HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL CONCLUDES INTERACTIVE DIALOGUE WITH SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS ON CULTURAL RIGHTS AND HUMAN TRAFFICKING
The Human Rights Council this morning concluded its clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the promotion of the enjoyment of cultural rights and the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
During the interactive dialogue, delegations supported the call for a human rights-based approach to combating human trafficking. Perpetrators should be adequately punished for such acts while protection of victims and their human rights should be ensured. Combating this phenomenon was not only dependent on States; international as well as regional cooperation was required. The need for enforcement and strengthening of existing legislation that criminalized trafficking was stressed. Serious concern was expressed about the phenomenon of human trafficking, especially with regards to women and children, and speakers urged States to be mindful of their accountability under international human rights law to adequately address this.
With regards to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, one speaker expressed concern and said that this fell outside the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights. Another speaker said that scientific progress could be both a boon and a threat and so dissemination of some technology had to be strictly controlled. The right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications involved, among others, the debate on the access of people to technology, transfer and sharing technology and access to medicines through the flexibilities of property rights agreements. A speaker said the Human Rights Council should hold further discussions on the right to benefit from scientific progress, and asked the Special Rapporteur how she envisaged further action of the Council on this issue.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue were Kyrgyzstan, United States, Algeria, South Africa, Viet Nam, Malaysia, Republic of the Congo, China, Slovakia, Venezuela, Russia, Guatemala, Bangladesh, Slovenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Norway, Republic of Moldova, Belarus and Botswana.
The following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Liberation, Franciscans International, Action Canada for Population and Development, International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, and Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grands Lacs.
Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, in concluding remarks said that she welcomed the steps undertaken by Austria and Morocco, and emphasised the need for further efforts towards an integrated approach to cultural rights, and a human rights institute in keeping with the Paris Principles. Ms. Shaheed stressed that she considered the information received and included in the report as credible. Regarding the concerns raised by the United States, the Council resolutions renewing her mandate clearly included both the right to scientific progress and its application and there was a strong link between this right and other cultural rights.
Joy Ngozi Ezeilo, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, in concluding remarks said that the political will States expressed to eradicate this scourge was impressive and hoped that together it would be possible to galvanize the world for further actions. With regard to unintended consequences of laws and practices, Ms. Ezeilo said that young women suffered most under such laws and that it was not possible to make laws to prohibit movement for early marriage for example. It was important to subject all laws and policies to examination, especially for their gender sensitivity and the impact they might have on women and men. There was a connection between higher prosecution rates and the protection and right to privacy granted to victims; if victims knew they would enjoy protection and understanding, their cooperation with the authorities would be forthcoming.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At noon, it will begin a clustered interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women.
Clustered Interactive Dialogue on Promoting Cultural Rights and on Trafficking in Persons
Kyrgyzstan was confident that the implementation of specific measures to combat human trafficking and the protection of the human rights of victims at the national level could contribute to political and social stability of States where such persons lived in. Kyrgyzstan emphasized the necessity of enforcement and strengthening of legislation that criminalized trafficking in persons, especially women and children, as well as the prosecution of perpetrators of such crimes. Kyrgyzstan urged the Special Rapporteur as well as United Nations Member States, international organizations, civil society and other stakeholders involved in combating human trafficking to intensify efforts in expanding cooperation.
United States said that in its view, each Member State was best positioned to decide what mechanisms worked best to promote internal cooperation in relation to human trafficking. The United States drew attention to a side event which would take place today, which the United States, the Philippines, and Germany would be hosting. This side event would consider best practices of non-governmental organizations and law enforcement cooperation in trafficking cases and augment the theme of the session’s trafficking resolution. The United States called attention to a broad concern with the report on cultural rights, namely, that it believed that many of the issues raised in the report on cultural rights fell outside the core mandate of the Special Rapporteur.
Algeria said that the realization of the right to enjoy the benefit of scientific advancement was particularly important in the context of globalization. The restriction of this right could lead to stagnation, exclusion and negation of human rights. Algeria expressed its support for addressing this right through the notion of a common human heritage. It supported a human rights based approach for the administration of criminal justice in human trafficking, which was necessary to respond to the dual concern of protecting victims and addressing perpetrators. In Algeria, persons entering illegally were systematically questioned to see if they had been subjected to any kind of abuse. Prevention was crucial but the issue of demand and profound sources of this worldwide phenomenon should also be tackled.
South Africa said that the recommendations of the report on cultural rights were in line with South Africa’s constitutional provisions, including the right to education, access to information and the enjoyment of cultural rights. South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology had adopted policy measures to realise the full potential of science and technology for social and economic development. Together with a number of African countries, South Africa had won the right to host the Square Kilometre Array telescope project. This was a milestone for South Africa and the rest of the continent as it provided for the development of scientific knowledge and expertise and knowledge sharing.
Viet Nam said that human trafficking constituted slavery in disguise and was a serious violation of human rights and dignity. Combating trafficking depended not only on States’ capacities but on international and regional cooperation. The root causes included poverty, analphabetism and marginalization of job opportunities, particularly in the context of economic crisis. Viet Nam underlined the difficulties concerning victim identification and carrying out investigation, prosecution and reparation. There were also discriminatory practices affecting victims, including women and girls. Viet Nam continued to make efforts to fight trafficking, including the adoption of legislation, and it participated in regional initiatives on the issue.
Malaysia remained committed to addressing human trafficking. An anti-trafficking act had been established along with other legislative reforms, and the number of convictions had recently increased. Victim identification posed important challenges and the Government continued to provide rights-based training to law enforcement agencies. Concerning the infringement on the freedom of movement of victims, Malaysia emphasised the need for balance and noted the provision of friendly shelters to ensure the well-being of the victims. Malaysia continued to work with the relevant national and international stakeholders in efforts to address this problem.
Republic of the Congo expressed concern about trafficking in persons which had been first identified in the country by civil society and the Commission for Justice and Peace in its 2004 report. The 2002 Constitution prohibited slavery and trafficking in persons. The 2010 Action Plan to consolidate the anti-trafficking work in the country included prevention, identification and assistance to children victims of trafficking, and their repatriation and reinsertion. Because of the trans-boundary nature of this crime and in order to protect the best interests of the child, the Republic of the Congo had signed bilateral agreements with several countries and had established a regional mechanism for the prevention of trafficking in persons, especially women and children.
China said that cultural rights were among the basic rights of the citizens of China that were guaranteed by the Constitution. The Special Rapporteur pointed out that scientific rights and cultural rights should be understood as integral parts of the whole and China fully endorsed this point of view and called for the strengthening of scientific cooperation for the betterment of the world. With regard to trafficking in persons, China had in recent years beefed up its anti-trafficking measures, including criminalization of the phenomenon, establishment of the national prevention mechanism and strengthening of the regional one with Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Burma and other countries in the region.
Slovakia shared the concern by the Special Rapporteur that a lot still remained to be done to improve prosecution and conviction rates for trafficking in persons. Even though Slovakia was a country of origin rather than of transit or destination, it considered it crucial that this issue was addressed at the international level. Slovakia had penalized human trafficking since 2005 and had developed multiple initiatives to tackle this problem. States should respect and fulfil the right to effective remedies for trafficked persons and recognize them as victims and as holders of distinct rights. What was the role that information technologies, especially the Internet, played in human trafficking?
Venezuela said that Venezuela appreciated the views of the Special Rapporteur concerning the right to science as a means to making progress in the implementation of other human rights and address common needs of humanity. Venezuela recommended the establishment of national mechanisms to identify and assist victims. Venezuela had ratified the prevailing international legal frameworks to prevent and combat serious crimes. One of its efforts had included making information available to alert communities, including justice officials.
Russia said the Russian Federation shared the idea that an individual’s medical history should not be taken without his or her free consent. On the issue of technological transfer, it noted that this was regulated by legal norms including patent law, and that this should be taken into account. One phenomenon that was omitted was the unilateral prohibition and embargo on technological transfers for political motives. Russia noted that scientific progress could be both a boon and a threat and so dissemination of some technology should be very strictly controlled.
Guatemala said that States should promote multiple actions for the implementation of the United Nations Convention and Protocol Against Transnational Organized Crime. Activities should also be carried out to identify and ensure the human rights of victims of human trafficking, and to ensure that perpetrators were duly punished. National guidelines had been adopted for the protection of victims, and these persons were not punished on migratory status grounds. Various training programmes had been carried out, as well as information campaigns, and mechanisms had been developed to identify victims. Comprehensive assistance was given to female victims of trafficking.
Bangladesh stressed that deliberations on the right to science should address technological gaps which were essential for development; international cooperation and technical assistance was of utmost importance. Trafficking was one of the worst forms of exploitation and the international community should show resolve. Push and pull factors should be addressed as obstacles to the natural movement that forced individuals to adopt risky paths of migration. Trafficked persons were often arrested, detained, charged and prosecuted. The criminalisation or detention of victims was incompatible with a rights-based approach.
Slovenia said that the rights-based approach was vitally important in the administration of criminal justice. Slovenia had made significant progress in combating trafficking in humans and national legislation was in line with all relevant conventions. Victim identification and cooperation between governments and victims contributed to justice efforts, and therefore cooperation between victims and the authorities was important. Slovenia inquired about what was the best approach when allegedly trafficked persons did not recognise themselves as victims and refused to cooperate with the authorities.
Bahrain said that Bahrain was endeavouring to eradicate trafficking by launching a national campaign of sensibilization. Several strategies had been implemented in the last years to make the combat trafficking more effective and in accordance with recent legislative reforms. A unit had been created in partnership to look at cases of trafficking and, with consular service, a free hotline for victims. Bahrain asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how to deal with the problem of domestic employees who were occasionally victims of trafficking in persons.
Brazil said that the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications involved, among others, the debate on the access of people to technology, transfer and sharing technology and access to medicines through the flexibilities of property rights agreements. Brazil had undertaken a series of actions to widen access to scientific knowledge domestically and internationally, and had shared technology and best practices in the areas of agriculture and health, among others. The Human Rights Council should hold further discussions on the right to benefit from scientific progress, said Brazil, and asked the Special Rapporteur how she envisaged further action of the Council on this issue.
Indonesia said that its National Development Plan 2010-2014 placed high importance on the mastery and utilization of science and technology, which were of strategic importance for national development. Everyone must have equal opportunity to freely contribute to scientific endeavours and access the benefits of science without discrimination. The current maximalist intellectual property approach had deprived marginalized societies of their right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and was leaving them behind. Eradication of the crime of trafficking in persons was another priority for Indonesia, which agreed with the Special Rapporteur on the importance of strengthening technical capacity in dealing with this heinous crime.
Bosnia and Herzegovina said that human trafficking was an extremely serious crime and the adoption of comprehensive domestic legislation to criminalize trafficking and to protect victims was a key step in combating it. Bosnia and Herzegovina used to be a transit country and to a lesser extent a destination country and the current data on victims of trafficking was showing a gradual improvement and reduction in the number of victims. Bosnia and Herzegovina had created a uniform data base and put in place a system of direct aid and assistance to victims of trafficking.
Belarus said that Belarus had adopted a new law on trafficking, which provided for follow up on the provision of mechanisms for social assistance to victims including financial assistance. There was a draft law on State assistance for non-governmental organizations providing assistance for victims. Two years after the Special Rapporteur’s visit, almost all recommendations had been implemented. Belarus drew attention to its concern about a report of the United States State Department on trafficking of human beings worldwide. That report was not professional and was politicized, prepared by a country in which some 15,000 victims of human trafficking could be found, and where some 300,000 individuals were at risk of being involved in it.
Iraq said that to protect the human rights of the victims of the scourge of human trafficking, the introduction of criminal offences for such acts was required. Iraq adopted Law 28 on trafficking of human beings in 2012 and it had now entered into force. It had been drafted with several international organizations and broad consultations had been held with all stakeholders. The Council of Ministers, by virtue of this law, had approved the establishment of a central commission to implement the law, under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with representation of all stakeholders in this field.
Sri Lanka said that a National Anti Human Trafficking Task Force had been launched in October 2010. Since 2009, the Attorney General’s Department had received approximately 133 cases related to human trafficking. Out of these, 52 indictments had been filed in court. The National Child Protection Authority of Sri Lanka had put in place a system to identify children who were at high risk of being trafficked. It had been working with several international organizations to provide specialized training for government officials in identifying and assisting victims of trafficking. A National Trilingual Policy had been formulated and was being implemented. This policy enabled all Sri Lankans to effectively access and share scientific and cultural advancements and knowledge through the use of the link language.
Egypt welcomed the integrated approach to trafficking, including the rights-based and victim-orientated focus. Legislation was not an end in itself and required further implementation, and Egypt’s ant-trafficking legislation provided for the establishment of a fund to assist victims. Concerning the enjoyment of the benefits of scientific progress, the Special Rapporteur should further elaborate on international mechanisms to provide assistance to States. Egypt welcomed the focus on international cooperation and technology; reiterated the importance of the right to science for the enjoyment of other rights; and stressed the importance of an international enabling environment and a human rights impact assessment of current frameworks.
Norway said that States should seek ways to alleviate the pressure put on victims during investigations and the prosecution process; and recommended the Special Rapporteur to ask representatives of the police and prosecution services detailed questions on this issue in future visits. Concerning the work on a review mechanism for the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime in Vienna, an effective and independent mechanism could be adopted. Concerning the complex issues related to the right to enjoy scientific knowledge, Norway noted that the right to science remained underdeveloped and asked what recommendations the Council should prioritise on this area.
Republic of Moldova said that the fight against trafficking was a priority for the Republic of Moldova. The Government had made progress in addressing the protection of victims and prevention, the national referral system had been expanded and training was included in the police curriculum and was provided for judges and prosecutors. A memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Internal Affairs and relevant domestic and international stakeholders had been signed. The Republic of Moldova asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on the need for victim protection and support services that were compatible with a human rights-based approach.
Botswana said that human trafficking was a sensitive issue that had been going on for centuries, changing only its form. Levels of development and extreme poverty were at the root causes of human trafficking and women and girls were more vulnerable to being coerced into sexual servitude and other forms of bondage. A full response to this phenomenon required recognition of its developmental, political and governance dimensions. Botswana asked whether human trafficking was more prevalent in certain areas of the world. The right to science was sometimes considered a pre-requisite to the realization of a number of human rights. This was an era in which knowledge was decisive in separating winners from losers and was a necessary requirement for winning in today’s closely integrated and competitive world.
Liberation said that human trafficking had become an issue of serious national and international concern, especially with regard to women and children. Commercial exploitation of their particular vulnerabilities had become a massive organized crime and a multimillion dollar business. In India, the volume of human trafficking had increased over the last decade and a large number of children were trafficked for sex and exploitation, including labour, begging, organ trade and early marriage.
Franciscans International said in a joint statement that human trafficking was a serious occurrence in Cameroon, where kidnapping of newborns in hospitals with a view of putting them up for international adoptions was taking place with the involvement of corrupt officials. The work of children under 14 years of age was prohibited, but the Government had no measures or strategy in place to eradicate the sale and exploitation of children. Cameroon should conduct an independent and impartial investigation into the theft of babies and create a legal framework to combat trafficking in persons conforming to international norms and standards.
Action Canada for Population and Development referred to the report’s call for the adoption of a rights-based approach to trafficking. This was an important lens through which to understand the phenomenon and one which was often ignored by States. Action Canada urged States to be mindful of their accountability under international human rights law to ensure that in their endeavour to combat trafficking they did not conflate it with sex work, that they ensure that trafficked persons were not criminalized, that their human rights were protected, and that they ensure that anti-trafficking law did not hinder the exercise of the right to freedom of movement.
International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists found the report submitted on human trafficking of extreme importance. Israel had implemented and followed steps to combat the phenomenon once common within it. Israel had amended its Penal Code in 2006, ensuring severe punishment for such acts, created a special law enforcement unit, and conducted training programmes. Victims needed to be protected, not re-traumatized. Israel encouraged other States to swiftly and thoroughly implement the recommendations contained in the report.
Action internationale pour la paix et le développement dans la region des Grands Lacs in a joint statement called upon the Special Rappporteur on cultural rights to pay particular attention to the situation of thousands of persons sequestrated in the camps of Polisario. The release of these persons would help them be reunited with their families once and for all. It was surprised by the unfounded information that appeared in the report mentioning the ban of certain musicians from participating in a festival. These allegations contradicted earlier confirmation of the existence of open cultural activities in the region.
FARIDA SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on the promotion of cultural rights, in concluding remarks, welcomed the steps undertaken by Austria and emphasised the need for further efforts towards an integrated approach to cultural rights, including a human rights institute in keeping with the Paris Principles. Ms. Shaheed welcomed Morocco’s concurrence with the recommendations in her report and urged the Government to concretise the commitments contained in its Constitution. Ms. Shaheed stressed that she considered the information received and included in the report as credible from various sources. Regarding the concerns raised by the United States concerning the limits of the mandate on cultural rights, Ms. Shaheed indicated that the Council’s resolution renewing her mandate clearly included both the right to scientific progress and its application; and furthermore, there was a strong link between this right and other cultural rights. The report referred to it as the “right to science” given the limited space available, but it included both culture and science. Despite the predominance being given to the second aspect, they were both important and should be understood together. Important innovative initiatives had been undertaken and should be followed up on. With regards to the issue of priorities and steps forward raised by several delegations, Ms. Shaheed stressed the need to collect and study innovative practices that did exist in different countries. A dialogue on this right that had not received attention should include the private sector and agencies such as the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization. The Council should request this process was undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as mentioned in the report.
JOY NGOZI EZEILO, Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, in her closing remarks, said that the political will expressed by States to eradicate this scourge was impressive and hoped that together it would be possible to galvanize the world for further actions. With regard to the unintended consequences of laws and practices, Ms. Ezeilo said that young women suffered most under such laws and that it was not possible to make laws to prohibit movement for early marriage for example. It was important to subject all laws and policies to examination, especially for their gender sensitivity and different impact they might have on women and men. In many areas of the world, human trafficking was still seen as a women’s problem and an issue of prostitution. There was a connection between higher prosecution rates and the protection and right to privacy granted to victims; if victims knew they would enjoy protection and understanding, their cooperation with the authorities would be forthcoming. The Special Rapporteur welcomed the initiative of Switzerland regarding the study on the interpretation of definitions used by States in relation with the Palermo Protocol and noted the particular importance of using the same definition.
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