mardi 18 décembre 2007

Special Rapporteur (SR) on the human rights and fundamental freedoms situation of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen

Human Rights Council, Sixth Resumed Session, 12th and 13th December 2007

Statement by the Special Rapporteur (SR) on the human rights and fundamental freedoms situation of indigenous people, Rodolfo Stavenhagen, and interactive dialogue

Mr Stavenhagen recalled the importance of the indigenous people’s cause, particularly in the year of the adoption by the GA of the Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People. Despite the efforts to raise awareness of these rights, the economic, social and human development of indigenous people is generally lower than the average. This is partly due to the fact that development policies have not tackled the structural causes of marginalisation of indigenous people because of lack of recognition, protection and human rights guarantees.

The SR’s report documents best practices of sustainable development project and he mentions the achievements of Brazil, India and Peru in the areas of education and health. Policies fostering empowerment and ownership of rights strengthen the organisation and capacity of indigenous people. Further, increasing access to authority position at local level has been granted in Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, Mexico and Uganda, which had interesting consequences in the design of social services and priorities in public investment. A key issue among indigenous people’s rights is the recognition and protection of land and natural resources rights.

Relating to his visit in Bolivia, the SR noted the improvement made since the indigenous President Evo Morales came to power as well as the fact that the Declaration has status of internal law in Bolivia. However, he voiced concerns about the persistent phenomenon of racism and discrimination against women that he witnessed among civil servants and attitudes of political parties. Also, the SR was preoccupied by the bondage situation in some guaraní parts of the country.

Concerning his visit to the Philipines, the SR noted that the situation has remained unchanged since his last visit four years ago. Despite some positive developments, the lack of access to natural resources for the purpose of survival is still of important magnitude. Indigenous people face forced evictions due to the legal power that e.g. international companies have. Of particular concern are the increasing number of extra-judicial killings, torture cases, forced disappearances, illegal detention that are attributed to the police, the armed forces and paramilitary groups.

The SR also visited the hydroelectric project of La Parota, in Mexico, in company of the SR on adequate housing, concluding that, considering the size of the affected population in terms of displacement, the project did not comply with the human rights standards enshrined in international instruments ratified by Mexico.

Finally, the SR presents a general report on the situation of indigenous people in Asia, a region that he was allowed to visit only on one occasion. He notes that Asian indigenous are particularly marginalised and suffer from systematic human rights violations as consequence of land loss. Land loss is critical as it might trigger the disappearance of entire people. Moreover, this is exacerbated by extensive agriculture and deforestation due to State concessions or illegal uprooting. As indigenous people are often inextricably connected to their natural environment, they are especially vulnerable. However, they lack any means to defend their rights. Further, the SR notes that there is a systematic displacement practice in favour of infrastructure mega projects, especially dams.

He concludes reaffirming the weight of the Declaration of indigenous people’s rights.

Interactive Dialogue

Bolivia, as concerned country, described the national development plans that are currently undertaken and that include the indigenous people’s conclude and participation. Another point was the recognition of the pluralistic and diverse composition of the Bolivian society up to the level of the constitution.

China, India and other Asian Countries, strongly objected to the annex on the rights of indigenous people in Asia because of diverse reasons: first, objection was made to the assumption of indigenous peoples living in Asia. According to India, the entire population of Asia is indigenous and the acceptance of only a part of the population as indigenous is considered inaccetable. This comment is based on a part of the definition of indigenous people in the ILO Convention 169, disregarding further elements of the definition in other provisions. Secondly, China criticised that the information gathered by the Special Rapporteur was coming mainly from NGO sources, thereby going against the Code of Conduct that specifies that, in particular, information provided by the States concerned have to be considered.

Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked about means to influence development policies in order to be sensitive to indigenous people’s interests and also about indicators to measure this feature of policies. A further concern was the recognition that environmental degradation is tantamount to a form of eviction and Portugal wanted to know how design policies to address these issues.

Cuba raised the point that development policies did not tackle the structural causes for the marginalization of indigenous people.

Mr Stavenhagen replied to the States’ comments, starting with the questions of the European Union. In his view, methodological development is required to find independent indicators for human rights of indigenous peoples in different countries related to different social, economic and cultural situations and related to environmental degradation. He confirmed the Canadian delegate’s concern that particular attention must be paid to indigenous in urban settings, as they run an even greater risk to all into “invisible” population

In reply to Peru’s concern about the implementation of the Declaration, the SR precised that in the long term, both NGOs, IOs, and public policies and justice have to include relevant provisions in their respective plans.

Further, the SR clarified that the subject of free previous and informed consent by indigenous peoples to development policies is in need o fan adequate methodology because often, the SR observed that consultations with indigenous were held but that the results were not fully understood, thereby missing a chance to meet the real needs of the indigenous peoples in question.

Concerning the intervention of the Asian Group, the SR claified that the study had been requested by the UN permanent forum on indigenous issues. Mr Stavenhager said that he was conscient about the debates around the definition of indigenous peoples and that it was not up to him to determine a definition. However, he pointed the attention to the fact that the very same Convention quoted by some Asian countries in the interactive dialogue in order to back their views included the element of auto-definition by the indigenous people. He justified himself saying that he was also to report on the groups that define themselves as indigenous.

Noelia Díaz

mercredi 12 décembre 2007

Enhancing respect for international humanitarian law (IHL): Exploring sanctions and the work of national IHL committees

Side Event to the 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

27 November 2007

Information and practice sharing event related to the domestic implementation of IHL Treaties. Discussion of trends and challenges at national, regional and international levels.

Aim - examine the contribution of the national IHL Committees to the reform of national criminal justice systems in order to create the conditions needed to prosecute and punish war crimes and to incorporate provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) into domestic law. Further, explore how national committees act as a catalyst for consultations, providing technical advice and recommendations on draft laws.

1) Ambassador Laura Thompson Chacón, Permanent Representative of Costa Rica in Geneva, reported on the experience of the national IHL committee of Costa Rica.

She explained that the main objective of the committee is to fight impunity and to raise awareness in the society. The IHL committee is composed of public institutions and NGOs and provides recommendations on IHL implementation measures (ex: law drafts). Further, it disseminates information to civil society and works closely together with universities. It also contributes to the debate on conflict-prevention and non-violence.

In its tasks, the national committee is creating regional and international links, in order to benefit from experience sharing with the committees of the neighbouring countries and to be able to act concertedly.

2) Mr. Xavier Philippe, Prof of public law, explained the findings of the interregional ICRC group of experts on sanctions.

The group of experts had as objective to clarify whether there is the need of a sanction other than criminal in order to achieve greater compliance with IHL. The conclusions are manifold and it should be kept in mind that sanctions have to be deterrent, which is achieved through visible and publicized justice.

Disciplinary sanctions (administrative acts) have the advantage to be expedient, to send an effective signal and therefore to be a more likely deterrent. Deterrence, according to the experts group, comes less from the severity of a sanction than from the predictability of the punishment. Predictability depends on the clarity of the rules and on the target groups’ knowledge about it.

However, and in particular from the victims’ point of view, disciplinary sanctions are not sufficient and should not replace criminal sanctions. Moreover, experts agreed that, beyond a punishment, the stigmatization of a criminal was of paramount importance. Open and public arrest and trial of the accused do have this stigmatizing effect.

Further, the speaker recalled the principles stating that gross violations of IHL imperatively have to trigger sanctions. He also revoked that states should condemn systems of “exceptional justice” during conflicts (e.g. “exceptional prisons”).

It was underlined that national justice had to incorporate IHL and that national legislation, even the constitution if needed, has to be modified for full implementation of IHL. Here, a link can be drawn to the establishment of national IHL committees. Reference was also made to the proportionality of the punishment and it was encouraged to take into consideration cultural and traditional aspects of the society in question, particularly when it comes to alternative, i.e. traditional tribunals.

The experts also considered the situations in which justice is to be made while the conflict is ongoing. In this respect, it is important to cover all the parties to the conflict in order to cover all the violations and the victims of all sides.

Regarding the victims’ roles, different situations have been recognized: victims might have one only advocate; or they might be in the centre of the process, treated individually with a view to reparations; or the situations might be a mix of the two. It is important, however, that the victims do not have too high expectations in order to avoid disappointments and ultimately revenge issues.

Transitional justice and its place have also been discussed. Agreement is that this is a complementary mechanism and that it should not substitute the criminal mechanisms. Especially in this context, the range of sanctions can go well beyond privation of liberty.

The group of experts also found that the impact of sanctions varies depending on whether the post-conflict society has just started a reconciliation process or whether it is already in an advanced stage of reconciliation.

Noelia Díaz

lundi 3 décembre 2007

30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

The 30th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent addressed the humanitarian consequences of four main contemporary challenges: environmental degradation, including climate change; international migration; violence in urban settings; and emergent and recurrent diseases and other public health concerns.

General Debate

The general debate consisted of some 109 statements made by Governments and National Societies, and focused on the four main themes of the Conference and how they interact with each other.

On the question of climate change and environmental degradation, delegations emphasized the fact that climate change affects the poorest people in the poorest countries. They called on National Societies to raise awareness about environmental risks and strengthen disaster preparedness and risk reduction measures, in order to address the humanitarian consequences of climate change. National Societies requested that States devise comprehensive disaster response plans that use their capacity, as well as that of other similar organizations.

Concerning international migration, participants stressed that when considering this issue, underlying causes such as poverty, armed violence and conflict should be taken into account. They have also stated that National Societies have a duty to assist migrants regardless of their legal status, and the vulnerable status of women and children migrants was also pointed out.

With regard to urban violence, it was agreed by a number of delegations that such violence should be reduced and prevented. In particular, participants referred to concrete initiatives in order to reduce this, such as the 2006 Geneva Declaration on armed violence and development, or the important role that young people can play in this regard.

On the issue of health, several delegations expressed their concern about the growing impact of recurrent diseases, such as HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis. They also agreed that the Red Cross and Red Crescent could take specific action to combat these epidemics, and so it was important to strengthen them.

In conclusion, all representatives shared the view that collaboration between Governments, National Societies, NGOs and other like-minded organizations was crucial to meet these challenges, and that there was an urgency to deal with these issues. Proposed solutions include preventive measures, public awareness, partnerships, promptness and preparedness.

Election of the members of the Standing Commission

Nine candidates were running for the five seats of the Standing Commission, two from Africa, two from the Americas, three from Asia and two from Europe. 324 delegations were present and voting, including 172 National Societies, 152 States, the International Federation and the ICRC. The absolute majority was established at 163 votes.

The results were as follows:


Dr Massimo Barra,
Italian Red Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .213
Dr Mohammed Al-Hadid,
Jordan National Red Crescent Society . . . . . . . . . . . 211
Mr Adama Diarra,
Mali Red Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..187
Mr Steven E. Carr,
American Red Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ..182
Mr Eamon Courtenay,
Belize Red Cross Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .165

Not Elected:

Lady Jocelyn Keith,
New Zealand Red Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .156
Dr Freddy Karup Pedersen,
Danish Red Cross . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .132
MrWilliam A. Eteki Mboumoua,
Cameroon Red Cross Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .110
Mr Tissa Manilal Abeywickrama,
Sri Lanka Red Cross Society . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .83

Follow-up to previous conferences

Follow up of the Memorandum Of Understanding between Palestinian Red Crescent and Magen David Adom in Israel:

The text presented on the follow-up of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Palestinian Red Crescent and the MDA was unanimously welcomed by the conference and the report was adopted by consensus by all delegations. During the presentation, it was underlined that even if the MOU is not fully implemented, there is a strong spirit of cooperation between the actors involved. Considering the political context of the region, the members of the conference expressed their satisfaction and their hope for further development. In this perspective, it is interesting to stress that this encouraging view was shared by all the political actors engaged in the area, including Arab States, Arab Red Crescent Societies, Israel, the United States, the American Red Cross society and the European Union.

Overview of the pledges made at the 30th International Conference

340 individual and collective pledges were made for the period of 2008 to 2011, and beyond.

Concerning the main themes of the Conference:

On environmental degradation, representatives pledged to promote preparedness, risk reduction and management.

On urban violence, it was pledged to promote preventive measures, especially through education.

On health, delegations pledged to increase the scope of community-based help, as well as equal access to treatment.

Pledges were also made on other subjects, such as:

Restoring family links

Strengthening international humanitarian law mechanisms

Using IDRL Guidelines to review national legal framework

Reaffirming the role and nature of the ICRC and IFRC, as auxiliary and independent societies in the humanitarian field

Fighting the abuse of power

Also at the heart of pledges was the development of volunteer and youth centers to strengthen National Societies.

Resolutions adopted at the 30th International Conference

Were adopted on consensus all of the resolutions and declarations presented before the Conference, namely:

Draft Declaration: Together for humanity
Draft Resolution: Together for humanity
Draft Resolution: The specific nature of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement in action and partnership and the role of national societies as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field
Draft Resolution: Reaffirmation and implementation of international humanitarian law
Draft Resolution: Adoption of the guidelines for the domestic facilitation and regulation of international disaster relief and initial recovery assistance

R. M.