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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
24 October 2008




General Assembly
GA/SHC/3927

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly
Third Committee
24th & 25th Meetings (AM & PM)

THIRD COMMITTEE HEARS PRESENTATIONS FROM FIVE HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL RAPPORTEURS,

AS WIDE-RANGING TWO-WEEK HUMAN RIGHTS DEBATE CONTINUES
 

Address Issues of Violence against Women, Human Rights Defenders,
Independence of Judges and Lawyers, Extrajudicial Execution, Right to Education


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Statement by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders

MARGARET SEKAGGYA, Special Rapporteur, presenting her first report to the Committee following her appointment in March, said that a thorough analysis of general trends and challenges affecting human rights defenders was essential to fully understand the context in which those defenders operated and, therefore, to better protect them.  Reinforcing scrutiny on defenders exposed to specific forms of violations and attacks was a priority in her work, particularly in regard to issues facing women human rights defenders, who were often targeted by forms of prejudice, exclusion and repudiation by the social and political establishment.  Defenders working on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as defenders working on the rights of minorities, indigenous peoples, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were also often at greater risk.  Those more vulnerable groups of defenders needed specific and enhanced protection and deliberate efforts to ensure that the environment in which they operated was more enabling, accepting, and safer.

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Questions and Answers

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The representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine turned the Rapporteur’s attention to journalists who were attacked in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and asked what countries should do to prevent those attacks, since the Israeli Government was not doing enough to stop Israeli settlers from perpetrating such attacks.

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Statement by the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions

PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur, said if there was a single leitmotif in relation to the struggle against extrajudicial executions, it would be the fight against impunity.  Prosecuting those responsible for extrajudicial executions was generally very difficult in the absence of witnesses.  In some countries, including one which the Rapporteur had visited, to come forward as a witness was, in a sense, an act of suicide.  If a witness protection programme was not in place, prosecution became difficult or impossible.  The General Assembly needed to underline the importance of those programmes and the United Nations, and other agencies, needed to assist States to design, establish and support effective programmes.  He pointed to examples of global best practices and innovative approaches to witness protection, included in his report.  The international community should provide the necessary resources to implement those best practices and, among other measures, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights should develop policy tools to encourage and facilitate greater attention to the issue.

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Questions and Answers

The representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine thanked the Rapporteur for his report, and added that the Israeli occupation had been using extrajudicial executions for many years, including on children.  During a protest against the building of the separation wall, for example, there were known cases of young adults being shot in the face.

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Responding to questions regarding the occupied Palestinian territories, Mr. ALSTON said that, though he had visited Lebanon and Israel, the understanding had been that he would not visit the occupied territories at that time, but instead at a later date.  However, despite repeated requests to the Government of Israel, that visit had not yet been realized.

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For information media • not an official record

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