11 March 2015
Concludes Interactive Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
The Human Rights Council this morning held a clustered interactive dialogue with Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, and with Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It also concluded its interactive dialogue with Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.
Farida Shaheed, Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, presenting her thematic report on copyright policy and the right to science and culture, said that cultural participation and the protection of authorship were both human rights principles designed to work in tandem. Striking an appropriate balance between the two goals was thus essential, even if challenging. A human rights based approach to copyright issues would help focus attention on important themes that may be lost when copyright was treated primarily in terms of trade, including the social function and human dimension of intellectual property, the public interests at stake, and the need to design copyright rules to genuinely benefit human authors.
Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, said that in the implementation of her mandate, she would prioritize the issue of information and communication technologies, the impact and consequences of the sale and sexual exploitation of children on the rights to health, education and development, the problem of illegal adoptions and the demand factor underpinning the sale of children, child prostitution and the proliferation of child abuse materials. States needed to establish comprehensive legal frameworks to avoid protection gaps, to explicitly criminalize specific exploitative activities, and to develop detection, reporting and identification mechanisms to identify victims and track down the perpetrators.
Viet Nam and Honduras spoke as concerned countries.
In the discussion on cultural rights, speakers said that the current copyright system hindered theA right to development through a violation of the right to education, health and progress and many other rights related to affording a basic decent life to millions in developing countries. It was regrettable that discussions on the matter had focused on the rights of authors rather than on the rights of the larger readers and public interest. An appropriate balance between the legitimate aspiration to participating in cultural life and the protection of authorship and copyright was crucial to guarantee the diffusion of knowledge and the development of creativity. Some speakers refused to consider a legally binding instrument on copyright exceptions, and asked about the positive effects of a strong copyright system on cultural development.
Concerning the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, speakers highlighted the collective responsibility to protect children’s rights while taking advantages of modern technologies, including through the ratification of all relevant regional and international instruments. Speakers stressed the importance of comprehensive legal frameworks to combat impunity for child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children, and said that national efforts should take into account the rapid advancements in information and communication technologies. Speakers expressed support for the establishment of a global task force against child sexual exploitation crimes and agreed that non-State actors played an important role in combating child abuse and exploitation.
The delegations that participated in the clustered interactive dialogue on cultural rights and on the sale of children were Ecuador on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, European Union, Bahrain on behalf of the Arab Group, Syria, Council of Europe, Egypt, China, Botswana, Paraguay, Iran, Japan, United Nations Children Fund, Algeria, Iraq, Mexico, Belarus, Portugal, Italy, Cuba, Armenia, Venezuela, Australia, France, Qatar, Thailand, United States, Gabon, Latvia, Indonesia, Sudan, Switzerland, South Africa, Israel, Bangladesh, Estonia, Russia, Burkina Faso and Brazil.
The National Human Rights Commission of Mauritania also spoke, together with following non-governmental organizations: International Publishers Association, Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, International Buddhist Relief Organization, Associazione Communità Papa Giovanni XXIII (joint statement), Article 19 – The International Centre Against Censorship, CIVICUS – A World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik, Foundation ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes), European Centre for Law and Justice, Human Rights Advocates, and the International Institute for Peace and Human Rights.
At the beginning of the meeting, the Council concluded its interactive dialogue with Heiner Bielefeldt, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief. Speakers rejected and condemned outrageous manifestations of violence, particularly extremist violence by terrorist groups in the attempt to exterminate different religious or ethnic groups. The focus of the international community should not be only on the Middle East, a speaker stressed, because in many other areas of the world, deprivation, exclusion and the absence of the rule of law and good governance had fuelled violence based on religion or belief. The international community should hold States responsible and accountable under international law, and the culture of silence and impunity must be overcome by all stakeholders. A key means to confronting and defeating extremism was to ensure that freedom of religion or belief was protected; where groups in society valued difference and taught the importance of accepting others, it was much harder for extremism to take hold.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Bielefeldt said that responses to violence committed in the name of religion must be structural ones and structured; it was important to overcome not only the culture of silence or impunity, but the culture of trivialization: there was a real danger in not paying attention to structural and root causes. The key task was to rebuild that trust though developing communications and trust-worthy institutions, and the creation of an inclusive framework and space which would allow religious diversity to unfold freely and inclusively. Building trust also meant building resilience against voices and tendencies of radicalization, and States needed to be prepared for crisis situations.
The first part of the interactive dialogue with Mr. Bielefeldt took place on Tuesday, 10 March and a summary can be seen here.
Speaking in the interactive dialogue on freedom of religion or belief were Paraguay, Venezuela, Poland, Ireland, Singapore, Armenia, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, International Development Law Organization, Canada, France, Portugal, Holy See, United Kingdom, Fiji, Switzerland, Eritrea, Slovakia, Bangladesh, Nauru, Hungary, Botswana, United States, Russia, Germany, Morocco, Turkey, Algeria, Thailand, Norway, and New Zealand.
Also taking the floor were Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, International Lesbian and Gay Association, International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (joint statement), Al-Khoei Foundation, Franciscans International, International Federation for Human Rights Leagues, Espace Afrique International, and Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik.
The Council is holding a full day of meetings today. At 3 p.m., it will hold an interactive dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on children and armed conflict.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Paraguay said the report emphasized the link between violence inflicted in the name of religion and social and political factors; those were very complex issues that should be looked into by the Human Rights Council. States, civil society, media and others should look into the relationship between situations of religion and belief with violence, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.
Venezuela said it guaranteed the freedom of religion or belief to all individuals. Venezuela rejected outrageous manifestations of violence, particularly extremist violence by terrorist groups in the attempt to exterminate different religious or ethnic groups. Venezuela rejected actions of such groups which operated in Syria and Libya under the auspices of the United States. The Special Rapporteur should carry out his work in an impartial and non-selective manner.
Poland welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s intention to address the root causes of the manifestation of hatred on the basis of faiths. The actions of ISIS stemmed not from religion but from distorted perceptions. The international community should not focus only on the Middle East because in many areas of the world, deprivation and absence of the rule of law and good governance fuelled violence based on religion or belief. How could States combat emerging religious extremism in their territories?
Ireland said it shared the outrage and disgust of others at the savage attacks on religious communities by extremist militant groups such as Boko Haram and ISIS. The situation was particularly difficult in areas where State authority had collapsed. What role could civil society play in collaborating with States to confront extremist groups that threatened religious communities, and to tackle extremist ideologies at the grass-roots level?
Singapore agreed that concerted action by all relevant stakeholders was needed to eliminate violence committed in the name of religion. Such action must be sustained, and that required the continuous commitment of all stakeholders. That belief was borne out of Singapore’s own experience as a small but ethnically and religiously diverse country. Racial and religious harmony could not be taken for granted and each State and society needed to deal with their own challenges in their own way.
Armenia shared concern that violence committed in the name of religion could lead to massive human rights violations and remained concerned that policies of exclusion were often connected with incitement to hatred in the media. The most dangerous situations were those where States themselves endorsed violence. Armenia stressed that the international community should hold States responsible and accountable under international law.
Sovereign Military Order of Malta said that it was timely for the Council to examine violence committed in the name of religion because of daily tragic and barbaric acts perpetrated by individuals and groups disseminating messages of hatred and violence across the world. States had a unique obligation to ensure the equal treatment of followers of all faiths. It was a common responsibility of political and religious authorities to condemn violence in the name of religion. The culture of silence and impunity must be overcome by all stakeholders.
Organization of Islamic Cooperation said that no religion should be associated with violence or extremism. It regretted that the media was used to promote religious hatred and stereotypes. Violence in the name of religion started from negative stereotyping, xenophobia and incitement to hatred and discrimination of targeted groups based on their religious beliefs or views. The media should adopt a code of conduct to prevent that. It asked the Special Rapporteur’s opinion about laws protecting specific groups against religious hatred.
International Development Law Organization said violence perpetrated on the pretext of religious beliefs shocked the international community. Too often, the laws were being used to restrict freedom of religion and belief, particularly against minorities, rather than to effectively promote mutual understanding. It underlined the necessity of tackling the growing culture of religious intolerance which was often exacerbated by restrictive laws.
Canada said it was deeply concerned about targeting of religious minorities because of their faith, and by the alarming resurgent forms of anti-Semitism and violence against Jews worldwide. Canada was concerned about extremist interpretations of religion in Nigeria, Syria and Iraq. It underlined the importance of inter-faith dialogue, and asked how the international community and Governments could better protect vulnerable groups, notably in the ISIL-affected areas.
France said faith or lack of it could in no way justify violence. Religious leaders had to condemn any violence that was inspired by religious fanaticism. France would continue to uphold freedom of religion everywhere, as well as the full exercise of other rights, in particular freedom of expression. It asked what role the United Nations and the Human Rights Council could play in supporting States in that respect.
Portugal said the rising number of attacks targeting people on account of their religion was a worrying trend. It supported the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation for concerted international action to combat violence committed in the name of religion. Non-discrimination and appreciation of diversity were very important in that respect. How could they change the global situation of widespread violations of human rights in that regard?
Azerbaijan stressed the importance of promoting inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue. With its long-standing tradition of tolerance and non-discrimination, Azerbaijan attached great importance to the principle of diversity. The Baku Process initiated by the Azerbaijani Government advocated the promotion of inter-cultural dialogue.
Holy See said that the international community was confronted with an urgent and complex challenge with respect to religious sensibilities and the need for peaceful co-existence. Adopting an ethics of responsibility would prevent violence and break the impasse between extreme positions, one which upheld any form of freedom of expression, and the other which rejected any criticism of a religion.
United Kingdom fully agreed that States had a role to play in promoting respect for the rights of individuals to exercise their freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief. A key means to defeating extremism was to ensure that freedom of religion or belief was protected. When groups in society valued differences and were taught the importance of accepting others, it was much harder for extremism to take hold. How could States build trust in the rule of law and fair functioning of public institutions among their citizens?
Fiji said its constitution had a strong bill of rights, which was particularly important given Fiji’s dark history of religious intolerance, hatred and institutionalized racism, where the Government and Church became indivisible. It was impossible to have freedom to worship when a State was associated with only one religion. A secular State was not anti-God, as some would claim; to the contrary, a secular State gave freedom to all regions and beliefs to develop.
Switzerland reaffirmed the need to condemn all acts of violence committed in the name of religion. States must combat terrorism while respecting their international obligations. Switzerland welcomed the call to prioritize the fight against impunity. It asked the Special Rapporteur to explain in more detail his recommendations concerning de-radicalization of foreign combatants returning home and cooperation between all stakeholders in that regard.
Eritrea said religious respect and co-existence constituted an important social aspect of life. Eritrea underlined the importance of mutual respect for the values of cultural heritage that pertained. Eritrea was a secular State and did not interfere in people’s religious beliefs. The idea of nurturing citizenship required the civic duty to uphold religious freedom for all and had served to promote peace and stability in Eritrea.
Slovakia was deeply concerned with the recent rise of extremism and intolerance motivated by religious hatred, and said the root causes of that had to be urgently addressed through inter-cultural dialogue initiatives. Slovakia was deeply concerned with targeting and brutal attacks against Christians and other religious minorities in regions of crisis. It asked how religious communities could contribute to create a more conducive environment to the full enjoyment of the right to freedom of expression and fostering intercultural and interreligious dialogue.
Bangladesh said actions by States to prevent violence against religions could justify restraints and restrictions on freedom of expression. Bangladesh asked how to prevent religious beliefs from becoming a justification for violence, and whether bans on religious outfits were consistent with international law and effective in preventing violence in the name of religion.
Nauru said different forms of violence were often ascribed to religion without substance, and that such qualifications could lead to more misunderstandings. A narrow interpretation through a religious lens would only provoke more tension and violence. It asked the Special Rapporteur to share his views on that phenomenon.
Hungary said it was especially concerned that members of religious minorities were disproportionately targeted by acts of violence, such as Christians in Iraq and Syria. The culture of impunity was a major problem underlying religious violence. Hungary asked the Special Rapporteur to suggest examples of ways States and religious communities could tackle long-standing mistrusts and misunderstandings.
Botswana expressed the need for a global climate of tolerance, mutual understanding and respect. An appreciation of cultural and religious diversity of individuals and groups was important to avoid unnecessary violence and conflict. It asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on how States with a predominant religion could ensure equal treatment of other religions.
United States said that effective State institutions that respected human rights and were accountable to local populations were critical in addressing violence related to religion. States should revoke anti-blasphemy and apostasy laws which often discriminated and created an environment of fear and mistrust. States must end impunity for human rights violations and create political systems that allowed for full and equal participation by all members of society.
Russia said that there was no justification for any kind of violence and that each believer had the right to be free from attacks on his religious freedoms and symbols. In the Middle East, Christians were suffering from barbaric violence, while their prosecution by the so-called Islamic States was of particular concern. In Ukraine, priests and believers were harassed and prosecuted, while aggressive secularism which eroded national and cultural identity was spreading in Western Europe.
Germany said that vulnerable groups were disproportionally affected by violence in the name of religion: persons holding dissident views within their own religious communities, converts, or members of minority communities. Other factors rendered persons susceptible to such attacks, such as gender or sexual orientation. Germany asked about examples of best practice by civil society and religious representatives that had successfully “broken the silence” and managed to re-build trust across the lines.
Morocco welcomed the choice of the topic of violence committed in the name of religion, and underlined the importance of identifying the root causes of such violence. Violence did not belong to any specific religion, and was rooted in crises. Morocco underlined the important role of the media and religious communities and leaders and of human rights education in promoting tolerance and mutual understanding and tackling the root causes of extremism and terrorism.
Turkey said violence in the name of religion impinged on the right to freedom of religion by destroying the ideas of coexistence and cooperation of people belonging to different religions. Turkey welcomed that the Special Rapporteur had referred to interreligious dialogue in Cyprus and hoped that it would continue to contribute to a sustainable solution of the Cyprus issue. Turkey regretted that the report of the Special Rapporteur did not refer to Islamophobia, which posed a serious threat.
Algeria said violence in the name of religion was a complex phenomenon, not only based on religious beliefs but also on a series of local contexts that fuelled extremism. It was not confined to a single religion, and combatting this was essential. Algeria said all stakeholders had a role to play in combatting religious hatred, and that States had the responsibility to protect their citizens against acts of violence. Algeria was considering the establishment of a scientific academy to regulate fatwas and of an observatory to combat the propagation of sectarian practices.
Thailand said the constitution guaranteed full liberty to profess a religion, religious denomination or creed in Thailand. In light of the recent terrorist attacks in Europe and around the world, it strongly believed that terrorism could not and should not be associated with any religion or belief, as that may have adverse consequences on the enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief of all members of the religious communities concerned.
Norway said that living under the threat of being accused of betrayal and having a penalty for blasphemy was harmful. It asked the Special Rapporteur to reflect on how Governments could tackle anti-blasphemy laws in deeply conservative and religious societies, and on how to involve the right people in interreligious dialogues, as religious communities may often be rather traditional and exclude women and youth.
New Zealand welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s focus on preventing violence committed in the name of religion, and shared the view that non-religious factors were also significant causes of violence. While blasphemous libel remained in New Zealand’s statute, the only attempted prosecution occurred almost 100 years ago, and the Government would consider removing it.
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that minority Tibetan Buddhists in China were demonized or accused of being involved in conspiracies. China’s criminal law was used to prosecute individuals, whose religious activities were equated with separatism, leading to the fact that monks and nuns made up approximately 44 per cent of the political prisons in Tibet.
International Lesbian and Gay Association said that violence carried out in the name of religion against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons took place in all regions. States had a responsibility to take action to prevent this from occurring, while religious and education curricula should be disseminated which would counter extremist narratives that incited violence in the name of religion.
International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, speaking in a joint statement, drew attention to the rise of religious extremist and the violence and hatred unleashed by Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka. The new Government should appoint an independent body to investigate all religious violence which had taken place in the past and bring perpetrators to justice.
Al-Khoei Foundation said Shia Muslims had been targeted for decades, including State repression, discriminative policies and other types of violent behaviour. Hate speech was often propagated through dedicated campaigns and had led to serious incidents such as the massacre of 1,700 Shias in Iraq.
Franciscans International expressed its deep concern about religious violence against Muslims and Christians in India. Local struggles over access to resources and the caste system were some of the underlying factors that enabled and fed such violence. Human rights defenders representing religious minorities or seeking accountability had themselves been subjected to intimidation or harassment.
Federation Internationale des Federations des Droits de l’Homme said in Pakistan, a pattern of systematic discrimination had created a social environment in which violence had spread and now threated liberal and secular voices. In Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam, which was nothing other than State violence in the name of religion. In Burma, Rakhine nationalists had targeted the Muslim Rohingya minority that was subjected to discriminatory laws and policies.
Espace Afrique International said that the recent tragic events at Charlie Hebdo were a watershed that reminded the international community of the need to continue working on breaking the barriers of intolerance. The United Nations system offered a normative framework that could help reinforce the right to freedom of religion or belief, and the fight against terrorism.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik spoke in the name of a Bahai from Iran, who was a victim of violence committed in the name of religion. Bahais belonged to a non-Muslim denomination, often subject to violence by religious extremists. Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik appealed that the impunity of violence against the Bahais be addressed.
Concluding Remarks by Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
HEINER BIELEFELDT, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, welcomed that many delegations had endorsed the fact that violence committed in the name of religion presented a structural problem. It was important to not only overcome the culture of silence or impunity, but also the culture of trivialization: there was a real danger in not paying attention to structural and root causes. Responses must be structural ones and structured ones, and States could to it. The key word in the analysis of the problem and in the responses that needed to be developed was trust, and the task must be to rebuild that trust, though developing communications and trust-worthy institutions. States had an overarching responsibility and had to create an inclusive framework and space for religious diversity to unfold freely and inclusively.
States must be disentangled from religion, which did not mean to push religion into private space. Also, the elements of coercion by States must be done away with. Freedom of religion or belief was a human right that could not be removed into a merely private sphere. People had the right to manifest their beliefs and convictions in public, and this also meant wearing religious garment and public display of religious symbols. Building trust also meant building resilience against voices and tendencies of radicalization, and States needed to be prepared for crisis situations and have channels of communications in place to be able to use them in a crisis. Further, there was a need to be more creative in inter-religious relationships as a measure to counter extremism. The Rabat Plan of Action and the Human Rights Council resolution 16/18 had defined the thresholds to ensure the space for freedom of expression and to harness it as a channel for positive messages in countering extremism.
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed on copyright policy and the right to science and culture (A/HRC/28/57)
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed - Mission to Viet Nam (A/HRC/28/57/Add.1)
The Council has before it a second addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, Farida Shaheed - Viet Nam’s Comments to the Unedited Copy of the Report of the Special Rapporteur in the Field of Cultural Rights (A/HRC/28/57/Add.2)
The Council has before it the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Maud De Boer-Buquicchio (A/HRC/28/56)
The Council has before it an addendum to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography - Mission to Honduras (A/HRC/28/56/Add.1)
Presentation of Reports by Special Rapporteurs on Cultural Rights and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
FARIDA SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, presenting her last thematic report on copyright policy and the right to science and culture, said cultural participation and the protection of authorship were both human rights principles designed to work in tandem. Striking an appropriate balance between the two goals was thus essential, even if challenging. A widely shared concern stemmed from the tendency for copyright protection to be strengthened with little consideration to human rights issues. A human rights based approach to copyright issues would help focus attention on important themes that may be lost when copyright was treated primarily in terms of trade: the social function and human dimension of intellectual property, the public interests at stake, the importance of transparency and public participation in policymaking, the need to design copyright rules to genuinely benefit human authors, the importance of broad diffusion and cultural freedom, not-for-profit cultural production and innovation, and the special consideration for the impact of copyright law upon marginalised or vulnerable groups. She underlined that intellectual property rights were not human rights, and that authors must be distinguished from copyright-holders. Copyright laws in most countries did not meet the necessary requirements for the protection of authorship as a human right, and were only an element of such protection. Exceptions and limitations of copyright should be developed to ensure the conditions for everyone to enjoy their right to take part in cultural life by permitting legitimate educational usages, expanding spaces for non-commercial culture and making works accessible for persons with disabilities or speakers of non-dominant languages.
With regard to her visit to Viet Nam, the Special Rapporteur said that remarkable progress had been made by the country towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and realizing a range of economic, social and cultural rights. Considerable efforts were under way to enlarge access to education and culture, including in remote regions. The new Constitution included rights of significant importance in the field of culture. She encouraged the Government to open spaces to foster critical thinking, analytic learning and debate, and to focus on the teaching of history understood as an academic discipline. She regretted that freedom of artistic expression was still limited by multiple regulations and expressed concern about the system of prior and post censorship that was effectively still in place. Ms. Shaheed said that this was the last time that she addressed the Human Rights Council. In her various reports, she had addressed issues related to the right of everyone to participate in cultural life, to access and enjoy cultural heritage, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications, to benefit from the protection of authorship, and to the indispensable freedom of artistic expression and creativity. Because culture was a living, dynamic and constantly evolving process, it had to be seen as an interactive process whereby individuals and communities, while preserving their specificities and purposes, gave expression to the culture of humanity.
MAUD DE BOER-BUQUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, reminded that millions of children were being subjected to sexual abuse and exploitation, being sold and trafficked to be prostituted, subjected to forced labour, illegal adoption or for the transfer of organs. Child abuse material continued to be produced, distributed, offered, sold and consumed online and offline. There was thus an urgent need for all stakeholders, especially Member States, to act and put an end to those endemic crimes. To that end the Special Rapporteur intended to maximize the potential of child participation mechanisms in her mandate. The thematic priorities of her tenure were the following: the issue of information and communication technologies, and the sale and sexual exploitation of children; the impact and consequences on the rights to health, education and development that the crimes of sale and sexual exploitation had on child victims; the problem of illegal adoptions and the demand factor underpinning the sale of children, the prostitution of children, and the proliferation of child abuse materials. The Special Rapporteur said that country visits were an essential tool to assist Member States in combating the sale and sexual exploitation of children, and in strengthening national child protection systems. She thanked Member States that had already accepted her requests for visits, in particular Armenia, Bulgaria, Georgia and Japan. She would carry out her first country visit to Armenia in May 2015, and a visit to Japan in September 2015.
The Special Rapporteur warned that new technologies had made the commissioning of crimes of sexual exploitation easier. They provided secrecy, anonymity and opacity that facilitated the commission of those illegal activities. Responses to those phenomena had to adopt a comprehensive approach and incorporate the following elements. First, Member States needed to establish clear and comprehensive legal frameworks to avoid protection gaps through explicit criminalization of specific exploitative activities. Secondly, Member States needed to develop detection, reporting and identification mechanisms to quantify the phenomena, identify victims and track down the perpetrators. Thirdly, Member States needed to create specialized law enforcement units which would work closely with specialized agencies trained for work with children. Fourthly, child victims had to gain access to child-sensitive justice and redress. The Special Rapporteur urged Member States to consider establishing an international safer internet day to multiply the effects of awareness raising campaigns beyond regional boundaries. In that respect, it was equally important to actively engage the information and communication technologies industry because it was uniquely placed to act as a conduit for reporting suspicious and inappropriate materials.
The Special Rapporteur also presented the main conclusions and recommendations of her predecessor, Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid, with respect to her follow-up visit to Honduras in April 2014. Ms. M’jid took note of advances made by the Honduras Government to prevent and eliminate the sale and sexual exploitation of children, legislative reforms achieved and the creation of a lead agency for comprehensive child protection policy, and the consolidation of an inter-agency body to combat commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of children and adolescents. Ms. M’jid urged the national authorities in Honduras to make child rights protection a high priority on the agenda, to leverage existing resources, replicate good practices, and implement outstanding recommendations, including passing the national law on adoption and ratifying the Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation.
Statements by Concerned Countries
Viet Nam, speaking as a concerned country, was very much encouraged by the many fair and positive assessments in the report by the Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights which recognized Viet Nam’s remarkable progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals and realizing a range of economic, social and cultural rights. Some inaccurate observations and inappropriate recommendations made by Special Rapporteur were issues of concern. Viet Nam stressed that much focus had been placed on ensuring the enjoyment of cultural rights, including facilitating space for artistic creativity and encouraging new art forms. No efforts had been spared on preserving traditional arts and languages of different ethnic groups. Viet Nam was aware that more remained to be done to ensure the cultural rights of the people, and had been making further progress to improve legislation related to cultural rights and raise public awareness in this field.
Honduras, speaking as a concerned country, said that since early 2014, Honduras had been in an exceptional position with a new momentum created by a series of measures to combat violence, insecurity and poverty. Honduras had reformed institutions in charge of children, family and adolescence affairs and had established DINAF, a new body which had its own budget and resources. The mandate was to boost the State’s capacity to develop, implement and promote services for families and children in different phases of life. The creation of DINAF within the Ministry of Development and Social Inclusion was a reflection of the commitment of Honduras to holistically address persistent risk factors such as poverty, inequality, social exclusion, impunity of the perpetrators, insecurity, migration and the transnational nature of the phenomenon. A number of measures had been taken in the area of protection, while the capacity of the police had been strengthened to investigate crimes of the sale of children.
Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs on Cultural Rights and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
Ecuador, speaking on behalf of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, recognized the importance of cultural rights and of cultural policies that promoted values of respect, dignity and multiculturalism, and the principles of justice, tolerance and peace. The Community supported the adoption of measures to protect the cultural heritage of indigenous peoples and other minorities. It underlined the importance of the availability of new technologies, but highlighted the possible harm they could cause for children.
Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, highlighted the collective responsibility to protect children’s rights while taking advantage of modern technologies. It underlined the importance of criminalizing the sale and exploitation of children, and of strengthening international efforts through exchanges of good practices and capacity building. The current copyright system hindered the right to development through a violation of the right to education, health and progress and many other rights related to affording a basic decent life to millions in developing countries.
European Union regretted that the report on cultural rights did not take some of the views of the States to provide a more balanced approach on copyright laws. The European Union was not willing to consider a legally binding instrument on copyright exceptions, and asked what were the positive effects of a strong copyright system on cultural development. The European Union welcomed the focus of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children on information and communication technologies and her choice to adopt a child-centred approach.
Bahrain, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, noting that there could be no mention of cultural rights while terrorist groups, such as the Islamic State, destroyed cultural and historical heritage in the Middle East, demolishing archaeological artefacts and burning books. It also stressed that it was necessary to look into national copyright laws and their impact on the enjoyment of the right to culture and science.
Syria welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. It particularly welcomed her observations on the exploitation of children, including early marriages. In Syrian refugee camps early marriages took place and were even compatible with the concept of slavery. Terrorist groups traded in body parts of children, in order to gain additional financial resources.
Council of Europe supported the recommendations put forward by the Special Rapporteur to effectively combat the sale and sexual exploitation of children. In particular, it shared the importance for countries to ratify all relevant regional and international instruments, and to establish clear and comprehensive legal frameworks which took into account technological advancements. It also supported the idea of establishing a global task force against child sexual exploitation crimes.
Egypt highlighted the importance of addressing the socio-economic causes of the crime of the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography and agreed on the role of constitutional and legal measures in addressing protection gaps. The report by Ms. Shaheed contributed to addressing the missing balance between the right to participate in cultural life and to share in scientific advancement on one hand, and the protection of the moral and material interest resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of the author on the other hand.
China commended the Special Rapporteur for promoting copyright policies that were compatible with human rights and said that China had continuously strengthened innovating capacity and its creation, marketing and dissemination. China was highly aware of the phenomenon of the copyright piracy and infringement. China had established a fast searching mechanism for missing children and had conducted a campaign to address the problem of organized street beggars.
Botswana agreed that States needed to take a comprehensive review of their legislation with the view of incorporating emerging threats of abuses faced by children, including through the Internet, and should strengthen international cooperation in combatting child exploitation. Botswana supported the call for the ratification of the Optional Protocol on the sale of children and agreed that non-State actors played an important role in combating child abuse and exploitation.
Paraguay encouraged cooperation between human rights and international property, and underlined the need for ensuring the right of women, children and persons with disabilities to participate in scientific work. Paraguay had taken measures in that regard, and asked the Special Rapporteur how to further the protection of this right. Paraguay highlighted the threats that new communication strategies could generate for children, and called for strong criminalization of harassment of children on the internet.
Iran said the copyright system posed new challenges to enjoying fully the right to science and culture. More limitations and exceptions were in this context essential in achieving a balance and empowering new creativity, increasing educational opportunities and promoting inclusion and access to cultural works. Iran called for pragmatic norm-setting solutions in moving towards a balanced international copyright law for the benefit of rights holders and public policy issues, including a legally binding international instrument on copyright limitations.
Japan said the regime of copyright stood on a balance of various considerations; issues of protection like the protection of the authors’ interests, copyright restrictions and open access to work had to be discussed, taking the views of all stakeholders. Japan was disappointed that the Special Rapporteur did not carefully examine the copyright regime with its actual characteristics. Other forums such as the World Intellectual Property Organization and the World Trade Organization had expertise on copyright and were currently debating this issue.
United Nations Children’s Fund welcomed the direction of the Special Rapporteur on the consultative, participatory and child-centred approach she intended to take in the implementation of the mandate. It agreed that a holistic approach towards effectively combatting the sale and sexual exploitation of children was essential, including the implementation of comprehensive strategies aimed at the establishment of rights-based national child protection systems.
Algeria said that the rights to science and culture facilitated the bridge between intellectual rights and human rights. National copyright laws and regulations should be subject to studies on their impact on human rights. The sale and sexual exploitation of children necessitated a global approach in the light of new technologies. It also required supranational cooperation in the area of laws and institutionalization.
Iraq welcomed the report on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, emphasizing the occurrence of violations of child rights in Iraq, especially their right to life and dignity. There were cases of children who were kidnapped and then sold in special markets. Iraq urged the Special Rapporteur to mention in her next report those cases which were perpetrated by the Islamic State.
Mexico felt that the increasingly closer coordination between mandates would help address the issue of abuses of digital space. It shared concerns of the Special Rapporteur on the effect which new technologies might have on children. How could a direct relationship with boys and girls be established, so that their ideas and recommendations were taken into consideration?
Belarus supported conclusions that freedom of expression could not be used to justify propaganda of sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. Belarus had a nation-wide free hotline for providing support to abused children, and was planning to introduce criminal liability for any involvement with online child pornography.
Portugal agreed that new information and communication technologies brought new threats, in particular to those most vulnerable – children. How would the Special Rapporteur guide Governments in tackling the particular vulnerability of children with disabilities? Portugal believed that the incentives and guarantees for those involved in the creative process had to be upheld when it came to intellectual property.
Italy agreed that a child-centred approach could help move forward children’s rights and encouraged the Special Rapporteur to give proper consideration to particularly vulnerable groups of children, including children with disabilities or children belonging to ethnic or religious minorities. An appropriate balance between the legitimate aspiration to participate in cultural life and the protection of authorship and copyright was crucial to guarantee the diffusion of knowledge and the development of creativity.
Cuba said that the report on the legislation and policies on copyright from the perspective of human rights signified important challenges, such as protecting the author and ensuring the rights of the public. Which measures could be implemented to foster access to science and culture? The use of information and communication technologies in the sale and exploitation of children must be further studied and States must adopt stringent measures to punish the perpetrators.
Armenia stressed the importance of adequate national legislation to combat impunity for child prostitution, child pornography and the sale of children. Armenia protected children from any violence and exploitation, and had amended its Criminal Code to provide more severe punishment for violent sexual acts committed against a person under the age of 18. Anti-trafficking measures to prevent crimes and abuse of children were in place, as was the National Action Plan against trafficking, including trafficking of children.
Venezuela said that the effort to effectively combat sexual exploitation of children facilitated by new technologies presupposed elaboration of far-reaching strategies for child protection, such as prevention programmes and effective international cooperation. Venezuela had taken appropriate steps to combat those criminal phenomena. As for cultural rights, the Venezuelan Government had merged various dimensions of economic, social, spiritual and material rights into national development.
Norway said that viewing of copyright policy from the perspective of the right to cultural participation and the right to enjoy benefits of scientific progress emphasized human knowledge as a global public good rather than an individual good. It asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate how she could link up to work in the World Intellectual Property Organisation and UNESCO. It also asked her to elaborate on combatting the threats to child rights posed by new technologies.
Australia underlined that child exploitation and abuse were abhorrent and unconscionable, and reaffirmed its commitment to protect all children from such human rights abuses. It stressed that girls could be particularly vulnerable to those forms of abuses. Australia would continue to combat child trafficking, organ trading and child labour, which could be facilitated by the internet.
France believed that intellectual property was not a constraint for users and innovators, but, on the contrary, copyright encouraged investment in innovation. France called upon all States to conduct ambitious policies dedicated to the development of culture. It was essential to continue working on challenges concerning sexual violence against children and to particularly focus on new technologies, which promoted the rise of new forms of crimes.
Qatar said that it had adopted national legislation which protected intellectual property and was considered as a source for cultural creativity and intellectual thought, which was important in a multicultural country like Qatar. Qatar had undertaken efforts to create a traditional neighbourhood in Doha, and was, at the same time, strengthening activities to fight discrimination against foreigners.
Thailand called for the adoption of domestic laws that prohibited and criminalized all forms of the sale and children and child pornography. To combat the newest forms of the sale of children, Thailand had adopted legislation prohibiting commercial surrogacy. Combating child abuse and exploitation could not be done in the domestic sphere only, but required cross-regional cooperation.
United States appreciated the importance of copyright in encouraging creativity. Unless the society provided creators with sufficient incentives to create, their economic and other well-being would be diminished. The report did not adequately acknowledge that copyright could serve as a means to promote human rights. It should have more fully addressed the pressing challenges posed to creators by the lack of respect for intellectual property rights and for all individuals’ human rights to freedom of expression.
Gabon said it was concerned about the question on the sale and sexual exploitation of children, as well as other abuses. Gabon was a transit and destination country in the regional trafficking of children, which was why the Government had ratified all international and regional conventions that criminalized such activities. Despite those measures, traffickers still continued their activities.
Latvia noted that the sale and sexual exploitation of children in the context of modern information and communication was a very topical challenge, which required in-depth analysis and the mobilization of joint efforts. Such an approach should require the adoption of adequate legislation, a system for detection and reporting, prosecution of offenders, and engagement of the business sector.
Indonesia stated that the protection of local communities’ rights was high on the Government’s agenda. International intellectual property regimes had historically failed to protect the rights of local communities. Indonesia’s commitment to combating the sale of children was unquestionable. As the Internet knew no borders, it was imperative to have a concerted global effort to fight that scourge.
Sudan believed that the balance between intellectual property rights and cultural rights, such as the right to learning, ought to be found. Sudan was making efforts to promote the right to knowledge and expand the sphere of cultural life. Publication of books, selected by quality criteria, was supported by the Government.
Switzerland welcomed the presentation of the thematic report on the use of information technologies with regard to the sale and exploitation of children. Such dangers needed to be responded to by global technologies. “Deep web” technologies allowed for publication of some content which was totally anonymous and untraceable. Did the Special Rapporteur plan to undertake a study on that problem and means to face it?
South Africa shared the concern of the Special Rapporteur regarding repeated instances of sexual abuse of ever younger children worldwide. Protecting children from such abuse was not only a moral obligation, but also a legal obligation of the highest priority. It was worrying that easy access to the Internet gave rise to child molesters and paedophiles. It was therefore necessary to adopt laws that prohibited all forms of sale and sexual exploitation of children online.
Israel said there were clear threats and dangers to which States had to pay attention. Child abuse, including sexual abuse, illegal employment, trafficking and illegal adoption were all risks posed by new technologies. It urged countries to make significant efforts to protect children and to prevent child abuse on the Internet and on social networks.
Bangladesh underlined the interplay between intellectual property and human rights. It was a challenge to promote innovation and creativity while nullifying the social costs. Not all countries were able to benefit from intellectual property equally because there was not enough protection for the rightful holders of genetic resources, traditional knowledge and folklore.
Estonia said that the goal of its cultural policy was to support the integration of minority nations living in Estonia into Estonian society and its cultural space. As one of the leaders in terms of press and Internet freedom, Estonia encouraged the use of the Internet and modern technologies, but was aware of the need for further discussion on intellectual rights in the digital world. Limitation of the websites that contained child abuse material reduced the demand for child sexual abuse material.
Russia believed that the topic of copyright should be analysed in those areas where the rights of authors were not sufficiently protected. Attacks on Charlie Hebdo had restarted discussions on the limits of free expression. Russia was concerned over the limitation of education in the Russian language in schools in Ukraine. Russia was concerned about the fate of Russian children adopted in the United States, where they could be placed in exchange markets and change families.
Burkina Faso welcomed consultations held with children in the process of addressing the theme of the sale of children, child pornography and child prostitution. Prevention measures and rehabilitation of child victims were of paramount importance. Prevention could save children from becoming victims of possibly irreversible grave consequences.
Brazil noted that it was important to tackle any form of online abuse of children. It asked the Special Rapporteur to specify in what circumstances the best interests of children could be undermined. It noted that the right to science and culture offered a promising framework, and shared concern about measures to combat digital piracy which could result in restrictions which were incompatible with the rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
National Commission of Human Rights of Mauritania said that the promotion of cultural rights was a priority for Mauritania, and that intercultural dialogue was needed for social cohesion. Cultural rights had to be protected in all communities, and nobody should be a victim of manipulation by extremist movements. It appealed to the Human Rights Council to support Mauritania in its advancement towards a pluralist democracy.
International Publishers Association noted that rapporteurs were required to be unbiased and objective. The Association valued the report as a unique perspective and encouraged a more inclusive dialogue, preferably at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Such a dialogue should actively engage a broader range of stakeholders, including professional creators.
Americans for Human Rights and Democracy in Bahrain was concerned over the destruction of the Pearl Roundabout and the removal of related imagery from the public square in Bahrain. In past years, the vandalism of Al-Barbaghi mosque had been an example of the systematic disregard of the Baharna people’s history and culture.
Centre for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy said that in India, people of the north east were all victimized by high caste, powerful and extremist Hindus and elite Brahmins. Their self-esteem and lives were endangered if they demanded cultural rights.
International Buddhist Relief Organisation stated that the boundary dispute between Meghalaya and Assam had been lingering for the past 42 years; practical and acceptable solutions ought to be found for this dispute.
Associazione Communità Papa Giovanni XXIII, speaking in a joint statement, was firmly convinced that the abominable phenomenon of child prostitution and pornography could be addressed and eradicated only by fighting against the root causes that were at its base with attention to all the contributing factors, including demand.
Article 19 – The International Centre against Censorship said that freedom of expression was an essential part of the right to participate freely in the cultural life of society. However, that right was increasingly eroded on the grounds of protecting copyright.
CIVICUS – A World Alliance for Citizen Participation agreed that the top-down approach in the design and implementation of government policies in the area of culture and religion, coupled with restrictions on the right to freedom of expression, were significant obstacles to the implementation of cultural and religious rights in Viet Nam.
Verein Sudwind Entwicklungspolitik warned about the sale of children in parts of Tehran for a price ranging from 28 to 1,500 dollars. The families of those children were mostly drug addicts or in jail. Their buyers forced them into slave labour, sexual exploitation and enforced marriage.
Foundation ECPAT International (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking in Children for Sexual Purposes) stated that digital decentralized currencies allowed perpetrators to evade detection and prosecution for child sexual exploitation by hiding financial transactions. Peer-to-peer file sharing networks were where most child abuse materials were found online.
European Centre for Law and Justice drew attention to the new market of the sale of children who were conceived artificially, born and delivered on demand, by a Russian company. In India, single men paid women to conceive a child and then abandon it upon birth. Countries were invited to reform their legislation with regard to surrogacy.
Human Rights Advocates believed that culture deserved a role in the post-2015 development agenda, which should be supported by the Council. Particular attention ought to be paid to travel and tourism, which was experiencing unprecedented growth and was a leading economic sector, representing 9 per cent of the world’s GDP.
International Institute for Peace and Human Rights supported a holistic approach to combat the sale of children that was facilitated by new technologies. The digital age on one hand allowed better protection for children, including for identifying offenders, but brought a series of new threats on the other hand.
Concluding Remarks by the Special Rapporteurs on Cultural Rights and on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography
FARIDA SHAHEED, Special Rapporteur on cultural rights, in her concluding remarks welcomed Viet Nam’s cooperation with her and offered her assistance for the implementation of the recommendations that she had made. On the thematic report, she agreed with the United States that effective copyright protection protected the authors. The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights referred to the rights of authors and also protected access to culture. The question was therefore how to balance both principles. Copyright and the money approach were not the only means to protect authors and creativity. Individual creators deserved more protection than businesses. She underlined the issue of digital piracy and said copyright law did not protect collective cultural heritages that were not created by single persons. Her role as Special Rapporteur was not to present a summary of views. She had to be driven by the concern of human rights, not by the views of the cultural industry.
She had engaged with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Intellectual Property Organization during the preparation of her report, and believed her mandate was complementary to theirs. She joined those who had condemned the destruction of cultural heritage in Iraq and other parts of the world, and was afraid that what was reported in the news was only the tip of the iceberg. She said this issue deserved specific attention. Culture was an essential part of humanity and cultural rights had to be protected for everyone. Cultural diversity was not cultural relativism. Cultural rights simply could not exist without cultural freedoms, and everyone should be able to create without fear. She requested that the post-2015 development agenda include a disposition on culture, and highlighted the necessity to ensure that women, migrants and persons with disabilities had equal access to culture. Cultural rights were empowering and facilitated the enjoyment of other human rights. They were not secondary nor a luxury.
MAUDE DE BOER-BUGUICCHIO, Special Rapporteur on the sale of children child prostitution and child pornography, in her concluding remarks stated that the use of the Internet should be part of school curricula. While children were very apt at using new technologies, they were not aware enough of the risks which those entailed. It was essential that the needs of children with disabilities were taken into account when online tools were being developed. Private IT industry was an essential partner, but it did not diminish the responsibility of States. Foundation ECPAT International was commended for its guide on online exploitation, which had been published in a child-friendly language. Children were often afraid to report because of the lack of knowledge of the existing mechanisms, fear, taboos or mistrust in the institutions. All those factors could help explain the under-reporting, mentioned by many delegations.
The Special Rapporteur was seeking disaggregated data on the phenomenon, and was aiming to engage boys and men in addressing this phenomenon. The principle of child participation would be developed and applied during the mandate; it should be institutionalized and could take different forms, from consultative to child-led processes. Prevention of sexual abuse and exploitation of children online did not constitute limitation of freedom of expression. Once such images were online, they could go viral, and children would continue to be harmed by them. The Special Rapporteur would not spare efforts in asking for accountability for illicit practices, such as child marriage. Ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol by all States were absolutely essential, as this would provide basic protection of children, and address transnational crimes. The establishment of a permanent, inclusive global body to share and scale good practices was highly important. Online child protection ought to be part of a broader child protection agenda. The Special Rapporteur stressed her extreme concern over the sale of children by extremist groups, which could be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.
For use of the information media; not an official record