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Impunity Making Mockery of Addressing Extrajudicial Executions

by Special Rapporteurs to UN's Third Committee, October 29, 2007

Mr. Alston said that uncooperative States were being rewarded and a system of impunity was being established in relation to the most serious concerns relating to extrajudicial killings. This made "a mockery" of the special procedures to address such killings. Addressing specific country situations, he named Iran as the country that executed more juveniles than any other, and also singled out the situations in the Philippines and Sri Lanka for special attention...

As for Sri Lanka, he reminded the Committee that he had warned of an impending crisis last year. That crisis continued to worsen, and he believed that the establishment of an international human rights monitoring presence by the United Nations would significantly reduce the number of human rights abuses in that country.

It was time for the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to act, he urged.

System of impunity making mockery of special procedures to address extrajudicial killings, Rapporteur tells Third Committee


GA/SHC/3895

Sixty-second General Assembly
Third Committee
26th & 27th Meetings (AM & PM)

Little Girls, Boys Being Used for Sex Markets

In Many Countries One of Worst Cases of Human Rights Violations

The abdication of responsibility by both the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in enforcing the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions had rendered the mandate impotent, said Philip Alston, the current mandate holder, to the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today as it continued its review of human rights issues.

In a packed programme, the Committee heard from six experts, including Special Rapporteurs and Independent Experts, on topics ranging from executions to raids on migrants to the success of the latest donor roundtable in Burundi.

In a forthright presentation that reflected on the 25-year history of the mandate he now held, which was also the oldest of all the Special Rapporteurs, Mr. Alston said that uncooperative States were being rewarded and a system of impunity was being established in relation to the most serious concerns relating to extrajudicial killings. This made "a mockery" of the special procedures to address such killings. Addressing specific country situations, he named Iran as the country that executed more juveniles than any other, and also singled out the situations in the Philippines and Sri Lanka for special attention.

Jorge A. Bustamante, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants told the Committee that, ironically, it was restrictive migration policies that were a fundamental cause of immigrants falling into patterns were they were trafficked and smuggled.

He said that children -- "little girls and little boys" -- used for the sex market in many countries was one of the worst cases of violation of human rights. Such a market was not an abstraction; it had a supply and a demand, but that demand had not been recognized. Recognition of that demand would require action by the United Nations. It would otherwise be hard to advance the overall defence of the human rights of migrants, he warned.

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Vitit Muntarbhorn, told the Committee it was regrettable that, to date, the authorities in that country had declined to cooperate with him. But, on a constructive note, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was party to human rights treaties; the six-party talks aimed at denuclearizing the Korean peninsula had made welcome progress; and the October 2007 summit between the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea was a welcome development.

Yet the human rights situation remained grave, noted Mr. Muntarbhorn. The country was under a non-democratic regime that adhered to a "military first" policy that depleted resources and created budgetary distortions in favour of the ruling elite and militarization. On the issue of asylum, the Special Rapporteur said that many who left the Democratic People's Republic of Korea due to hunger or economic reasons, could be seen as "refugees sur place", as there was a threat of persecution or prosecution if they were sent back, on the basis of their having left without an exit visa. Those who sought refuge should not be treated as illegal immigrants; nor should they be detained. And the international community should help countries of first asylum to find durable solutions to the refugee problem.

Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, pointed out that the right not to profess any religion or belief was also protected, and such persons should not be discriminated against.

Akich Okola, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Burundi pointed out that the country had come a long way since only two years ago. Back then, his report had been concerned with child soldiers and demobilization and like matters. Today, the country was considering a steering committee to set up a truth and reconciliation commission.

Titinga Frédéric Pacéré, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, highlighted numerous situations of concern: arbitrary executions, rape and inhuman and degrading treatment -- all taking place in a climate of impunity. The Armed Forces and police were notable among violators, he said.

The Committee also heard the introduction of a draft resolution by Mongolia on cooperatives in social development.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. on Monday, 29 October, to continue its general discussion on human rights.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today continued its general discussion of human rights. For more background, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3894 and GA/SHC/3893.

Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said his report to the General Assembly this year contained a historical review of the evolution of his mandate, and he had selected several specific themes to illustrate the ways in which that mandate had evolved to deal with changing threats and challenges. These threats and challenges included counter-terrorism, the protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, and the role of non-State actors. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions was the first human rights rapporteur to be appointed, 25 years ago on 11 March 1982.

He said the mandates of Special Rapporteurs like him had evolved in response to factors such as additional demands by States, new forms of violence, increasing public demands for effective responses, and the development of new techniques within the overall human rights regime. That ability to adapt and evolve was essential. In recent discussions on the reform of the system, it had often been alleged that many of the special procedures involved Western experts focusing on the problems of developing countries. In that light, he pointed out that he was the first Special Rapporteur on this mandate to come from a Western country, with his predecessors coming from Kenya, Senegal and Pakistan.

In his reports on country visits, he had been careful to respect the confines of his mandate while acknowledging the broader context. But despite efforts to improve that mandate's functions, serious problems still persisted. In his efforts to respond to alleged killings, he had found that the majority of Governments were failing the basic test of accountability. 90 per cent of countries he had identified as warranting a country visit had failed to cooperate. And neither the Assembly nor the Human Rights Council had done anything in response. That "abdication of responsibility" had resulted in uncooperative States being rewarded, and a system of impunity being established in relation to the most serious concerns relating to extrajudicial killings. The impotence of the Special Rapporteur in such situations made "a mockery" of the special procedures to address extrajudicial killings.

He then addressed specific country situations, starting with Iran, which executed more juveniles than any other country. Another major problem, he said, was that country's application of the death penalty for a wide range of crimes which "by no reasonable measure" met international law's requirements; that executions should be restricted to and applied to those guilty of the most serious crimes. Adultery, unlawful sexual relations, homosexuality, rape, insulting religions, acts against national security and abduction were among the crimes for which people had been executed. Laws that allowed adulterers to be stoned to death were "barbaric" by any standards, he said. It was long past the time for the Assembly to stand up and respond to those chronic violations of human rights.

Although his report on the Philippines had not yet been made public, he informed the Committee that he continued to receive deeply disturbing information, and he was concerned about a missing activist, Jonas Burgos, who might have disappeared or been killed.

As for Sri Lanka, he reminded the Committee that he had warned of an impending crisis last year. That crisis continued to worsen, and he believed that the establishment of an international human rights monitoring presence by the United Nations would significantly reduce the number of human rights abuses in that country.

It was time for the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council to act, he urged...

The representative of Sri Lanka said that since last year, there had been several developments, including a recent visit by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who herself had described that visit to the Committee as useful and constructive. Sri Lanka engaged with Ms. Arbour's Office and other international parties vis-à-vis human rights, and it would make a more detailed statement at a later Committee meeting...