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Amnesty International: Government Inaction<

The International Council

Passed in 1996

considering that Article 1 of the Statue, as amended by the 1991 ICM, provides that AI's mandate includes the promotion of awareness and adherence to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other internationally recognized human rights instruments and the values enshrined in them, as well as the indivisibility and interdependence of all human rights and freedoms;

considering further that AI's mandate includes opposing grave violations of the rights of all persons to be free from discrimination on the grounds of their ethnic origin and sex and of the right of all persons to physical and mental integrity;

recalling that the UN World Conference on Human Rights as reflected in the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action, while affirming that the human rights of women and of the girl child are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of the universal human rights, and in consideration of women's rights as human rights, stressed the importance of the elimination of violence against women in public and private lie and the eradication of all forms of discrimination against women;

aware that the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights had subsequently passed the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and a resolution integrating the rights of women into the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations (including the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Violence against women);

noting that international human rights law underscores the obligations of UN member-states to respect and to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights, including the right to non-discrimination, the right to physical and mental security, and the right to health;

concerned that the practice of female genital mutilation (FM) violates those human rights as it continues to be gravely and extensively committed on the bodies, and to affect the lives of millions of girl-children and women;

recognizing that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states in article 24 (3) that `States Parties shall take all effective and appropriate measures with a view to abolishing traditional practices prejudicial to the health of children', and in article 9 that `States take measure to protect the child from all forms of physical violence [and] injury' ;

noting that, as AI stated in its report Human Rights are Women's Rights, the UNHCR considers that women claiming refugee states on the ground that their daughters are at risk of forced genital mutilation if returned to their country, or that they themselves face persecution for refusing to allow their daughters to undergo FGM, combined with the absence of state protection, are protected from refoulement under the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees;

further noting that AI, in its circular Refugee Women Action (AI Index POL 33/05/93), state that among the `forms of persecution' which are `of particular concern to AI are [those of] women who have suffered, or are at risk of, serious human rights violations for transgressing their society's religious, customary, or other laws or practices';

and in the light of the Ljubljana Action Plan's (formerly known as the Integrated Strategic Plan) Mid Term Objective 1.5, which states that `asylum claims or fear of refoulement cases may involve gender based considerations';

bearing in mind that the Fourth UN World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing in September 1995, will consider, as a major part of its discussions, women's rights as human rights and the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence suffered by women, including the practice of FGM;

recognizing that a number of human rights and women's organizations and other international organizations are working for the elimination of all forms of violence against women in general and the practice of FGM in particular;

realizing that a more comprehensive discussion on governmental responsibility for failure to act regarding actions by private individuals which affect the rights of others, or "governmental inaction", as a possible new mandate area is necessary for the organizations;

DECIDES that, notwithstanding that a decision is pending on AI's possible mandate expansion into the area of "governmental inaction" including the possibility of AI's actively opposing to FGM, AI:

    AFFIRMS that the practice of female genital mutilation affects the full enjoyment of human rights by millions of girls;

    RECOGNIZES that governments' failure to take appropriate action to ensure the eradication of this practice violates international human rights standards;

    FURTHER RECOGNIZES the special sensitivities surrounding the issue of female genital mutilation;

    DECIDES to include the issue of female genital mutilation its promotional work on human rights by:

      a)  urging governments to ratify and implement international human rights treaties and to uphold other international human rights standards, that might be of relevance in eradicating the practice of female genital mutilation;
      b)  making particular efforts, where appropriate, to include information on the relationship between the practice of female genital mutilation and the enjoyment of human rights in its human rights awareness work;
      c) cooperating, where appropriate, in performing these tasks with other NGOs working on the issue;
    CALLS on the IEC to ensure the production of relevant materials to facilitate promotional work described above and to make necessary resources available for this task;

    INSTRUCTS the IEC to ensure that AI's position on this issue is included, where appropriate, in statements AI makes to the World Conference on Women in Beijing.

    FURTHER INSTRUCTS the IEC, in order to bring AI's refugee guidelines into conformity with the UNHCR's position on FGM as a ground for refugee status, to examine the question of taking up cases where a woman or her daughters fear undergoing forced FGM if returned to their country.

 (Arising from Resolution A7.1)