COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS APPROVES THREE RESOLUTIONS ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL
AND CULTURAL RIGHTS
Commission on Human Rights
22 April 2003
The Commission on Human Rights adopted three resolutions this morning on the subject of economic, social and cultural rights.
In a resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 14 against, with 2 abstentions, the Commission urged all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which created obstacles to trade relations among States, thus impeding the full realization of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the right to development; and called upon member States neither to recognize these measures nor apply them.
In a resolution on the question of the realization in all countries of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and study of the special problems which developing countries faced in their efforts to achieve these human rights, adopted without a vote, the Commission, among other things, called upon all States to give particular attention to the realization of such rights by individuals, most often women and children, especially girls, and communities living in extreme poverty; to consider the desirability of drawing up national action plans for improving the provision of such rights; and to help alleviate the unsustainable external debt burdens of countries that met the criteria of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.
In a resolution on the right to education, adopted without a vote, the Commission, among other things, urged all States to give full effect to this right and to guarantee that it was recognized and exercised without discrimination of any kind; to take all appropriate measures to eliminate obstacles to effective access to education, notably by girls, including pregnant girls, children living in rural areas, children belonging to minority groups, indigenous children, migrant children, refugee children, internally displaced children, children affected by armed conflicts, children with disabilities, children affected by infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, sexually exploited children, children deprived of their liberty, children living in the street, and orphaned children, taking all measures to prohibit explicitly any form of discrimination
The Commission also heard debate this morning under its cluster of remaining agenda items. These items included "specific groups and individuals"; the report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; promotion and protection of human rights; technical cooperation and advisory services in the field of human rights; effective functioning of human rights mechanisms; and rationalization of the work of the Commission.
Addressing the meeting were representatives of the following non-governmental organizations (NGOs): Europe-Third World Centre; Asian Migrant Center; Groupe de recherche et d'action pour le bien-être social; International Federation of Free Journalists; International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities; Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; Indian Council of Education; Interfaith International; Asian Women's Human Rights Council; Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations - CONGO (in joint statement with several NGOs*); Pax Romana; Australian Council for Overseas Aid; International Service for Human Rights (in a joint statement with Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees); International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, (in a joint statement with World Organization Against Torture); International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education (in joint statement with several NGOs**); Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (in joint statement with Survival International Limited; Amnesty International); South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples; International League for Human Rights; International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination; Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights; International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples; Association of World Citizens; World Federation of United Nations Association; International Commission of Jurists; Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission; Indigenous World Association; Association for the Prevention of torture (in joint statement with International Service for Human Rights); Comité international pour le respect et l'application de la charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples; Human Rights Watch; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Colombian Commission of Jurists; International Young Catholic Students; Association for World Education; and Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation (in joint statement with Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women and Society for Threatened Peoples).
Colombia, Turkey, Argentina, Haiti, Senegal, Cyprus, and the United Kingdom spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue action on draft resolutions and decisions.
Action on Resolutions on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
In a resolution on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, (E/CN.4/2003/L.15/Rev.1), adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 14 against, with 2 abstentions, the Commission urged all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law and the Charter of the United Nations, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which created obstacles to trade relations among States, thus impeding the full realization of the rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international human rights instruments, in particular the right of individuals and peoples to development; called upon member States neither to recognize these measures nor apply them, as well as to take effective administrative or legislative measures to counteract the extraterritorial application or effects of unilateral coercive measures; condemned the continued unilateral application by certain Powers of such measures as tools of political or economic pressure against any country, particularly against developing countries, with a view to preventing those countries from exercising their right to decide, of their own free will, their own political, economic and social systems; reiterated its call upon member States that had initiated such measures to abide by the principles of international law and to commit themselves to their obligations and responsibilities arising from international human rights instruments to which they were parties by immediately putting an end to such measures; reaffirmed that essential goods such as food and medicine should not be used as tools for political coercion and that under no circumstances should people be deprived of their own means of subsistence and development; underlined that unilateral coercive measures were one of the major obstacles to the implementation of the right to development; rejected all attempts to introduce unilateral coercive measures, including through the enactment of laws with extraterritorial application which were not in conformity with international law; requested once again the working group on the right to development to give due consideration to the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures; invited once against all Special Rapporteurs and existing thematic mechanisms to pay due attention to the negative impact and consequences of unilateral coercive measures.
The results were as follows:
In favour (36): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Cuba, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
Against (14): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
Abstentions (2): Costa Rica and Republic of Korea.
Absent (1) : Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/ L.21) on the question of the realization in all countries of the economic, social and cultural rights contained in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and study of the special problems which the developing countries faced in their efforts to achieve these human rights, adopted without a vote, the Commission reaffirmed that in accordance with the Universal Declaration, the ideal of free human beings enjoying freedom from fear and want could be achieved only if conditions were created whereby everyone would be able to enjoy his or her economic, social and cultural rights, as well as his or her civil and political rights; the inextricable link between full respect of the rights contained in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the process of development; the importance of international cooperation for promoting such rights, which emphasizing that the first responsibility for doing so lay with States; called upon all States to give effect to economic, social and cultural rights; to consider signing and ratifying, and States parties to implementing, the International Covenant; to guarantee that such rights would be exercised without discrimination of any kind; to give particular attention to the realization of such rights by individuals, most often women and children, especially girls, and communities living in extreme poverty; to consider the desirability of drawing up national action plans for improving the provision of such rights; to help alleviate the unsustainable external debt burdens of countries that met the criteria of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative; to promote the effective and wide participation of representatives of civil society in decision-making processes related to the promotion of such rights; and requested the working group established to consider the elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to meet for a period of ten working days prior to the sixtieth session of the Commission.
A Representative of Canada said the Canadian delegation would join consensus on resolution L.21 and would participate in the working group on an optional protocol, which would provide an opportunity to constructively engage with States on a variety of critical issues. Canada had begun a series of domestic consultations on the issue and it had concerns with respect to a potential individual complaint mechanism. The working group would not focus solely on the procedural aspects of a complaint mechanism, but also provide a forum for building consensus among States on the scope and content of those rights. Canada had reservations about the appropriateness of such a mechanism for determining the precise content of individual economic, social and cultural rights.
In a resolution on the right to education, (E/CN.4/2003/L.22), adopted without a vote, the Commission urged all States to give full effect to this right and to guarantee that it was recognized and exercised without discrimination of any kind; to take all appropriate measures to eliminate obstacles to effective access to education, notably by girls, including pregnant girls, children living in rural areas, children belonging to minority groups, indigenous children, migrant children, refugee children, internally displaced children, children affected by armed conflicts, children with disabilities, children affected by infectious diseases, including HIV/AIDS, sexually exploited children, children deprived of their liberty, children living in the street, and orphaned children, taking all measures to prohibit explicitly any form of discrimination; urged States to improve all aspects of the quality of education; to promote the renewal and expansion of basic formal education of good quality, and to use inclusive and innovative approaches to increase attendance for all, for example by providing a minimum monthly income to families of poor children attending school on a regular basis or by providing free meals for children attending school; to mainstream human rights education into educational activities; to enhance the status, morale and professionalism of teachers; to recognize and promote lifelong learning for all; to ensure progressively and on the basis of equal opportunity that primary education was compulsory, accessible, and available free to all; to close the gap between the school-leaving age and the minimum age for employment; to adopt effective measures to encourage regular attendance at school and reduce school dropout rates; to support domestic literacy programmes; to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, including sexual abuse in schools, and to take measures to eliminate corporal punishment in schools; to consider studies on best practices for improving the quality of education; and to give appropriate priority to the collection of quantitative and qualitative data related to gender disparities in education.
A Representative of India said India gave high priority to education. Education was important for its own sake but also played a crucial role in the enjoyment of other human rights. A Constitutional amendment adopted last year had made education also a fundamental human right in India. Unfortunately, India was unable to co-sponsor resolution L.22 this year, since the sponsors had introduced language on which there was no broad consensus. India therefore disassociated itself from the resolution, stressing that thematic issues could not be hijacked by some delegations in utter disregard of the views of others.
General Debate on Agenda Items of Specific Groups and Individuals; Report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; Effective Functioning of Human Rights Mechanisms; Advisory Services and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights; and Rationalization of the Work of the Commission
Mélanie RIONDEL, of Europe-Third World Centre, said there were increasing violations of the rights of migrants, refugees and minorities. Security measures were being used as a pretext to commit serious violations. Senegal, for example, had signed a transit agreement with Switzerland to repatriate third country nationals without papers to their countries of origin. This agreement violated international conventions on the rights and status of refugees. Fortunately, it was withdrawn by Senegal on 3 March 2003 following mobilization by civil society and Senegalese members of Parliament.
Attempts to conclude such agreements persisted, especially among member States of the economic community of Western Africa. French and German authorities continued expelling migrants using charter flights. It was feared that these practices would have a negative impact on the 1951 Convention on the protection of refugees. In fact, the modification of national legislation and the ratification of bilateral or regional agreements were increasingly undermining the 1951 Convention.
CECILIA JIMENEZ, of Asian Migrant Center, said that despite the existence of comprehensive international standards on the human rights of migrants, the present mode of mass labour migration continued to be premised on the trade and commodification of human labour – treating migrants as mere economic tools, separating them from their families, uprooting their social support systems, and negating the wholeness of humanity. Migrants were often subjected to gender, class and racial discrimination and xenophobia. As a consequence, migrant workers suffered physical, mental and psychological ill health.
Migrants workers and their advocates reaffirmed that a crucial way to uphold migrant workers' health rights was to recognize their human rights as workers, as women and as foreigners. Towards this, the Asian Migrant Centre and its partners would remain vigilant in continued assertions of migrant’s rights to health, safety and well being.
AWA NDIAYE, of Groupe de recherche et d'action pour le bien-être social, said that for many years the world had witnessed a rise in xenophobia and an upsurge in racial prejudice. Across the world, initiatives were being taken to regulate immigration. These initiatives envisaged a series of measures that encouraged racism and xenophobia, especially the setting of a threshold not to be exceeded.
The Commission was urged to reflect on daily racism towards migrant workers which ended up justifying State racism. Passivity in the face of xenophobia and racism was a dangerous attitude. Initiatives to regulate immigration were 100 per cent unacceptable.
Agis GENIUSAS, of International Federation of Free Journalists, said although the world had changed drastically over the years, certain practices had not changed, namely the use of disinformation or the deliberate spread of false information as a political tool to mobilize world public opinion. Many of today’s victims continued to be deprived of their fundamental liberties, including the free flow of information in their native tongues, as was the case of the Kosovar Albanians under the Serb-dominated rule.
The indigenous Finno-Ugric peoples, spread across the northern territory of Russia, struggled to preserve their mother tongues and their endangered cultural distinctiveness as they had through centuries of czarist and the communist oppression. The fact remained that while suppressing the basic rights of all their national, religious and racial minorities, the authorities of the Russian Federation never tired of blaming Estonia and Latvia for the conditions of local Russians who were much better off than the vast majority of ordinary people in the Russian Federation.
COSTAS PAPASTAVROS, of International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic & Other Minorities, said Cyprus was a very small country with a population of only 700,000. The northern 37 per cent of its territory had been under Turkish occupation since 1994. Following the invasion, Turkey had proceeded to carry out an ethnic cleansing of the 180,000 Greek Cypriot population in the occupied north and had embarked on a systematic and deliberate policy to replace the expelled refugees through the introduction of a steadily growing number of settlers from the mainland. That amounted to undisputed violation of the composition of the country.
A series of Security Council resolutions had demanded the reunification of the island, the withdrawal of the Turkish troops and the mainland settlers, and the return of the refugees to their homes. Turkey had been refusing to implement those resolutions.
Syed KAZMI MAOBOOL , of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, said 24 persons belonging to Hindu minority community were brutally assassinated in Nadimarg village in Kashmir valley by foreign terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir state. The helpless innocent Kashmiris were dragged out from their homes and mercilessly shot to death. During the last 12 years, members of this minority community had been regularly targeted by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir state. Over the last two years alone, 31 incidents of massacres of the Hindu minority had taken place.
The pattern of massacres remained uniform -- collecting people of one particular community at a particular place and shooting them indiscriminately, throwing grenades into houses, attacking religious places and stopping buses and segregating Hindus from the rest of the passengers and massacring them.
Chung SO, of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said the Japanese Government had not been recognizing Korean ethnic schools officially and accordingly had neither provided the Korean school students with any financial aid or with qualifications to allow them to take entrance exams to Japanese universities. In addition, the Japanese Government had completely neglected the implementation of United Nations recommendations on such matters. What was worse was that the Japanese authorities were trying to discriminate against Asian ethnic schools as compared to Western style international schools. These plans and decisions were anachronistic and outright ethnic discrimination.
The Association demanded that the Commission strongly urge the Japanese Government end such ethnic discrimination against Asian school students and implement the recommendations issued by the United Nations treaty bodies as soon as possible.
R. ARAVINDAN, of Indian Council of Education, said the teaching of human rights was still mainly a part of the curriculum in law schools or political science departments of colleges and universities. The UN had tried to go beyond these limitations by making available information on the Internet, instituting decades for women, children and the disabled and celebrating particular days of the year to commemorate the adoption of its covenants on human rights.
Some countries, including India, had started not only commissions on human rights at the country level but also at the level of states. They had also established similar commissions for women, children and minorities. The Commission on Human Rights should try to set up a timetable for the creation of national commissions and state commissions on the pattern of India.
Mehran BALUCH, of Interfaith International, said the Baloch nation in Pakistan had suffered the worst types of repression as a result of the tyranny of majoritarianism. Their demand for protection of their economic and political rights had been met with heavy military operations including the bombardment of civilian habitations and the ruthless torture and incarceration of political dissenters. The ethnic Punjabi elite was determined to vandalize the rich national resources of Balochistan. The Sui natural gas reserves in Balochistan were being mercilessly exploited for the benefit only of the Punjabis. The Punjabi ruling class also had a special interest in reducing the Baloch majority to a minority in the region.
Pakistani democracy – a sham democracy- carried no legitimacy with Pakistan's minorities.
Anita PARIYAR, of Asian Women's Human Rights Council, said discrimination based on work and caste or decent was a social construct that cruelly discriminated against certain groups considered inferior. Caste discrimination existed in certain South Asian and African countries. In Nepal, 20 per cent of the total population were “untouchables” and seriously marginalized. Dalit women suffered from multiple forms of discrimination, including rape and forced prostitution. Dalit children could not even enter schools.
The Special Rapporteurs on racism and minorities should visit Nepal to investigate such discrimination. There also was the issue of the Japanese authorities discriminating against Asian ethnic schools. Unfortunately, the Japanese Government had so far turned a deaf ear to recommendations made by the United Nations and had attempted to reinforce its discriminatory policies towards Korean schools. The Commission was requested to urge the Japanese Government to grant equal access to universities for graduates of minority schools, including Korean schools, based on recommendations by United Nations treaty bodies.
Renate BLOEM , of Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations (CONGO) in joint statement with several NGOs*, in a joint statement with International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education (OIDEL); Soka Gakkai International: International Federation of University Women; and International Federation of Social Workers, said that these NGOs wished to draw the attention of the Commission to the outcome of the Asian Civil Society Forum 2002, which CONGO had organized in Bangkok in December of last year. At that Forum, more than 4,000 participants had represented over 200 local, national and international NGOs from more than 33 countries in the Asian region and the rest of the world. It was a perfect example of effective NGO participation in regional arrangements for promoting human rights and the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms.
The aim of the Forum was to build the capacities of NGOs and networks for human rights and sustainable development in strengthening the UN-NGO partnership for democratic governance in the Asian region.
Maria BOADA DESCALZO, of Pax Romana, said reform of Spanish legislation on the rights and freedom of foreigners included substantial modifications characterized by a lack of equality between immigrants and Spanish citizens with regard to freedoms and rights. The new legislation limited the definition of legal residence, increased the power of the administration in the area of expulsions, restricted the right to family reunification and limited the right to free legal assistance.
The increase in the power of Government administrators had resulted in an uneven application of immigration laws on Spanish territory. Problems associated with the arbitrary application of the law were exacerbated by a series of violations of the procedural rights of immigrants, including legal assistance, translation and interpretation services, individual consideration of each case and review of decisions affecting legal residence in Spain. It was feared that as a result of these procedural deficiencies asylum-seekers would not be able to lodge complaints in case of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
MARGARET REYNOLDS, of Australian Council for Overseas Aid, said Australia was taking its turn as vice chair of the Commission at a time when Australia was under scrutiny at home and abroad for its actions on a number of fronts, which in many cases had been found to be against various United Nations human rights instruments, many of which Australia had once taken a leading role in creating.
The Council had observed a profound disquiet felt by many in Australian on issues including the rights of seekers of asylum, indigenous rights, environmental rights and the independence of Australia’s own human rights institutions. The Australian Government was asked to meet its obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention and end the prolonged detention of those seeking asylum; to contribute to its share to rebuilding Iraq; to continue to work to reform treaty processes and other operations of this Commission; to play a constructive role in furthering work on international conventions; and to act on its endorsement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by increasing Australia's overseas development assistance.
Raheek RINAWI, of International Service for Human Rights speaking on behalf of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM), in a joint statements with the Latin American Federation of Association of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM), said that on 13 April 2003, human rights defenders from all regions met in Geneva for a consultation on the challenges they faced around the globe. The Secretary-General had defined human rights defenders as "the base that regional and international human rights organizations and mechanisms, including those within the UN, build upon". Yet, over the last year, hundreds of human rights defenders had been assassinated, "disappeared", arbitrary detained and tortured worldwide, and thousands more, including some who attended the Commission, were targeted by threats, attacked and subject to restrictions of their fundamental freedoms.
Especially vulnerable were those defending some categories of rights, including women's rights and the rights to self-determination, freedom of expression and sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as certain groups of activities, including trade unionism, activism on behalf of indigenous peoples, pro-democracy work and peace activism.
ANTOINE MADELIN, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, speaking on behalf of World Organization Against Torture, said in numerous States, human rights defenders had become the new criminals who must be neutralized in the name of the fight against terrorism. Security had become the absolute priority and the legitimate and necessary fight against terrorism had been diverted from its primary objective and used by Governments to establish or strengthen their hold on power, at the expense of their commitments to human rights. As a consequence, civil society was now operating in a much more hostile environment. In many countries, social protest movements were being repressed through the excessive use of force. The objective pursued by opportunistic Governments in implementing these strategies to criminalize defenders was to control information on human rights.
In 80 States, human rights activists remained branded as troublemakers and were therefore under threat. In some very repressive countries such as Burma, Iraq, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan, defending human rights was rendered impossible as fundamental freedoms were severely restricted or even non-existent.
ROBERT TROCMÉ, of International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education, in joint statement with several NGOs**, speaking on behalf of International Association for Religious Freedom; Lutheran World Federation; World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women; Soka Gakkai international; International Alliance of Women; and New Humanity, raised the issue of the United Nations decade for human rights education and Costa Rica’s aim of launching it. Halfway through the decade, it was time that the international community not only advocated further the principle of human rights education but took immediate action to meet the goals set out in the decade.
The input received by the Office of the High Commissioner strongly supported the idea of a second decade, considering that human rights education was a long term process and that the current decade had been useful to those who had used the opportunity to initiate national and regional partnerships programmes. Secondly, many actors had stressed the importance of establishing a voluntary fund for human rights education as already set out in the action plan of the current decade. Third, an important issue still to be addressed was that of international monitoring mechanisms. In conclusion, the NGOs believed that Costa Rica’s proposal to launch a second decade for human rights education was both timely and realistic. If non-governmental organizations were to assist in drawing up a plan of action for the years to come, emphasis must be put on financing and monitoring mechanisms.
THEO SITOKDANA, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, speaking on behalf of Survival International Limited, also speaking on behalf of Survival International, said that during the past year, human rights defenders in Papua had come under increasing pressure from the Indonesian armed forces as those defenders had resolutely investigated cases of human rights violations.
At the international level, the Indonesian Government interfered with international human rights monitors in West Papua as they were often denied access to the region, and in some cases arrested and interrogated before being ordered to leave the country. At the national level, the Indonesian security apparatus constantly attempted to prevent the truth from coming out by taking repressive measures, which included death threats and intimidation; and the shooting and killing of human rights defenders and their families. Actions by the Indonesian armed forces against human rights defenders in Papua had greatly increased.
Leanne PANG, of Amnesty International, said measures taken by States to counter terrorism might have serious human rights implications, including the curtailing of the peaceful and non-violent exercise of human rights. Amnesty International called on the Commission to establish a new mechanism to monitor and analyze the impact on human rights of counter-terrorism measures and make to recommendations to States.
Amnesty International also expressed concern at the continuation of executions. In 2002, Amnesty recorded 1,526 executions in 31 countries, many after unfair trails. Some 81 per cent of the recorded executions were in just three countries: China, Iran and the United States.
Stephanie SCHLITT, of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, said the Paris Principles limited the primary responsibility of national human rights institutions to "promoting and ensuring the harmonization of national legislation… with international human rights instruments to which the State was a party". If States followed this instruction to the letter, they could create a national human rights institution with a mandate that was actually regressive from the perspective of customary international law. It was also stressed that the Paris Principles did not contain any non-derogable standards. Thus, citizens of one State found that although their national army committed an appalling number of human rights abuses, their national human rights commission was barred from all inquiries involving the armed forces.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights must ensure that technical cooperation assistance was provided only To Whom It May Concern: those national institutions that sought to comply with the Paris Principles. Unless the Paris Principles were revisited in light of current experience, it was clear that many national human rights institutions would not achieve their stated objective of enhancing national protection systems for human rights.
GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, said that while his organization rejoiced on the entry into force of the International Convention on Human Rights of Migrant Workers and the Members of Their Families on 1 July 2003, it expressed its disappointment at the fact that only 20 countries had so far ratified it. Did that mean that 90 per cent of the countries did not know immigration, or that they estimated that there was no need to protect migrants' rights?
According to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, who noted violations of the rights of migrants in many countries, the ratification of the Convention was desirable. She had also indicated that the rights of migrants were violated by the policies and legislation put in place by host countries. Authorities dealing with migrants were empowered to put migrants in detention, which was a power based on the pretext of administrative control. Such practices had led to discrimination and abuse.
ALEXEY KOROTAEV, of International League for Human Rights, said the refusal of the authorities of Uzbekistan to register human rights groups had resulted in severe constraints on the groups' work and efficacy. Several members of various human rights organizations were currently under arrest or had been sentenced to prison terms, ostensibly for criminal acts. The League feared that this persecution might be punishment or retaliation for their criticism of both local and central authority and their outspoken defense of the rights of Uzbek citizens.
In Kazakhstan, the state of democracy and human rights had been in steady decline over the past several years. In Turkmenistan, there was not a single officially functioning human rights organization. In Chechnya, there was a continuous policy of intimidation against human rights activists.
AHMED KHARAT, of International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, expressed the hope that the Commission on Human Rights would become more fair, just and equitable with regard to the role of non-governmental organizations. The Organization believed that non-governmental organizations were the victims of injustice and inequity in the Commission and that the situation was getting worse daily. Before, all non-governmental organizations had enjoyed consultative status and there had been equal speaking times with that of Governments. It was a sad fact that the situation had worsened from one session to the next.
The fact was that non-governmental organizations had no space in the Commission, speaking times had been limited and there were not even seats for the representatives. The Chairperson was urge to deal with this situation.
TOM GANIATSOS, of Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, said that the situation of human rights had deteriorated alarmingly since the deplorable and tragic terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States. The immediate response of the affected country, through its President, was his statement that "this means war", subsequently elaborated by the indication that such war would last for many years. Then the "axis of evil", consisting of Iraq, Iran and North Korea, was proclaimed and the new doctrine of preventive wars as an anti-terrorist measure was enunciated.
In spite of UN resolutions to the effect that human rights should be fully respected in the fight against terrorism, and in contravention of the principle of proportionality between the immediate danger to be addressed and the seriousness and the damaging effects of any measures taken to that end, some countries had adopted legislation that abolished the fundamental rights of persons. They also had abolished the right to a fair trial and the prohibition of torture and cruel or degrading treatment or punishment.
VERENA GRAF, of International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples, said the Permanent Peoples Tribunal held in Rome in December 2002 had included a session entitled “international law and the new wars”. The outcome was a rigorous analysis of three recent wars (the first Gulf War, Kosovo and Afghanistan) and assessed their illegitimacy and their devastating effects on civilian populations in the countries involved, and more generally, on the culture of law.
The new notion of infinite war represented a real danger of the disintegration of law and would be equivalent to the regression of international relationships to the state of nature. The world could therefore end up with the terrible paradox that the dreadful terrorist massacre of September 11 would have changed the world through the victory of terrorism.
KYE JA LEE, of Association of World Citizens, said the Falun Gong practiced of a series of Qigong exercises which facilitated the circulation of energy throughout the body. Practitioners upheld a certain number of moral principles, as in Chinese thought; the body, mind, and spirit were seen as closely linked. Falun Gong practitioners came from all walks of life and most regions of China. Many persons had chosen to practice Falun Gong for reasons of good health and as a guide to a better life. There was no common political position among the practitioners.
However, the movement had been banned, with practitioners being arrested and sent to labour camps. Repression continued, and both Chinese and international human rights provisions were broken daily. The evidence of repression and torture had been brought to the Commission by Falun Gong human rights defenders. The Association paid homage to their courage and stressed that it was necessary to redouble support for human rights defenders.
BRUNA FAIDUTTI, of World Federation of United Nations Association, said that with financial assistance from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Federation had, in sub-regional seminars for teachers on teaching about the UN, paid considerable attention to human rights education and to the need for democratic institutions to secure, preserve and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. As the seminars were sub-regional, each seminar brought together teacher-leaders with similar ideological backgrounds who were accustomed to functioning within similar systems of education. The programmes of the seminars were therefore not identical.
In spite of the differences there was complete agreement on the following key recommendations: education on human rights should be an integral element in the curricula of primary and secondary schools; and, as the key to the effective teaching of any subject was the adequate preparation of the teachers, human rights education should figure equally with other subjects in the curricula of all teacher-training institutes, among other things.
ERNST LUEBER, of International Commission of Jurists, said national human rights institutions had an important role to play in protecting and promoting human rights. Their ability to fulfill their role depended on numerous factors, including their constitutional status, their degree of autonomy and independence vis-à-vis public authorities, and the scope of their functions and powers, especially in terms of investigation.
National human rights institutions could contribute to elucidating grave human rights violations such as forced disappearances. Thus, they could contribute to realizing the right of victims of grave violations to know the truth. The experience of the Office Public Prosecutor of Peru was an example of the important role that a national institution could play in the area of the right to truth in relation to forced disappearances. The work of the Office had also contributed to bringing to justice the perpetrators of forced disappearances.
LES MALEZER, of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, said that in 1998, the Australian Government had drafted legislation to change the Native Title Act of 1993. This draft legislation had been strongly opposed by the Aboriginal People because it discriminated against them in their rights to retain ownership of their traditional lands. At is 56th session, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination (CERD) had issued in its concluding observations on Australia a reaffirmation of its findings on the discriminatory aspects of the amending legislation to the Native Title Act.
The Australian Government was asked to account for its reasons for non-compliance with the findings of the national human rights institution, the CERD Committee and the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights. Members of the Commission were called upon to consider the response of the Australian Government and, if warranted, to take appropriate action to sanction the Australian Government.
RONALD BARNES, of Indigenous World Association, said that he was making a diplomatic protest against the illegal annexation of Alaska and Hawaii by the United States. Impunity and denial of the application of human rights law to human rights defenders in Alaska and Hawaii was the standard of the day. The United States was engaging the Internal Revenue Service, its taxing agency, to suppress indigenous groups' international claims of self-determination. That was social, political and economic blackmail; and the US was engaged in social, political and economic blackmail.
The Commission needed to review both situations. The US had not followed procedure when both territories were annexed by the "White Race". Alaska Natives were subjected to US$ 500 fines, six months jail or both if they attempted to vote and could not read, write or speak English.
SABRINA OBERSON, of Association for the Prevention of torture speaking on behalf of International Service for Human Rights, said there was a need to enhance and strengthen coordination and cooperation between the United Nations system of protection of human rights, regional organizations, national institutions, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and human rights defenders worldwide. Regional organizations, national institutions and local NGOs could effectively help to narrow the gap between international human rights theory and local practice.
The promotion and implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the recently adopted Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture were examples of opportunities for strengthening international, regional and national cooperation between a variety of actors.
KASHINATH PANDITA, of Comité international pour le respect et l'application de la charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, said there had been a sharp increase in internally displaced persons (IDPs) and the countries affected, and that was a matter of great concern for the international fraternity. It was very disappointing to note that in the African countries, there were the largest numbers of IDPs -- they amounted to 4 to 5 million people. This was despite the fact that some African countries, such as Angola, Burundi, Uganda and others, had enacted legislation expressly based on the Guiding Principles established for IDPs.
Aspects of return, resettlement and reintegration of IDPs pre-supposed the creation of an atmosphere of peaceful coexistence between the local majority and the displaced minority groups. Secondly, the requirement of concentrated rehabilitation of the displaced persons in their homelands must receive first priority. This was what States must ensure. Therefore it would be appropriate if the Special Representative on IDPs recommended an in-depth debate in the non-governmental organization community and also in the related bodies of the Commission on the subject of return, rehabilitation and reintegration of IDPs. This would allay the fears, right or wrong, that continued to haunt displaced populations.
LOUBNA FREIH, of Human Rights Watch, said the human rights situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating. The international community had allowed warlords and local military commanders to take control of much of the country. Instead of providing security in many parts of the country, they and their troops were terrorizing the local population. Kidnapping, arbitrary arrests, armed robbery, house invasions, extortion and beatings of local shopkeepers, taxi, truck and bus drivers had become common.
Soldiers and police regularly abducted and raped women, girls and boys. Local commanders often seized and occupied private land. Religious fundamentalism was on the rise, with new restrictions on freedom of expression and on the movement of women and girls. Gains in education were now at risk as many parents, afraid of attacks by troops and other gunmen, kept their daughters out of school.
ALI SALEEM, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that working groups and other UN mechanisms made recommendations to member States with the expressed purpose that they be adopted. What could be done if the recommendations of a working group were ignored? This was a question that the Commission had not examined in depth. Often the easy response was just to say that the goodwill of the State involved must be relied on. However, this did not contribute to the sense of obligation carried by UN treaties and covenants.
Finally, much more must be done than the making of recommendations. The High Commissioner should initiate discussions on how to expand and deepen the role of working groups and Special Rapporteurs. The Commission should include article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which dealt with the implementation of human rights by States parties, on its annual agenda. If made a regular feature, citizens of some States might expect to see justice within their lifetimes.
NATALIA LOPEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, drew the attention of the Commission to the many negative effects of certain anti-terrorism measures on the legitimate and fundamental human rights of defenders of human rights, including in places like Colombia. In Colombia, union leaders and defenders of human rights had been unjustly targeted and harassed by Government forces in the context of anti-terrorism activities.
The Colombian Commission of Jurists also stressed the need to focus on the plight of internally displaced persons in Colombia, many of who had been victims of enforced disappearances. The Commission on Human Rights had also stressed the need to earmark finances for aiding the human rights of internally displaced persons. In this context, the Colombian Commission of Jurists suggested that the relevant Special Representative be sent to Colombia to verify the serious situation of internally displaced persons and to propose potential solutions and recommendations.
ALEXANDRE OWANA, of International Young Catholic Students, said that the organization had no news of the prosecution of the assassins of Father Jean-Pierre Louis in Haiti. The assassins had not yet been discovered. Also, the cases of a number of other persons had not been elucidated, suggesting that the Government was not taking the matters seriously, even though they were flagrant violations of human rights. The relevant resolution of the Organization of the American States on the topic was not yet implemented. The electoral process was still in doubt. The country's future was uncertain.
The Government of Haiti had to make more efforts to redress this situation.
DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said that throughout the world there were those who had given up any hope that the UN could make a real difference to their lives and in safeguarding their rights. In practice, States were bound only by the limitations which they had set for themselves, based on mutual consent and enshrined in the UN covenants and treaties. These limitations must be clear and well understood by all parties and protected by human rights defenders.
This was why the Association often stressed the need for human rights education and always insisted that national legislation be brought into conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which should be accepted as the common standard for all work at and by the United Nations.
TEUKU SAMSUL BAHRI, of Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation, speaking on behalf of Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women and Society for Threatened Peoples, speaking on behalf of Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women and Society for Threatened Peoples, said the existence of human rights defenders in Indonesia’s transitional situation was an important factor in addressing potential violence and violations of human rights. But the safety and security of human rights defenders in Indonesia were not assured. They faced violence from State and non-state perpetrators, both in peace and in times of conflict.
The Commission was urged to urge the Government of Indonesia to respect the Declaration on and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms as an assurance for Indonesian human rights defenders to gain protection and respect in implementing their activities. The Commission was also asked to urge the Government of Indonesia to invite the Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders and Special Rapporteur on Torture to visit.
Right of Reply
A Representative of Colombia said Colombia categorically rejected the allegation of the Swiss delegation on the situation in Colombia, in which Switzerland stated that critics of the Colombian State were reduced to silence. The words used in the statement were incompatible with the norms used in the Commission.
A Representative of Turkey, speaking in right of reply, said the term enclave had been first used by the UN Secretary-General to describe the plight of the Turkish Cypriots between 1963 and 1974, who had been squeezed into small pockets scattered around the island. Since 1974, the Greek Cypriot side had attempted to hijack this term to misrepresent the living conditions of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites purely for propaganda purposes. Far from being enclaved, the Greek Cypriots and Maronites living in Northern Cyprus enjoyed the same, if a not better, standard of living than the Turkish Cypriots.
A Representative of Argentina said a non-governmental organization had referred to Argentina, saying the Government used force excessively. In fact, in the year 2000, out of actions of protest, including demonstrations involving public buildings and road blocks, a mere 0.5 per cent had led to the involvement of the police. This reflected the tolerance of the authorities in response to demonstrations.
A Representative of Haiti, referring to a statement made by International Young Catholic Students, said that the Haitian Government had made efforts to reform the administration of justice and the judiciary with the view to giving follow-up to the many cases of human rights violations. The Government was determined to improve the human rights situation and its spirit of cooperation had been manifested in many areas.
A representative of Senegal said the NGO that had criticized the transit agreement between Switzerland and Senegal was not familiar with contents of that agreement. The agreement did not jeopardize respect of the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees or any other conventions relating to human rights. Furthermore, the agreement had never entered into force.
A Representative of Cyprus said the country's previous statement had contained no allegations whatsoever, but remarks made by credible international human rights mechanism. No country questioned the validity of bodies such as the European Court of Justice, except Turkey. Cyprus therefore would elaborate on this issue no further.
A Representative of the United Kingdom, referring to a statement made by the Chief Commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, said the points raised by the speaker would be discussed in ongoing dialogue between the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission.
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* Joint statement on behalf of: Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education; Soka Gakkai International; International Federation of University Women; and International Federation of Social Workers.
** Joint statement on behalf of: International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education; International Association for Religious Freedom; Lutheran World Federation; World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women; and Soka Gakkai International.