"Human rights". Recommendations of the Forum on the meeting of the heads of G8 countries in St. Petersburg in July 2006
Moscow July 3-4, 2006
Non-Governmental Organizations and Public Authorities:
Legislation and Practices of Interaction. International Experience
Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries
We, the participants of the International Forum of Non-Governmental Organizations “Civil G8” in Moscow, July 3-4 2006, emphasize the key role that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are playing in addressing modern global issues of socio-economic and public development.
We stress that certain global threats and challenges undermine the role of civil society and prevent NGOs from playing their critical role. These include:
1. Government labeling of non-conformism of NGOs and their criticism of government actions as equivalent to extremist or terrorist activity; putting pressure on NGOs and prosecuting activists justifying it by the necessity to ensure security and fight terrorism.
2. Adoption of restrictive legislation in the area of regulation of NGOs toughening procedures for registration and reporting for NGOs, which allow governments to unreasonably and unlawfully interfere into activities of NGOs.
3. Policies of governments to establish quasi-NGOs (GONGO) and imitations of public consultative bodies affiliated with the government.
4. Resistance of a number of governments to international programs of cooperation in the area of development of democracy and civil society under the guise of prevention of foreign interference in internal political life.
At the same time, most member states of G8 have adopted and do implement policies and regulations of NGO activities that include positive models and best practices. These include:
1. Freedom to establish an NGO without government registration, and voluntary choice on whether to establish a legal entity, and therefore to register.
2. Simple registration procedure for those NGOs which seek registration, not more difficult than for business organizations.
3. Simple requirements for reporting for the majority of NGOs, with those reporting requirements which are imposed being proportionate to the benefits and preferences granted to them by the government.
4. Equal rights and absence of discrimination between citizens and foreigners in the process of founding of and participating in activities of NGOs, as well as between national and foreign NGOs.
5. Promotion of self-regulation of activities of NGOs and their public reporting.
6. Delegation to NGOs of some social responsibilities that currently belong to national government bodies and local governments.
7. Institutionalization of relationship and mutual responsibilities between governments and the NGO sector (similar to the Compact in the UK and Accord in Canada).
We insist that national laws regulating NGOs are based on the norms and principles of international law, enshrined in such documents as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights, European Convention on Recognition of International Non-governmental Organizations as Legal Persons, UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders of 1998, Fundamental Principles of the Status of Civil Society Organizations by the Council of Europe, as well as the materials of the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law which summarize international best practices in regulation of NGOs.
We believe that NGO regulation should be aimed at achieving the following goals:
1. Legislative system should stimulate civic activity.
2. Taxation system should promote domestic giving.
3. Interaction between governments and NGOs should be aimed at increasing the NGO participation in the process of decision-making on the issues of public interest.
Through our work during the Civil G8 International NGO Forum, we have identified the following principles in which should serve as a foundation for the relationships between governments and NGOs:
1. Mutual transparency before each other and before the society.
2. Dialogue based on the principles of equality and subsidiarity.
3. Participation of NGOs in decision making by government bodies (including in developing public policy) and in implementation of such decisions as well as in carrying out civil control over the government.
4. Recognition of independence of NGOs, their rights to critically assess actions of government bodies and defend interests of different social groups.
Therefore, we propose to prepare a Charter on the Relationships between the Governments of the G8 Countries and NGOs, which shall institutionalize the above-defined principles and best international practices, and to adopt this Charter at the next G8 summit in Germany in 2007.
Migration, Xenophobia and Racial Discrimination
Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries
Recognizing with regret that the issues of migration and asylum were not a part of the agenda of this year’s G8 summit, the roundtable participants encourage the member states of the G8 to place these issues and the related issue of rising xenophobia on the agenda of the G8 Summit to be held in Germany in 2007.
Civil Forum participants call upon G-8 heads to respect the human rights of migrants, victims of trafficking and refugees, irrespective of their legal status, and to strengthen asylum systems.
Civil Forum Participants note that refugees are forced to search protection as a result of human rights violations in their countries of origin. The root causes of forced migration should be addressed before durable solutions for the majority of refugees in the world can be found. Political and economic relations between states cannot be used as an excuse for inaction when human rights violations take place. Solving root causes of migration must be a particular responsibility of the G-8 states. We call upon heads of G-8 states to solve the root causes of migration through close co-operation with UNHCR, other UN agencies and NGOs.
Civil Forum participants remind G-8 heads of governments that the right to asylum is a fundamental human right enshrined in article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Participants call upon G8 countries to fully respect refugee rights as enshrined in the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.
Participants wish to highlight the fact that refugees and migrants themselves are oftetn forced to risk their lives as a result of measures to control migration. States have a legitimate right to manage their borders but methods employed to prevent unauthorised entry of migrants must allow for the human rights of all groups to be respected, including access to asylum procedures for those seeking protection.
Participants call upon G8 leaders to ensure persons in need of international protection are recognised as refugees on the basis of a full and inclusive interpretation of the refugee definition [and in accordance with fair procedures that provide for legal advice and representation, access to interpretation and the right to suspensive appeal].
Civil Forum participants note that current practise relating to the detention of asylum seekers in G8 states leads to cases whereby refugees and migrants are not protected from torture, cruel or degrading treatment. G8 states must take measures to ensure that in full compliance with customary international law and the principle of non-refoulement, no one is expulsed or extradited to a country where they might be at risk of grave human rights violations.
We urge states to respect the principle of responsibility sharing and act to ensure the high quality of protection by implementing measures to strengthen protection capacity in countries with less developed asylum systems. Measures that allow states to shift their responsibilities to other states, such as safe third country agreements and the Dublin II regulation in the EU, should be modified.
Civil Forum Participants remind G8 leaders of the civilian, humanitarian character of asylum, which should not become a source of tension between states even in those cases when the country of origin is a G8 country.
Civil Forum participants also urge the leaders of G8 countries to provide political leadership and ensure that refugees and migrants are not discriminated against and that their civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural rights are fully protected. State and non state actors responsible for perpetrating discriminatory acts targeting refugees and migrants should be held accountable for their actions and be brought to justice.
Civil Forum Participants express their serious concern about attempts to create unwarranted links between refugee protection and terrorism and crime.
Participants also remind G8 leaders of the responsibility of national governments to protect their own citizens, including internally displaced persons (IDPs), and ensure respect of their human rights in compliance with human rights law and the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. We call on the international community to protect IDPs, when are not upheld, as this cannot be considered as an exclusively internal issue of any government.
We urge states to look at ways of facilitating legal access to international protection particularly through the use of family reunification, resettlement to third countries where necessary and the right to seek protection at embassies on the territory of their country of residence. This is especially important with regard to those who for one reason or another can not avail themselves of the protection of their state.
Human rights are an integral part of any security policy. Society is currently paying a very high price for restrictive migration measures, which are leading to growing levels of bureaucracy, an increase in the numbers of undocumented migrants in G8 states and corruption.
This meeting of the G8 takes place in the context of rising racism, xenophobia, and violence in much of the Global North. Much of this xenophobia concerns refugees, migrants, people of immigrant origin, and minorities. Xenophobia is encouraged by factors including fears of terrorism, the marginalization different groups, nationalism, ongoing domestic and international armed conflicts, and deliberate manipulation by some political leaders.
In this regard, the G8 member states are encouraged to:
1. Recognize that racism and xenophobia pose a threat to national and international peace and security and to sustained economic development;
2. Recognize that xenophobia and accompanying racist violence must be addressed through a combination of political action, education, and law enforcement, to include:
• The elaboration and improvement of criminal law and law-enforcement with respect to violence motivated by discrimination, or hate crime.
• The creation of transparent and accessible systems of monitoring, reporting, and statistical analysis of hate crimes and incidents and the response to them, drawing upon information and positive experiences from G8 members.
• Public policies and programs to counter xenophobia and hate crime, including through education.
• Safeguards to ensure that measures taken to counteract racism and discrimination do not infringe internationally recognized norms of freedom of conscience and expression or be invoked to inhibit the democratic process.
• Commitments by members of the G8 to communicate with other member states where policies regarding xenophobia, migrants, and minorities violate the international obligations of member states.
3. Recognize the essential role of non-governmental organizations in helping refugees and migrants and in combating racism and xenophobia, including by:
• Commitments at the highest level to ensure that non-governmental organizations have the freedom of action required to work effectively and independently;
• High level action to ensure the security of civil society activists who help refugees and migrants and those who stand against xenophobia and extreme nationalist and racist groups.
Civil Forum participants call on governments to recognize the competence and experience of NGOs and actively co-operate with them on these issues.
Independent Public Oversight of the Law Enforcement Bodies
and the Penitentiary System
Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries
Reaffirming that democracies cannot function effectively without the participation of the public in governance,
Recalling that fundamental democratic institutions such as free and fair elections only serve this purpose during the limited periods of election campaigns themselves,
Recalling that independent public oversight mechanisms (such as non-governmental organizations, citizens committees, national human rights institutions, and parliamentary human rights commissions etc) provide the state authorities with an opportunity to take into consideration public opinion at a stage when socially important decisions are being made and, in so doing, bolsters the legitimacy of such decisions and raises public confidence in the state institutions,
Convinced that independent public oversight helps to maintain a high level of observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
We affirm that independent public oversight of state authorities has become an essential element of democracy, which ensures civic participation in governance in between election periods and ensures public security, social stability and the stability of state institutions as well as the sustainable democratic development of countries.
We recognize that, while independent public oversight can be an effective means to prevent human rights violations, the effectiveness of such measures will only be ensured if state authorities implement other vital human rights oriented measures to prevent such abuses.
We reaffirm that, while law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system have at their disposal exceptional powers to restrict individual rights and freedoms, they are to a much lesser extent subjected to other forms of control and, as a result, the need to develop independent public oversight of these entities is of the highest priority,
Moreover, we envision a world where all public officials see their primary responsibility to protect the human rights of all citizens and to serve society,
As participants of the G8 Civil Forum we therefore call upon the G8 states to take all relevant measures to develop in their countries mechanisms of effective oversight, particularly of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, and to actively assist establish mechanisms of effective independent public oversight in other countries as well as at the international level. In establishing systems of independent public oversight the state authorities should pay particular attention to minors and other vulnerable groups
In particular we recommend that G8 states:
1. Guarantee at the legislative and practical level the conditions for civil society mechanisms, including non-governmental organizations, to effectively exercise independent public oversight over places of detention on a non discriminatory basis. Such organizations are ideally capable of ensuring the necessary high levels of professionalism, independence and objectivity for such a function;
2. Guarantee at the legislative and practical level unimpeded access of independent public monitoring bodies to detainees and prisoners, particularly in view of the vulnerability of such persons, who should be afforded special guarantees of protection. Moreover, such bodies should be provided with the opportunity to visit places of detention without prior notice, to independently determine where they visit with the facility, to meet with detainees in private and to review all relevant documents;
3. Enhance the openness and transparency of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system. In particular, to oblige law-enforcement bodies and penitentiary institutions to deliver regularly (but not less then once a year) reports on their activities. These reports shall receive as much publicity as possible.
3a. The authorities should not tolerate under any circumstances the establishment and functioning of secret places of detention and they should prohibit the use of any instructions pertaining to the regulation of places of detention which are in contravention of human rights and fundamental freedoms;
4. Capitalize on the best practices and progressive experiences of G8 states and other countries with regard to models of independent public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system and to develop new effective models of independent public oversight, including by non-governmental organizations;
5. Create at the legislative and practical level procedures which take into account the findings and conclusions of independent public oversight mechanisms in order to improve the work of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system. The participation of human rights organizations, professional associations and other representatives of civil society should be ensured in the above mentioned procedures;
6. Use the results of independent public oversight of places of detention to evaluate the quality of work of law enforcement and penitentiary bodies and to establish and develop mechanisms which involve the general public in this process;
7. Develop programs of inter-governmental cooperation aimed at developing mechanisms of public oversight and improving law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, including by supporting educational and training activities for such officials as well as by establishing programs for members of non-governmental organizations, which should include references to international human rights documents. The G8 states should also promote the dissemination of good examples of effective cooperation between civil society and law enforcement and penitentiary institutions;
8. Intensify international cooperation in the field of the development of public oversight of law enforcement bodies and the penitentiary system, in particular by means of ratifying the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which creates a complementary national and international system of independent oversight of places of detention;
9. Guarantee free access to all places of detention throughout their territories to the UN special rapporteurs and other international mechanisms and to cooperation with such bodies on the basis of openness. Any place of detention under the jurisdiction of a given state should be accessible and open to independent public scrutiny, irrespective of the location of the facility.
In addition to those detention facilities, referred to above, it is essential that other closed institutions where persons are held on an involuntary basis (such as psychiatric hospitals, social care homes for persons with mental and physical disabilities, orphanages and military detention facilities etc) are also subjected to independent public scrutiny.
Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, Armed Conflicts and Human Rights
Address to the Leaders of the G8 Countries
On July 3, 2006, a roundtable on human rights entitled “Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Armed Conflicts” was held in Moscow within the framework of the Civil G8 International NGO Forum. The participants in this roundtable call on the leaders of G8 countries to acknowledge the grave dangers posed not only by international terrorism and localized armed conflict, but also by state violations of a range of human rights guarantees in the context of the ‘War on Terror’.
Governments often fail to understand that respecting and upholding human rights enhances security, rather than hinders it.
As part of government counter-terrorism efforts, key human rights principles have been undermined. Government policies and actions have resulted in a wide range of human rights violations, including: torture or other ill-treatment; unlawful killings; unfair trials; arbitrary detention including secret detention; enforced disappearances; denial of the right to international protection for refugees, including violations of the principle of non-refoulement; unlawful discrimination; renditions or expulsions of people to countries where they risk serious human rights violations; curtailment of freedom of expression and attacks on human rights defenders.
States have an obligation to take measures to prevent and protect against attacks on civilians; to investigate such crimes; to bring to justice those responsible in fair proceedings; and to ensure prompt and adequate reparation to victims. An integral part of fair proceedings is to ensure that anyone arrested or detained on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offense -- regardless of the real or imputed motivation for its commission, or whether the crime is classified as a “terrorist offense” or not -- is charged promptly with a recognizable criminal offense or released. However, the absolute necessity for states to ensure that all counter-terrorism measures be implemented in accordance with international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law has repeatedly been made clear by the U.N. Security Council, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, among others.
Among the states that have undermined international human rights and humanitarian law in the name of the “war on terror” and on the grounds of national security are members of the G8, which should be setting an example in their respect for and promotion of human rights. Examples of the most egregious violations include:
• The use of torture and other ill-treatment -- particularly in conflict situations in Iraq (for example, at Abu Ghraib), in Afghanistan, in Chechnya and in several other regions of the Northern Caucasus in Russia, and in secret prisons run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) – and the use of evidence in court proceedings that has been obtained as a result of torture;
• Extradition and deportation of individuals to countries where they may be subject to torture (including when diplomatic assurances are used, as with the U.S. and the U.K.), grossly unfair judicial proceedings, and/or the death penalty (as with, for example, the extradition and deportation of Uzbek asylum seekers by the Russian Federation as part of counter-terrorist cooperation with Uzbekistan);
• The use of arbitrary detention in places such as Guantanamo Bay, the secret prisons run by the CIA, and the secret prisons in various parts of the Northern Caucasus;
• The enforced disappearance and extrajudicial execution of individuals detained by official law enforcement agencies in the Northern Caucasus, especially in Chechnya;
• The impunity of military, law enforcement, and intelligence officials responsible for human rights violations and crimes committed in the context of the “war on terror”;
• The indiscriminate use of force in “counter-terrorism operations” in Iraq and Chechnya;
• The erosion of democratic institutions and the attempts to establish control over civil society under the banner of the “war on terror” in Russia;
• The marginalization of the Muslim community in many G8 countries and restrictions on their freedom of religion;
• The flouting of standards of international humanitarian law, both in international conflicts, for example in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in internal conflicts, for example in the North Caucasus;
• The refusal of states to cooperate with new universal and effective legal mechanisms such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), or to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC);
• Additional curtailment of individual rights, in particular, in the U.S. and other Western countries (including violations of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression) and in Russia (including the curtailment of electoral rights).
Rather than stopping terrorism, abusive counterterrorism policies may serve to increase support for terrorist groups. Such policies are counterproductive, and do not promote real security.
The lack of a clear international legal definition of “terrorism” is another issue of concern. The elaboration of such a definition would promote effective action against terrorism and would discourage states from crafting their own, overly broad definitions, which may serve agendas distinct from fighting terrorism.
Participants in the Civil G8 roundtable “Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism, and Armed Conflict” call on all G8 countries to:
• Reaffirm their commitment to democratic values and human rights standards, and to their effective implementation;
• Publicly review their domestic counter-terrorism legislation, including declarations of states of emergency and other national security laws, with an emphasis on internationally-accepted principles of exceptionality, proportionality and necessity when derogating from or limiting human rights;
• Implement measures to address impunity for violations of human rights, including those committed by members of military forces, regardless of their rank;
• Ensure that all criminal laws -- including those adopted to deal with “terrorist acts” and “terrorist groups” -- are as precise, unequivocal and unambiguous as possible regarding the conduct that is proscribed;
• Stop carrying out extraditions and deportations, including those involving diplomatic assurances, to countries where the individual may be subject to torture, grossly unfair judicial proceedings, and/or the death penalty;
• Reaffirm that torture is prohibited under all circumstances and that all states have an obligation not only to refrain from torture and other ill-treatment, but also to effectively prosecute such abuses and prevent them from occurring;
• Ensure that all counter-terrorism operations, including operations aimed at the rescue of hostages, are conducted in a manner that minimizes loss of civilian life;
• Ratify without delay the Rome Statute, integrate it into domestic law, and cooperate fully with the ICC;
• Cooperate fully and comply with recommendations of the ICRC;
• Press for the swift adoption by the U.N. General Assembly of the newly-drafted Convention on Enforced Disappearances, and its subsequent ratification by U.N. member states;
• Commit themselves to respect and guarantee the freedoms of association and expression, including, in particular, the right of human rights defenders to work without hindrance, in accordance with the 1998 U.N. Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders;
• Cooperate with independent civil society organizations, in particular, by establishing mechanisms for greater transparency and increased accountability to the public of military, law enforcement and other security agencies.