Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Meets with Non-governmental Organisations
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights this afternoon met with non-governmental organisations that briefed the Committee on the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Azerbaijan, and in Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose reports will be considered during the week.
Speakers outlined a challenging situation for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community in Azerbaijan, with Committee Members asking for details about how that situation affected the community’s ability to file complaints nationally and internationally.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, civil society speakers told the Committee about the lack of support facing children with disabilities, and also detailed the human rights situation facing refugees and asylum seekers, with Committee Members asking about how the aftermath of war had affected various groups in society.
Speaking on the situation in Azerbaijan was the Eurasian Coalition on Health, Rights, Gender and Sexual Diversity, while the MyRights organisation and the Border Violence Monitoring Network spoke about the economic, social and cultural rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
All the documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, can be found at the session’s webpage.
The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, 28 September, to begin its review of the third periodic report of Kuwait (E/C.12/KWT/3).
Discussion on Azerbaijan
Speakers from civil society said that in Azerbaijan, there was no comprehensive anti-discrimination law. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people were scared for their lives and tried to avoid any interaction with any government bodies, even if it meant they had to suffer injustices. All foreign grants must be approved on the governmental level, leading civil society to remove mention of gay, lesbian or bisexual issues for fear of losing the grant. Homosexual relations were decriminalized, but there was no law to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination. There were some cases of people from Azerbaijan seeking refuge in European Union countries. People from the community had been trained on the international human rights system, and they were trying to seek justice at the international level.
In the dialogue that followed, Committee Experts asked for more details on the right to organise, as well as more details on civil society’s access to grants. Was it a criminal offense for consenting adults of the same sex to have sexual relationships? The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community clearly feared reprisals should they try to fight discrimination, an expert said, noting that that explained the lack of case law. Were there also problems with lodging criminal complaints linked to the commission of torture and physical violence against that community? Was civil society organized enough to bring cases in an international jurisdiction, or did they require training?
Discussion on Bosnia and Herzegovina
Speakers said children with disabilities in Bosnia and Herzegovina faced challenges, noting that there was no system for early interventions, and a lack of support for parents. Kindergartens and schools weren’t accessible to children with disabilities, leading children with physical disabilities to be sent to special schools rather than being mainstreamed in regular schools. People who had gained disabilities due to the war faced a different situation than people who were born with disabilities--the latter were comparatively disadvantaged, civil society speakers said. Other speakers expressed concern about border pushbacks and the inadequate living conditions of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the country. Regarding questions about women raped during war, another civil society organisation that dealt with that matter could provide further information in writing to the Committee.
In the discussion that followed, Committee Experts asked whether the members of civil society were of the opinion that there had been any improvement of economic, social and cultural rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the country’s last report. Was a lack of progress attributable to a lack of political will, or insufficient infrastructure? When the Committee had reviewed the country a few years ago, one recommendation had been for the government to recognize as victims women who had been raped during wartime. Had any such recognition occurred, and what kind of rehabilitation and support programmes did the government provide, if any?