Thursday, October 1, 2015

UN Expert Says Trade Agreements Need to Respect Human Rights

The first Independent Expert appointed by the UN to promote a democratic and equitable international order, Mr Alfred de Zayas, says that governments across the world need to put a stop to free trade and investment agreements that conflict with human rights treaty obligations.

He says "Over the past decades free trade and investment agreements have had adverse impacts on the enjoyment of human rights by interfering with the States's fundamental functions to legislate in the public interest and regulate fiscal, budgetary, labour, health, and environmental policies".

His report deplores the paradox resulting from assuming conflicting treaty obligations, where countries ratify human rights treaties, but then enter into agreements that prevent him from fulfilling their human rights obligations.

In particular he urges the abolition of the Investor-State Dispute Settlement mechanism in Trade and Investment Agreements. He says it "encroaches on the regulatory space of States and suffers from fundamental flaws including lack of independence, transparency, accountability and predictability".

"This dispute settlement mechanism has mutated into a privatised system of 'justice', incompatible with article 14(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whereby three arbitrators are allowed to override national legislation and the judgments of the highest national tribunals, in secret and with no possibility of appeal. This constitutes a grave challenge to the very essence of he rule of law."

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