human rights defenders who testified before the Special Rapporteur during his mission were threatened and harassed by members of the security forces, and other Government officials. Two activists who had been particularly active in reporting on police death squads were assassinated just two weeks after the mission ended.
Addendum seven analyses the progress made by Guatemala in implementing recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur following his visit to the country in August 2006. It notes that Guatemala has seen a significant rise in its homicide rate since that visit. Particularly concerning are the continued attacks on human rights defenders, increases in the killings of women, and the emergence of new targets (public transit operators) of unlawful killings. The report further notes that the State continues to inadequately investigate and respond to unlawful killings and that much needed improvements to the criminal justice institutions, witness protection, budget allocation, and fiscal policy have not been implemented. However, significant improvement has been achieved with the establishment of the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala.
Addendum eight analyses the progress made by the Philippines on implementing recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur following his visit in February 2007. It notes that progress has been mixed on the implementation of the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations. Since the visit, there has been a drastic reduction in the number of leftist activists killed, and the Commission on Human Rights is taking serious steps to begin investigations of unlawful killings. However, the Davao death squad continues to operate, and increased numbers of death squad killings have been recorded. Reforms directed at institutionalizing the reduction of killings of leftist activists and others, and in ensuring command responsibility for abuses have not been implemented. Witness protection remained grossly inadequate and impunity for unlawful killings remained widespread. Likewise, no improvement has been made by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army to reduce the extrajudicial executions for which they bear responsibility.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/HRC/11/6 and Adds.1-6), which highlights the Special Rapporteur’s activities in 2008, and the first quarter of 2009. In a second part, the report addresses the political economy of women’s human rights. The current political economic order, too often neglected in the analyses of women’s human rights, profoundly affects both the prevalence of violence against women and efforts to eliminate it. Cultural rationales for limiting or negating women’s rights are thus grounded in particular economic interests and power dynamics. The report further states that nowhere in the world do women share equal social and economic rights or equal access to productive resources. Conflicts and the current economic recession hold new risks for women, but also offer new opportunities for taming globalization and patriarchy. In conclusions and recommendations, the Special Rapporteur proposes ways to enhance women’s enjoyment of the full range of their rights as a key strategy for the prevention, the protection and the prosecution of violence against women, and calls for joint international responsibility for the integration of such initiatives.
A first addendum contains summaries of individual allegations, as well as urgent appeals sent to Governments on individual cases and general situations of concern to the mandate. It also includes summaries of the communications sent from 5 December 2007 to 28 February 2009 with regard to allegation letters and from 5 January 2008 to 2 April 2009 with respect to urgent appeals, as well as summaries of replies received from Governments until 30 April 2009.
Addendum two contains the Special Rapporteur’s findings following an official visit to Tajikistan from 15 to 23 May 2008. The report notes women in Tajikistan have been especially impacted by the consequences of the transition from a command economy to a market-led economy following its independence from the Soviet Union. In Tajikistan, violence against women and girls is accepted by men and women alike as part of everyday behaviour. Violence by husbands and other family members is particularly widespread. Women and girls are also victims of sexual violence and subject to exploitation on the streets as well as to trafficking inside and outside Tajikistan. While some encouraging steps have been taken, responses by State bodies to protect and support victims of violence and prosecute perpetrators have so far been insufficient. The Government should take measures to ensure women’s empowerment and gender equality and to eliminate violence against women and girls.
Addendum three is the report of the Special Rapporteur’s visit to Saudi Arabia in February 2008, in which she notes that a number of positive developments have taken place affecting the status of women, particularly in access to education, which has resulted in significant improvements in women’s literacy rates within a relatively short period of time. Further, in recent years, violence against women has been recognized as a public policy issue. However, current judicial practices pertaining to divorce and child custody, as well as women’s lack of autonomy and economic independence, continue to limit their ability to escape from abusive marriages. Issues related to early/forced marriage and divorce are also gaining public attention. Further, violence against female domestic workers is not sufficiently recognized. The report provides a number of recommendations with respect to measures necessary to women’s empowerment and increased participation in the public sphere and the elimination of violence against women and girls.
Addendum four is the Special Rapporteur’s report of her visit to the Republic of Moldova from 4 to 11 July 2008, which she conducted together with the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report notes that the transformation of the Republic of Moldova to a political democracy and market economy resulted in economic and social difficulties, placing a heavy burden on women. Gender equality is ensured by law; however, in practice women’s subordination is exacerbated by high levels of unemployment and/or low paid jobs. Parallel to this, patriarchal and discriminatory attitudes are increasing women’s vulnerability to violence and abuse. The need to escape an abusive environment, including domestic violence, prejudice and increased economic deprivation are factors motivating women to seek work abroad. The report ends with a number of specific recommendations with respect to the elimination of violence and empowerment and equality of women.
In addendum five, the Special Rapporteur takes stock of the achievements of 15 years of work on the violence against women mandate. The review aims to provide an opportunity to consolidate the main achievements, and the space to reflect upon the gains and the potential for future progress and directions of the mandate. The review notes that the role of the mandate is invaluable as the forum that can make visible hidden violations, lend support to and communicate the voices of the most vulnerable women, and act as a channel to access justice and accountability where national systems of justice are not well developed or when they fail to respond.
Addendum six examines the current political economic order that is often neglected in analyses of women’s human rights and violence against women, but which profoundly affects both the prevalence of this violence and the efforts to eliminate it. Economic globalization and development, and most urgently, the global economic recession, in particular are creating new challenges for women’s rights as well as new opportunities for advancing women’s economic independence and gender equality. Among others the report identifies how a lack of access to particular economic and social rights, such as the right to land, housing, and food are directly linked to the increased risk of violence against women.
Presentation of Reports
PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, presenting his annual report, drew attention to three issues. First, he noted that intimidation of or retaliation against those cooperating with special procedure mandate-holders was a major problem. The Council should urge Governments, United Nations field presences and special procedures to give particular attention to the protection of those who had cooperated with a mandate-holder. Second, with regard to execution of juvenile offenders, the Council should designate one of its offices to seek to visit Iran to engage in consultations with all stakeholders with a view to identifying appropriate measures which could be taken in order to bring an immediate halt to the sentencing and execution of juvenile offenders. With regard to a great many reports of individuals being killed after being accused of practicing witchcraft, the Council should acknowledge that it was entirely unacceptable for individuals accused of witchcraft to be killed and should call upon Governments to ensure that all such killings were treated as murder and investigated, prosecuted and punished accordingly.
In terms of final country reports, Mr. Alston focused on two States. In the United States it had been widely acknowledged that innocent people had most likely been sentenced to death and executed. Yet, he had found a shocking lack of urgency about the need to reform glaring criminal justice system flaws. Those included a lack of adequate counsel for indigent defendants and racial disparities in sentencing. In relation to civilian casualties in the context of the United States international military and intelligence operations, there was a need for greater transparency and accountability. The Government should track and make public the number of civilian casualties and the military justice system should provide the public with basic information on the status of investigations into civilian casualties or prosecutions resulting there from. The Government had also effectively created a zone of impunity for private contractors and civilian intelligence agents by only rarely investigating and prosecuting them. The United States should establish a national commission of inquiry to conduct an independent, systematic and sustained investigation of policies and practices that had led to deaths and other abuses. An independent special prosecutor should also be appointed to pursue any criminal activities undertaken by Government officials.
With regard to Kenya, Mr. Alston said it was a credit to Kenya that the Waki Commission had been established to investigate post-election violence. That Commission had done a superb job and its report remained an indispensable guide to the reforms needed to prevent a repetition of that violence when the next elections were held. In addition, a police reform Taskforce had recently been established and, last Friday, a new judicial reform initiative had been announced. The Council needed to focus its attention with regard to Kenya on four points: post-election violence, with well over 1,000 persons killed following the December 2007 general elections and those responsible, including police officers and politicians, having remained immune from prosecution 18 months later; police shootings, which occurred in large numbers on a regular basis, and were not publicly recorded or accounted for; compelling evidence that in 2008 at least 200 persons had been killed or disappeared by the security forces in the Mt Elgon area and the fact that there had been no serious response to those allegations; and the fact that human rights groups and individuals had been systematically harassed and intimidated before, during and after his mission, with many since having gone into exile, and two having been assassinated shortly after the mission. Kenya had a major problem of extrajudicial executions and it was one that had not yet been adequately acknowledged and addressed. The attitude of the police was reflected in the views expressed by a member of the Government delegation to the Council, the Police Spokesman, Eric Kiraithe earlier this week, when he publicly called the Special Rapporteur a „bigoted activist“, and claimed that his report was a „baseless fabrication devoid of even an iota of fact“.
Mr. Alston also reiterated his strong concern at the continuing problem of preventable civilian casualties in Afghanistan, especially in the context of aerial bombing.
On follow-up reports, Mr. Alston highlighted some challenges and progress made following his visit to Guatemala, where he had noted a significant rise in the rate of killing since his August 2006 visit, in particular continued attacks on human rights defenders and increases in the killings of women. The most encouraging development had been the establishment of the International Commission against Impunity, which had the potential to improve criminal investigation and prosecution procedures. With regard to the Philippines, he had called upon the Government to take more energetic steps to implement the needed structural reforms and especially to make a more concerted effort to prosecute those responsible for extrajudicial killings. By the same token, he had to point out that the number of killings had fallen dramatically in each of the two years since his visit and that the Philippines Human Rights Commission had been reinvigorated.
YAKIN ERTURK, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, said her final report to the Council addressed the issue of the political economy of women’s human rights. It built partly on the 2007 report on intersections between culture and violence against women, which argued that a viable strategy in addressing the issue of culture and violence against women must include a political economy perspective in order to understand the material basis of certain cultural norms and determine the distribution of productive resources, goods and services, which ultimately impacted on women’s access to justice and entitlements. The report demonstrated how power operated not only through coercion but also through the structured relations of production and reproduction that governed the distribution and use of resources, benefits, privileges and authority within the home and society at large. The current neo-liberal order profoundly affected both the prevalence of violence against women and efforts to eliminate it.
The report focused on the long-standing feminist critique of the dichotomisation between first generation and second generation rights as contained in the twin Covenants. Finally the report looked at the linkages between violence against women and women’s access to particular economic and social rights. Current approaches to understanding and responding to violence against women must be broadened to take account of causes and consequences of violence evident in women’s poverty and labour exploitation, their socio-economic inequality with men, and their exclusion from political decision-making. A further review had been undertaken to take stock of the achievements of the fifteen years of the mandate, which reaffirmed that it was a significant forum which could make visible hidden violations, provide support, serve as a vehicle for the voices of the most vulnerable women, and act as an additional channel to access justice and accountability.
Three country missions had been conducted in 2008, to Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and the Republic of Moldova. Saudi Arabia had undergone a number of positive developments with respect to women’s status, most noteworthy in the area of women’s access to education. The recognition of violence against women as a public policy issue in recent years was also a promising development. The situation of women in Tajikistan remained difficult, with women in particular hard hit by the consequences of the transition period. Violence against women and girls within the family was widespread and accepted as part of everyday behaviour. Women and girls were also victims of sexual violence and exploitation outside the home and trafficking inside and outside Tajikistan. While some encouraging steps were taken, responses by State bodies to protect and support victims of violence and prosecute perpetrators had so far been insufficient. While women in the Republic of Moldova enjoyed equality before the law and were represented at the highest levels of Government, the majority of women suffered from a subordinate status which was exacerbated by high levels of unemployment and/or low paid jobs. There was need for the Government to undertake further steps with regard to institutional and public sector reforms, as well as international cooperation, particularly with regard to the problem of trafficking in women and girls.
Statements by Concerned Countries
NANGUYALAI TARZI (Afghanistan), speaking as a concerned country, said that Afghanistan had suffered for more than two decades of war and conflict and even today the security, development and welfare of its citizens was challenged by international terrorism. In response to the remarks in the report on the death penalty, Afghanistan said that the death penalty was only executed for heinous crimes and in very extreme circumstances. The sentence could only be applied after the decision of a trial court and the two stages of appellate courts decisions including the Supreme Court. The application of the sentence further required presidential consent that scrutinized the whole case with the intention to find reason for commuting the sentence. Further, Afghanistan did not accept the allegation made in the report regarding non-respect of the human rights standards by the police and security forces of Afghanistan, while dealing with persons under detention, especially after the implementation of new reforms for the police and security forces. Any misbehaviour by the police and security forces which contradicted the existing laws was subject to legal proceedings and the offender was brought to justice.
ALEXANDRE GUIDO LOPES PAROLA (Brazil), speaking as a concerned country, shared the concerns expressed by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, noting that many of the challenges he raised had already been discussed in the Council, including during the Universal Periodic Review of Brazil in April last year. Brazil had also presented in July 2008 lengthy and detailed information on several issues highlighted in the Special Rapporteur’s report. Highlighting some of those, Brazil said it was fully engaged in increasing police salaries, improving investigations on police killings, providing better resources for forensic institutions, empowering police ombudsmen and public prosecutors and restructuring penitentiary institutions. Rates of homicide had been declining dramatically and consistently. Since 2002, when Brazil had reached a peak of 30.4 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, the rate had continuously dropped reaching 24 per 100,000 in 2007. In terms of the police, the Government was also developing national guidelines for the use of force and firearms by the police. With regard to challenges to public security, the National Programme of Public Security with Citizenship had been developed to bring together crime prevention with respect for human rights. Brazil had also established a Unified System of Public Security with the same objective. Brazil regretted that the Special Rapporteur had seemed to stigmatize the favelas. No one knew better than the Government the social realities of the population living in those areas and the need for government attention and support. Brazil was investing $ 450 million in „Complexo do Alemao“, under the national programme of acceleration of growth, in areas such as urbanization, social programmes, property regularization and infrastructure.
GEORGE SAITOTI, Minister of Internal Security of Kenya, speaking as a concerned country on the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said the Kenyan Government acknowledged that there were cases of unlawful killings within the police force in respect of which investigations into 53 cases had been completed and 81 police officers have been prosecuted since 2000. These prosecutions were a reflection of the seriousness with which the Government was dealing with the issue. The Kenyan Government did not condone extra-judicial killings and there was no Government policy sanctioning such violations of law. The Government also recognized that there were weaknesses in the police oversight mechanisms, inadequacies in the police force standing orders and need for an independent police commission. These were currently being addressed by a task force led by retired Justice Philip Ransley. The imperatives and foundations for the desired reforms began with the governance, justice, law and order sector-wide reform programme in 2003, and were sharpened by and were clearly spelt out in the National Accord and Reconciliation Act. The reform agenda set a clear road map for reforms in the judiciary and the criminal justice system, public service and the police; punishing and ending impunity; land reforms; eliminating corruption; and enhancing safeguards for the protection of human rights. The task force commissioned on the reform of the judiciary would complete its work in two weeks. The Government intended during the review process to address some of the concerns raised by Mr. Alston.
MARK CASSAYRE (United States), speaking as a concerned country in response to the criticisms in the report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions of capital punishment, said the United States believed that the death penalty itself did not violate international law per se. The United States agreed with Professor Alston that such a penalty should be carried out only in the most serious of cases and only with full procedural safeguards. The United States believed that the system did provide robust safeguards, such that, for example, if the death penalty were disproportionate to the severity of the underlying offense, it could be challenged under the 8th Amendment of the Constitution as being cruel and unusual punishment. The United States fully shared Professor Alston’s concerns about the need to address the issue of wrongful convictions and the United States had made this a priority. The United States was one of only five countries in the world that belonged to the Innocence Network, a group of countries that were working to embrace modern forensic science and reform to prevent wrongful convictions. As for the report’s general criticism about the United States‘ prosecuting and sentencing practices, the United States agreed that this was an issue of tremendous importance and the United States would continue to work to ensure that racial disparity was not a factor in sentencing, but the United States did not believe that all of the statements in the report were supported by the facts.
CORINA CALUGARU (Republic of Moldova), speaking as a concerned country, said the Government was studying the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and valued the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue today. Promotion and protection of human rights, including gender equality, was a key policy objective of the Moldovan Government, and that applied to both its domestic legislation and its national policies. Women had a very important role in Moldovan society, which in recent years had registered considerable evolutions in all areas, including the increasing presence of women in high-ranking political functions, education, industry, health care and others. Nevertheless, the Republic of Moldova considered the report could have reflected the situation on the ground in a more balanced manner. In particular, they wanted to know the precise sources that could be used in United Nations documents to avoid discrepancies in statistical data, in this case with regard to the number of migrants. The Republic of Moldova also wanted to emphasize that its migration policy was a high priority and recently the focus had increasingly turned to the strengthening of a new migration management system, in accordance with European Union Member States‘ good practices and standards, and to the implementation of the Republic of Moldova-European Union Mobility Partnership. That Partnership’s objectives comprised establishment of cooperation on migration and development, prevention and fighting illegal migration, and trafficking and smuggling of human beings, as well as promotion of an effective readmission and return policy. Finally, as regarded the conclusions and recommendations of the report, the Government had recently elaborated a National Policy for Gender Equality and a National Action Plan for 2009-2015.
ZAID AL-HUSSAIN (Saudi Arabia) speaking as a concerned country on the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, said having examined the report, Saudi Arabia wished to pay tribute to the high quality and competence to the Special Rapporteur in carrying out a comprehensive research and report. However, in spite of this, with regard to paragraph 6 to the effect that the Wahhabi-Hanbali interpretation of Islamic law enjoyed hegemony in the country etc., he wished to make clear that the Kingdom was pursuing a moderate policy based on an equitable middle-of-the-road Islamic approach. Shaikh Muhammad Ibn Abdul Wahhab, as the founder of a reform movement, did not introduce new doctrines differing from the fundamental jurisprudence and doctrinal principles of Islam, nor did he establish a separate school of law. The report referred to the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice as a source of „terror“ for women while, in reality, that Commission was a Governmental agency, the specific functions of which were laid down in its statutes promulgated by royal decree in 1980. The members of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice ranked as criminal investigation officers under the Code of Criminal Procedure and discharged their duties as such under the supervision of the Public Investigation and Prosecution Department. Consequently, they performed their functions in accordance with the provisions of the relevant regulations and were prohibited by law from overstepping their authority.
JAMSHED KHAMIDOV (Tajikistan), speaking as a concerned country, said that Tajikistan had in accordance with its international obligations extended an invitation to Ms. Erturk in her capacity as the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences to conduct an official visit in the country. The Government of Tajikistan had ratified numerous international instruments, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, all of which formed an integral part of the legal system of the country. Under the Constitution of Tajikistan and the existing legislative framework, equality between men and women was guaranteed. Various programmes promoted the rights of women, such as the basic directions of state policy to ensure equal rights and opportunities for men and women in Tajikistan for the period 2001-2010, the principles of which had been codified into law in 2005. Tajikistan expressed its appreciation for all recommendations indicated in the report. Tajikistan realized that challenges posed by the transition to a market economy, the devastating consequences of civil upset and poverty constrained the country’s socio-economic development and its ability to promote and protect at the relevant level the rights and well-being of its population.
VERONIKA STROMSIKOVA (Czech Republic), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said it was worth remembering that the European Union had adopted new guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, based on a solid multilateral acquis, including the work on indicators on violence carried out by the Special Rapporteur. The international economic and financial crisis had had a severe impact on the condition of women and girls worldwide, and in the report the Special Rapporteur had doubtless found the appropriate words for describing one feature of this appalling situation: feminisation of poverty. With regards to the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the European Union regretted the continuing non-cooperation of some States with the mandate, and agreed that the execution of juvenile offenders was a blatant violation of international law. The Special Rapporteur should further elaborate on how to address the situation in Iran; how adequate protection of witnesses could be ensured; what elements were recommended in a reform of the judicial and policy system in Kenya; and how could the United States put in place a mechanism to swiftly review cases of foreign nationals being sentenced to death without the right to contact their consulates for assistance.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that the Organization of the Islamic Conference condemned witchcraft as well as extrajudicial killing linked with this practice in some parts of the world. States must take action to revoke inhuman practices attached to this issue. The Special Rapporteur had put forward an interesting proposal to undertake a study on identifying best practices to policing public assemblies. At the same time the Organization of the Islamic Conference noted that many countries had proceeded with plans for the Special Rapporteur’s visit. As for the report of Ms. Ertuk, the Organization of the Islamic Conference said that while violence against women had many dimensions, the special dimension dealt with in this report linked the current political and economic order with women’s human rights. The topic chosen went beyond the debate of socio-cultural practices and identified how women’s physical security and freedom from violence were inextricably linked to the material basis of relationships that governed the distribution and use of resources and entitlement, as well as her authority in different spheres. It rightly concluded that cultural rationales for limiting or negating women’s right in most cases derived from particular economic interests and power dynamics.
ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) thanked the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for her exhaustive report, including the thematic report on the political economy of women’s human rights. Her work with all the activities, several meetings and fact-finding missions as well as the conclusions and recommendations issued from this work, largely contributed to improving the gender equality and to diminishing the violence against women which still existed in all regions. One of the grounds for violence against women were gender based policies and laws. Many legal provisions, such as those with regard to marriage and family relations, political and public life, citizenship, inheritance, and sexual and reproductive health, discriminated against women and continued to pose serious challenges to social, cultural, economic and political empowerment of women and gender equality. In this context and in relation to the Rapporteurs overall work, Slovenia asked what was her view of the Special Mechanism on Equality before the Law on laws that discriminated against women? Would such a new mechanism accelerate achievement of the commitment to eliminate discriminatory legal provisions and practices against gender equality?
ABBAS DAHER DJAMA (Djibouti) said with regards to the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Djibouti wished to applaud her efforts to uphold the rights of women, and shared her concerns about the socio-economic exclusion that women suffered from, particularly in post-conflict societies. An effective fight against all forms of violence against women could be led by a greater economic and social integration of women, coupled with appropriate judicial instruments giving body to political will. A greater place should be given to women’s professional training, in particular for those from rural areas, allowing them to avoid exclusion and poverty. Women should have access to sources of credit allowing them to create enterprises and acquire property.
CLARISSE MERINDOL (Burkina Faso) noted with satisfaction the importance Ms. Erturk had attached to combating violence against women in her report. It also welcomed the analysis made on the causes of violence against women. Burkina Faso’s fight today was the implementation of the recommendations that had been made. One of the most important points in the fight against violence against women in Burkina Faso was the fight against excision which violated the physical and moral integrity of the woman. Despite financial constraints and social and cultural obstacles, progress achieved during the last decade in that field was remarkable. In the beginning of the 1960s, almost 100 per cent of young women had been excised in Burkina Faso. In 2003, this percentage had fallen to 75 per cent, in 2005 to 66 per cent and today the percentage was estimated at 49 per cent. The numerous action plans and agreements with the bordering countries gave hope for even better results in the coming years. Violence against women concerned all societies. The richest and the poorest countries were touched by this phenomenon which undermined the ideals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore it was vital that the international community fight for the eradication of the causes of violence against women in a joint effort.
CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria) said in the report on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, the Special Rapporteur had expressed particular concern about the protection available to individuals who had provided information to his mandate on one of his missions as well as on the general security regime for civil society members and private actors cooperating with special procedures. Austria shared this concern about the intimidation and threats of witnesses and the lack of efficient protection for them. The Special Rapporteur had proposed that the Council establish a mechanism for seeking explanations from Governments concerned in these situations. What did such a mechanism look like and how could the Council contribute to the security of the witnesses with such a mechanism? What role did the Secretary-General have in this regard? In the report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women it was recommended that States create a gender-sensitive knowledge base on the various aspects of discrimination against women and consequently, to establish gender-competent policies with regard to a broad range of aspects of social and economic life. He asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate further on this concept and in particular how States could adequately ensure that such a gender-sensitive approach was mainstreamed into all relevant fields of policies.
PHILIP KIMPTON (Australia) said Australia welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s efforts to bring attention to ongoing violence against women around the world, including the most vulnerable women, such as those in conflict and post-conflict zones and those who were trafficked. Australia also commended the Special Rapporteur’s call for a holistic approach to tackling violence against women, taking into account socio-economic factors that could play a role in contributing to violence, such as access to education and housing. Australia was taking a similarly comprehensive approach, with a zero tolerance position on violence against women and their children, and the development of a National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women. Australia also commended the Special Rapporteur’s focus on how lack of adequate housing could contribute to violence against women, recognising the link between domestic violence and homelessness and seeking whole-of-Government reform on this issue.
CHRISTOFFER BERG (Sweden) noted that, drawing from the findings of Professor Alston, extrajudical executions in various forms occurred all over the world. Sweden noted with deep concern executions of juvenile offenders and the killing of people accused of being witches in various parts of the world. Sweden was also shocked to learn about the attacks, intimidation and even execution of witnesses who had cooperated with United Nations special procedures, including the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. Such attacks were a flagrant threat to the very core of the basic human rights principles on which the mandate of the Human Rights Council as well as the mandate of the Special Rapporteur were based upon. What could the Council do to better protect the individuals assisting the Special Rapporteur in his work? Sweden also expressed its strong support for the mandate of Ms. Erturk. In the report, she mentioned the detrimental effect on women’s security that a lack of upholding the right to adequate housing had. Internally displaced persons were at special risk in this regard. What words of advice could the Special Rapporteur extend to the Government of Sri Lanka on this issue?
EVA BJARNADOTTIR (Iceland) said Iceland recognized the negative effects the global economic crisis could have on women’s human rights, but saw also new opportunities for global restructuring in order to create a more gender equal world. In the report on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur recommended that Governments ensure that economic stimulus and recovery packages did not privilege physical over social infrastructure investment or support for men’s over women’s jobs. Further elaboration on this point was requested. Furthermore, Iceland placed great importance to the Security Council resolution 1325 on women, peace and security. Empowering women in post-crisis situations and securing their economic and social rights were crucial factors in rebuilding societies that had been affected by armed conflict or humanitarian crisis caused by natural disasters. Therefore, Iceland asked the Special Rapporteur how resolution 1325 could be better implemented by Governments so that women’s participation could be guaranteed in post-crisis situations.
HYE RAN CHUN (Republic of Korea) said the final report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women presented substantial measures that would contribute to reaching the 2015 goal of the United Nations Secretary-General-led campaign, UNite to end violence against women. Furthermore, the report provided a number of tangible and practical ways to reverse the current global financial crisis into a potential opportunity to increase women’s employment and job security. The Government fully supported the Special Rapporteur’s unwavering belief in a holistic approach that integrated civil and political rights with economic, social and cultural rights. The report identified neo-liberal policies and the resulting phenomenon of decentralised enforcement as negatively affecting gender-oriented public services and social security. However, Governments could foster constructive competition among local authorities to develop viable women’s policies. It was critical that the transnational cooperation mechanism be enhanced in order to promote women’s rights and end violence against women.
PITCHAYAPHANT CHARNBHUMIDOL (Thailand) said that Thailand fully agreed with the Special Rapporteur that women’s human rights and violence against women could not be considered in isolation from the current global political economic order and the fulfillment of economic and social right for women. Thailand believed that a more comprehensive and holistic approach was needed in order to address violence against women, which took into account the full range of women’s human rights, be they civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as the unequal and negative impacts of globalization, current financial crises and other disasters on women. There was a need to address the consequences of violence against women in tandem with preventing it, in the first place, by empowering women themselves and by raising the awareness of the society on violence against women. Apart from Thailand’s efforts to tackle violence against women in particular, Thailand had developed legal and policy frameworks which aimed at promoting gender equality and the advancement of women in general. Thailand believed that these efforts should serve to prevent violence against women.
PEKKA METSO (Finland) thanked the Special Rapporteur, Ms. Erturk, for her report entitled „The Political Economy of Women’s Human Rights“, and commended her for raising this timely issue and its relation to violence against women. The Special Rapporteur stated that the imbalance between the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had constrained efforts to transform conditions underlying gender inequality and violence against women, rendering this issue a mere women’s problem. In what way could the disparity between the rights be bridged in order to strengthen the efforts to end violence against women? Violence against women in conflict situations was unfortunately common. The Special Rapporteur stated that the failure to address women’s economic and social rights in post-conflict situations contributed to women’s poverty and material insecurity, making them vulnerable to abuse. In what way did the Special Rapporteur consider that women could be empowered in post-crisis situations to fight abuse and violence by evoking their economic and social rights in the spirit of resolution 1325? How did the Rapporteur perceive the engagement of men in fighting violence against women in post-conflict situations?
OBAID SALEM SAEED AL ZAABI (United Arab Emirates), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the exhaustive report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women dealt in depth with the aspects and repercussions of violence against women on human rights policies and practices. The visit to Saudi Arabia by the Special Rapporteur was welcomed, and she was congratulated on her participation in meetings she had attended, such as that in Doha. Equality did not exist in the world where it came to participation by women in the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights, and it was rare for Governments to incorporate economic and social factors when creating legislation. This should be borne in mind when examining the issue. Priority should be given to the achievement of the goals set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Work should be done to uphold economic and social equality. There was a relationship between work to end violence against women and that focused on providing women with access to housing, safe water, and medicines. The Special Rapporteur should have spoken about the situation of Palestinian women in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem, and the situation of other women in lands under occupation.
RAJIVA WIJESINHA (Sri Lanka) welcomed the reports of Professor Alston and Professor Erturk. Especially in the context of the former’s insights into witch hunts, Sri Lanka was especially grateful to the latter for not getting involved in the collective demarche of several of her colleagues in February. Sri Lanka hoped that the vulgar generalizations or sweeping criticisms to use a transatlantic formulation made last week, though purportedly on behalf of all Special Rapporterus, did not seem to Professor Erturk to fall within the scope of her mandate. Sri Lanka was sorry that the leak of Professor Alston’s report three years ago had posed an obstacle for cooperation so far. Sri Lanka totally understood that Professor Alston was not responsible for the leak and hoped that it would be investigated. With the elimination of the most dangerous terrorist forces from Sri Lanka’s soil, Sri Lanka could now concentrate more on eliminating some of the problems it had faced in recent years in upholding human rights. Sri Lanka was sure that, with his deep concern for witches, Professor Alston would prove able to restrain his colleagues from further deprecations, and promote human rights rather than self-regarding exercises in finger pointing and worse.
INDAH NURIA SAVITRI (Indonesia) said Indonesia concurred with the view that ensuring gender equality was one of the most fundamental ways of assuring better civil, economic and political empowerment of women. Access to various socio-economic options would also assure a more balanced and consistent respect for the rights of women within the various tiers of society. Furthermore, Indonesia concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s suggestion that increasing access to education would go a long way towards ensuring a greater access to knowledge and better health. It would concurrently reduce the risk of social and political marginalization and vulnerability to abuse. Similarly, by increasing access to employment women would be more financially independent and better able to provide for their families. As a sending country, Indonesia was particularly concerned about the plight of migrant women. She noted with concern that they often faced innumerable challenges and were vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. She asked the Rapporteur for additional information on what could be done in the area of public policy strategies to further empower the rights of women.
JEFFREY HEATON (Canada) said Canada was deeply concerned about acts of intimidation or retaliation against persons who had cooperated with special procedure mandate holders in their monitoring and review of the situation of human rights on the ground. These acts threatened and undermined the effective functioning of the procedures, as well as the protection and promotion of human rights and the rule of law on the ground. All Governments should investigate allegations of intimidation and retaliation in order to end impunity for the perpetrators of such acts and prevent such acts occurring in the future. The insightful analysis and unwavering commitment of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women to advancing the human rights of women had been an inspiration. Her report provided an important overview of the extent to which key issues had been addressed by the mandate while providing constructive ideas to best integrate these issues into future work. She should share a few more of her thoughts on the importance of making the shift from victimisation to empowerment.
AMY LAURENSON (New Zealand) said that New Zealand would welcome further comment from the Special Rapporteur on violence against women as to how the Human Rights Council could enhance its work on violence against women to improve the effectiveness of the Council’s contribution to system-wide efforts to combat violence against women in all its forms. New Zealand noted the report’s observation that the detachment of violence against women fro.
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