Monday, March 22, 2010

Statement by the Hon. Minister of Defence, Justice and Security at the High Level Segment of the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva

source: Republic of Botswana (14/3/10) TAUTONA TIMES no 4 of 2010
The Electronic Press Circular of the Office of the President
"Democracy, Development, Dignity, Discipline and Delivery"


Please find below the statement which has just been delivered by the Hon. Minister of Defence, Justice and Security at the High Level Segment of the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, which includes an expression of sympathy for the people of Chile in the wake of the recent earthquake there.

The 17th Session opened yesterday and will continue until the 26th March 2010. At yesterday's opening the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, noted that the Council was conceived as a forum where responses to inequality, repression, and impunity could be crafted and advocated to help build a world in larger freedom. He further noted that the review of the Council, now forthcoming, would help the international community to assess whether the fundamental principles of this body's mandate had been solidly and consistently upheld.

Also in an opening statement the President of the Human Rights Council, in an opening statement, said the thirteenth session was to be placed under the triple banner of action, responsibility and dialogue. The Council must not be afraid to discuss all subjects relative to human rights, particularly those on which contrary viewpoints existed. Discussion, however, should not prevent the Council from acting and assuming its responsibility to protect the human rights of all human beings.

[START of Minister's Statement]


President of the Human Rights Council; Madame High Commissioner for Human Rights; Excellencies; Distinguished delegates;

1. It is an honour for me to address the 13th Session of the Human Rights Council.

2. Allow me Mr. President, to congratulate you, together with Members of the Bureau for having ably steered the affairs of this Council since you assumed office in June last year. I pledge my Delegation's support to you during this Session.

3. Mr. President, on the 27th January this year, the Human Rights Council convened a Special Session to consider support for the recovery process in Haiti following the catastrophic earthquake that hit the country on 12th January. The Council issued a strong message highlighting the importance of integrating a human rights approach to the relief efforts.

4. My Government supported the initiative that once more demonstrated the Human Rights Council's capacity to respond timeously to emergency situations that require the attention of the international community.

5. As we are meeting here in this Session, Mr. President, another country - Chile - and its peoples are in shock - after being hit by one of the strongest and devastating earthquakes in history.

6. My Delegation wishes to express its sympathies with the people and the Governments of both Chile and Haiti as they struggle to deal with the painful aftermath of these disasters, including the colossal loss of human life and damage to infrastructure.

7. Mr. President, Botswana is pleased to have continued to make its modest contribution towards the work of the Human Rights Council, as an Observer Member, since its establishment in 2006. We feel proud to be associated with the success that this new global human rights body has achieved thus far. The Human Rights Council has evolved into a formidable entity capable of responding to emerging human rights situations.

8. There is no doubt that one of the Council's outstanding achievements is in the area of its institutional machinery - the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. We are encouraged by the continued visibility that this mechanism gives to the promotion and protection of human rights.

9. It is in this context that I wish to reaffirm Botswana's commitment to the effective implementation and follow up of the outcomes of my country's review under this mechanism.

10. Mr. President, my Government continues to monitor the progress being made in the realm of fighting the menace of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. We are deeply concerned that while there are strides made on other human rights issues, the issue of racism appears to be one where there continues to be unsatisfactory progress. Any meaningful progress in this regard will require genuine political will and commitment by all and at all levels, as well as useful dialogue in the Council.

11. Mr. President, as State Party to most of the core international human rights instruments, Botswana continues to cooperate with the treaty bodies and the entire United Nations human rights system.

12. In January this year, we presented for consideration to the CEDAW Committee the combined Initial, Second and Third Periodic report on the implementation of the Convention. The report covered all the legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures that the Government had adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention. We were encouraged by the commitment demonstrated by the Committee to work with us to meet our obligations in line with the Convention.

13. Botswana has domesticated some of the treaties which she is party to, including the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Since the March 2009 Session, Botswana has domesticated the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

14. Mr. President, Botswana supports the outcome of the 2005 UN World Summit where the leaders took a decision to support the ending or prevention of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. In this regard, Botswana will cooperate and assist the International Criminal Court in its work towards elimination of impunity in human rights violations. The Government of Botswana is in the process of domesticating the Rome Statute establishing the ICC.

15. Mr. President, the Government of Botswana is pursuing measures to strengthen its national protection framework for human rights. We have decided, among others, to broaden the mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to include human rights issues. We believe that these efforts will hopefully assist in narrowing the existing gaps in the institutional legal framework in order to have a much stronger response mechanism. Botswana will continue to seek the necessary support and technical assistance.

16. Mr President, the Government of Botswana was pleased to receive the United Nations Special Rapportuer on the situation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, Mr. James Anaya who visited Botswana in March 2009.

17. The visit afforded the Government of Botswana an excellent opportunity to reflect and introspect, as well as for him to appreciate first-hand what the Government of Botswana is doing to address the plight of remote-area dweller communities in Botswana.

18. Mr. President, Botswana has a deliberate policy of dialogue and consultation which predates her independence. This policy and practice has helped in achieving an inclusive and participatory democracy, ensuring the sustained enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms by all.

19. Last year I briefed this esteemed body on the measures adopted by the Government to address the issues surrounding the challenges regarding the former residents of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. I am happy to inform the Council that the Government of Botswana is continuing consultations with the affected communities to find a lasting solution.

20. Before I conclude, Mr. President I wish to note one worrying phenomenon. When addressing human rights issues in this Council, some countries have the tendency to seek to impose their own values and norms, as if these are universally agreed. Where there are differences we should strive to accommodate and tolerate one another in our efforts to achieve acceptable solutions.

21. It is only when we engage in meaningful dialogue, based on mutual respect that we believe the Human Rights Council can bequeath a positive legacy to generations yet unborn and to victims of human rights violations.

22. It is my hope that as we embark on a path towards the review of this global human rights body in 2011, we will seek to safeguard its integrity and credibility - conditions precedent to impartial resolution of human rights issues. I pledge my Delegation's full participation in the work of the Open-ended Intergovernmental Working Group established to review the work and functioning of the Human Rights Council.

23. Mr. President, may I end by reiterating my Government's support to the work of this esteemed Council during this 13th Session. I thank you.

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