09/11/2001
Press Release
GA/SHC/3659



Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

35th Meeting (AM)


IN THIRD COMMITTEE SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR EXPRESSES ‘GRAVE CONCERN’


ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN IRAQ


Other Experts Address Human Rights Situation

in Myanmar, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Yugoslavia


Responding to questions on the veracity of his reporting tactics and procedures, an expert from the Commission on Human Rights this morning stressed that the only way for international observers to get a true sense of humanitarian situations on the ground was for the Governments concerned to cooperate with requests for first-hand visits, and to allow opportunities for open and transparent dialogue.


Presenting his interim report during the second day of the Third Committee’s (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) debate of human rights questions, Mr. Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, expressed grave concern about the human rights and humanitarian situations in that country.  He had been particularly concerned by almost daily communications he had received referring to serious allegations of torture, extra-judicial killings, discrimination against women, religious and political persecution, and forced population transfers.  Replies from the Iraqi Government to those allegations had been incomplete.  It was therefore essential that he be given the opportunity to collect information on those allegations from within the country.  He hoped that the Government would respond favourably to his future requests to visit the country.


Mr. Mavrommatis stressed that his role was not that of a “finger-pointing” accuser.  His role was to report on the humanitarian situation in Iraq in an open and transparent manner.  But as his requests to visit the country had been repeatedly denied, he would have no choice but to base his conclusions on information provided by other sources.


Along with Mr. Mavrommatis, two other experts addressed the panel this morning, Mr. Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Mynamar, and Mr. Jose Cutileiro, Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal republic of Yugoslavia. 


In contrast to the situation Mr. Mavrommatis faced, Mr. Pinheiro had been able to report to the Committee on the outcome of his first visit to Myanmar, from 9 to 17 October 2001.  He was pleased to highlight several positive initiatives put in place over the past year.  Those included disseminating human rights standards for the police and public officials through training workshops, establishing the governmental Committee on Human Rights and releasing political detainees.  While some concerns remained, he noted that it was precisely because of positive developments that bolder moves in the near future could lead to building a path toward a truly democratic power structure.


Introducing his report, Mr. Cutileiro said that his work dealt separately with Serbia, -- excluding Kosovo -- South Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro.  In Serbia proper, he had been impressed overall by the determination of all the relevant officials to put things right.  On major questions, such as detainees, missing and displaced persons, advances had been made recently.  Much remained to be done, but generally, the situation seemed to be headed in the rights direction.


He went on to say that after two and a half years of United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) administration, human rights questions still persisted in Kosovo.  The security of minorities -- Serbs, Roma, Turks and Bosniaks, among others -- was still far from assured.  That situation was particularly unsatisfactory.  He reminded delegations that the international community had responsibilities in Kosovo as well.  He said that general elections would be held in Kosovo on 17 November.  Serbs should participate fully in those elections.  If such participation occurred, it would represent a critical step on the road to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.


Participating in the dialogue with the human rights experts this morning were the representatives from Iraq, United States, Kuwait, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Libya, Cuba, Russian Federation, Myanmar, Australia (on behalf of the CANZ Group), Boznia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.


The Committee will meet again this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue its dialogue with special rapporteurs.  It is also expected to hear the introduction of a draft resolution on the right of peoples to self-determination.  


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of human rights matters, including implementation of human rights instruments and alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of those rights and fundamental freedoms.


The meeting is expected to be devoted to a dialogue with four Special Rapporteurs and Representatives of the Commission on Human Rights, including

Mr. Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq; Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Mr. Jose Cutileiro, Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and Mrs. Marie-Therese Keita-Bocoum, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi


To guide the Committee’s discussions with the human rights experts, members had before them a host of relevant documents and reports, including several notes from the Secretary-General transmitting detailed summaries of the rapporteurs’ work over the past year.


The Committee had before it a note of the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Iraq (document A/56/340), which contains the interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in that country.  It says that Mr. Mavrommatis continued to receive information from various sources regarding alleged violations of human rights in Iraq.  He also actively sought to collect as much reliable information as possible so as to be fully apprised of the situation of human rights in Iraq.


He received communications, the report says, alleging specific human rights violations regarding the human rights of women, persecution on account of religious affiliation, torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary executions, imposition of death sentences for crimes not serious enough to justify it, persecution on account of political opinion and ethnicity, forced population transfers, and arbitrary arrest and detention, as well as a lack of a system ensuring fair trials and due process of law.  In particular, he received information regarding alleged harassment of women and allegations concerning the recent death of Ayatollah Hussein Bahr Al-Aloom.


The Committee would also consider a note by the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar (document A/56/312), which describes the work of Paulo Sergio Pinheiro.


The comprehensive report examines myriad issues, including details of the Special Rapporteur's exploratory mission to the country, and his proposed fact-finding mission here.  It also discusses the present dynamics of political transition, and touches upon the respect of civil and political rights in Myanmar.  Among the topics are political prisoners, political freedoms and forced labour.  A further section explains the situation of vulnerable groups like ethnic minorities and children.


The report also offers several conclusions and recommendations.  He writes that the main challenge for all sides in Myanmar is to find ways to contribute to the restoration of optimum human conditions for all people, which lies through the path of respect for human rights, human security and humanitarian principles.  It is now a good moment, he says, to initiate a thorough assessment of the complex and urgent humanitarian situation in Myanmar.  The diverse proposals made by academics and observers need to be taken into account, he concludes.


The Committee had before it a Note by the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (document A/56/460), which details the visit of the Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights to the territory in July 2001.  During the mission, the Special Representative met with members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the President of Yugoslavia, and senior members of the governments of both countries, as well as with leaders of international organizations and representatives of civil society.


The report states that within Bosnia and Herzegovina, two questions remain prominent -- the return of refugees and displaced persons, and that of the return of property.  The implementation of property laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina is moving far too slowly.  The protection of human rights is essential in order to create sustainable development in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a post-conflict society, as a mechanism to correct the biased practices of the war.


In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Special Representative recognized that any assessment of the current human rights situation must take into account the degraded economic and social situation that was inherited by the democratically elected administration in October 2000.  Progress has been made in redressing a number of human rights violations committed by the former Government, including the release of many Albanian political prisoners, and in investigating the fate of persons missing during the Kosovo conflict in 1999.


Also before the Committee was a Note by the Secretary-General on the Situation of Human Rights in Burundi (document A/56/479), which provides an overview of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Burundi.  It covers activities between 1 February and 31 August 2001, which included the Rapporteur's meetings with representatives of the diplomatic corps, the heads of the United Nations agencies in Burundi and representatives of civil society.


The report states that the political situation continues to be influenced by the climate of widespread insecurity, which affects all the provinces to a greater or lesser degree.  Armed violence has increased since the Special Rapporteur's previous visit, although a relative calm prevailed since June, particularly around the capital.  Regarding human rights, the main violations concern the right to life, to physical integrity and to personal freedom and security.  In addition, there are continued violations of the right to freedom of movement and to freedom to choose one's residence.


Recommendations included in the document, among other things, urge all the parties to the conflict to overcome their antagonism, and to do all they can to achieve peace through negotiated solutions, thereby placing the interests of the Burundian people above all others.  The Special Rapporteur also recommended a ban on the recruitment into the army of young people under the age of 18 be implemented, and extended to the police force.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq


ANDREAS MAVROMMATIS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, expressed grave concern about the human rights and humanitarian situations in that country.  Almost daily he received reports from a broad range of sources claiming serious violations of human rights by the Government.  Those allegations referred to, among other things, discrimination against women, religious and political persecution, torture, extra-judicial killings and forced population transfers.  In several letters, he had requested the Government to respond to those allegations, but to many of them replies remained outstanding.  The replies he did receive had been, for the most part, incomplete or merely flat out denials.


He stressed that he did not see his mandate as that of an accuser.  His role was to find and report on information regarding the human rights situation in Iraq.  The information he reported should have a positive effect, namely to improve the country’s humanitarian situation.  He had sought to establish a dialogue with the Government and saw it as part of his mandate to proactively and positively engage in a transparent dialogue.  On several occasions he had indicated that he was willing to constructively discuss humanitarian issues with the Government in order to contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights.  On many occasions he had requested visits to the country.  To overcome those difficulties he had suggested alternatives, such as meeting with Government officials in Geneva.  He was pleased that Iraq had responded positively, though unofficially, to that suggestion.


Mr. Mavrommatis said, however, he deeply regretted that he must report that despite all his efforts, he had received no official commitment from the Iraqi Government.  In its reply to his report, Iraq had indicated that his sources were unreliable.  It was now up to the Government to allow him to visit the country and provide him the opportunity to collect first hand information on the humanitarian situation there.  Rather than flat denials, complete replies to his communications were necessary.  Also, the cooperation of neighbouring States was critical to his carrying out of his mandate.  While many had not been open to that suggestion, he was pleased to announce that the Government of Iran had expressed its intention to allow him to visit that country for a second time to interview Iraqi refugees that had recently arrived there.


He went on to say that evidence pointed to violations of human rights in Iraq on a daily basis.  The Government, despite apparent positive overtures to assist his work, had been unwilling to allow the Special Rapporteur to carry out an in-depth investigation of the country’s human rights situation.  The Government of Iraq was aware that he was guided by principles of fairness and he had always expressed his willingness to make constructive suggestions.  Regretfully, no signs of real cooperation appeared to be forthcoming.  If that continued to be the case, Mr. Mavrommatis would have no choice but to draw conclusions on the basis of information provided by other sources.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Iraq


The representative of Iraq from the United Nations Office in Geneva said his delegation had listened to the report of the Special Rapporteur and would present a report of its comments to be prepared as an official document.  He said that for 11 years the people of Iraq had suffered the effects of a global blockade that had affected their ability to enjoy basic fundamental freedoms.  The blockade had affected the country’s social fabric.  Military aggression, on practically a daily basis over the past 11 years, had also affected Iraq’s infrastructure.


He was surprised that the Special Rapporteur thought that the negative humanitarian effects of the blockade had been unintentional.  While that view might have been acceptable during the expert’s first year on the job, there was now incontrovertible proof that the people of the country were suffering from the blockade.  The women and children of the country were suffering gravely.  The expert’s report did not mention the suffering of women or the consequences of the use of depleted uranium.  It was clear that a large number of allegations in the report had been based on interviews with dissident Iraqi's who had carried out terrorist acts within the country.


He called on the Special Rapporteur to consider the fact that Iraq’s people had been deprived of the right to food, life and health care.  The so-called human rights violations, as they had been presented in the report, were outright slanderous.  Those allegations came from a hostile view of the country itself and were at variance with reality.  Most of the allegations on summary executions and religious intolerance were incomplete and fallacious.  On the issue of missing persons, the United States and the United Kingdom hampered Iraq’s participation in the Tri-partite Committee.  The participation of those countries was simply an attempt to politicize humanitarian efforts to solve the problem.  Iraq had initiated efforts to tackle the issue within the framework of the Arab League.  In all this, the issue of missing Iraqis seemed to be ignored.  While Iraq appreciated the work of the Special Rapporteur to address the humanitarian situation in the country, it would have appreciated a call for the lifting of the sanctions, as had other humanitarian actors.


Mr. MAVROMMATIS said that any replies that were forthcoming from the Iraqi Government would be examined in his next report.  The issue of “unintended consequences” had been discussed in previous reports.  All should recognize however that his mandate was to investigate the violations of human rights in Iraq.  On the issue of the veracity of his sources, he said he was doing the best job he could with the information available to him.  If violations were allegedly taking place in the country, there was no better place to find out information than within the country itself.  He was not finger-pointing, he was doing his level best to objectively consider the information that he had.  He hoped that detailed replies would be forthcoming.  He reiterated his plea that it was in the best interests of the country to cooperate with him so that all parties concerned could come up with a solution.


The representative of the United States said it was clear that if Iraq had problems with the report, the way to solve them was simple: the Iraqi Government should allow the Special Rapportuer to visit the country.  It was incumbent on all to read the report carefully and reflect on what it contained, particularly allegations of torture, mass relocations and abuse of women.  He called on all persons and States with information on such violations of international humanitarian law to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur.


The representative of Kuwait expressed concern that Iraq did not wish to confront the issue of missing Kuwaitis and Kuwaiti prisoners of war. As far as missing Iraqis were concerned, he wondered why, if it was such an important issue, the Iraqi Government had waited nearly six years to raise the question.  He called for the implementation of all relevant Security Council resolutions on the issue of missing persons and prisoners of war.


In response to the second round of questions, Mr. MAVROMMATIS said he hoped that information was forthcoming on the issue of forced relocations or “arabization”.  What he needed was specific details of citizens being asked or forced to move form their homes.  There was little that could be achieved without the cooperation of the Government concerned.  He sincerely hoped that more cooperation was forthcoming.  He had raised the issue of missing Iraqis and had been told by neighbouring Governments that he could visit them and investigate that matter whenever he wished to do so.


The representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said his delegation was very concerned about the human rights situation of women in Iraq.  He asked if humanitarian aid was being distributed properly.  Since the Special Rapporteur could not visit the country to collect first-hand evidence, were there any ways to improve his sources of information?


The Russian Federation asked to what extent the right to food was being exercised and promoted within Iraq.


The representative of Libya thanked the Special Rapporteur for proposing that an Iraqi delegation be deployed to Geneva to open a dialogue on humanitarian issues.  She called on the Iraqi Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur so that he could examine the humanitarian situation on the ground.  She wondered if the Special Rapporteur could perhaps study the history of Iraq more closely.  If he did, he would discover that the country had always been tolerant of religious freedoms.  She was astonished that the expert had not referred to the almost daily attacks on Iraq.  Weren’t those attacks violations of human rights and the right to life, she asked?


In response to that round of questions, Mr. MAVROMMATIS said that the report contained a summary of the allegations of an official decree that called for the arrest of women belonging to a family in which another member was living abroad.  While providing no information on the issue, the Iraqi Government had issued a flat denial.  He had also received flat denials to allegations of harassment of families living abroad.  He had received flat denials to allegations that prostitutes were indiscriminately sentenced to death and subsequently beheaded.  What he was told was that he would receive a full reply later on.  He had yet to receive such a reply.  While he had concerns about the veracity of some of the allegations, he stressed that his fears could be allayed by a simple reply from the Government.  He hoped to be able to present more on the “oil for food” programme in subsequent reports.


He said he had never said that there had been absolutely no dialogue with the Government of Iraq.  He had spoken with some officials, but the discussions never went very far.  Failing broad discussions on the country’s humanitarian situation, he was left only with the information he received from other sources.


The representative of Cuba disagreed that the summary of the report was unbalanced.  He was surprised that the embargo against Iraq had not been taken into account.  He called on the Special Rapportuer to consider that certain aspects of his mandate reflected geo-political and hegemonistic concerns.


The representative of Iraq said it was not surprising the representative of the United States had taken the opportunity to present his Government’s very selective view of the human rights situation in Iraq.  He reiterated his notion that the blockade had been an outright attempt to strangle Iraq.  The hostile agenda of the United States was well known.  The fact that his Government refused to submit to the will of the United States was at the heart of that country’s hypocritical stance on Iraq’s humanitarian situation.  He added that Iraq was prepared to sit and discuss the issue of missing Kuwaitis with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).


On the issue of women, he said that there was no aspect of Iraqi law that made prostitution punishable by death.  He had a deep trust in the work Mr. Mavrommatis had undertaken and was certain that he would exclusively consider the humanitarian situation in Iraq.


Whether or not there was a political ploy at the heart of his mandate, all should rest assured that he was not a part of it, Mr. MAVROMMATIS said.  The focus of his work at any given time was entirely up to him.  He understood the sensitivities of the Iraqi people about prostitutes and he would close the issue when he received complete information.  Today’s dialogue had been interesting, he added and he hoped it would lead to further discussions on these important issues.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar


PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that during the confidence-building contacts between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader over the past 12 months, the Government of Myanmar had been addressing some of the human rights concerns of the Commission on Human Rights and supporting several positive initiatives.  Those included disseminating human rights standards for the police and public officials through training workshops; establishing the governmental Committee on Human Rights; releasing political detainees; ending criticism of the NLD in official media; initiating political consultation with the NLD; and giving legal parties permission to open or reopen offices.


He was concerned, however, that unnecessary and discriminatory restrictions had continued to hamper political parties in exercising the rights to assembly, association, expression, information and movement.  He had heard of official pressures against party members and organizers to resign from membership, and against landlords to refuse office premises to political parties.  NLD officials were subject to systematic surveillance by police and military intelligence, with their movements, contacts and communications closely monitored.  It was essential, he said, that all political parties and ethnic minority groups enjoyed basic political freedoms.


With respect to other human rights, freedom of expression was tightly controlled by several laws, he said, and violating those could mean three to 20 years in prison.  He had visited prisons and detention facilities and had noted slight improvements in sanitation, food quality, access to basic medicine and medical treatment and family visits in recent years.  Since the beginning of 2001, 198 political detainees had been released, although those releases were a small percentage of the estimated total.


In the area of ethnic rights, he was concerned about reported violence against Muslim communities, individuals, houses, shops and mosques, which had resulted in an unknown number of deaths and injuries and widespread looting and destruction of property and religious buildings.  He was also worried, he said, at the speed that HIV/AIDs had spread in the country.   The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) had estimated that up to 500,000 people may already have been infected.  Unless the epidemic was addressed now, it would become a major problem.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar


The representative of Myanmar said that, for the first time in several years, his country was encouraged by the human rights report on Myanmar and had no need to make a rebuttal.  Since the end of 2000 and through 2001, the risks of destabilization had been reduced to such an extent that Myanmar had been able to invite and receive several visits of the Secretary-General's Special Envoy. Domestically, the Government had been able to allow political activities to resume to a certain degree, although bringing all the warring factions into the legal fold to establish a democratic State would be a complex and arduous process.  After a decade of painstaking negotiations and discussion with the armed insurgents, it was almost a miracle that 17 of 18 armed groups had returned and were peacefully resettled in their former homelands, he said.


Regarding the human rights reports by the Secretary-General's Special Envoy and the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, he noted that they reflected positive aspects as well as areas which needed further improvement, and there were still elements which were neither necessary nor in keeping with reality.  But he would allow time and space to rectify the imperfections in the report, brought about in his view by years of unfair and unjustified interference in his country's internal affairs.  But there should be no doubt, that it had been engagement, cooperation and encouragement that had brought about the current improved political climate.


The representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what the overall assessment of human rights in Myanmar would be, and whether any trends had emerged.  Were there any concrete measures the Government of Myanmar should take to protect human rights in the country?


Responding, Mr. PINHEIRO said he was just beginning his fact-finding mandate and had offered several observations about human rights in Myanmar in his report. He had decided to particularly highlight the basic freedoms of organization and of political meetings.  He noted that the confidence-building phase was well-consolidated.  In the near future, it would be necessary for real dialogue to begin between the Government and the opposition.  But it was essential that several aspects of liberalization proceed in stages, such as the question of censorship, access to information, publication of materials and the holding of meetings.  That was a basic requirement of any political transition.


He was just beginning to analyse a second area of human rights in the prisons and judiciary, he said.  He had received several reliable reports about human rights violations against the civilian population, by the armed forces, but the overall situation of the human rights of civilian population still had to be addressed


It would be of great help, he said, if the Government decided on the goals and timetable for political transition.  The international community could not provide this plan -- the Government must state the targets and objectives.  The Special Rapporteur could collaborate in the realization of those objectives.  The representative's questions would receive better answers in his forthcoming report on 15 December and in an addendum in March 2002, he concluded.


The representative from Australia asked for his view on an initiative to disseminate human rights information through dialogue.  What steps did the Government of Myanmar need to take for this to go forward?


The representative from the United States asked for estimates on the numbers of child soldiers in Myanmar and a description of recruitment.  He also asked for estimates on the number of internally displaced villagers in ethnic minority areas.  Could humanitarian assistance reach them if a decision was made to send it?


Mr. PINHEIRO replied that he was sceptical about initiatives to disseminate human rights information.  It was a positive thing if the Government decided to do this.  But there were several things that the Government had to do, such as ratifying international human rights instruments, which would show that it was serious about human rights.  Also, civil society must have access to human rights information, but that was not yet the case.  In the near future, citizens should be associated with that effort.


Responding to the question about child soldiers, Mr. PINHEIRO said he had not been able to make progress in that area, but he was receiving reports and had mentioned the matter to the Government.  As for internally displaced persons, it was very important that monetary assistance to that population be assured.  It was not fair, that victims should have to wait for political transitions to take place, he said.  Humanitarian aid was essential and the NLD would be a partner in that kind of initiative.


The representative from Myanmar said that the main problem was that the Second World War had been followed by insurgency and much of the countryside could not modernize or evolve towards a proper political system.  Now that peace had been achieved, bringing all these people back into the labour force and living within the bounds of a constitution was difficult to achieve.


Concluding, Mr. PINHEIRO said the international community lived in a system of States and he would like to thank all regional groups, especially the Asians, who had helped with perspectives from that region.  He was also pleased with the dialogue with the Western Group.  That support was essential for any success with the protection of the victims of human rights violations.


Statement by Special Representative on Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia


Mr. JOSE CUTILEIRO, Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, said his report dealt separately with Serbia, -- excluding Kosovo -- South Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro.  In Serbia proper, he had been impressed overall by the determination of all the relevant officials to put things right.  On major questions, such as detainees, missing and displaced persons, advances had been made recently.  Much remained to be done, but generally, the situation seemed to be headed in the right direction.  The lack of clarity in future constitutional arrangements, as well as relations between countries in the region continued to detract from efforts to carry out key institutional reforms. Judicial reform would require that outside financing and technical support be provided.


To really start with a clean slate, Belgrade, he continued, must be more diligent in dealing with its past misdeeds and in addressing the question of impunity, including investigations into mass graves recently found around Belgrade and other places in Serbia.  The pace of overall implementation of agreed changes remained slow.  A particular problem had been the lack of progress in the area of electoral reform that would allow full participation of all ethnic groups in local public life.  If the pace of reform did not quicken, discontent would increase; agreements might become unstuck; and violence might rise again.  The feeling locally had been that the international community had rushed away too soon after peace had been achieved.


He went on to say that after two and a half years of United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) administration, human rights questions still persisted in Kosovo.  The security of minorities -- Serbs, Roma, Turks and Bosniaks, among others -- was still far from assured.  That situation was particularly unsatisfactory.  He reminded delegations that the international community had responsibilities in Kosovo as well.  He said that general elections would be held in Kosovo on 17 November.  Serbs should participate fully in those elections.  If such participation occurred, it would represent a critical step on the road to a multi-ethnic Kosovo.  In Montenegro, the lack of clarity about the future of relations with Serbia and a dysfunctional relationship with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia had stalled progress in carrying out much needed institutional reforms.


While in Yugoslavia the notion of the State was clear, and the chain of command was identifiable; that was hardly the case in Bosnia and Herzegovina, he said.  The Dayton Accords had created a highly complex and compartmentalized system with layers of authority that often overlapped.  The wounds of war had not been healed, and the international community had stepped in by default, playing an unusually large role in the governance of the country.  That had been particularly bad for human rights.  The compartmental nature of the administration rendered accountability difficult to establish and enforce.  The proliferation of contradictory advice often confused local officials and allowed them to pit international actors against one another.  He added that war crimes remained an issue in Bosnia and Herzegovina since people charged with committing such crimes remained in positions of power throughout the country.


Despite laudable efforts by the current Government, he said, the country still was not capable of satisfactorily upholding and protecting human rights. That was a structural problem that human rights advocates could not solve with preaching and arm-twisting.  No real progress could be achieved as long as the country could be held together with foreign military actors and legislators.  Only an inter-ethnic reconciliation led from within would bring about real and sustainable improvements in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Bosnia

and Herzegovina and Federal Republic of Yugoslavia


The representative from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia said that work on legislative and judicial reform had intensified recently.  After the report had been published, a new federal law on criminal procedures had been adopted as well as a set of laws on the judiciary in Serbia.  A procedure for adopting a new law on local self-government in Serbia was in the final stage.  Other laws relating to human rights had been adopted, such as the Amnesty Law and the Citizenship Law.


With respect to ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Metohija in detention in Serbia, he noted that 1,684 prisoners had been released and other cases were being reviewed.  At the same time, however, the attempt to establish the rule of law in Kosovo and Metohija had failed, not least because of the undisguised negative bias of ethnic Albanian judges and prosecutors in trials involving ethnic Serbs and other minorities.  It was therefore necessary to establish the rule of law in Kosovo and Metohija, not least because of that undisguised negative bias of ethnic Albanian judges and prosecutors.


Security was the main issue in Kosovo and Metohija, he continued.  Most of the 100,000 Serbs lived in enclaves heavily protected by the armed multinational force in Kosovo (KFOR) with no freedom of movement, which is one of the most basic human rights.  That led to the question of returns.  Out of almost 250,000 people forced to leave Kosovo and Metohija in recent years, only 126 Serbs had been able to return.


The representative from Bosnia and Herzegovina said that the number of minority returnees had been larger in 2000 and 2001 than in previous years.  The number of minority police officers as well as attendees of the police academies from minority ethnic groups was slowly, but steadily increasing.  However, economic assistance was needed now more than ever.  The more people returned to their pre-war homes, the more help was needed for those people to start a normal life and make enough money for their families.  While the hatred and animosity between different ethnic or religious groups was decreasing as an obstacle for the return of refugees and internally displaced persons, high unemployment and the still weak economy was jeopardizing the whole process.


The help of international experts and financial aid to speed up economic reforms was crucial, he said.  The country desperately needed to complete privatization; create a new tax and banking system; and undergo other essential reforms to create a modern economy ready to cooperate and merge with other regional economies.  Progress towards that goal would bring the largest contribution to reconciliation and human rights for all.  That in turn would positively influence the political system and stability in the country, he concluded.


The representative of the Russian Federation asked for clarifications on the human rights situation in Kosovo, particularly reports on the constant threat to the lives of Serbs.


The representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union, wondered about Albanian prisoners in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.  He also asked for the Special Rapporteur’s views on the situation of refugees in the

region and wondered about cooperative efforts of inter-governmental organizations and relevant United Nations agencies.


Mr. Cutileiro said the situation in Kosovo had improved somewhat but was still very serious.  He felt that political progress and the improved relationship between the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) and the authorities in Belgrade had been positive.  He also believed that active participation by Serbs in the upcoming elections would be a great improvement.  All parties needed to continue their ongoing dialogue, as the inclination seemed to be toward solving many of the problems.  Change would take a long time, but things appeared to be moving in the right direction.


On Albanian prisoners, he said that the possibility that many such persons could be released or transferred had been met with goodwill from the authorities in Belgrade.  On the problem of the return of refugees, figures were improving.  He felt that one hindrance to the problem of broad reconciliation was that all issues needed to be addressed by all the people in the region.  Further, the international community must provide technical and financial support.  The essence of the Bosnian problem was holding the country together without the need for a huge international presence.  There had been progress, but he did not expect any miracles right away.


That was not to say that no presence was needed, he continued.  All should work to ensure the proper amount of cooperation between international agencies.  Overall, he said he was struck by the sentiments of both governments to work for the protection and promotion of the human rights of their citizens.


* *** *