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CEDAW Committee Recognises Extraterritorial Obligations towards Human Rights for Sweden

March 21, 2016

In a globalised world, we cannot isolate human rights violations in each country without relating them with decisions, actions or inactions taken in other countries.

Today, we face the challenge of recognising the due diligence that States have to ensure that their decisions, actions or inactions do not hinder human rights protection elsewhere.

For instance, when a State, such as Sweden, export weapons to Saudi Arabia, they are contributing to the human rights violations perpetrated through using or threating with these weapons.

Similarly, many countries have a double standard when it comes to their regulation of corporations: inside the country regulations may be more or less strict in terms of employment, protection of the environment and human rights, but when the corporation operates outside they prefer to look the other way to human rights violations.

WILPF brought these concerns to CEDAW Committee regarding actions and inactions of Sweden and Sweden’s obligation for due diligence towards the human rights of women outside Sweden.

During the review CEDAW Committee asked the delegation of Sweden about the mechanisms in place to control arms exports and the risk they might be used in gender-based violence and the actions of corporations violating human rights abroad.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO SWEDEN

CEDAW Committee has issued its Concluding Recommendations to Sweden and has recommended Sweden “ that the State party uphold its due diligence obligations to ensure that companies under the its jurisdiction or control respect, protect and fulfill women’s human rights when operating abroad.”

With regards to arms exports, the Committee has recommended to: “ensure that the new legislation to regulate export of arms includes a strong and robust gender-specific perspective.”

A STEP FORWARD IN RECOGNITION OF EXTRATERRITORIAL OBLIGATIONS

This decision from CEDAW Committee is a step further in the recognition of extraterritorial obligations with Human Rights Law, that States do not only have an obligation to protect the human rights of those within their borders, but also to prevent that their actions or inactions violate human rights of people in other countries.

It is the first time that the CEDAW Committee has reminded States on their responsibility towards their impact on the rights of persons outside the borders of the State. This important step forward opens an opportunity for human rights defenders around the world to use Human Rights Law even when some of the actors involved in human rights violations are based abroad.

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