UNITED NATIONS

Press Release



xxxxxxxxxx
COMMISSION ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON
COMBATING DEFAMATION OF RELIGIONS
AND ON RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT

xxxxxxxxxx
Commission on Human Rights
MIDDAY


12 April 2005

Hears Adress by Special Rapporteur on Human
Rights of Migrants, Special Rapporteur on
Disabilities, and Chairperson of Sub-Commission
on Protection of Human Rights


The Commission on Human Rights today adopted resolutions on combating the defamation of religions and on the right to development. It also heard addresses from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, the Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission on Social Development, and the Chairperson of the fifty-sixth session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

In the resolution on combating the defamation of religions, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour to 16 against, with five abstentions, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still in evidence in some regions of the world. It strongly deplored physical attacks and assaults on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship of all religions as well as targeting of religious symbols. The Commission called on the international community to initiate a global dialogue to promote a culture of tolerance and peace based on respect for human rights and religious diversity and urged States, non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and the print and electronic media to support and promote such a dialogue.

Speaking in explanations of the vote before the vote were Sri Lanka, Netherlands (on behalf the European Union), United States, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Canada, India, Costa Rica, Cuba, Guatemala and China.

In the resolution on the right to development, adopted by a roll-call vote of 48 in favour to two opposed, with two abstentions, the Commission requested the High Commissioner, in mainstreaming the right to development, to undertake effectively activities aimed at strengthening the global partnership for development between Member States, development agencies and the international development, financial and trade institutions. It also decided to renew the mandate of the Working Group on the right to development for one year.

Taking the floor to comment on the resolution were Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), United States and Canada.

The Commission also continued with its consideration of its agenda item on specific groups and individuals, hearing from the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants and the Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission for Social Development.

Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said her report noted the alarming situation of illegal migrants who suffered from administrative and other sanctions because of their illegal presence. Illegal migrants in many counties lived in extreme conditions and were vulnerable to persecution and ill treatment. Illegal migrants were most of the time exposed to various forms of exploitation. Within the context of the issue migrants, trafficking of migrants particularly alarmed the Special Rapporteur. The migrants, especially women and unaccompanied children, were vulnerable to crimes of trafficking in persons. The trafficked persons became victims of abuse and were subjected to slavery and forced labour, including sexual exploitation. She thanked the Governments of Iran, Italy, Peru and Burkina Faso for the cooperation they had accorded during her visits to their respective countries.

Speaking as a concerned country, Iran said the visit of the Special Rapporteur had been very fruitful. Iran had been the destination of many waves of refugees. These refugees had exhausted the resources of the country, which had received very little international aid. The return of these refugees was an ongoing process.

Italy, speaking as a concerned county, said the Special Rapporteur had taken into consideration the efforts made by the Government in regularizing the illegal situation of a great number of foreigners residing in the country. The Government was able to integrate the foreigners to facilitate their lives.

Peru, speaking as a concerned country, said the Government of Peru was aware of the valuable input migrant workers could have on the economy of the country in which they resided. Peru was pleased with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur.

Louise Arbour, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, paid tribute to the Special Rapporteur whose mandate was coming to an end. She noted that Ms. Rodriguez was appointed in 1999 and had played a pioneering role in furthering the important debate on the rights of migrants.
Participating in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur were Canada, Argentina, Costa Rica, Luxembourg (on behalf of the European Union), Burkina Faso, and Senegal.

Sheikha Hessa Khalifa Bin Ahmed al-Thani, Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission for Social Development, said that by the most conservative estimates, there were over 600 million people with disabilities – that was approximately 10 per cent of the world's population. More than 80 per cent of them lived in developing countries and had no access to education, social security, health services, rehabilitation, and employment opportunities. Despite the moral, philosophical and legislative reasons for adopting and implementing the principles of the equalization of opportunities, and despite the presence of the political will to do so on the part of Member States, there were still many barriers and obstacles facing such implementation.

The Commission also briefly opened its agenda item on the report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to hear an address by Soli Sorabjee, the Chairperson of the fifty-sixth session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, who said that the Sub-Commission had considered reports submitted on the issues of universal implementation of international human rights treaties; housing and property restitution for returnees and internally displaced persons; corruption and human rights; prevention of human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons; human rights and the human genome; and elimination of traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child. Overall, the Sub-Commission had adopted 30 resolution and 23 decisions.

Providing statements in the general debate on specific groups and individuals, including migrant workers, minorities, mass exoduses and displaced persons and other vulnerable groups and individuals were Egypt, Pakistan, Mexico (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries), Ecuador, Burkina Faso, Finland, Indonesia and India.

The Commission today is holding three-back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. When the Commission concluded its midday meeting at 3 p.m., it immediately started an afternoon meeting during which it will continue with the general debate on specific groups and individuals.

Action on Resolution on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and All Forms of Discrimination

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2005/L.12) on combating defamation of religions, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour to 16 against, with five abstentions, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still in evidence in some regions of the world; strongly deplored physical attacks and assaults on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship of all religions as well as targeting of religious symbols; noted with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions, and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities, in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism; and further expressed deep concern at programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at the defamation of religions, in particular when supported by Governments.

The Commission stressed the need to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers through political institutions and organizations, that constituted incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence; urged States to provide, within their respective legal and constitutional systems, adequate protection against acts of hatred, discrimination, intimidation and coercion resulting from defamation of religions; and urged States to ensure equal access to education for all without discrimination of any kind. The Commission also called on the international community to initiate a global dialogue to promote a culture of tolerance and peace based on respect for human rights and religious diversity and urged States, non-governmental organizations, religious bodies and the print and electronic media to support and promote such a dialogue. It also requested the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance to continue to present a report on the situation of Muslims and Arab peoples in various parts of the world and the discrimination faced by them.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo and Zimbabwe.

Against (16): Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Romania, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (5): Armenia, Honduras, India, Peru and Republic of Korea.

Absent (1): Gabon.


SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that Sri Lanka had spoken out on the need to avoid defamation of any religion and to afford respect for all, and support for this resolution was based on respect for pluralism and this respect.

IAN DE JONG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said in an explanation of vote before the vote that the European Union valued strengthened dialogue among civilizations for mutual understanding, and held that religious intolerance was a matter of grave concern. The Commission had been provided with ample, concrete evidence that discrimination based on religion or belief was not confined to one religion or belief, or to one part of world. The Member States of the European Union recognized fully the existence of intolerance on the European continent, and in their own countries, and had detailed some of the many activities taken at the European Union and regional levels to combat that scourge. In previous years, the European Union had expressed concern over the general approach, conceptual framework and language of this resolution. Now, some new elements had been added, including the criticism of statements at human rights fora and the cancellation of a meeting. The aim of the European Union would have been to achieve a broader, more balanced text, based on the right to freedom of religion or belief and of expression. The European Union would like to thank the main sponsors for their comprehensive exchange of views, and hoped that the negotiating process would be improved in the future. The ultimate objective in promoting exchanges on religions or beliefs was to be comprehensive. However, as the general tone remained unchanged, the European Union would call for a vote, and would vote against the draft.

LEONARD LEO (United States) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the United States was founded on the principle of freedom of religion and practice and recognized that each country must be acquainted with the right of each of its citizens to worship freely, which also meant that countries must not close their eyes to attacks against individuals who were persecuted for practicing their faith. The United States supported the concept of the resolution and agreed with its intent. The resolution was, however, incomplete in that it failed to address attacks against all religions and must also include language pertaining to education and the use of media in the defamation of religion.

RHADYS ABREN DE POLANCO (Dominican Republic) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the Dominican Republic condemned the defamation of all religions, and this was why its Constitution consecrated the freedom of belief. There were religions other than Islam that were subject to defamation, and it was a shame this was not mentioned in the text, as it would have produced a more balanced resolution. This was why the Dominican Republic would have to vote against the draft, and it was hoped that the resolution next year would be more balanced.
J. BENJAMIN ZAPATA (Honduras) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that although Honduras was in favour of combating defamation of religions, the resolution showed a lack of balance in many articles, with too much repetition about one single religion. Judaism and Christianity should be included. If one religion was mentioned, all religions should be mentioned. Honduras would abstain from the vote for this reason.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that religious intolerance was matter of great concern for all around the world. The promotion of the freedom of religion or belief and tolerance were critical elements in the country's work to protect human rights at home and abroad. With regard to this draft, Canada was troubled by the fact that protection of religion as such, rather than the rights of adherents, including those belonging to religious minorities, was the topic. The draft also stressed the protection of one religion above all others. Moreover, in the text, issues of religion and racism and tolerance were mixed, so that they did not promote greater understanding but only confused the issue. Canada would vote against the resolution, and invited other States to do likewise.

HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that India firmly opposed the defamation and negative stereotyping of any religion, including Islam. Terrorism should not be associated with a religious act. The subject should be addressed in agenda items on civil and political rights and not racism. The resolution should have addressed all other religions and not just Islam. India would abstain in the resolution.

LUIS VARELA QUIROS (Costa Rica) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that Costa Rica would vote in favour of the resolution on the defamation of religions. It was however regretted that it continued to be limited and restricted, even though some changes had been made in the text. It was hoped that next year the resolution would have a more universal language, where the threats that other religions suffered would be considered. However, Costa Rica would vote in favour to show that it promoted respect and constructive dialogue between religions.

RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that Cuba would vote in favour of the draft resolution, as it attached a lot of importance to the freedom of religion and therefore to combating any type of discrimination. Religions of African origin had been subject to defamation in Cuba by the dominant class, and this was used as an ideological and political factor to control power in many parts of the world. The international community could not turn its back on what had been happening in the world, with some sectors of power practicing defamation of some religions, running wars in order to impose their domination through culture. It was important to have balance in this resolution, and there was concern for the problem of Islam as it was the subject of deep campaigns of defamation as shown in Hollywood films over the last few years, as part of the plan by the transnational centres of power. This was why this was an important resolution. No religion should be defamed, but Islam required special treatment.

LARS PIRA (Guatemala) speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote said Guatemala did not accept the defamation of any religion whose practices and principles were consistent with respect for human rights. Guatemala defended the principles of tolerance and non-discrimination, and found the draft's lack of balance regrettable. It privileged one religion above others. That selectivity meant that defenders of faiths in other areas of the world were left out. Guatemala would vote against this, and any other resolution, which did not cover the issue comprehensively.

LA YIFAN (China) speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote said China supported the resolution and would vote in its favour. The Government of China was against the defamation of any religion, including Islam. China supported the draft resolution because it had observed the situation in various countries since 11 September and especially the treatment of people of Islamic faith.

Action on Resolution on the Right to Development

In a resolution (E/CN.4/2005/L.9) on the right to development, adopted by a roll-call vote of 48 in favour to two opposed, with two abstentions, the Commission endorsed the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Working Group on the right to development at its sixth session as reflected in its report and called for their immediate, full and effective implementation; requested the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide all necessary administrative support and financial and human resources to the high-level task force on the implementation of the right to development; and noted with concern that the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights has not submitted the concept document requested by the Commission establishing options and their feasibility for the implementation of the right to development.

The Commission requested the High Commissioner, in mainstreaming the right to development, to undertake effectively activities aimed at strengthening the global partnership for development between Member States, development agencies and the international development, financial and trade institutions, and to reflect these activities in detail in her report to the Commission at its sixty-second session; and decided to renew the mandate of the Working Group on the right to development for one year and to convene its seventh session before the sixty-second session of the Commission for a period of 10 working days, five of which shall be allocated to the second meeting of the high-level task force to be held well in advance of the session of the Working Group.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (48):Argentina, Armenia, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Germany, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia,
Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Ukraine,
United Kingdom and Zimbabwe.

Against (2): Australia and United States.

Abstentions (2): Canada and Japan.

Absent (1): Gabon.


IAN DE JONG (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said in a general comment that the European Union attached great importance to the issue of the right to development, as had been demonstrated through its support for resolutions and partnership agreements concluded with States around the world. The Union would like to return to the concept of a legally-binding instrument, because a non-binding instrument would not be sufficient to ensure the right to development. Implementing the right to development remained the primary responsibility of the State, although international cooperation remained important. The development partnerships must be based on mutual commitments, subscribed to by both parties fully. A non-binding instrument could only deal with the obligations of a State vis-à-vis its citizens, and not its obligations to other States. Action should be based upon existing knowledge and should foster projects for development and human rights. The European Union would be discussing different options in depth. The European Union expressed its appreciation for the spirit of openness and consensus that had followed the sixth session of the Working Group on the right to development. The deliberations of the Working Group and of the Commission on Human Rights over past two years had been constructive and cooperative, and had allowed the limits of acceptability for different parties to be identified. The European Union welcomed the Non-Aligned Group's focus on consensus, and said it looked forward to another constructive meeting of the Task Force. The European Union would vote in favour of the resolution.

JOEL DANIES (United States) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the United States opposed the resolution and therefore requested a vote. The United States understood the term "right to development" to mean that each individual should have the right to develop his or her intellectual and other capabilities to the exercise of the full range of civil and political rights. The resolution contained the same initiatives that the United States had found objectionable in years past, and therefore it had no option but to disassociate itself from it. The United States would keep as a major goal of its foreign policy to help other countries to achieve sustainable economic growth.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN (Canada), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Canada supported the right to development and viewed it as an important bridge to other rights, namely civil, political and economic, social and cultural rights. Canada was also a strong supporter of the Millennium Development Goals and believed developed countries should support developing countries to allow them to achieve their development goals. Canada was committed to achieving its goals in terms of development assistance by 2010. It was concerned with the resolution in that it did not reflect its concern with the development assistance about references to the Working Group and an international legal instrument.

Documents on Specific Groups and Individuals

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a number of documents.

There is the report of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, (E/CN.4/2005/85), which documents the Special Rapporteur's activities, reports on progress in the areas of investigations identified in her first report as priorities for the mandate, namely racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia directed against immigrants, and migrant women and unaccompanied minors, and summarizes the working methods settled on by the Special Rapporteur.

The first addendum to the report (Add.1) contains a list of communications sent to governments and replies received from 24 governments, as well as the United Nations Interim Mission in Kosovo.

The second addendum to the report (Add.2) of the Special Rapporteur concerns her visit to Iran in February 2004. The Special Rapporteur notes the efforts taken by the Iranian authorities to accommodate populations that have fled their country in search of peace and security, and the humanitarian assistance provided to Afghans and Iraqis fleeing their country. The Special Rapporteur says that there are a number of migrants in the country, namely Afghans, and the need to implement a national policy of assistance and protection for migrants. She recommends that the Iranian authorities initiate and encourage more domestic research on and evaluation of the presence and working conditions of foreign migrant workers and their impact on the Iranian economy and society.

The third addendum (Add.3) is on the visit of the Special Rapporteur to Italy in June 2004. This report analyses the main topics considered by the Special Rapporteur during her visit, such as the living and working conditions of immigrant workers, access to housing and education services and health assistance or the administrative detention of undocumented immigrants. In her report the Special Rapporteur pays particular attention to the action taken to combat trafficking in persons, and to the situation of asylum-seekers and unaccompanied foreign minors.

The fourth addendum to the report (Add.4) concerns the visit of the Special Rapporteur to Peru in September 2004. She concludes that broad sectors of the population, particularly young people, see emigration as the only solution to unemployment and poverty and notes that there continues to be large areas of the country where social neglect and political indifference force the population to seek work in neighbouring countries as a survival strategy. The Special Rapporteur encourages the Government to continue working on the reform of its policy for the protection, assistance and promotion of Peruvian communities abroad, to implement it through its diplomatic and consular offices and to reinforce the image of the consul as a public servant. The Special Rapporteur also wishes to express her profound concern at the grim prison conditions of foreigners in Peru, which in her opinion violate human rights principles and standards.

Presentation by Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, thanked the Governments of Iran, Italy, Peru and Burkina Faso for the cooperation they had accorded during her visit to their respective countries. She said had made investigative work in those countries with regard to irregular migrants. In her report, she had made reference to the alarming situation of illegal migrants who had been suffering from administrative and other sanctions because of their illegal presence. Illegal migrants in many counties lived in extreme conditions and were vulnerable to persecution and ill-treatment. They were also subjected to administrative detentions by the authorities and they were deported in unacceptable conditions in which their human rights were usually violated. Illegal migrants were most of the time exposed to various forms of exploitation. Within the context of the issue migrants, trafficking of migrants particularly alarmed the Special Rapporteur. The migrants, especially women and unaccompanied children, were vulnerable to crimes of trafficking in persons. The trafficked persons became victims of abuse and were subjected to slavery and forced labour, including sexual exploitation. She recommended that States should ratify all conventions related to migrants and to the protection of their rights.

During her visit to Iran in 2004, she had observed the situation of illegal migrants, the situation of Afghan refugees and Iraqis. She appreciated the positive aspect of the Government in treating those groups of people. The Government had been providing humanitarian assistance to Afghan and Iraqi refugees. In Italy, she was concerned by a law which might restrict the rights of immigrants. In Peru, she had observed that the youth were migrating as a means to escape poverty and to look for a better future. And in Burkina Faso, she noted the difficulties encountered by the migrants of Burkina Faso citizens in Côte d'Ivoire and those repatriated from that country.

Response by Concerned Countries

ABBAS GOLRIZ (Iran) speaking as a concerned country said the visit to Iran of the Special Rapporteur was very fruitful. The Special Rapporteur was among many Special Rapporteurs who had already visited Iran, and arrangements were being made for the others to come. Cooperation between the Government of Iran and the Special Rapporteur required necessary exchanges for the Government to make efforts on the local level, and for the Special Rapporteur to take note of the specific situation. Iran could not subscribe to all the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur.

Iran had been the destination of many waves of refugees, which had exhausted the resources of the country, which had received very little international aid. The return of these refugees was an ongoing process. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was scaling down aid to Iran, although many refugees did not wish to return. Many of them had never been designated as migrants. Iran made heartfelt thanks for the efforts made by the Special Rapporteur in her visit and in her report.

PAOLO BRUNI (Italy), speaking as a concerned county, said the report of the Special Rapporteur contained a positive judgement with regard to his country. She had also taken into consideration the efforts made by the Government in regularizing the illegal situation of a great number of foreigners residing in the country. The measures taken by the Government had eliminated the existence of clandestine groups. It was now fighting the creation of clandestine activities in a different form, such as trafficking in human beings. Italy used to be a country of emigration, and a few years ago had become a country of immigration. The Government understood the reality of emigration and the suffering related to the need to leave one's country for a better future. The Government was able to integrate the foreigners to facilitate their lives.

Since 1990, Italy had specific legislation with regard to immigration; it had been modified in 2002. Certain problems remarked by the Special Rapporteur should have been resolved by now with regard to the law. She had mentioned that the certain provisions might restrict the rights of migrants and might not be in conformity with the international standards in matters of the protection of human rights. The use of quotas for non-European Union citizens could be defined by a new mechanism in application of the policy on immigration and refugees.

ELIZABETH ASTETE RODRIGUEZ (Peru), speaking as a concerned country, said the Special Rapporteur had stressed in her report that the migratory flows must be tackled from the perspective of full protection and respect for human rights, a position to which Peru fully agreed. The protection of the human rights of migrants residing within Peru was a matter of great importance to the Government. The Government was also aware of the valuable input migrant workers could have on the economy of the country in which they resided. Peru was pleased with the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Peru had been doing everything in its power to improve its consular policies to support the rights of migrants. There had been improved channels of communications between its consulates in several countries in terms of migration.

Peru had set up a programme on family remittances which aimed to improve services to provide support for families in Peru which had family members living abroad. There was also a programme of solidarity aimed to receive donations from Peruvian associations outside of Peru. Human trafficking was a scourge which had also had an impact on Peru. For this reason, Peru reconfirmed its commitments to the fight against this scourge. In February 2002, a Working Group was set up by the Government to deal with this phenomenon; the goal of the Working Group was to reverse this negative trend. Foreigners in Peruvian jails were also a matter of concern to the Government which had taken considerable steps. Various programmes had been set up to ameliorate the situation of those serving in prisons in general, and for foreigners in Peruvian prisons, in particular. There were limitations in the health services of Peru, and in response the Government had also taken several measures to improve this situation. In closing, she thanked the Special Rapporteur for the work she was conducting and for the favourable report on her visit to Peru.

Statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights

LOUISE ARBOUR, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, paid tribute to the Special Rapporteur whose mandate was coming to an end. She noted that Ms. Rodriguez was appointed in 1999 when the mandate of the Special Rapporteur was established. The Special Rapporteur had played a pioneering role in furthering the important debate on the rights to migrants and had focused, in particular, on the special rights of migrant women. Moreover, her work in both countries of origin and destination was to be commended.

Interactive Dialogue

MEAGHAN SUNDERLAND (Canada) noted that the Special Rapporteur had conducted a number of country visits, and also noted that she had recommended that Iran adopt policies and programmes in keeping with international human rights standards on the treatment of migrants, including with regard to detention, deportation and family reunion. She had also made recommendations regarding the training of officials dealing with these issues. Had the Government of Iran demonstrated any concrete action on these recommendations?

SERGIO CERDA (Argentina) agreed that there were aspects of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action which had specific interest for national plans on migrants' rights, and also agreed that there should be increased international cooperation on migrant issues. Having taken note of the Special Rapporteur's recommendations on intergovernmental initiatives, he wished her to expand on the subject.

ALEJANDRO SOLANO (Costa Rica) raised the issue of mistreatment of migrants during detention, and noted that they were often detained due to their irregular status. Costa Rica had been active in working on the related Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, and held that preventive action, including visits and dialogues with those responsible for conditions of detention, would help the situation. One way to stimulate prevention of mistreatment of migrants would be to encourage the signing and ratification of that Optional Protocol. Also, the Special Rapporteur had mentioned the Vera Cruz conference, which formed part of the Puebla process. As a member of the process, Costa Rica would like to hear her views on the initiative. Were there any statistical models that had broken down appropriately concerning the rights of migrants in developing countries, and would statistics be of help in designing migrant policy? The Costa Rican authorities wished to convey their readiness to continue in the exchange of information.

ANDRE BIEVER (Luxembourg), speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked which countries the Special Rapporteur intended to visit in the coming year, and in the future, and asked on what criteria she based her decisions for country visits. Also, was it not essential to deal with migration issues from the perspective of creating decent standards of living in countries of origin, as well as decent democratic standards?

MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said he wished to join those who lamented that there had not been enough time for the Special Rapporteur to present a detailed report on her visit to his country, which had occurred in February. She had looked at the situation in the country, and it was hoped that the visit had allowed her to see the real situation. The Government awaited the report, to be submitted at the next session of the Commission, and hoped that the recommendations would meet the expectations of the population.

MOMAR GUEYE (Senegal) said Senegal was a country of origin, transit and destination for migrants, and importance had always been given to migrant issues, including to bear migrants' rights in mind while negotiating and adopting relevant international instruments. The commitment of the Special Rapporteur and the quality of her work were greatly appreciated, as was her role in raising awareness about and promoting migrants' rights. It was regretted that the Special Rapporteur had not been able to visit Senegal last February, following her visit to Burkina Faso, due to time constraints. It was hoped that the next Special Rapporteur would be able to visit his country.

GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said with regard to Iran, the topic of opening of areas for immigrants was a concern to her. The issue was a pending one because of the opening of centres only for illegal immigrants. In Italy, the geopolitical location of the country, which was near to the Continent of Africa, had exposed the country to clandestine immigration. The fact that the country overlooked the Mediterranean Sea had played an important role in the influx of immigrants. In Burkina Faso, the problem was also pending and not yet resolved. With regard to Peru, the authorities were responsive to the immigrant citizens living outside.

Presentation by Special Rapporteur on Disabilities of the Commission for Social Development

SHEIKHA HESSA KHALIFA BIN AHMED AL-THANI, Special Rapporteur on disabilities of the Commission for Social Development, said by the most conservative estimates, there were over 600 million people with disabilities – that was approximately 10 per cent of the world's population. More than 80 per cent of them lived in developing countries and had no access to education, social security, health services, rehabilitation, and employment opportunities. Only two per cent of disabled children in the developing world received any education or rehabilitation. In too many countries, women with disabilities suffered discrimination, neglect and social exclusion, as well. Studies and data available had established the strong link between poverty and disabilities where persons with disabilities suffered from exclusion and neglect.

Despite the moral, philosophical and legislative reasons for adopting and implementing the principles of the equalization of opportunities, and despite the presence of the political will to do so on the part of Member States, there were still many barriers and obstacles facing such implementation. The fact that the Special Rapporteur on disabilities was invited to address the Commission on Human Rights was a clear indication of the commitment demonstrated by the Commission on Human Rights to advance the rights of persons with disabilities. However, more still needs to be done. In that regard, the Special Rapporteur recommended, among other things, that the Commission further enhance and further develop the level of cooperation between the Human Rights Commission and the Commission for Social Development in monitoring government action on improving the situation of persons with disabilities and protecting their rights. The Special Rapporteur also stressed the importance of a continued dialogue on the rights of women with disabilities in the Commission on Human Rights, while urging the use of all instruments available through the United Nations system to protect, promote and safeguard those rights. There was also a great need to articulate and implement a human rights approach to development, and to advocate for the use of human rights instruments, norms and standards as the framework for achieving the equalization of opportunities for persons with disabilities.

In closing, the Special Rapporteur called on all national human rights committees to include the issues of persons with disabilities at the top of their priority agendas; and to urge development agencies to adopt such a human rights approach to influence development policies and programmes in favour of people with disabilities.

Presentation by Chairperson of Fifty-sixth Session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

SOLI SORABJEE, Chairperson of the fifty-sixth session of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, said the candid exchange of views had greatly contributed to mutual understanding between the Sub-Commission's experts and the members of the Commission. The Sub-Commission had considered reports submitted on the issues of universal implementation of international human rights treaties; housing and property restitution for returnees and internally displaced persons; corruption and human rights; prevention of human rights violations committed with small arms and light weapons; human rights and the human genome; and elimination of traditional practices affecting the health of women and the girl child. The Sub-Commission had also considered reports and working papers prepared by its members on a variety of issues, and had considered reports from its pre-sessional and sessional working groups on indigenous populations, minorities, contemporary forms of slavery, administration of justice, working methods and activities of transnational corporations, and the report of the second Social Forum. The presentation of each report had been followed by an interactive dialogue, which had been characterized as well by frank and constructive exchanges.

The Sub-Commission had initiated a process of review and reform of its agenda on the item related to violations of human rights in countries, he said. Many non-governmental organizations and participations felt that the Sub-Commission's prohibition to adopt country-specific resolutions hampered effective and meaningful discussion and debate about situations of grave and manifest violations of human rights in some parts of the world, and detracted from the effectiveness, utility and credibility of the Sub-Commission. Consideration of this issue would continue in the next session on the basis of a working paper to be prepared by one of the body's experts, which would contain proposals on the organization, content and outcome of the Sub-Commission's work under this agenda item.

The Sub-Commission had decided to establish a sessional Working Group to elaborate detailed principles and guidelines for the protection of human rights when combating terrorism, he noted, which would be based on the work of the Special Rapporteur on terrorism and human rights. The mandate of the sessional Working Group on working methods and activities of transnational corporations had also been extended for another three years. Preparation was continuing on working papers on issues related to the right to an effective remedy in criminal proceedings, relationship between human rights law and humanitarian law, the right to an effective remedy in civil matters against violations of human rights by State agents, discrimination against victims of leprosy, impact of intolerance on human rights, accountability for non-State actors under international human rights law, and evaluation of the content and delivery of technical cooperation. Experts had also been requested to continue work on a variety of other issues, and guidelines on the realization of the right to drinking water supply and sanitation would be undertaken.

A notable feature of the Sub-Commission had been the recommendation that the Commission appoint Special Rapporteurs on three new mandates: discrimination based on work and descent; non-discrimination as enshrined in article 2, paragraph 2 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; and the difficulty of establishing guilt and/or responsibility for crimes of sexual violence. The General Assembly had also been recommended to consider proposing that Human Rights Day be commemorated every year worldwide in all educational and training institutions as of 2005. Overall, the Sub-Commission had adopted 30 resolution and 23 decisions. He also expressed concern over the time constraints suffered by the Sub-Commission.

General Debate on Specific Groups and Individuals

TAMIM KHALLAF (Egypt) said Egypt attached a great deal of importance to the rights of migrants, especially in a globalized world. The Special Rapporteur on the rights of migrant workers was thanked for her reports. Practical experience had shown that every migrant contributed to his host society, and this was not just financial; the migrant also enriched the societies of the host countries, which should make every effort to integrate migrants and respect their rights. Ensuring their welfare would help consolidate social peace in the country. It was also important to include the rights of women workers. The rights of migrant workers had been codified by the ILO convention on the rights of migrant workers, and the relations with the host countries had been codified therein.

The efforts of the international community to protect these people was appreciated. The ILO convention was of particular importance as migrants were on the rise, as political and economic opportunities were a challenge regarding the integration of migrants. This was a threat to the security of migrants, including their physical dignity and integrity in a framework of justice and non-discrimination. In an atmosphere of rising xenophobia in many countries, there was a need for a global and integrated approach when dealing with the rights of migrants on the principle of non-discrimination on any basis. There was a need to build bridges to help with the interaction of all parties.

IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan) said ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities were the defining features of pluralism, multi-culturalism, and diversity. Their peaceful and secure coexistence, and the freedom to pursue their religions, cultures and businesses had been acknowledged as an important yardstick to determine the situation of human rights globally. Minorities constituted 3.72 per cent of the population of Pakistan, and the Constitution and laws provided equal status and rights to the followers of all religions. Discrimination on the basis of religion, race, caste, colour and creed was prohibited, and minorities had the right of full freedom of expression. Despite their small concentration in electoral districts, minorities were adequately represented in federal, provincial and local governments. A National Commission for Minorities had been established in 1993 with adequate minority representation, and had been mandated to review and improve existing laws and practices to ensure full and effective participation and association of minorities with their religious and cultural festivals and celebrations, to provide relief in cases of abuse, and to preserve places of worship.

The blasphemy laws in Pakistan had been a source of controversy, he said, yet they were commonplace in all countries. They had been inherited, and were not directed against minorities. Over 70 per cent of cases registered were lodged against Muslims, and although the law prescribed the death penalty, the sentence had never been executed. Most accused had been acquitted at some stage in the legal process. The laws had been abused for personal motives, and the Government was not oblivious to such abuse. It had passed a Criminal Laws Amendment Bill in 2004 to prescribe that no case under the blasphemy law should be registered without a thorough preliminary investigation carried out by a senior police officer. A high-level meeting of parliamentarians, minority non-governmental organizations and civil society actors and Government ministries had considered all aspects of the blasphemy provisions, and had recommended that an example be made of those levelling false accusations.

LUIS ALFONSO DE ALBA GONGORA (Mexico) speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), said the issue of the human rights of migrants was increasingly important due to increased migrant flows. Countries were now becoming both counties of origin and receiving countries. The topic of migration on the international agenda was nothing new but its focus was changing; the economic and social circumstances were taking new forms. While expressing support for the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, he said her findings addressed several matters of concern in this area. The focus of the work of the Special Rapporteur focused largely on migrant women and unaccompanied minors, which was noteworthy. The feminization of this issue was essential for international migration and Governments should take into account this issue. The Special Rapporteur highlighted her deep concern due to the constant deterioration of the rights of migrants, which should be attended to. GRULAC appealed to the international community to redouble its efforts to protect the rights of migrants as well as international laws and norms that protected this vulnerable group's rights. GRULAC considered that the work being conducted by the special mechanism of the Commission in this regard was of utmost importance.

The situation of persons with disabilities was also a matter of concern, he added. These people with disabilities had to face other obstacles in society. The topic of disability had evolved in a significant way in the past three years; however, much still needed to be done to address the needs of the 600 million individuals with disabilities. GRULAC affirmed its commitment to protecting the rights of these people and supported calls for a declaration to support this aim. GRULAC considered that it was particularly important for non-governmental organizations to play a part in supporting the protection and promotion of the rights for disabled persons and appealed to government and non-governmental representatives to become more involved in support for this international instrument. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should also be strengthened in this regard.

ARTURO CABRERA (Ecuador) said Ecuador was a country that was particularly sensitive to the protection of the rights of migrants and those of their families, as it was both a country of origin and of destination. This was a sector of the population that was losing protection at the moment, and many migrants were in the process of losing contacts and breaking up their families, which affected minors in particular. Ecuador had adopted a pragmatic position in this area in terms of fostering both bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and continued to strive towards the promotion and protection of the security of migrants in fostering attention and legal assistance to migrants, assuring their rights and providing social assistance to their families, as well as providing assistance to those sectors of society under most pressure.

There was concern for increasing trends working to mix up strands such as migration with trafficking and criminal issues. This had a very negative effect on the rights of millions. The protection of the rights of migrants should take place in the context of the globalized world. Disproportionate measures, such as those used to combat terrorism, were being used to control above and beyond the rights of persons the movement towards destination countries. Ecuador had promoted strategic alliances between specialised bodies and groups and other role-players involved in the phenomenon in order to maintain cooperation and the same language. Cooperation was both necessary and extremely valuable. All States should accede to the ILO convention on the rights of migrants, so that the regime would become universal in nature.

ASSETOU TOURE (Burkina Faso) said Burkina Faso was a country of migration, hosting and transit for migrant workers of the sub-Saharan region. The migrant workers who lived in the country enjoyed full freedom and social rights guaranteed by the Constitution. On the other hand, 7 million citizens of Burkina Faso today lived in outside the national territory. Regrettably, many of them were victims of discriminatory and even xenophobic acts in the hosting countries. The foreign policy of Burkina Faso was oriented towards regional integration and seeking peace. Burkina Faso had signed and ratified all regional treaties and had maintained a good collaboration with the International Labour Office (ILO), as well as with other organizations of civil society dealing with human rights of migrants living in the country.

Burkina Faso commemorated each year the International Day for Tolerance, which was created by the United Nations and celebrated in December, the Community Day, in which all foreigners living in the country met to express solidarity and friendship. Under the auspices of the African Union, Burkina Faso would host in 2006 a ministerial conference on the theme of migration and displacement in Africa.

VESA HIMANEN (Finland) said tolerance, equality and non-discrimination were cornerstones of the rule of law. The principle of non-discrimination lay at the heart of human rights and democratic governance. The promotion of the rights of minorities and protection against discrimination were in practice linked together. The equal implementation of all human rights without discrimination based on ethnic origin, religion, belief, sex, disability, among other things, was a principle on which the protection of human rights and Finland's human rights policy was based. The key aspect of minority rights was the principle of the participation of minorities in decision-making processes. For the enhancement of the rights of minorities, it was vital that the voices of minorities were not only heard but also listened to, both at national and international fora. Finland was convinced that the main challenge ahead was not so much about creating new instruments but in implementing existing ones. It was the belief of Finland that the United Nations should and could do more for the protection of minorities worldwide. Finland supported the creation of a new mechanism to monitor the protection of minority rights, and to promote the implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Persons belonging to National or Ethnic Religious or Linguistic Minorities.

SUMARWOTO (Indonesia) said it was unwaveringly committed to the promotion and protection of the rights and dignity of migrants both at home and abroad. Indonesia was much concerned by this important and complex issue, and stood ready to engage in any multilateral, regional and bilateral discussions within the framework of the effective realisation of the rights of migrants. Indonesia was also aware of the need to attend urgently to certain disturbing new trends such as the growing incidence of discriminatory or xenophobic practices to which migrants, especially undocumented migrants, were subjected to, either through various administrative measures or even outright violence. There was particular concern for the plight of women in migration, who were often doubly victimised.

It was a collective responsibility, as countries of origin, transit or destination, to ensure that the rights of migrants were protected throughout the entire process of migration. Indonesia believed that national efforts to better protect the rights of migrants would be strengthened through regional and international cooperation. The willingness of host countries to cooperate to improve the respect for the human rights of migrants was welcomed, but there was no doubt that further efforts needed to be made in host countries, notably for the Governments of those countries to pursue necessary and consistent legal, political and administrative measures to ensure full protection of human rights and the dignity of migrants and to educate their societies to treat foreign migrants humanely. The Commission should work more closely with all other international bodies and organizations dealing with the issue of migration and migrant protection to redouble their efforts to speed up the realisation of the protection of the rights of migrants.

PANKAJ SARAN (India) said given the immense diversity of India, with its many religions, languages and cultures, it was not surprising that there were as many minority groups in the country as there was possible classification based on identifying characters; India's heritage was one of inclusion. In keeping with that heritage, the founding fathers had enshrined in the Constitution ideals that ensured that all citizens of India have an equal opportunity to develop, by securing for themselves social, economic and political justice; liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; and equality of status and opportunity. The National Commission for Minorities was constituted in 1993. The Commission was vested with broad statuary powers for the effective implementation of safeguards provided under the Constitution for the protection of interests of minorities and for making recommendations in that regard to the central and state governments. The Commission looked into the welfare of minorities, and had the powers to examine specific complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards of minorities. It was both a monitoring and standard setting body with powers to receive complaints.

India was home to all major religions of the world, including the second largest Muslim population in the world. Secularism was a fundamental tenet of the Indian Constitution and political system. The values of tolerance and pluralism were universal in nature. The advancement by the United Nations system and the Commission would contribute significantly to the promotion and protection of human rights within and among societies. It was in keeping with that approach that India had tabled a biennial resolution on tolerance and pluralism as indivisible elements in the promotion and protection of human rights. Differences in society were only natural.

CORRIGENDA

In press release HR/CN/05/37/Rev.1 of 7 April 2005, the speaker for the International Alliance of Women was misidentified on page 8. The speaker's name is Jessika Kehl-Lauff.

In press release HR/CN/05/43 of 12 April, the statement of Mauritania on page 10 should read as follows:

MOHAMED SALECK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said the Commission had made contributions to the codification and development of human rights law. It had developed diverse mechanisms to ensure respect for human rights standards, and human rights were today more respected than at any other time in world history. Moreover, the participation of non-governmental organizations had become stronger, to the extent that their role was almost on an equal footing with that of non-members working with the Security Council. However, progress had yet to be made. No country could claim that human rights were being fully respected. The Commission and its mechanisms could contribute to the protection of human rights throughout the world, but the Commission must improve its working methods, streamline its agenda, establish the possibility of convening special sessions, and pay greater attention to economic, social and cultural rights.

A simple change of name and status would not by themselves lead to improvement, he cautioned, and the proposal for a smaller membership on an Human Rights Council contradicted the desire for representativeness advocated by the Secretary-General. The membership of the Commission had been expanded to 53 a number of years ago, and the United Nations' membership had expanded by about 30 since then. There was a trend towards enlargement. Issues such as official development assistance should not be tied conditionally. As the discussion surrounding the expansion of the Security Council showed, reform required time. The criticisms of the Commission were unfair, because the bodies responsible for international peace and security and for economic and social development had done no better.

* *** *


For use of information only; not an official record