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UN Week – 9/20/10

October 2, 2010

by John and Douglas Carey, Editors,

Contents of this issue: changing the guard at the Human Rights Committee; General Assembly makes plans for its 65th session; UN on hate groups.

Changing the guard at the Human Rights Committee.

On September 2nd, elections were held by the States parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The terms of nine incumbent members of the Human Rights Committee will expire December 31st. Their seats were filled by nine of the sixteen candidates.

Six incumbents were re-elected: Abdelfattah Amor of Tunisia, Christine Chanet of France, Yuji Owasawa of Japan, Helen Keller of Switzerland, Zonke Zanele Majodina of South Africa, and Iulia Antoanella Motoc of Romania.

The three newcomers are Cornelius Flinterman of The Netherlands, Gerald Neuman of the US and Margo Waterval of Suriname. Flinterman, known to his friends as “Kees,” was his country’s Alternate Member in the former Human Rights Sub-Commission during the time I was US Alternate. Another old friend is Gerald Neuman’s predecessor, Ruth Wedgwood. Both of them are distinguished international law professors, as is Kees. For more details, see UN document CCPR/SP/75 and Addenda 1 and 2.

General Assembly makes plans for its 65th session.

The General Assembly on the 17th adopted an agenda of 120+ items for its 65th session, which is starting this week. Two new agenda items are “harmony with nature” and “financing of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUS-CO)”. The Assembly also decided to include the “question of the Comorian island of Mayotte,” on the understanding that there would be no considera-tion of the matter until further notice. It decided to defer to its 66th session consideration of the “question of the Malagasy islands of Glorieuses, Juan de Nova, Europa and Bassas da India.”

Consideration was postponed to a later date on whether to include the following items on the Assembly’s agenda: “Intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services”; “Compensation for damage caused by colonialism”; “Verification of the implementation of nuclear disarmament obligations”; and “Enhancing and expanding the functions and powers of the General Assembly”.

The Assembly decided not to include on its agenda items on “Investigation into the invasion of Iraq”; “Investigation into wars that have broken out since the establishment of the United Nations”; and “Investigation into assassinations carried out since the establishment of the United Nations”.

With the adoption of its work program and agenda (document A/65/250), the Assembly decided that its 65th session would recess on 14 December 2010 and close on 12 September 2011.

The Assembly also set the meeting schedule for its Main Committees. During the 2010 part of the 65th session, the First Committee (Disarmament and International Security) would complete its work by Monday, 1 November; the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) by 10 November; the Sixth Committee (Legal) by 11 November; the Second (Economic and Financial) and Third (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) Committees by 23 November; and the Fifth Committee (Administrative and Budgetary) by 10 December 2011. GA/10986.

UN on hate groups.

          A July 15th report on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, A/HRC/15/45, should be taken to heart by Americans.

“8. For the purpose of the present report, the Special Rapporteur would like to highlight some of the challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups. These include challenges to (a) the human rights principle of non-discrimination; (b) the rights to life and to security of per-son; (c) the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association; and (d) democracy. The Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize that the list of issues addressed in the report should not be regarded as exclusive. * * *

          “7. The rise of extremist political parties, movements and groups within a given society is often linked to the difficulty, or sometimes failure, of the traditional parties to deal adequately with certain social and economic issues, such as immigration, unemployment and insecurity. Indeed, these parties, movements and groups frequently rely on general discontent within the population to blame specific groups of the population for the existing insecurity and socio-economic difficulties endured, and put forward often simplistic and populist solutions. In this context, through their ideology and activities, extremist political parties, movements and groups often exacerbate racist and xenophobic attitudes by designating certain vulnerable groups, such as migrants, refugees, asylum-seekers or members of minorities, as the main source of the problems causing anxiety and uncertainty among the population. * * * Indeed, in times of economic turmoil, the Special Rapporteur has, for instance, received reports indicating that migrants were being accused of ‘stealing’ employment from nationals.

          “8. In addition to the above, extremist parties, movements and groups also frequently incite discrimination by emphasizing that they are the only legitimate holders of the national identity of a given country. * * * Indeed, these parties, movements and groups often used the concept of national identity in a simplistic manner to determine which individuals could be consider-ed part of the group and which ones were the outsiders. In doing so, the con-cept of ‘otherness’ was strongly emphasized as a tool to differentiate or create artificial differences between certain groups of the population. Id. at 3-4.

          Among the conclusions and recommendations are these: “26.The Special Rapporteur notes that public figures, and in particular politicians, have a greater capacity to influence the public debate owing to the large audience that they reach. He therefore stresses that public figures should be held politically accountable for bigoted words that encourage discrimination and violence and create a climate of fear for vulnerable groups. * * *

          “32. Responding to extremist political parties, movements and groups from a legal perspective only is far from sufficient. * * * It is indeed necessary to tackle the root causes of this phenomenon with a much broader set of policy measures aimed at curbing racism and xenophobia. * * * Education is a key tool in promoting democratic values and human rights and instilling a sense of tolerance, understanding and respect at an early age.”

          That’s all for this September 20th issue of United Nations Week: News and Views. We’ll be back with the next issue. Meantime, do send along your own view on these or other UN-related issues to

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