12 September 2017
The Human Rights Council this afternoon began a clustered interactive dialogue with José Guevara, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and Urmila Bhoola, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences.
Presenting his report, Mr. Guevara said that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was the only mechanism in the international system for the protection of human rights with a specific mandate to receive and consider cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty. It had identified in the communications a trend towards arbitrary deprivation of liberty based on discriminatory grounds and had also identified the existence of unconventional places where people were deprived of their liberty against their will and where they did not have the fundamental safeguards. For example, it had observed that the detention of irregular migrants was carried out in various improvised facilities known as reception centers, migratory stations or shelters, which were nothing other than detention facilities, with conditions equivalent to those linked to criminal justice. Mr. Guevara presented reports on the country visits to Azerbaijan and to the United States.
In her presentation, Ms. Bhoola said that the target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goal, which called on the global community to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms, was the historic opportunity to end contemporary forms of slavery. There were 20.9 million victims of forced labour, of which 5.5 million were children, and this situation could not continue unabated. The dignity and wellbeing of millions of people - migrants, women, children, indigenous communities, people with disabilities - who were marginalised and vulnerable were at stake in the current climate of continued exploitation and impunity. Ms. Bhoola also introduced her thematic study on access to justice and remedy, and briefed the Council on her country visit to Paraguay and on the follow-up workshops in Mauritania and Niger.
Azerbaijan and the United States spoke as concerned countries.
During the discussion on arbitrary detention, delegations regretted that it remained one of the most common human rights violations and commended the Working Group for its efforts to streamline and improve working methods and follow-up procedures. Would the Working Group consider including the correlation between the prohibition against torture and the protection against arbitrary detention in its future work, speakers inquired. They shared the disappointment of the Working Group over the fact that no less than 63 per cent of the cases in which the Working Group adopted an opinion last year had not received any reply from the States concerned. Delegations expressed grave concern about the reprisals against individuals who had been subject of an urgent appeal or an opinion of the Working Group.
Speakers noted that contemporary forms of slavery had not been wiped out and were alarmed by the persistence of modern slavery in the 21st century, and said that groups in vulnerable situations such as rural populations or indigenous people must receive special attention from the public authorities. The vulnerability of the millions of migrants to exploitation and transnational trafficking was a concern and greater partnership and coordination of initiatives to combat this phenomenon was urged. Delegations were also concerned about the lack of access to justice for victims of slavery and stressed that the right to remedy was a core tenet of the human rights system. A speaker urged the Special Rapporteur to draw an inspiration from a project run by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the accountability and remedy in cases of business involvement in human rights abuses.
Speaking were the European Union, Tunisia on behalf of the African Group, Holy See, Sierra Leone, Denmark, Russian Federation, France, Brazil, Pakistan, Greece, Sudan, and Belgium.
Philippines, Ukraine, India, Japan, China, Israel, Bahrain, Armenia, Venezuela, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in a right of reply.
The Council will next meet on Wednesday, 13 September, at 10 a.m. to continue its interactive clustered dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, which will be followed by an interactive discussion with the Working Group on the use of mercenaries and the Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and waste.
The Council has before it the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/36/37).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - mission to Azerbaijan (A/HRC/36/37/Add.1).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - mission to the United States of America (A/HRC/36/37/Add.2).
The Council has before it an addendum to the Report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention - comments by Azerbaijan (A/HRC/36/37/Add.3).
The Council has before it the Methods of work of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (A/HRC/36/38).
The Council has before it the Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences (A/HRC/36/43).
Presentations by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
JOSÉ GUEVARA, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, said that the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention was the only mechanism in the international system for the protection of human rights with a specific mandate to receive and consider cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty. For those purposes, since its inception in 1991, Working Group had interpreted and enforced the norms of international law as they had been developed by national, regional and international jurisdictions; its mandate had been renewed last year for an additional period of three years. The Working Group received an increasing number of communications, and the efficient and timely processing of such complaints was one of the priorities. With the aim of ensuring the compliance by States with the opinions on individual cases and the recommendations derived from the country visits, the Working Group had established a follow-up mechanism which consisted of the States concerned reporting on the measures taken to comply with them within a period of six months from the date of notification.
The Chair-Rapporteur noted that the Working Group had identified in its communications a trend towards arbitrary deprivation of liberty based on discriminatory grounds, either because of the person's actual or perceived characteristics, because they belong or attribute membership group, or for having exercised any right protected by international law, such as the right of association, assembly, expression or political participation. It had also been able to identify the existence of unconventional places where people were deprived of their liberty against their will and where they did not have the fundamental safeguards. For example, it had observed that the detention of irregular migrants was carried out in various improvised facilities known as reception centers, migratory stations or shelters, which were nothing other than detention facilities, with conditions equivalent to those linked to criminal justice. As part of the policies to counter terrorism, some countries were considering “anti-radicalisation” measures, which included depriving people of their freedom to be re-educated. The Working Group was very concerned about the intimidation carried out in 2016 against persons who had cooperated with or had supplied information to the United Nations human rights mechanisms. It continued to be concerned about the detention of Ms. Afiuni Mora who had suffered sexual abuse during her detention, and reiterated the appeal to Venezuela to investigate her case and provide her with adequate reparations. Visits to countries were an essential component of the Working Group’s mandate and the Chair-Rapporteur appealed to Member States to consider favourably requests for visits.
Turning to the visit to Azerbaijan, Mr. Guevara thanked the authorities for their full cooperation and said that the Working Group had been able to visit several detention centres. Azerbaijan had carried out a series of penitentiary system reforms, but challenges remained in the area of deprivation of liberty for the reasons of health and political opposition. The Working Group encountered deficiencies in law with respect to youth who were legally dealt with as adults, it had not observed a system of independent monitoring of detention centres and there was a lack of defence lawyers. The practice of torture to extract confession seemed to be widespread. As for the visit to the United States, Mr. Guevara recognized the contribution of the civil society there, and said that the Working Group had visited several detention centres in Texas, California and Illinois with different levels of security. It observed positive aspects in terms of legal courses offered in some places of detention, legal representation for vulnerable groups and the possibility of early release. The Government had to respect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees and had to bring an end to the criminalisation of irregular migrants. The current detention system for migrants was punitive, lengthy and expensive, and there was no individualised assessment of the need for detention. The Working Group recommended the cessation of the use of places of detention managed by private companies, and noted discriminatory practices against the poor, racial profiling, and overrepresentation of Latin American and African Americans in detention centres, concluded the Chair-Rapporteur.
URMILA BHOOLA, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences, said that the issue of slavery was receiving increased attention by the Security Council which organized an open debate on the interconnection between slavery, human trafficking and conflict. The target 8.7 of the Sustainable Development Goal which called on the global community to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms, was the historic opportunity to end contemporary forms of slavery. According to the 2012 report of the International Labour Organization, there were 20.9 million victims of forced labour, of which 5.5 million were children, and this situation could not continue unabated. The dignity and wellbeing of millions of people, migrants, women, children, indigenous communities, people with disabilities who were marginalised and vulnerable were at stake in the current climate of continued exploitation and impunity, stressed the Special Rapporteur and reiterated her call to all members of the international community to increase efforts to combat slavery through the unwavering application of a multifaceted approach at the national, regional and international levels.
Presenting her thematic study on access to justice and remedy, Ms. Bhoola said that slavery involved the most heinous violation of human rights of the most vulnerable people in society today. Ensuring effective access to justice and remedy for victims played not only an essential role in the restitution of their human rights, but also acted as a strong deterrent against future perpetrators. A comprehensive victim-centred and human rights-based approach to ensure that persons subjected to contemporary forms of slavery had access to justice and remedy must have at its centre the compliance of States with their obligations under international law as well as full restitution of the rights of victims. The study offered broad-reaching recommendations to address the identified barriers to access to justice and remedy for victims, including social and cultural barriers, practical barriers, legislative and policy barriers and institutional and procedural barriers.
The report on the visit to Paraguay noted a number of issues of concern, including the phenomenon of cridazgo or child domestic servitude, slavery-like practices including forced begging, and bonded labour including amongst indigenous populations in the Caco region. Nonetheless, there had been positive developments, such as the ratification of core international and regional human rights standards, development of relevant legal provisions and policy frameworks, and the efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals. The initial recommendations made to the Government included: setting up of data collection on prevalence of slavery-like practices, reform of the legal framework where necessary, increase of the coverage of the labour inspectorate and awareness raising activities. Briefing the Council on the follow-up workshops in Mauritania and Niger in 2017, the Special Rapporteur said that Mauritania had adopted a new anti-slavery law, developed a road map, established anti-slavery tribunals and conducted poverty reduction programmes. Still, the implementation of the anti-slavery law had been weak and poverty reduction programmes insufficient, so Mauritania should comprehensively and transparently evaluate the implementation of the road map in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. In Niger, a plan of action for combating contemporary forms of slavery was in place, focusing on the improvements of political, legal and institutional frameworks; lack of resources was a key obstacle, although the compensation fund had been established for victims of slavery with the support of the European Union. Birth registration of descendants of former slaves had been initiated and livelihood support for victims were included in the plan of action. Niger should adopt measures to address discrimination, ensure education of children, and prosecute religious teachers who exploited children in need. In closing, the Special Rapporteur called upon the States and the international community to increase efforts to combat slavery, noting that the momentum was gained with the Sustainable Development Goals, while Alliance 8.7 provided a platform to address efforts to eradicate slavery and end child labour through creation of decent work opportunities and human development.
Statements by concerned countries
Azerbaijan, speaking as a concerned country, recalled the commitment to continue its efforts to modernize the judicial system through joint initiatives and projects with a special focus on strengthening judicial independence and raising public confidence in the courts. Although a number of positive developments had been noted, the report did not adequately reflect the wide range of reforms adopted to set up a solid legal framework pursued by national authorities. Azerbaijan raised concerns in relation to obvious problems in the methodology of preparing reports by certain United Nations mandate-holders, stressing the imperative for the mandate-holder to carry out the tasks with discretion and objectivity. Azerbaijan underlined that the most recent Executive Order of the President of Azerbaijan of February 10, 2017 aimed at further enhance legal reforms in the penal field.
United States, speaking as a concerned country, appreciated the Working Group’s encouraging remarks regarding onsite availability of pro bono legal representation, and noted that immigrants taken into the custody or placed into formal removal proceedings were afforded the opportunity to retain legal representation. The Working Group’s categorization of detention practices in the United States did not accurately reflect the state of international law. Convicted criminals held in the custody of the Government in the United States enjoyed the protections of the Constitution. The United States was concerned by unsupported assertions in the report about the operation of its criminal justice system, and expressed regret that the Working Group had relied on those representations to recommend changes to practices based on its own preferred policies rather than on the basis of international law. Guidelines had been adopted providing meaningful access programmes for individuals with limited or no proficiency in English. Furthermore, the United States remained committed to upholding the safety of unaccompanied alien children.
Interactive Dialogue with the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences
European Union regretted that arbitrary detention remained one of the most common human rights violations and inquired about the most recent examples to strengthen relevant jurisprudence. As for contemporary forms of slavery, it asked about the most effective policies to ensure justice and remedies. Tunisia, on behalf of the African Group, noted that under the African Charter nobody could be deprived of freedom and called for more cooperation among States to combat arbitrary detention. Contemporary forms of slavery had not been wiped out and required effective national legislation and policies. Holy See condemned new forms of slavery as extremely serious crimes and said that millions of migrants globally were at risk of being trafficked and exploited. Partnership and coordination of initiatives were necessary to combat trafficking of persons and migrants.
Sierra Leone reminded that one of the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals was the elimination of contemporary forms of slavery, which persisted in countries in the South due to the lack of domestic laws on migrant workers and the lack of labour opportunities. Denmark commended the Working Group for its efforts to streamline and improve working methods and follow-up procedures and asked whether it would consider including the correlation between the prohibition against torture and the protection against arbitrary detention in its future work. Russian Federation regretted the lack of backbone of the Working Group on individual communications, especially with respect to Ukraine and stressed that the Working Group’s new procedures should not create any new obligations for Member States. The United States Government should cease arbitrary detention of migrants.
France recalled that the mandate of the Working Group was key in order to shed light on arbitrary detentions that were sill widespread in several regions of the world, and welcomed the initiatives to improve its working methods and follow-up procedures. France was concerned by the lack of access to justice for victims of slavery and said that migrants were particularly vulnerable in the context of transnational trafficking. Brazil was alarmed by the persistence of modern slavery in the 21st century and said that groups in vulnerable situations such as rural populations or indigenous people must receive special attention from the public authorities. Brazil had amended its Constitution in 2014 to allow for the expropriation of land in which working conditions were analogous to slavery. Pakistan believed that the work of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention must be guided by the agreed principles of international covenants. Pakistan took strong exception to some “ill-informed and unsubstantiated statements” made by certain non-governmental organizations criticizing Pakistan on slavery and bonded labour, noting that slavery was non-existent in the country.
Greece commended the focus of the Working Group’s latest report on the issue of arbitrary deprivations of liberty on discriminatory grounds. With regard to migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, Greece outlined that the notion of “detainee” could not apply to temporary measures put in place precisely for their protection. Sudan reiterated its commitment to protecting persons from arbitrary detention, which was prohibited by the national legislation, which also prescribed that persons under arrest had to be informed of the reasons of their detention and could contact the relatives. People who were arbitrarily detained in Sudan had been released after fair trials.
Belgium shared the disappointment of the Working Group over the fact that no less than 63 per cent of the cases in which it had adopted an opinion last year, it had not received any reply from States. Belgium was also gravely concerned about the reprisals of individuals who have been subject of an urgent appeal or an opinion of the Working Group. The right to remedy was a core tenet of the human rights system and Belgium was wondering whether the Special Rapporteur had drawn any inspiration from the accountability and remedy project in cases of business involvement in human rights abuses, run by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Rights of Reply
Philippines, in a right of reply, stated that the National Police investigated all law enforcement operations and had filed criminal and administrative cases against abusive police officials. The Government was looking at documented cases of human rights violations in the course of the anti-drug campaign. The objective of the President’s campaign against illegal drugs was to preserve the lives of Filipino people and protect the country from becoming a narco-state.
Ukraine, in a right of reply, explained that the recently adopted law on education was in line with Ukraine’s international commitments and international standards on education, and it fully complied with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages of the Council of Europe. Ukraine would continue to promote minority rights.
India, in a right of reply, said that Pakistan had once again used terrorism as a state policy under the guise of human rights, and did not hesitate to use force against its own people and to house terrorists. The problem was cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India and it would remain such. India respected the fundamental rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, whereas in the Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir the population suffered from terrorism which was an extreme violation of human rights. The world should know of the consequences of Pakistan’s action.
Japan, in a right of reply, responded to the delegation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noting that the report of the Commission of Inquiry on that country was based on testimonies of numerous witnesses. The report was the reflection of the international community’s concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said Japan and urged the Government to cooperate with the Commission of Inquiry.
China, in a right of reply, rejected what was said by some civil society organisations, Switzerland and Australia. China was surprised that the High Commissioner’s report had made no mention of the human rights violations in Australia which everyone was well aware of, namely the treatment of detainees, and concerns about racism, xenophobia and hatred. China called on Australia to sort out its own problems before making comments about other countries.
Israel, in a right of reply, regretted the politicization of the issue of water and sanitation by the representative of the Palestinian Authority, and reminded that the 1995 inter-agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority had provided for the principles of water management. The current situation in Gaza was only the result of the rule of Hamas. Israel had continued its efforts to provide for the needs of population, and last July had concluded an agreement water desalination programme for the population.
Bahrain, in a right of reply, responding to the statements of the European Union and the United States, outlined that the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly were guaranteed under its Constitution and national legislation. Societal groups had free room for participation in the country and the allegations of constraints on the right of expression were unfounded. The death penalty was only applied for the most repulsive crimes following fair and transparent trials.
Armenia, in a right of reply, regretted that Azerbaijan used the issue of water and sanitation as a political tool to formulate false allegations against it. Water management in conflict-affected areas could become an important confidence-building tool and people and people contact, and said that on several occasions, the authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh had expressed the interest in trans-boundary cooperation with Azerbaijan on the use of water resources. If Azerbaijan was ready to engage in such cooperation, Armenia would be pleased to convey the message to the authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh.
Venezuela, in a right of reply, said that its Government was always cooperating with the Council and the United Nations in fulfilling its international obligations. To date, twenty-two elections had taken place in Venezuela, making it the global leader in this area. The signatories of the Lima statement were critical of the Venezuelan system but they had often taken actions in the past directed against sovereignty and democracy of Venezuela. What was happening in Venezuela was not a constitutional crisis but an economic war, pushed forward by the unilateral coercive measures of the United States.
Azerbaijan, in a right of reply, stated that no one in Azerbaijan was detained or prosecuted due to his or her political activities and that no one in the country was above the law, everyone was treated equally under the law. Armenia was violating the right of the people of Azerbaijan to access safe drinking water of Azerbaijani citizens, as confirmed in numerous international reports which called upon Armenia to cease using water as a tool of political influence.
Pakistan, in a right of reply, said that India had continued to flout international human rights norms, while acting as a victim, and stressed that the people of Jammu and Kashmir aspired to achieve their right to self-determination. India had economically strangled the people of that province and forced demographic changes. Instead of using lofty words, India should understand what democratic values meant. India’s Government promoted unrestrained persecution of minorities.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in a right of reply, categorically rejected allegations made by Japan which demonstrated double standards and politicisation of the Council. The mandates originated from the political conspiracy of the hostile forces. Japan was hell bent on accusing the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and it ignored the cooperation that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had extended to the United Nations human rights mechanisms. Japan was not qualified to address the problems of other countries as it had committed heinous crimes in the past, such as forceful military drafting and sexual slavery.
Japan, in the second right of reply, rejected the allegations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea about the crimes committed by Japan in the past. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to the concerns of the international community on the dire situation of its own population.
Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in the second right of reply, categorically rejected the mislead allegations made by Japan. The facts and figures related to the past crimes, including military sexual slavery committed by this country, were correctly estimated. Japan had never recognized those human rights violations and had not provided any compensation to the victims.
For use of the information media; not an official record