13/04/2004
Press Release
HR/CN/1082



COMMISSION ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON COMBATING DEFAMATION


OF RELIGIONS; RIGHT TO DEVELOPMENT


Concludes General Debate on Human Rights of Specific Groups and Individuals

(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 13 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted by recorded vote two resolutions on combating defamation of religions, and on the right to development.


The first text concerned combating defamation of religions and was adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour, 16 against, with 7 abstentions (Armenia, Chile, India, Mexico, Nepal, Peru and the Republic of Korea).  In the resolution, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance in some regions of the world, and the frequent and wrong association of Islam with human rights violations and terrorism.  The Commission also 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 and 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 also adopted by a roll-call vote of 49 in favour, 3 against (Australia, Japan and the United States), with no abstentions, a resolution on the right to development (E/CN.4/2004/L.17), in which it decided to consider the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the right to development at its sixty-first session and requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide all necessary support to the proposed high-level task force on the implementation of the right to development.  It also decided to renew the mandate of the Working Group for one year and to convene its sixth session for 10 working days, of which five would be allocated to the high-level task force.


As the Commission took action upon the two texts before it this morning, the representatives of the Dominican Republic, India, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Sri Lanka spoke in explanation of the vote before the vote on the resolution on combating the defamation of religions, while the representatives of Ireland (on behalf of the European Union) and India made general comments.  The representatives of the United States, Australia and Japan spoke in explanation of the vote before the vote on the resolution on the right to development.



Also this morning, the Commission concluded its general debate on the human rights of specific groups and individuals.  Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations addressed the Commission:  Europe-Third World Centre; Migrants Rights International; South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; All for Reparations and Emancipation; World Union for Progressive Judaism; Jubilee Campaign; International Institute for Peace; International Religious Liberty Association; Association of World Citizens; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; Federal Union of European Nationalities; Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights; Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization; Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; Centro de Estudios Sobre la Juventud; Philippine Human Rights Information Centre; Association for World Education; Asian Migrant Centre; Transnational Radical Party; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education; Norwegian Refugee Council; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; Colombian Commission of Jurists; World Peace Council; Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; Pax Romana; International Federation of Free Journalists; A Woman's Voice International; International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; International Humanist and Ethnical Union; World Blind Union; Worldview International Foundation; Australian Council for Overseas Aid; North-South XXI; MADRE; Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network and Islamic Women's Institute of Iran.


Representatives of Turkey, Malaysia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Cyprus also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Commission will reconvene this afternoon at 3 o’clock to begin its consideration of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Colombia, as well as the report of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.


Action on Resolution on Combating Defamation of Religions


The Commission adopted by a roll-call vote a resolution on combating defamation of religions (E/CN.4/2004/L.5) by 29 in favour, 16 against, with 7 abstentions, by which it welcomed the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism entitled “Situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world”; expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance in some regions of the world; urged States to ensure equal access to education for all in law and in practice; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism; 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; and 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 also urged all States, in conformity with international human rights instruments, to take all appropriate measures to combat hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and acts of violence motivated by religious intolerance; urged all States to ensure that all public officials in the course of their official duties respected different religions and did not discriminate on grounds of religion; strongly deplored physical attacks and assaults on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship of all religions; called upon the international community to initiate a global dialogue to promote a culture of tolerance based on respect for religious diversity; called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote and include human rights aspects in the Dialogue among Civilizations; and requested the Special Rapporteur to examine the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples in various parts of the world with special reference to physical assaults and attacks against their places of worship, cultural centres, businesses and properties in the aftermath of the events of    11 September 2001 and to submit a progress report on his findings to the Commission at its sixty-first session.


In favour  (29): Argentina, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


Against  (16): Australia, Austria, Croatia, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (7): Armenia, Chile, India, Mexico, Nepal, Peru and Republic of Korea.


MARY WHELAN (Ireland), on behalf the European Union, speaking in explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the European Union members believed wholeheartedly in the principles of tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of thought, conscience and expression and the freedoms of religion and belief and also held that violations of those principles and freedoms constituted violations of human rights.  The European Union also appreciated the value of strengthening the Dialogue among Civilizations to promote better tolerance, respect and mutual understanding.  The Commission had again been provided with ample evidence that discrimination based on religion and belief was not limited to any one belief or region of the world, but was evident throughout the world and even within religious and belief communities.  The European Union members in the Commission had engaged in efforts to make the draft more fully reflect such considerations, but had been unsuccessful.  It was the Union’s firm belief that such concepts must form the basis of any draft and that the promotion and respect for religions or belief must be done in a balanced way.  As the thrust of the text remained unchanged from previous years, the Union called for a vote and its members on the Commission would vote against the text.


JEFFREY DE LAURENTIS (United States) said the United States had been a long-standing proponent of the freedom of religion, believing that a country should recognize the right of its citizens to choose and express their religion.  However, a country should not close its eyes to attacks made on its citizens on the basis of religious discrimination.  While some of the tenets of the resolution were agreed with, such as the importance of respecting the values of all cultures, and the defamation of any religion was deplored, the Resolution was incomplete, as it failed to cover defamation of all religions, and more inclusive language would cover this.  It should also include the need to change educational systems that fostered hatred of other religions.  For these reasons and others, it was with reluctance that the United States would vote against the resolution. 


RHADYS ABREU DE POLANCO (Dominican Republic) said that her Government condemned defamation of any religion, and for that reason, it upheld the freedom of religion in the country.  However, her delegation would vote against the draft.


HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that he firmly opposed the defamation and negative stereotyping of any religion, including Islam.  In these times of intensified campaigns against terrorism, there had been much negative stereotyping of the Islamic religion and terrorists as Islamic fundamentalists.  However, it should be noted that terrorists had no religion, but held hatred and intolerance as their creed.  In regard of the present text, he wished to note that the issue of defamation of religions fell more properly under the rubric of religious-based discrimination, and should not be addressed within the scope of racism.  Moreover, the defamation and negative stereotyping of religions was not constrained to any one religion, but was faced by all religions in one form or another.  Thus, while India fully supported the sentiments contained in the new operative paragraphs, it would have preferred to see a text that gave equal stress to protecting all religions.  For those reasons, India would abstain on the draft.


CARMEN CLARAMUNT (Costa Rica) said it shared the concern being focused on people of the Islamic faith, due to the stereotyping they suffered from.  There was deep respect for their convictions and spirituality, and extremisms and distortions were rejected.  All forms of defamation of religion were rejected, and Costa Rica would vote for the resolution.  There was concern for the growing signs of disinformation, the manipulation of information and the discredit cast on other faiths.  The text did not appropriately reflect the facts, given that the very title called for a more general response, and co-sponsors were called upon to be even more universal in this resolution in order to ensure that maximum protection was ensured for the maximum number of creeds.


LARS PIRA PEREZ (Guatemala) said the country did not accept discrimination against any religion of any kind.  Guatemala rather condemned any form of defamation against any beliefs or religions.  The draft resolution did not reflect balance among all religions that were victims of defamation.  It failed to mention other religions that were also victims of discrimination and defamation in many regions of the world.  Guatemala would therefore vote against the draft resolution.


SARALA FERNANDO (Sri Lanka) said her country respected the right of every religion to co-exist with others.  Support for the text derived from the country’s support for the freedoms of choice, religion and belief.


Action on Resolution on Right to Development


The Commission also adopted by a roll-call vote of 49 in favour, three against, with no abstentions, a resolution on the right to development (E/CN.4/2004/L.17), by which it looked forward to the consideration at the sixty-first session of the Commission of the concept document to be prepared by the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights establishing options and their feasibility for the implementation of the right to development; endorsed the agreed conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Working Group on the right to development at its fifth session; decided to consider the renewal of the mandate of the Independent Expert on the right to development at its sixty-first session; requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide all necessary support to the proposed high-level task force on the implementation of the right to development; and decided to renew the mandate of the Working Group for one year and to convene its sixth session for 10 working days, of which five would be allocated to the high-level task force.


In favour (49):  Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.


Against (3):  Australia, Japan and United States.


Abstention (0)


Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in a general comment that the European Union was firmly committed to the realization of the right to development, and this had been clearly demonstrated in the past.  This resolution reaffirmed the tasks of the High Commissioner in promoting and protecting the right to development.  The European Union had made a number of important concessions with regard to the text, and some of its more important suggestions had been ignored. The European Union thus had serious doubts with regard to certain paragraphs.  In the spirit of consensus, however, the European Union would reluctantly vote in favour of the resolution.  A constructive approach should not be a one-way street, and the Union was reaching its limit with regard to concessions. 


Mr. SINGH PURI (India) said that his comment was inspired by the statement made by the Representative of Ireland who spoke on behalf of the European Union.  He encouraged the members of the group to reinvigorate their position with regard to the appointment of Special Rapporteurs.  He found it difficult to believe that the members of the Non-Aligned Movement in the Commission were asked only to defer the reappointment of Special Rapporteurs. 


Mr. DE LAURENTIS (United States) said it opposed the resolution, and the reasons for this refusal were well known.  The text did more to divide those who should be working together to alleviate poverty than it did to offer solutions.  Unfortunately, once again the resolution contained initiatives that were difficult to accept, and in spite of sincere efforts by the Chairperson on the Working Group on the right to development to find more points of commonality, the resolution fell short of furthering the reunion of human rights and the right to development.  It would have the Commission duplicate the work of the Working Group, and would renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, two proposals the United States had argued against and found counter-productive.  The United States would vote no on this resolution.


CAROLINE MILLAR (Australia), speaking in an explanation of the vote, said that her country had recognized the right to development and supported efforts for its progressive realization as elaborated in the Declaration on the Right to Development.  However, Australia was unable to support the text’s request for the elaboration of a concept document including a legally binding definition on the right to development as the time was not right for such a move, nor would it add value to the present discussion.  Also, Australia could not support the renewal of the Independent Expert’s mandate, which constituted a prejudgment of the work of the high-level task force, particularly in view of the limited resources available.  For that reason, Australia would vote against the draft.


The representative of Japan said that his country was committed to the right to development and had been one of the leading contributors to the realization of that goal.  It should not be considered as a right of certain groups of countries, but it should be the right of peoples.  The obligation of States towards the development of their peoples should be manifest.  However, the mandatory nature of the resolution was not acceptable.  Japan would therefore vote against the text.


Statements on Specific Groups and Individuals


MALIK OZDEN, of Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, said that according to Turkish authorities, 3,848 Kurdish villages had been evacuated for “security” reasons from 1989 to 1998 and 400,000 Kurds had been displaced.  However, independent sources cited 3 to 4 million persons displaced by the Turkish army which had also destroyed the villages and their surroundings to prevent the Kurds from returning.  To the present day, the majority of those displaced continued to live precariously in suburbs of the largest cities of Kurdistan and Turkey, confronting problems related to access to food, health, housing, work and security.  In spite of the withdrawal of Kurdish rebels and the lack of combat in the region in recent years, Turkish authorities continued to prevent the return of the displaced. The Commission should urge the Turkish Government to end the system of village guardians, demine the region, given compensation to those harmed by the violence and ensure the return of the displaced to their villages.


GENEVIEVE GENCIANOS, of Migrants Rights International, said the Commission should pay attention to the human rights situation of migrants.  The observation that migrant workers were extremely vulnerable was agreed with, particularly with regard to exploitation from their employers, as they were often not given contracts.  Abuses committed against migrant workers were often not reported due to fears that the workers would be deported, and they lived in terrible conditions.  The Commission should protect the human rights of migrant domestic workers, and all States should implement the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on this topic.


GARETH SWEENEY, of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, drew attention to China's discrimination against the Uighur people.  They were Muslim, Turkish-speaking people living primarily in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in northwest China.  Although the over 8 million Uighurs made up almost half of the population in the region, they were disproportionately poor and illiterate, and were excluded from positions of real authority within their regional government.  Under the rubric of counter-terrorism, China had recently labelled several Uighur organizations as terrorists and requested other countries to help in the arrest of individuals associated with those organizations.  Since 2001, several thousand of them had been arrested and detained under vague, new laws that criminalized pro-independent advocacy.  


ANA LEURINDA, of All for Reparations and Emancipation, said descendants of enslaved Africans had no identity, no mother tongue, and no tribal kinships, and were still denied and deprived of these, as well as of their original culture and religion.  Due to 400 years of forced mixed breeding during slavery and its lingering effects, the “Afro descendants” were unprotected by human rights law.  Today, they requested the recognition, protection and assistance of the Commission and the authorities of the United Nations.


DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, reminded the Commission of the neglected issue of the modern exodus of Jews from Middle East countries since the 1940s, that forgotten million who had suffered the habitual religious cleansing from Arab countries.  They and their progeny now numbered 3 million, of whom 2.5 million made up more than 50 per cent of Israel's Jewish population of over 5 million.  It was an historical fact that the tragedy of the Arab refugees of mandated Palestine occurred because of the refusal of the Arab League and the Palestinian leadership to accept international legality in 1947, and their unashamed aim of eliminating the nascent State of Israel.  It was a policy maintained for 40 years, which had been reactivated by some States, and those Islamist groups like Hamas.  On the other hand, Jewish refugees from Arab countries -- far from the war zones -- were victimized because of their religion.


JAE CHUN WON, of Jubilee Campaign, said he deplored the international community’s failure to provide support to the massive numbers of persons displaced from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  During the 1990s, more than 300,000 refugees had fled into hiding along the country’s border with China.  However, in 1999, the Chinese Government had ended the access by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to the border region.  China had also systematically executed a campaign to return all the refugees to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and had made it a crime to help these refugees.  Thus, the Commission should remind all State parties in the region that the principle of non-refoulement was binding, not just under the refugee and torture conventions, but also in customary law.  It should also urge States parties to offer some form of temporary protected status to the population of concern.


SHAHEEN SCHBAI, of International Institute for Peace, said the nature of society was shaped to a considerable extent by its educational structure.  Even today, power politics continued to change the educational structure in many countries, with discrimination and racism being the intellectual food provided to many young impressionable minds.  In Pakistan, intolerance and hatred were taught, and religious intolerance was seen as a proper way of discriminating between people.  Textbooks perpetuated gender stereotypes portraying women as lesser entities, and minorities as lesser human beings.


GIANFRANCO ROSSI, of International Religious Liberty Association, said that the Association was concerned about the rise of religious extremism in many countries.  As the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief had indicated, there had been a disquieting rise in religious extremism in several countries.  In India, a country where the majority was Hindu, religious extremists had prosecuted Muslims.  In Sri Lanka, Buddhist extremists had been attacking Christians and destroying their places of worship, without their actions been checked by the authorities.  In Pakistan, religious extremism had also been on the rise.  Several members of religious minorities had been killed and wounded.  In Saudi Arabia, Christians and other non-Muslim minorities among migrant workers had been persecuted.  It was a shame to see such extremism in any country. 


The representative of Association of World Citizens, said there was concern for the deterioration of the climate for receiving non-European migrants who were fleeing persecution or poverty.  Lands of asylum had become lands of exclusion, and foreigners were excluded from medical service and education.  Citizens perceived that it was normal to deprive foreigners of rights, as it was a Governmental rule.  The Special Rapporteurs in charge should ensure that every person in this situation should have their situation examined publicly, and the results should be made public. 


JOANNA HOSANIAK, of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, said for over a decade the world had been watching the exodus of refugees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to China.  These Korean refugees fled from starvation and an extremely repressive regime.  When people were reduced to extreme starvation and ensuing death as the production and distribution system of the State failed, the guarantee of the freedom of movement became essential to survival.  Those who fled the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had a valid fear of persecution, and should be considered as refugees.  The Commission should resolve that the fleeing Koreans should enjoy unhindered access to countries of asylum and full recognition of refugee status. 


DAVID LITTMAN, of Federal Union of European Nationalities, said he wished to draw attention to the precarious situation of different ethnic groups or national minorities in the Vojvodina region of Serbia and Montenegro, where the tragic events of past weeks obliged him to call for active preventive measures to be put in place.  A long-term mechanism should be elaborated for the application of a system of local self-governments or autonomies.  The application of the concept of regional self-government or territorial autonomy could provide genuine peace, security and prosperity in the region over the long run.  It would also strengthen democracy in the country as a whole.  The timely implementation of a real territorial autonomy in the framework of an up-to-date, internationally binding minority law could be the right instrument to avoid the disappearance of the ethnic diversity of the Vojvodina.


THOMAS GANIATSOS, of Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, said that the entry into force on 1 July 2003 of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families marked a welcome step in safeguarding the rights of migrant workers.  However, the long delay in its entry into force and failure of the traditional host States to sign it showed lack of commitment by the international community, particularly by the industrialized, western nations.    With only 25 ratifications received, the Convention had a limited impact on policy-making worldwide, thus failing to better the lives of millions of migrant workers and their families.  By not ratifying the treaty, western States were in effect seeking economic competitiveness through unprincipled exploitation of imported labour.


MASOOMA ALI, of Afro-Asian People’s Solidarity Organization, said the approach of a country towards its minorities was first of all known by its laws and its Constitution, and then by the way that it implemented them.  Pakistan, which openly called itself an Islamic Republic, had institutionalised many anti-minority laws, and had allowed many extremist religious organizations to operate legally and as public institutions.  Legal discrimination was not only limited to non-Muslims, targets included non-Sunni Muslims, and the Ismailis and Zikris. 


GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said non-discrimination, equality before the law and participation, essential principles for the protection of minorities, were the foundation of all treaties related to human rights.  There was a need for a Special Rapporteur on minorities, and for a Special Representative for the prevention of conflicts linked to minorities.  Two examples showed up the need for these two mandates: the situation of the Roma, and that of the Kurdish people.  In the meantime, the Special Representative on internally displaced persons, the Special Rapporteurs on contemporary forms of racism, on the right to adequate housing and the right to food, as well as the Independent Expert on the issue of human rights and extreme poverty should pay particular attention to the situation of these two peoples.


NATIVIDAD GUERRERO, of Centro de Estudios Sobre la Juventud, said that migration constituted one of the principle problems facing humanity today, yet thousands died each year due to the horrible conditions encountered in migration.  Many immigration agencies stole money from their clients while the robbing of poor countries’ trained workers - otherwise know as the “brain drain” -  meant that hundreds left poor countries each year.  Moreover, 96 per cent of the children living in the streets were immigrants, half of them girls, and tens of thousands of Mexican and Central American children that migrated to be reunited with their families never found their parents.  Human rights must not just be upheld only for the rich, but also for the poor.


MARIA CORAZON DE LA PAZ, of Philippine Human Rights Information Centre, said that in the Philippines, the series of armed confrontations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the military forces of the Government during the first quarter of 2003 had affected 415,233 persons from 82,012 families.  The largest affected population came from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.  Another armed conflict between the Government and the Moro armed group took place on 14 December 2003 after the proclamation of the bilateral ceasefire in July.  In that latest conflict, 21,235 persons from 4,247 families were affected.  There was still no available complete report from the authorities on how many displaced persons had already returned home.  Violent demolition and forced eviction of urban poor communities in the country were also the result of many ongoing infrastructure projects as well as commercial and recreational centres.  The displaced residents who were not consulted about the plan were also not provided with relocation opportunities.


DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said regarding the situation in Sudan, the Khartoum Government was called upon to conclude the prolonged negotiations so that peace and full respect for cultural diversity could at last reach the country.  However, just as peace talks appeared to be in the final stage, large-scale violence had increased in the Darfur area, uprooting vast numbers and causing a massive exodus.  The very grave situation had been confirmed by the Secretary-General, and there was a need for mechanisms to investigate accusations and incitements to genocide everywhere. 


EUGENIA FURIGAY, of Asian Migrants Centre, said the Centre, along with other civic social groups, had tried to ensure the protection of the human rights of migrant workers in the Republic of Korea.  They had repeatedly demanded that the Korean Government abolish the Industrial Trainee System, legalize undocumented migrant workers, establish the work/employment permit system and that it ratify the Convention for the protection of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.  The Korean Government used cheap foreign labour under its Industrial Trainee System, which virtually left migrant workers exposed to serious labour abuse and exploitation, low wages, wage delays, industrial accidents, violence and other violations.  Human rights violations against undocumented migrant workers and migrant supporters had been committed by government officials, while even


documented migrants were vulnerable to violations.  Among other steps, the Government should stop all human rights violations against migrant workers and the defenders of the human rights of migrant workers.


WEI JINGSHENG, of Transnational Radical Party, said that China had approximately 780 million peasants, approximately 180 to 350 million of whom had been estimated to be living in “excessive” or in “dire poverty” and who were available for urban employment.  Such workers did the hardest and dirtiest of jobs in cities and were treated as second-class citizens.  To survive, they needed to spend thousands of dollars for “temporary residence cards” to stay in the cities.  That feature of the Chinese system had risen out of the Government-engineered labour exploitation whose comprehensive regimentation of young migrant factory workers used internal pass controls to prevent workers from moving their permanent residence from impoverished villages to factory towns and cities, turning ordinary workers into highly exploitable outcasts in their own country. As a result, the rights of such workers were often severely violated and they had no recourse to justice. 


TATI KRISNAWATY, of Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, said that in Asia, feminisation had become one of the main characteristics of the migration process and it deserved particular attention using a gender perspective.  Unfortunately, both countries of destination and origin took very little responsibility for ensuring the legal and human rights protection of women migrant workers.  The Special Rapporteur on migrants had indicated the human rights violations against them in many places.  With regard to Indonesia, she said that in Singapore, five women migrant workers could face the death sentence because of murder allegations.  A woman returned home from Saudi Arabia last month with injuries all over her body.  She was beaten and tortured by her employer for four months and was not paid for her work.  In Taiwan, a lady found dead last December was reported to have jumped from the fourth floor.  In a situation of deep depression caused by continual inhuman treatment, comparable with slavery, female migrant workers were forced to tragic acts of murder or suicide.


ANA LEURINDA, of International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education, said recognition of the rights of groups and specific individuals had meant a fundamental change in the protection of human rights, as it recognized the empowerment of groups that were minorities.  The Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers, which entered into force this year, had specific and symbolic relevance for those in situations of particular vulnerability.  The indigenous community of Honduras was grateful to Cuba for providing education and health resources, which the Government of Honduras was unable to provide. 


CHRISTOPHE BEAU, of Norwegian Refugee Group, urged the Ugandan Government to protect internally displaced persons from the rebels' violence.  Despite the attention by the international community, the humanitarian conditions and physical security of the almost 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Uganda remained appalling.  The massacre in Barlonyo camp in February, in which local leaders said 337 persons were killed, was a tragic reminder of the Ugandan Government's inability to protect the displaced persons and reflected adequately the crisis which had lasted for more than 17 years and had devastated the lives of so many people.  The intensified violence since June 2003 had triggered massive displacements.  The camps in which most of them sought refuge were largely unprotected by government forces.


NAW PAW, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said that displaced persons, refugees and undocumented migrants were increasingly viewed as a new security concern and had been severely denied appropriate protection and assistance.  Referencing the situation of asylum seekers and undocumented groups from Aceh present in Malaysia, of displaced people from Burma in Thailand, Bangladesh and India, and of displaced persons in the Philippines, she said that the organization urged Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and the Philippines to fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child by protecting the rights of all women and children within their borders, including displaced persons, asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants.


ANDRES SANCHEZ, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons had noted that there was still a gap between the needs, structural foundations and other issues concerning displaced persons.  States should tackle the causes of forced displacement which included human rights violations.   In Colombia, the diagnosis of the Representative was still valid.  Serious breaches of humanitarian law still caused forced displacement, and the situation was indeed critical with regard to this.  The problem was aggravated due to the failure of the Government to strictly apply the guiding principles of the United Nations, as urged by the Secretary-General. 


IBRAHIM SAMINA, of World Peace Council, said that minorities living in undemocratic States which regarded themselves as the spokesmen of only one religion existed in an extremely unfavourable and precarious environment. There was no section in such societies which would speak up for the minorities and no institutions of the State that would extend justice to them.  One such State was Pakistan where the State was dominated by the army and the Sunni Muslim clergy.  In such a situation not only were the non-Muslim minorities which constituted just 4.2 per cent of the population made to suffer the inequalities of unjust laws, but groups within Islam like the Ahmediyas and Shias were also attacked and persecuted as a way of upholding the supremacy of the Sunni clergy.  In Pakistan, successive governments had passed progressively stricter laws aimed at the minorities.


PEDRO PARADISO SOTTILE, of Permanent Assembly For Human Rights, said that many nations equated the rights of homosexual persons with those of all citizens, yet in some countries, homosexuals continued to be the target of discrimination and violations of human rights, including of rights to housing and work.  The recognition of homosexual rights was a question of time, as there were no religions or State doctrines or policies that could justify considering some people unequally on the basis of their sexual orientation.  In Argentina, the President supported protecting the rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation.  Those attending the Commission had the power to change the situation in which homosexuals continued to be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation.  Behind the struggle of gay, lesbian and transsexual groups lay the need for respect of the rights of all peoples.


GAETA RAWAT, of Pax Romana, said that her organization remained deeply concerned about the deterioration of respect and conditions of human rights of minorities in all parts of the world today, as well as the serious conflicts that had led to mass killings and genocide.  The Secretary-General’s announcement of the appointment of a Special Advisor on the prevention of genocide was welcomed and it was felt that the post should ensure effective early warning and an adequate solution to pre-genocidal symptoms, as well as assist in taking action on the root causes involving minorities in conflict transformation.  Another issue of particular concern was the situation of women belonging to minorities, who faced multiple forms of discrimination.  They were the most targeted for hate crimes during pre- and post-conflict situations.


ALGIS TOMAS GENIUSAS, of International Federation of Free Journalists, said the Commission should not fail to respond to the pleas of the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Crimean Tartars, the Kashmiris, the Palestinians, the Kurds, and the Ingushetians.  The scorched earth campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur should end, and the situation of human rights in Chad, Uganda, Rwanda, Liberia, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo needed the attention of the Commission.  The Commission should pay attention to the plight of the Chechen people, and replace the silence that had greeted genocides in the past with a global clamour.   


YOUNG JA KIM, of A Woman's Voice International, drew the Commission's attention to  what she said was the deplorable situation of the defectors or refugees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in foreign countries, especially in China, and the systematic and persistent violation of their basic human rights.  The deterioration of the Korean economic situation during the 1990s had forced more than 300,000 to flee the country to escape the famine and to live a precarious life in China, Mongolia, Russia or South-East Asian countries.  With the recent improvement in the food supply, the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had strengthened its border regions patrols to reduce the number of defectors.  The current attitude of the Chinese authorities was to arrest and return all Korean defectors, without any screening.


ANNA BIONDI BIRD, of International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said several key developments had taken place since last year’s session in the fight for better living and working conditions for migrant workers and their families.  Migrant workers still faced the grim reality of being amongst the world’s most vulnerable and exploited workers, frequently subjected to discrimination, appalling working conditions and poverty wages.  There was also crucial importance of the gender dimension, as they were the most vulnerable of the vulnerable.  With the racist discourse of politicians and the raving and ranting of right-wing groups and their media, it was all too easy for people and workers to be persuaded that migrants were to blame for many things that plagued communities and societies. 


MUHAMMED YOUNUS SHEIKH, of International Humanist and Ethnical Union, said Pakistani mullahs were terrorizing moderate Muslims and minorities.  Blasphemy was a serious crime in Pakistani law with a mandatory death penalty.  This was unjust and unethical, as it was used as a tool for religious terrorism by many, frequently unjustly and for personal profit.  Many accused of blasphemy were murdered in jail or once released.  The abuse of Islamic blasphemy laws for the purpose of imposing Islamic totalitarianism was decried, and their repeal was urged as they contradicted human rights norms and standards.


KICKI NORDSTROM, of World Blind Union, said that they called for prompt action by the Commission to adopt the new convention on the rights of persons with disabilities.  The new treaty must be a mechanism resulting in the full inclusion of people with disabilities in societies throughout the world.  It must guarantee human rights without any exceptions or limitations, and take discrimination based on disability as seriously as discrimination based on gender, race or other social categories.  The process of developing the convention had so far evinced strong partnership between organizations or people with disabilities and Governments, which must continue to the final adoption of a treaty on disability and its national and international implementation and monitoring afterwards. 


LWAY CHERRY, of Worldview International Foundation, said the human rights situation of the Palaung people under the current Burmese military regime was grave, with military troops continuing to commit various forms of human rights violations against them, including forced labour, land confiscation, rape and sexual violence.  Rape and sexual violence against ethnic minority women had been widespread and systematic throughout Burma.  The Commission should call on the Burmese military regime to immediately stop all forms of human rights violations against Palaung women and other ethnic minority women. 


The representative of Australian Council for Overseas Aid, said the Commission had the opportunity of addressing the problems of a specific vulnerable group of people: the lesbians, gays, and bisexuals.  This was due to fear, as those who had addressed the issue in the face of economic and political issues were brave.  The second reason was denial, based on cultural issues.  People had always experienced violations of their human rights on the basis of their sexuality and gender identity, but some delegations and Governments were in denial and hypocritical.  Some spoke without compassion or mercy, despite their religion which urged acceptance and compassion for all, notwithstanding their sexual orientation.  The failure to address this issue would haunt the Commission for the future until human rights violations of the lesbians, gays and bisexuals were ended.


ALFREDO RAFAEL QUESADA JURE, of Nord-Sud XXI, said that threats were made to trade union members in Colombia in several industries, including the mining and energy industries.  Some threats had been carried out, resulting in murder victims.  Threats, persecution, and assaults by armed persons had been greeted with indifference by the justice system.  The families of trade union members had also been threatened, with resulting forced displacement in the context of utter judicial impunity for those perpetuating the threats.  The Colombian Government should faithfully comply with the requirements of the Commission on these violations of human rights that compromised the State.


FANNYANN EDDY, of MADRE, said there were dangers faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community throughout Africa.  It was an issue which most African leaders did not like to address, and often did not even acknowledge, with many disastrous results for the community.  When African leaders used culture, tradition, religion and societal norms to deny the existence of the members of the community, they sent a message that tolerated discrimination, violence, and overall indignity, with especially disastrous results in the context of HIV/AIDS.  However, there was faith that the acknowledgement of the inherent respect and dignity of the members of the community could lead to greater respect of their human rights. 


JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said he wished to highlight the vulnerability of those living with HIV/AIDS to human rights abuses and, in particular, the ongoing denial of the basic rights to life and to health that resulted from the lack of access to affordable medication.  That infringement fell most heavily on those who were already marginalized and vulnerable due to poverty.  The Legal Network, therefore, welcomed the recent statement by the Government of Canada regarding implementation of the World Trade Organization General Council Decision of 30 August 2003.  The proposed legislation would allow for compulsory licenses to be granted to generic pharmaceutical manufacturers to export lower-cost medicines addressing public health problems in the developing world.  However, if the Government failed to act fully and faithfully to implement the World Trade Organization decision, Canada would set a poor global precedent for using WTO flexibilities to address human rights. 


AZAR PALIZI, of Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, said wherever they were, the problems of migrant workers were the same, including housing problems, jobs, and education.  The first step to alleviating their suffering should be to ensure that their living conditions were adequate.  Problems of migration became severe due to problems such as war, poverty, joblessness, lack of freedom, housing rights, and environmental issues.  Poverty was one of the main reasons for migration, which in turn created unexpected problems for the families.  It was imperative that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be observed all over the world by a strong mechanism of the United Nations, which was not available at the moment. 


Right of Reply


OSMAN KORAY ERTAS (Turkey), speaking in a right of reply, wished to state with regard to the depiction of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as "occupied territory" by the Greek Cypriot Representative last Thursday that the only occupation in Cyprus was the 40-year-old unlawful occupation by the Greek Cypriots of the seat of government of the once bi-national partnership of Cyprus.  Since 1974, the Greek Cypriot side had attempted to hijack the term enclave to misrepresent the living conditions of the Greek Cypriots and Maronites residing in the TurkishRepublic of Northern Cyprus for purely propaganda purposes.  Those people enjoyed the same, if not better, standard of living as the Turkish Cypriots of the same area. 


HAZREEN ABDUL HALEEM (Malaysia), speaking in a right of reply, said with regard to the problem relating to asylum seekers referred to by the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, at any one time Malaysia held over 1 million migrants, most of whom were illegal economic migrants.  This posed problems of law and order to the authorities who were in constant contact with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kuala LumpurMalaysia had always been considerate and humane when dealing with immigrants, and deportation had only ever been carried out after due process of law and in consultation with the originating country.


CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), speaking in  exercise of the right of reply, said his delegation did not wish to dignify the remarks of certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the International Helsinki Federation of Human Rights, A Woman’s Voice International and the Jubilee Campaign, by calling this statement a right of reply.  However, he wished to take the opportunity to remind those NGOs that the Human Rights Commission was not to be used as a forum for the dissemination of fabricated information, and that no one would listen to such statements.  His country called upon the Commission to take measures to address the relentless and provocative politicization of human rights by such NGOs, who were simply playing to their masters behind the scenes.



ONG SOO CHUAN (Singapore), speaking in a right of reply, said with regard to the statement of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women and Law Development which referred to five women workers who were in jail and under sentence of death, the welfare of migrants was important to Singapore, and the work of the United Nations and the international community to protect their rights was supported.  In Singapore, in criminal cases, domestic workers, as were all other workers, were subject to the justice system.  The death penalty was only used for the most serious crimes.  The judiciary system of Singapore had been consistently rated as one of the best in the region and there was confusion regarding the statement made by the NGO.


SARALA FERNANDO (Sri Lanka), speaking in a right of reply, said that a number of religions cohabited freely in the country.  Any one who visited the country could witness the peaceful co-existence of religions there.   A number of religious organizations had been granted permission to operate in the country.  She rejected the accusation made by a non-governmental organization this morning alluding to religious violence in Sri Lanka.  It was true that as in many other countries, religious extremists could have damaged places of worship.  The Government had carried out investigations on incidents that had taken place in some areas of the country in the past.


HELENA MINA (Cyprus) exercising a right of reply, said that the European Union Court of Human Rights had clearly found Turkey to be in violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the enclaved Greek Cypriot and Maronite communities in the Turkish-occupied area of the island.  The Court had also called upon Turkey to abide by its obligations and to execute its decisions.  These were the findings of an independent and impartial institution and thus they needed no further explanation, but spoke for themselves.


OSMAN KORAY ERTAS (Turkey), speaking in a second right of reply, said that concerning Cyprus’s  implied reference to Turkey as an occupying power, the intervention in 1974 had been based on two humanitarian considerations, firstly the end of the bloodshed, and second to halt the annexation of the country by Greece.  A referendum would be held soon, and it was time to build confidence and goodwill between the two countries.


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