Sub-Commission: OMCT intervenes on violence against women

Sub-Commission on the Promotion and the Protection of Human Rights 54th Session – 29 July – 16 August 2002 Item 6 (a): Women Oral Statement by the Programme on Violence against Women Thank you Mr. Chairperson, The World Organisation Against Torture’s (OMCT) programme on violence against women has, as one of its aims, the integration of a gender perspective into the work of human rights mechanisms at the international level and, in particular, to that of the five "mainstream" human rights treaty bodies. To this end, OMCT regularly presents alternative country reports to the treaty monitoring bodies. These reports focus on the responsibility of States to prevent, investigate and punish violence against women whether this violence occurs in the family, in the community or at the hands of State agents. In the last few years, the treaty bodies and the extra-conventional human rights mechanisms have made encouraging progress in integrating the human rights of women into their mandates. The increasing attention being paid by the Committee against Torture to issues such as domestic violence and trafficking in women is just one example of gender mainstreaming in action. Nevertheless, much work remains to be done to ensure that gender is effectively integrated into the international human rights system and OMCT calls upon the Sub-Commission to consider ways in which it could better integrate gender into all of its activities. Mr Chairperson, Violence and other serious human rights violations related to trafficking in women and girls have, in recent years, become a subject of concern for governments, inter-governmental institutions and for non-governmental organisations. OMCT welcomes the adoption by the Economic and Social Council of the Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights and Human Trafficking (UN Doc. E/2002/68/Add.1) and calls upon States, inter-governmental and non-governmental organisations to apply the principles and guidelines in their work on trafficking. Trafficking in women remains a serious problem in Uzbekistan where according to information received by OMCT, each year hundreds of women and girls are coerced or deceived into leaving the country in search of employment. Women and girls from Uzbekistan are reportedly being trafficked for the purposes of forced prostitution to countries including Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United States. OMCT is very concerned by the fact that the government of Uzbekistan has neither adopted a policy to address the problem of trafficking nor does it provide any assistance to trafficked women. The absence of specific Uzbek legislation on trafficking makes it very difficult to pursue criminal cases against suspected traffickers and widespread police complicity in trafficking has created an environment of impunity for this serious violation of women's human rights. Mr Chairperson, The trafficking of women and girls into and through Greece for use as cheap, unregulated labour or work in the sex industry is reportedly a serious and growing problem for the country. Victims of trafficking in Greece are generally detained in prison pending their deportation for immigration offences. This policy of detention and deportation, combined with the absence of any government-sponsored assistance for trafficked persons means that trafficked women are often unwilling to file complaints with the Greek police or to give evidence in proceedings against their traffickers. Both the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and the Committee Against Torture have recommended that Greece take more effective measures to prevent and punish trafficking, however, to date little action appears to have been taken by the government for the purposes of implementing these recommendations. OMCT would like to call upon governments and inter-governmental institutions to take effective steps to address the issue of trafficking and it would also like to highlight the need to ensure that the promotion and protection of all human rights remains at the centre of any efforts to prevent and combat trafficking in women and girls. Mr Chairperson, As an organisation fighting against torture, summary executions, forced disappearances, and all other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, OMCT is extremely concerned about the issue of “honour” crimes. In many parts of the world, perpetrators of crimes against women committed in the name of honour often go unpunished, receive reduced sentences or are exempted from prosecution on the justification of “honour”. Recent work on honour crimes within the international and regional human rights mechanisms has centred on the need to firmly characterise these crimes as human rights violations. The Committee on the Rights of the Child have started to raise the issue of honour crimes in their examination of periodic reports by States’ parties. In addition, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, the Special Rapporteur on the independence of the judiciary and the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions have all identified honour crimes as falling within their respective mandates. Each of these mechanisms has underlined the obligation of the State to protect, promote and fulfil human rights obligations through the exercise of due diligence in the prevention, investigation and punishment of acts of violence against women, whether these acts are perpetrated by the State or by private persons. The Sub-Commission’s Special Rapporteur on traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child has also provided information on honour crimes in some of her reports. OMCT would call upon the Special Rapporteur, as well as other relevant Special Rapporteurs and the human rights treaty bodies to actively take up the issue of honour crimes in their work. OMCT would also like to draw the Sub-Commission’s attention to the fact that the UN General Assembly is due to consider the Secretary-General’s report on honour crimes at its 57th session in September 2002. OMCT would call upon the Sub-Commission and, in particular, the Special Rapporteur on traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child to, as appropriate, promote and follow-up the recommendations made therein. Mr Chairperson, Women in many countries of the world are subjected to forms of corporal and capital punishment in violation of international standards that prohibit torture. OMCT would like to draw the attention of the Sub-Commission to the situation of women in Sudan and in Nigeria. In both of these countries there have been recent cases of women being sentenced to corporal and capital punishment including whipping and stoning to death. In addition to the fact that these forms of punishment violate the prohibition on torture in international law, there are strong indications that the women concerned have been the victims of entrenched gender discrimination in the administration of justice. OMCT is particularly concerned by the fact that in both countries, even where women have succeeded in appealing sentences of stoning to death, they are often summarily subjected to corporal punishment including whipping. Of further concern in relation to Nigeria is that the practice of sentencing women to death by stoning for alleged adultery appears to be on the increase, even if these sentences have frequently been overturned on appeal for technical reasons. OMCT would call upon States to abolish all forms of corporal and capital punishment that violate international standards and to take immediate steps to modify legislation and procedures that have the effect of discriminating against women. To this end, OMCT would ask the Sub-Commission to take a decision to address the issue of the gendered application of corporal and capital punishment during its current session. Thank you very much Mr. Chairperson. Geneva, August 2002
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