COMMISSION ADOPTS MEASURES ON OCCUPIED PALESTINE, DEFAMATION OF RELIGIONS, HEARS ADDRESS BY PRIME MINISTER OF ROMANIA
Commission on Human Rights
15 April 2002
Senior Officials of Azerbaijan, UNESCO also Speak;
Indigenous Issues Discussed
The Commission on Human Rights approved by roll-call votes this morning resolutions criticizing Israeli activities in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, and opposing "defamation" of religions.
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 40 in favour and 5 opposed, with 7 abstentions, the Commission among other things strongly condemned violations by Israeli occupation authorities of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories; strongly condemned the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps, which had so far resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children; strongly condemned the practice of "liquidation" or extra-judicial executions carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians; strongly condemned the establishment of Israeli settlements; and called upon Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.
In a resolution adopted by a vote of 30 in favour and 15 opposed, with 8 abstentions, the Commission among other things expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and with terrorism; expressed its concern at any role in which the print, audio-visual or electronic media were used to incite acts of violence, intolerance and discrimination towards Islam and any other religion; and requested the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to examine the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and to submit a preliminary study on his findings to the fifty-ninth session of the Commission
The Commission was addressed by Adrian Nastase, Prime Minister of Romania, who described a national undertaking to help children in difficulty, a seven-part plan to improve the situation of the country's Roma population, and steps taken to end trafficking in women and girls, which he termed a serious problem faced by Romania and the region.
Mr. Nastase also said a recent memorandum of understanding reached in negotiations over a Hungarian law on Hungarians living in neighbouring countries was an example of the huge potential of democratic societies for solving the most sensitive issues.
In addition, there were speeches by the Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan and the Assistant Director-General for Culture of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Khalaf Khalafov, the Azerbaijani Deputy Minister, said among other things that Azerbaijan had pursued extensive reforms to foster the development of democracy and to advance human rights and economic growth. He charged that in the course of occupying 20 per cent of Azerbaijan's territory, Armenia had carried out ethnic cleansing and had committed numerous other human rights violations.
Mounir Bouchnaki, the UNESCO official, said a debate was emerging over the risk of a uniform world culture and the disappearance of the individual cultures that made up the diversity and cultural richness of the world. Globalization could be synonymous with homogenization of culture, education, science and communication to the detriment of the creative diversity of mankind, he warned, and this concern had led to the adoption on 2 November 2001 of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity,
Rodolpho Stavenhagen, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said there were about 400 million persons in the world who might be characterized as indigenous; that in many parts of the world, indigenous persons and communities were the victims of discriminatory practices, racism, cultural denial and economic and social marginalization; and that research showed that indigenous peoples had lower standards of living and income and higher rates of poverty than the rest of the population.
Luis Enrique Chavez, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on a draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, told the Commission that the Working Group's seventh session had focused on discussions on several paragraphs of the draft Declaration and that future sessions of the group would continue with this approach.
Erica-Irene A. Daes, Special Rapporteur on indigenous peoples and their relationship to land of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, said one of the most widespread contemporary problems was the failure of certain States to recognize the existence of indigenous land use, occupancy and ownership and the failure to accord appropriate legal status and legal rights to protect that use, occupancy or ownership.
Michael Dodson, Chairperson of the Advisory Group of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, said all money available in the Fund had been recommended for allocation and new voluntary contributions of about $ 1 million were needed to enable the Fund to continue supporting projects and programmes for the year 2003. Mr. Dodson went on to speak on behalf of the Chairperson of the United Nations Voluntary Fund For Indigenous Populations, and said taking into account the number of requests received in 2002 and the new mandate of the Fund, the Fund would need an amount of $ 800,000 before the next session of the Board in 2003.
Following these remarks, the Commission heard statements from several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the topic of indigenous issues. Speaking were representatives of the Indian Council of South America; the International Indian Treaty Council; the Indigenous World Association; the Transnational Radical Party; and the Saami Council.
Armenia spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its debate on indigenous issues.
The Commission heard introductions to two reports under this agenda item.
The report of the Working Group to elaborate a draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (E/CN.4/2002/98) covers events at six formal and 15 informal plenary meetings from 28 January 2001 to 8 February 2002, describing progress and obstacles in reaching a consensus text on an article-by-article basis.
The report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people (E/Cn.4/2002/97) was not available in English.
ADRIAN NASTASE, Prime Minister of Romania, said Romania encouraged civil society to play a prominent role in the promotion of human rights, both by building connections at the grass-roots level and by playing a firm role in influencing Government policies. The Government sought to address, transparently and comprehensively, the problems of those segments of Romanian society that had yet to have full enjoyment of their human rights. Last year, the Government had embarked on two national strategies. The first was a four-year strategy concerning children in difficulty aimed at striking a balance between three essential components: child, family and society. The strategy was a profound undertaking of reform in which the system of the protection of the child in difficulty or at risk was defined by the specific needs of a country whose problems had been inherited from the totalitarian regime and were still not completely resolved. The second strategy aimed at improving the situation of the Roma population. Based on seven main principles (consensus, social utility, sectorial distribution, decentralization, legal compatibility, identity differentiation and equality), the strategy contained a comprehensive plan of action which touched all sectors of relevance for the well-being of the Roma minority, community development and administration, housing, social security, health care, economic opportunities, justice and public order, child welfare, education, culture and denominations, communications and civic involvement.
Another serious concern for Romania was trafficking in human beings. Romania was situated in an area of origin and transit for internationally trafficked women and girls. Romania not only acknowledged the seriousness of the scourge for the country and the region, but had taken firm action to combat it. Last year, a National Action Plan against trafficking in persons had been adopted. The plan had required tremendous legislative effort, since this crime was historically new for Romania, as well as huge financial resources to strengthen law-enforcement and other Governmental agencies involved in anti-trafficking struggles. Action by Romania touched not only the national dimensions but also tried to catalyze a regional drive to end such trafficking.
All had witnessed how the issue of national minorities, if improperly handled, could lead to violations of human rights, Mr. Nastase said. Nevertheless, there were examples of civilized and constructive ways to solve even the most intricate of controversies. Hungary had adopted a law on Hungarians living in neighbouring countries. Romania and other neighbouring countries had identified some problems associated with that law. The mechanisms of public debate that followed were exemplary ones and the result had been a memorandum of understanding between the Governments of Romania and Hungary which clarified the contents of and gave clear interpretation to provisions of the law on Hungarians living in neighbouring countries. This case demonstrated the huge potential of democratic societies for solving the most sensitive issues.
KHALAF KHALAFOV, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan, said that over the past decade since restoration of the State's independence, vital changes had taken place in political, economic and humanitarian life in Azerbaijan. The necessary measures had been taken for the democratization of society and the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Republic was actively engaged in the European integration process. Due to a consistent policy of establishing democratic law and order in the country, the Government had achieved internal stability. Presidential, legislative and municipal elections had been held, and now there was a solid political and legal basis for the democratic development of the country.
Mr. Khalafov said global challenges, such as aggressive separation, extremism and international terrorism, accompanied by acts of aggression, seizure of territories and ethnic cleansing, represented a serious threat to peace, security and stability. While still part of the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan had faced threats to its territorial integrity and security when Armenia had advanced groundless territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenia itself was later recognized as an independent State within its former administrative borders. Allegations to the effect that the cause of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict was allegedly the urge for self-determination of the Armenian community of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan also did not stand up to criticism.
Despite the unambiguous demands of the Security Council, Armenia was still occupying 20 per cent the territory of Azerbaijan, Mr. Khalafov said. There was not a single Azerbaijaini remaining in that area -- a complete ethnic cleansing had been carried out. As a result, there were about 1 million refugees and displaced persons in Azerbaijan. In the course of the aggression against Azerbaijan, there were documented reports of gross violations by the Armenian side of international humanitarian law, numerous cases of summary executions and mass shootings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment against innocent citizens. The settlement of conflicts should primarily be based on the restoration of and strict respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, inviolability of internationally recognized borders and the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
MOUNIR BOUCHNAKI, Assistant Director-General for Culture of UNESCO, said that at a time of globalization, a debate was emerging over the risk of a uniform world culture and the disappearance of the individual cultures that made up the diversity and cultural richness of the world. Reality had become more complex, and globalization was often regarded as a new form of colonization aimed at establishing the same relationship to history, men or God for everyone. It must be recognized that globalization did not affect only the economic or financial spheres, as the events of 11 September had tragically shown. Globalization could be synonymous with homogenization of culture, education, science and communication to the detriment of the creative diversity of the world.
The urgency of preserving cultural diversity had led to the adoption on 2 November of a historic text -- the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity, Mr. Bouchnaki said. The Declaration emphasized that every individual must accept not only differences but also the plurality of his identity within societies which were themselves plural. In a world where the rejection of differences was expressed through excessive acts of religious fundamentalism and racial and social prejudices, it was essential to give more consideration to others and their differences.
The Declaration affirmed in its article 4 that human rights guaranteed cultural diversity, Mr. Bouchnaki said. This implied a commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, in particular the rights of persons belonging to minorities and the rights of indigenous peoples. In article 5, entitled cultural rights as an enabling environment for cultural diversity, the Declaration took an important step by affirming that cultural rights were an integral part of human rights, which were universal, indivisible and interdependent. Article 5 underscored the important interaction between cultural diversity and human rights, especially in the area of education, protection of identity and promotion of creativity.
RODOLPHO STAVENHAGEN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people, said the world panorama regarding human rights of indigenous people was far from satisfactory. According to some estimates, there were about 400 million persons in the world who might be characterized as indigenous, yet despite the fact that numerous groups identified themselves as such, in some regions they were not officially recognized and their existence as indigenous peoples might even be denied. In many parts of the world, indigenous persons and communities were the victims of discriminatory practices, racism, cultural denial and economic and social marginalization. Research also showed that indigenous peoples had lower standards of living and income and higher rates of poverty than the rest of the population. The human rights of the indigenous were both individual and group in nature. Often indigenous people were not able to enjoy their full human rights as citizens because the communities, tribes or nations they belonged to were disadvantaged within the wider community.
In his report to the Commission he had attempted to provide an overview of the main topics of concern as well as a summary of issues that had come to his attention since the middle of last year, Mr. Stavenhagen said. Some of the cases referred to were dealt with more specifically in the addendum to the report. He urged the Commission to do its utmost to break the deadlock, to address the issue of indigenous human rights with open minds and hearts and in a spirit of solidarity and generosity. There was a moral and historical debt to be paid by the prompt adoption of a declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples.
LUIS ENRIQUE CHAVEZ, Chairperson-Rapporteur of the Working Group on a Draft United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, introducing his report (E/CN.4/2002/98), said the group had held its seventh session as established by the Commission resolution 1995/32. The work had focused on the unique objective of elaborating a draft declaration on the basis of the annexed resolution 1994/45 of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, which was entitled "Draft Declaration of the United Nations of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples". The group, in the final part of its discussion, had focused on paragraphs 83 and 89, which dealt with organization of work and the approximate period of sessions to be held. The next session would take place from 2 to 13 December 2002. Recent sessions had considered a number of paragraphs of the draft and the group would continue with that approach in coming sessions.
ERICA-IRENE A. DAES, Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights on indigenous peoples and their relationship to land, introducing her final report (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/21), said the main objective of the working paper was to contribute effectively to the solution of certain serious and complex problems related to the rights of land, territories and resources facing a number of Governments and thousands of indigenous peoples living in different regions. Historically, indigenous peoples in most part of the world had been deprived of their lands and resources, in whole or in part through many unjust processes, including military force, unlawful settlements, forcible removal and relocation, legal fraud and illegal expropriations by the Governments.
One of the most widespread contemporary problems was the failure of certain States to recognize the existence of indigenous land use, occupancy and ownership and the failure to accord appropriate legal status and legal rights to protect that use, occupancy or ownership, Mrs. Daes said. The doctrines of dispossession which emerged in modern international law, particularly terra nullius and "discovery", had had well-known adverse effects on indigenous peoples. Theses doctrine gave to the discovering colonial powers free title to indigenous lands subject only to indigenous use and occupancy, sometimes referred to as aboriginal titles. Only recently had the international community begun to understand that such doctrines were illegitimate and racist. In terms of frequency and scope of complaints, the greatest single problem today for indigenous peoples was the failure of States to demarcate indigenous lands.
MICHAEL DODSON, Chairperson of the Advisory Group of the United Nations Voluntary Fund for the International Decade of the World's Indigenous People, said detailed information on the Fund's financial situation as at December 2001 was available in the Report of the High Commissioner on the activities of the Decade to the present session of the Commission. A more detailed report, mentioning all beneficiaries and the amounts allocated, would be submitted by the Secretariat to the Working Group on Indigenous Population at its annual session in 2002. Taking into consideration the remarkable increase in the number of applications received this year, the Advisory Group recommended allocating most of the money available in the Fund to project grants. The Advisory Group had also recommended the funding of a few programmes under the Decade to be implemented by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. As all money available in the Fund had been recommended for allocation, new voluntary contributions were necessary in order to enable the Fund to continue funding projects and programmes within the Decade in 2003. The Fund would therefore need new voluntary contributions, amounting to about $ 1 million to be paid before March 2003. Thanks were expressed to donors for their voluntary contributions and for their support to the situation of indigenous people all over the world.
MICHAEL DODSON, Member of the Board of Trustees of the United Nations Voluntary Fund For Indigenous Populations, speaking on behalf of the Chairperson of the Board, informed the Commission that the mandate of the Fund had been expanded by General Assembly resolution 56/140 of 19 December 2001 so that the Fund could also provide assistance to help representatives of indigenous organizations and communities to attend, as observers, the sessions of the newly established Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. The Secretariat had received more than 4,000 applications for grants from the Fund. During inter-sessional consultations in March 2002, the Board had considered the admissible applications received within the established deadline and in accordance with the criteria for selection and the money available in the Fund, the Board had recommended that Secretary-General approve the allocation of 25 travel grants from different indigenous regions of the world. Taking into account the number of requests received in 2002, the new mandate of the Fund and that of the Board had recommended for expenditure almost all the money available in the Fund at its fifteenth session in 2002. The Fund would need an amount of $ 800,000 before the next session of the Board in 2003.
In a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (E/CN.4/2002.L.16), adopted by a roll-call vote of 40 in favour and 5 opposed, with 7 abstentions, the Commission affirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation; strongly condemned violations by Israeli occupation authorities of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; strongly condemned the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory; strongly condemned the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps, which had so far resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including women and children; strongly condemned the practice of "liquidation" or extra-judicial executions carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians; strongly condemned the establishment of Israeli settlements and other activities, such as the construction of new settlements and expansion of existing ones, the expropriation of lands, the biased administration of water resources, and the construction of bypass roads; condemned the expropriation of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, revocation of identity cards of the citizens of East Jerusalem and the imposition of fabricated and exorbitant taxes with the aim of forcing Palestinians out of Jerusalem; condemned the use of torture against Palestinians during interrogation; strongly condemned the setting on fire of the church of the Nativity and the Omar Ibn Al-Khattab mosque in Bethlehem and the shelling with artillery fire of the Al-Baik and Al-Kabir mosques in Nablus; strongly condemned the offensives of the Israeli army of occupation against hospitals and sick persons and the use of Palestinian citizens as human shields during Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas; strongly condemned the opening of fire by the Israeli army against ambulances and paramedical personnel and its preventing ambulances and the cars of the International Committee of the Red Cross from reaching the wounded and the dead; expressed grave concern at the deterioration of the human rights situation; expressed grave concern at the restriction of movement imposed on President Yasser Arafat; expressed concern at massive arrests against a large number of Palestinians and at the continued detention of thousands of Palestinians; called upon Israel to desist from all forms of violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory; called upon it to withdraw in accordance with relevant resolutions of the United Nations and the Commission on Human Rights; called upon it to implement the recommendations in the reports of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory; and requested the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of the Government of Israel.
The vote was as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, France, India, Indonesia, X Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.
Against: Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, Guatemala, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
Abstentions: Burundi, Cameroon, Croatia, Italy, Japan, Poland, Uruguay,
MARIE GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE ( Canada) said her country would vote against L.16 as it did not provide a balanced assessment of the regional context. The resolution contained numerous examples of inflammatory language. The type of language contained in parts of this resolution did nothing to move towards a situation where human rights were fully respected by all sides. The singling out of one party, especially in the current circumstances, did not contribute to ongoing efforts to bring an end to the conflict nor bring the parties any closer to peace. The failure of the resolution to condemn all acts of terrorism, particularly in the context of recent suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, was a serious oversight which rendered the resolution fundamentally unacceptable.
WALTER LEWALTER (Germany) explaining a vote before the vote, said Germany remained concerned with the serious human rights situation in the occupied territories resulting in a high number deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinians. Germany reiterated the call for the withdrawal of Israeli troops and for the end of all acts of terror and incitement and for the immediate adherence to Security Council resolutions. Germany was, however, unable to support the resolution since it was extremely concerned that the text might be seen as an endorsement of violence, was unbalanced and contained no section on the human rights record of the Palestinian Authority.
JOAQUIN PEREZ-VILLANUEVA Y TOVAR (Spain) said the violent crisis in the occupied territories and the gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law there would lead Spain to vote in favour of the draft resolution. Spain noted, however, that the resolution contained several terms that did not reflect reality and were not technically correct. It also regretted that the draft resolution did not contain references to the victims and suffering of the other party to the conflict.
BERNARD CLAUDE KESSEDJIAN (France), explaining a vote before the vote, said the dramatic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories justified the support of France for the resolution as amended. France could not accept the use of violence and reference to Security Council resolutions gave the necessary guidance for a procedure to create the conditions for a political process. France hoped the appeal would give new hope to the victims of this horrible situation.
ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) said the primary and the principal responsibility for the human rights situation in the occupied territories lay with the Palestinian authorities. The Palestinian authorities did not have the will to accomplish their obligations. It was not right to attribute the responsibilities only to Israel, which was only acting to defend itself. The resolution had no single reference to the responsibilities of the Palestinian authorities. The resolution contained inflammatory words which would not favour negotiations. For that reason, the delegation of Guatemala would vote against L.16.
ANDREA NEGROTTO CAMBIASO (Italy) said his country shared the deep concern of the international community in the face of the images of death and destruction in the occupied territories and Israel. Italy considered it deplorable that relevant Security Council resolutions had not been complied with. No one should consider himself above international law. Italy shared several of the concerns expressed in L.16. Italy was concerned at the disturbing news regarding the Jenin Camp. However, there was no balance in the text L.16. For this reason, Italy would abstain in the vote.
AUDREY GLOVER (the United Kingdom), explaining a vote before the vote, said the United Kingdom remained concerned at the serious human rights situation in the occupied territories resulting in deaths and injuries, mostly among Palestinians. The United Kingdom also regretted the recent escalation of violence and reiterated its call for immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops, for a cease-fire and an end to all acts of violence, including all acts of terrorism. The United Kingdom wanted to add its voice to many of the concerns in the draft, but was unable to support it. The text included many formulations which endorsed violence, were unbalanced, made no mention of the Palestinian Authority's human rights record, and made no mention of terrorism.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said in reference to the statements by the United Kingdom and Spain that the co-sponsors of L.16 remained open to negotiations on the draft resolution. The fact that an agreement on the draft resolution was not reached did not imply a lack of effort on part of the co-sponsors.
GEORG MAUTNER-MARKHOF (Austria) explaining a vote after the vote, said Austria had voted in favour of the resolution as an expression of deep concern at the human rights situation in the area. However, Austria could not subscribe to operative paragraphs 3, 7, 13 and 14. The Secretary General had spoken about the respect for human rights on both sides.
JOHAN MOLANDER (Sweden) said his country supported the resolution without joy. The amendments had deleted elements which were directly connected with the conflict. Some paragraphs also contained some abusive language. The sponsors did not want to accept further improvements to the resolution.
SHARAT SABHARWAL (India) said his country supported the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination as well as the right of Israel to exist within secure and recognized borders. The vote of India was an expression of its concern at the deterioration of the human rights situation. India deplored all acts of terror. Such acts could not be justified on any grounds. The greatest need of the moment was moderation, restraint and restoration of confidence between the two parties.
ALVARO MENDOCA E MOURA (Portugal), in an explanation of vote after the vote, said Portugal had supported the resolution as amended since it was concerned about the situation of escalating violence and the large-scale Israeli incursion into the Palestinian territories. Portugal's support did not imply total support for some of the formulations of the text. All acts of violence must be condemned, including suicide bombings. The killing of innocents undermined human rights and the cause of the perpetrators.
JEAN-MARIE NOIRFALISSE (Belgium) said the resolution could be seen as a call for peace which his delegation supported, despite some unfortunate wording.
TOUFIK SALLOUM (Syria) said the majority of 40 votes in favour of L.16 showed that everyone was fully aware of the seriousness of the situation in the occupied territories. Flagrant Israeli violations must be stopped. The resolution referred to the grave Israeli violations of human rights, including the continuation of assassinations, the siege imposed on Palestinian towns and villages and the fact that international organizations were prevented from providing help to the victims. Those who abstained or voted against clearly showed their awareness of violations perpetrated by Israel. Israel was still preventing international organizations from entering the territories. Syria called for the implementation of the resolution and asked that High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson be sent on a mission to the occupied territories.
In a resolution on combatting defamation of religions (E/CN.4/2002.L.9), adopted by a roll-call vote of 30 in favour and 15 opposed, with 8 abstentions, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and with terrorism; noted with concern the intensification of the campaign to defame Islam, its tenets and values and Muslim people, and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of September 11; expressed its concern at any role in which the print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other means were used to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam and any other religion; expressed deep concern at programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations/groups aimed at defamation of religions, particularly when supported by Governments; urged all States to combat hatred, discrimination, and violence motivated by religious intolerance, including attacks on religious places, and to encourage understanding, tolerance and respect in matters relating to religion or belief; strongly deplored physical attacks and assaults on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship of Muslims and Arabs in many parts of the world; encouraged States to provide adequate protection against all human rights violations resulting from defamation of religions; confirmed the need to enhance knowledge about civilizations and cultures; called upon the international community to initiate a global dialogue to promote a culture of tolerance; called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote and include human rights aspects in the Dialogue Among Civilizations programme; and requested the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief to examine the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world with special reference to physical assaults and attacks against their places of worship, cultural centres, businesses and properties in the aftermath of September 11 and to submit a preliminary study on his findings to the fifty-ninth session of the Commission.
The vote was as follows:
In favour: Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ecuador, Indonesia, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia.
Against : Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
Abstentions: Armenia, , Burundi, Chile, Costa Rica, India, Peru, Republic of Korea, Swaziland,
JOAQUIN PEREZ-VILLANUEVA Y TOVAR (Spain), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said this was the third year in a row that the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had introduced this draft and the European Union had had from the beginning serious difficulties with the approach taken. The question was already dealt with in the resolution on racism and the resolution on religious intolerance. This year the European Union did not see the need to raise the issue of defamation of religions, particularly in the way it was presented in the new draft resolution. The new draft continued to give pre-eminence to one religion over the rest and to some communities, defined by their religion, over any other community. All followers of all beliefs could be and were victims of human rights violations and stereotyping. Any list of victims could only be exclusive. There was particular concern at the insistence on asking special protection for one particular religion and the request to the Special Rapporteur to examine in particular the situation of Muslims and Arabs in various parts of the world was again an undesirable proof of the selectivity displayed throughout the text. For these reasons the European Union asked for a vote and would vote no on draft resolution L.9
SHARAT SABHARWAL (India) said his country firmly opposed the defamation or negative stereotyping of any religion, including Islam. It strongly condemned any attempts to associate Islam with terrorism. India believed that a terrorist had no religion; for hatred, intolerance and violence were his creed. At the same time, India was against obscurantist and self-serving distortions of religious values to spread or justify cults of violence and terrorism. The issue of defamation of religions fell under the rubric of either religious intolerance or abuse of the freedom of expression. Both were best addressed under the agenda item on civil and political rights and not under the item on racism. Lastly, defamation and negative stereotyping were not problems confined to any one religion. All religions faced these problems in one form or the other. India would therefore would have liked a resolution giving an equal focus to such problems faced by all religions.
ANTONIO ARENALES FORNO (Guatemala) said his country continued to reject discrimination against any religion. However, many religious leaders needed to take responsibility for their incitement of holy wars. They were in fact those responsible for their religions being associated with terrorism and violence. The Catholic religion had accepted and remedied its past and had acted decisively without going into considerations of discrimination of religion. Religious leaders had the responsibility here. For these reasons, Guatemala would vote against the draft.
MARIE GERVAIS-VIDRICAIRE (Canada) said that her delegation was acutely aware that religious intolerance was a matter of great concern to all -- in all areas of the world and for all people of the world. The promotion of the respect for diversity, cultural, linguistic, ethnic and religious, was an important element of the work of Canada in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Canadian delegation found troubling the degree to which questions of racism and the issue of religious intolerance were mixed in the resolution in such a way that did not promote a greater understanding of the relationship between the two issues, but instead unhelpfully confused them. The resolution did not adequately address issues of the links between diversity and the fight against racism. For all those reasons, Canada would vote against the resolution.
JUAN ENRIQUE VEGA (Chile) said while on previous occasions Chile had voted in favour of the resolution on combatting defamation of religions, this time it regretted that it could not do so. Chile was concerned that text of L.9 did not strike the necessary balance with regard to the equality of all religions vis-a-vis discrimination. The resolution focused on the right to religious freedom of only one religion. Chile condemned all forms of Islamophobia. However, it invited the authors of the resolution to include in the future the rights of all religions as well as the rights of non-believers.
ADELARD BLACKMAN, of the Indian Council of South America, said Canada treated the Den Nation of northern Canada as a sovereign nation but had passed legislation excluding it from the definition of "persons". Rates of disease, unemployment, incarceration and suicide amongst the people of Den Nation were many times higher than those of the general population, and aboriginal land claims remained excluded from the general protection of human rights in the Canadian Charter of Rights. The Den Nation lived in third world conditions while multinational companies reaped the benefits of Den resources. The very existence of the Nation was at stake. For centuries, members of the Den Nation had been the keepers of the land. Without fair access to their land and resources they stood to lose their identity as a people.
ROSANNE OLGUIN RODRIGUEZ, of the International Indian Treaty Council, said the Council had participated in the United Nations Intersessional Working Group on the Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in good faith, working under the principle that international standards must be applied without discrimination, based on the equality and dignity of all members of the human family. It was extremely disappointing that, contrary to this sacred principle, certain States continued to propose changes to the current text which, if adopted, would seriously undermine and diminish the rights which the current text now affirmed, effectively subjugating Indigenous Peoples to vastly divergent, and in many cases blatantly discriminatory "domestic" laws.
Instead of taking a principled stand, the World Conference against Racism had made it clear that it looked towards the conclusion of discussions by the Intersessional Working Group. The fundamental question to this Commission was: why was overt racial discrimination still tolerated and why were the most basic and fundamental rights of indigenous peoples still seen as secondary?
KENNETH DEER, of the Indigenous World Association, said that his speaking time was scheduled at a late hour and that was disrespectful of indigenous peoples. It was unfortunate that due respect was not given by the Commission to the issue of indigenous peoples. Human rights violations against indigenous peoples should be given sufficient attention by the Commission; and Governments also should respect indigenous peoples. The right of indigenous peoples to self-determination should be respected, and a debate would be held on the issue in which Governments were invited to participate. The work of the Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Erica-Irene Daes, had been very important. She had underlined the importance of respect of the right of indigenous peoples to their territories and to own their resources.
KOK KSOR, of the Transnational Radical Party, said that for the last 25 years the Degar people of Viet Nam, who were known as the Montagnards, had suffered systematic human rights violations such as military operations, sterilization, land confiscation, torture and religious repression. Recent incidents in February and March 2002 which consisted of violence by Vietnamese security forces against Montagnard refugees and intimidation of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) officials in Mondolkiri refugee camp in Cambodia, run by UNHCR, led to UNHCR's decision to cancel the repatriation agreement and the decision of the United States Government to offer asylum to 1,000 refugees. Viet Nam had closed off the Central Highlands from international scrutiny and Cambodia had publicly declared that it would force fleeing refugees back into the lands controlled by Vietnamese security forces.
KATI ERIKSEN, of the Saami Council, said the Council had been disappointed to note that the Working Group on a draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was again unable to adopt any of the provisions of the Declaration and reminded the Commission that the goal was to adopt the Declaration before the end of the Decade of Indigenous People. Clearly, the main obstacle for adoption of further provisions of the Declaration was the issue of collective rights. The draft Declaration did not invent collective rights; they already existed in international law. Indigenous cultures generally focused on the collective to a much larger extent that non-indigenous cultures. A Declaration dealing with indigenous peoples' rights must therefore, in order to be of relevance to the peoples and individuals it intended to protect, have such a reference. The Council pleaded with States to cooperate in funding the Permanent Forum for Indigenous Issues and to establish a separate Secretariat for the Forum.
A Representative of Armenia, speaking in right of reply and referring to the statement by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, said the resolution of the United Nations to which the speaker had referred did not mention Armenia. In addition, the speaker was not aware of the ongoing discussion on the situation. It was regrettable that the speaker had given a narrow interpretation to the 11 September events as regards to terrorism.
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