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Stop the violence. Protect health care
by Federation of Red Cross, Red Crescent Societies
In the last few months, a number of attacks against health-care workers, medical transports and facilities have taken place in several countries, like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen to mention a few. These incidents are taking place in countries with fragile health-care systems that are already struggling to treat the numbers of people affected by the ongoing conflicts there. In some cases, the situation is made yet worse by the restrictions placed on aid workers, preventing them from getting to the people who need them.
Both the attacks themselves and their consequences are of serious concern. These were attacks on medical personnel and facilities protected under international humanitarian law, leaving death and destruction in their wake and disrupting vital health-care services. All those involved with the Health Care in Danger initiative are alarmed by the long-term impact these attacks may have on people’s health.
These are not isolated incidents. The International Committee of the Red Cross, through the Health Care in Danger project, has been gathering data in 11 countries since January 2012. By December 2014, 2,398 attacks against health-care personnel, facilities and vehicles had been recorded. This alarming situation highlights the urgent need for measures to prevent future violence.
The Health Care in Danger initiative, with the support of experts and professionals from different backgrounds, including from governments, the armed forces, humanitarian agencies, international professional associations and health-care services, as well as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, has formulated a substantive body of recommendations and identified practical measures that, if implemented by all those concerned, would increase the protection of health-care services in armed conflict or other emergencies.
As members and partners of the Health Care in Danger initiative, we call on States, weapon bearers, international and national humanitarian agencies and health organizations to give urgent attention to the recommendations resulting from the Health Care in Danger initiative.
In particular, we urge States to make every effort to investigate and condemn attacks against health-care personnel, facilities and medical transports that violate international law, including international humanitarian law.
To revise their domestic legislation and its implementation to ensure that it is in line with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law.
To ensure that the military are properly trained to know, abide by and respect the applicable legal framework for the protection of health care as well as ethical duties of health-care personnel.
To cooperate with health and humanitarian organizations to ensure that health personnel are specially trained to know, apply and uphold their legal and ethical duties.
To actively seek to raise awareness of the proper use of the red cross/red crescent/red crystal emblems by armed forces and by the population at large.
To take the opportunity of the forthcoming International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent to further their commitment to implementing recommendations and measures on protecting health care in armed conflict and other emergencies and to consider submitting specific voluntary pledges on this issue.
We urge State armed forces to respect in all circumstances, in particular in situations of armed conflict or other emergencies, health care workers, facilities and medical transports and to allow patients to receive adequate care, regardless of their affiliation.
To revise military rules of engagement and operational practice and procedures to ensure that recommendations and measures for the protection of the delivery of health care are included therein and that military personnel are adequately trained in them.
We call on all non-state actors to respect in all circumstances, in particular in situations of armed conflict or other emergencies, health care workers, facilities and medical transports and to allow patients to receive adequate care, regardless of their affiliation.
We encourage international and national humanitarian and health organizations to continue to advocate for the preservation of principled humanitarian action, the respect of the "Ethical Principles of Health Care in Times of Armed Conflict and Other Emergencies “endorsed by civilian and military health-care organizations in June 2015.
And the protection of patients, health-care personnel, facilities and medical transport in armed conflict or other emergencies and to join ongoing efforts or to start their own initiatives to those ends.
To ensure that health facilities they govern are taking necessary actions to reduce the risk of violence within the facilities premises.
* Health Care in Danger is an initiative of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to make access to, and delivery of, health care safer in armed conflict or other emergencies. The initiative calls for the respect and protection of health-care workers, facilities and vehicles and the implementation of a series of recommendations and practical measures to safeguard health-care services and their humanitarian mission. This initiative is supported by a number of partners, individuals and organisations, members of the Health Care in Danger Community of Concern.
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Trade must be made to work for human rights and development and not against them
by Alfred de Zayas
UN Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order
28 October 2015
"Under no conditions can the international community allow investors and transnational corporations to usurp State functions and thus prevent States from fulfilling their human rights treaty obligations,” - Alfred de Zayas, United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order.
“Trade must be made to work for human rights and development and not against them,” the United Nations Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, Alfred de Zayas, has said today.
In his fourth report to the UN General Assembly, Mr. de Zayas focuses on the adverse human rights impacts of free trade and investment agreements and calls for the abolition of Investor-State dispute settlement mechanism (ISDS) that accompanies most of these agreements.
“Over the past twenty-five years bilateral international treaties and free trade agreements with investor-state-dispute-settlement have adversely impacted the international order and undermined fundamental principles of the UN, State sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. It prompts moral vertigo in the unbiased observer,” he noted.
“Far from contributing to human rights and development, ISDS has compromised the State’s regulatory functions and resulted in growing inequality among States and within them,” the expert stated.
In his report, Mr. de Zayas reviews a number of ISDS cases with adverse impacts on human rights, in particular when specific social policies have led to lawsuits by investors for alleged breach of trade agreements, and concludes that there is no justification to establish this privatized system of dispute settlement. “Investors can always bring claims before national jurisdictions with many appeal instances or rely on diplomatic protection and inter-State dispute settlement procedures,” he said.
The Independent Expert noted the European Commission’s recent proposal to create an Investment Court System for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – TTIP.
However, he warned that “it suffers from fundamental flaws and can only be adopted if the primacy of human rights is guaranteed, and those essential areas of State regulation including tobacco control, labour standards and environmental protection are carved out, i.e. excluded from the Court’s jurisdiction.”
The expert further called for a moratorium on all ongoing negotiations until all parties have been consulted, including labour unions, consumer unions, health professionals, environmental experts and other civil society, human rights and other interest organizations. Agreements that are not the result of proactive disclosure, public participation, or that are fast-tracked through Parliaments lack every democratic legitimacy.
“States have human rights treaty obligations to proactively inform the public, guarantee access to information, consult constituencies and ensure meaningful public participation in the conduct of public affairs,” Mr. de Zayas noted.
“Civil society should demand transparency and accountability from governments, invoke pertinent provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and demand that the adoption of any future bilateral or multilateral agreements that have the potential to affect the life and rights pf millions of people be subject to referenda.”
“Ex ante and ex post human rights impact assessments must be conducted and under no conditions can the international community allow investors and transnational corporations to usurp State functions and thus prevent States from fulfilling their human rights treaty obligations,” he insisted.
The Independent Expert also called for the organization of a World Conference on trade and investment agreements with a view to making them compatible with the UN Charter and human rights norms.
Recalling that States are treaty-bound by regional and universal human rights treaties, Mr. de Zayas called for a reaffirmation on the legal priorities, which should be issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by way of an advisory opinion.
“The General Assembly should refer pertinent legal questions to the ICJ requesting an advisory opinion on the priority of human rights treaties over other agreements, with due application of article 103 of the UN Charter which stipulates that in the event of a conflict the UN Charter prevails over any other international agreement, “ the expert explained.
Besides the International Court of Justice, Mr. de Zayas also called on regional courts including the European Court of Human Rights, the American Court of Human Rights and the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights to test the compatibility of free trade agreements with their respective Conventions.
“The violation of human rights norms could also be tested by way of inter-State complaints procedures of the Human Rights Committee and Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, since human rights obligations are erga omnes and all States parties have a legitimate interest in ensuring the integrity and proper application of human rights treaties,” the Independent Expert noted.
* Access the Independent Expert’s full report via the link below.
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