|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
37th Meeting (PM)
UN Expert Reports ‘Alarming Resurgence’ in Use of Mercenaries to Violate Human
Rights, Often in New, Novel Ways, in Statement to Third Committee
Also Says Growing Recognition Private Security Companies ‘Must Be Regulated’;
Committee Debate Continues on Elimination of Racism, Right to Self-Determination
There had been an alarming resurgence in the use of mercenaries in armed conflict over the past year, often in new and novel ways, to gravely violate human rights, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today.
Traditionally, “mercenaries” were soldiers hired to fight in an armed conflict or to overthrow a Government, but in recent conflicts in Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, Governments had used foreign fighters against their own populations, said Faiza Patel, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights of peoples to self-determination.
“In both Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, the Working Group is deeply concerned about alleged mercenary involvement in serious human rights violations, such as summary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions,” she said, calling for States to cooperate so mercenaries were held accountable in all cases.
The activities of private military and security companies were another concern; the companies, which made at least tens of billions of dollars per year, had been undertaking an ever-larger range of activities, from drug eradication in Colombia to post-conflict reconstruction, in an increasing number of countries. The potential impact of those widespread activities on human rights meant they could not be allowed to continue to operate without adequate regulation and mechanisms to ensure accountability, she said.
“There is a growing recognition amongst all stakeholders that these companies must be regulated, both at the national and at the international level,” she said, noting some positive developments this year, such as the meeting of the Human Rights Council’s intergovernmental working group on the issue and the launch of the International Code of Conduct for private security providers, which had been signed by more than 200 companies from all regions of the world.
She also welcomed a number of national efforts to regulate private military and security companies, but regretted that none had come close to achieving full accountability for their human rights violations. “Prosecutions remain rare, impunity persists, and victims are rarely provided an effective remedy,” she said.
Ms. Patel then introduced to the Committee the reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai, whose term of office ended with his resignation on 2 September 2011.
The Committee also continued its debate on elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and the right of peoples to self-determination. In the discussion, representatives expressed concern that a decade after the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, racism was still pervasive in the world. “Racism and racial discrimination must also be tackled in our own consciousness and our societies,” said Costa Rica’s delegate.
Botswana’s delegate said the international community needed to enhance efforts to raise awareness and to remain vigilant in tackling the scourge of racial discrimination, concurring with the view of the Special Rapporteur that the first step in dealing with racism was to acknowledge that it existed. There was a need for more cooperation between Member States and the United Nations system, and for technical assistance to be provided accordingly, she said.
Also participating in today’s debate were the representatives of Bolivia, Singapore, Iceland, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Honduras, Israel, India, Tunisia, Kuwait, Montenegro, Armenia, Ecuador, Nigeria, Albania and Azerbaijan.
Representatives of the Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine also spoke, as did a representative of the International Organization for Migration.
The representatives of Pakistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan spoke in exercise of their right of reply.
The Committee will reconvene at 3 p.m. Tuesday, 1 November, to consider the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and to discuss questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue joint consideration of the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the right of peoples to self‑determination. (For more information, please see Press Release GA/SHC/4022.)
FAIZA PATEL, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights of peoples to self-determination, said in the last year there had been an alarming resurgence of the use of mercenaries in armed conflict – often in new and novel ways. Traditionally, “mercenaries” had been soldiers hired to fight in an armed conflict or to overthrow a Government, but in some recent conflicts Governments had used foreign fighters against their own populations. The Working Group hoped to visit Côte d’Ivoire in the next few weeks to obtain information on credible allegations of grave human rights violations as the former President, Laurent Gbagbo, reportedly hired some 4,500 Liberian mercenaries to maintain his grip on power after he was defeated in an election at the end of 2010.
In Libya, there had also been several reports of foreign fighters recruited from neighbouring African countries, and also possibly Eastern Europe, who were involved in repressing peaceful demonstrations earlier this year. As events settled down in Libya, the Working Group would make it a priority to visit that country as well. “In both Côte d’Ivoire and Libya, the Working Group is deeply concerned about alleged mercenary involvement in serious human rights violations, such as summary executions, enforced disappearances, rape, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions. In all cases, mercenaries must be held accountable for such actions. The Working Group encourages States to cooperate in order to ensure that mercenaries are arrested and tried,” she said.
Activities of private military and security companies were the other equally important aspect of her mandate, as those companies continued to undertake an ever-larger range of activities in an increasing number of countries, she said. It was difficult to gauge the extent of the industry worldwide – estimates varied from $20 billion to $100 billion per year – but a few numbers might be helpful in assessing the size and growth of the industry: the August 2011 report of the United States Commission on Wartime Contracting stated spending on contracts and grants in Iraq and Afghanistan was expected to exceed $206 billion through the end of the fiscal year 2011; in 2010, the United States Departments of Defence and State hired more than 260,000 contractor employees, while during the first Gulf War the United States military hired only 9,200 contractors.
However, those numbers were “only the tip of the iceberg”, since private military and security companies operated in a variety of other situations, ranging from drug eradication in Colombia to post-conflict reconstruction. Non-governmental organizations, private companies and the United Nations also took advantage of their services. The potential impact of those widespread activities on human rights meant private military and security companies could not be allowed to continue to operate without adequate regulation and mechanisms to ensure accountability. “There is a growing recognition amongst all stakeholders that these companies must be regulated, both at the national and at the international level,” she said.
The intergovernmental working group on this issue, established last year by the Human Rights Council, met in May and was attended by representatives from 70 Member States, the African Union and the European Union. “At the meeting of the intergovernmental working group, we were encouraged to hear that the majority of States present recognized the need for regulation of the activities of private military and security companies. Whether such regulation will take the form of an international convention along the lines proposed by the Working Group remains to be seen. A second meeting of the intergovernmental working group will be held in the next months and we look forward to again serving as resource persons for consultations,” she said. Another major development over the last year was the launch of the International Code of Conduct for private security providers, which had been signed by more than 200 companies from all regions of the world.
Recent country visits showed developments in national legislation and regulation of private military and security companies, she said. After a visit to Iraq, the Working Group commended the efforts of Iraqi and United States authorities to decrease human rights incidents involving such companies, but noted gaps in domestic legislation persisted in both countries, resulting in impunity for some perpetrators. “The Working Group welcomes all national efforts to regulate private military and security companies, but regrets that none have yet come close to achieving full accountability for human rights violations. Prosecutions remain rare, impunity persists, and victims are rarely provided an effective remedy,” she said.
Question and Answer Session
Cuba’s delegate drew attention to the work of the open-ended intergovernmental working group on a legal framework to monitor the activities of private military and security countries, as well as the efforts of the working group on mercenaries. She invited all States to contribute to that work.
Switzerland’s representative said 37 States currently supported the Montreux document and code of conduct. The working group on mercenaries complemented her country’s efforts to regulate private military and security companies. States must adopt national laws to that end, she said, further noting a draft Swiss law that had been made public and would be addressed by January. She highlighted concerns about having a transparent mechanism to address individual complaints. Following the seminar on the monopoly on the use of force, the working group proposed to review national legislation to identify best practices. Could the Chair provide details on that effort?
South Africa’s representative said his delegation shared the concerns that were highlighted in the report. Further, his country had national legislation regarding those issues and had rectified gaps through the promulgation of reforms. He noted that South Africans who were being recruited for that work often held dual citizenship. Among other things, that posed a burden on recovering mortal remains. While his Government recognized the nomenclature of private military and security companies, it had no such companies. The Government had also made it clear that the successful cooperation of other States was required in prosecutions, since South Africa could not prosecute extraterritorially. He reaffirmed support for an international, legally binding legal framework for violations committed by private military and security companies, including compensation for victims.
Pakistan’s delegate expressed support for the working group. He said the presentation had been very detailed and reflected the various aspects of the discussion on that important subject. He said most Member States supported the call for regulating private military and security companies. The code of conduct was not a replacement for such a legal, regulatory framework. What steps were recommended for countries that were using and hiring private military and security companies?
Responding, Ms. PATEL said national legislation was a critical issue and the working group was now looking into that area. A number of different projects had already done so, and the working group intended to take a look at what had been collected in order to identify areas where national legislation was lacking. However, she noted that it was difficult to take a one-size-fits-all approach, given the diversity of national circumstances and suggested that the identification of different legislative models might be more useful. She further noted that the resolution on the intergovernmental working group stipulated that the mercenaries working group would be available for consultation and her group was more than willing to play that role.
She went on to say that the working group had consistently encouraged States to ratify the Convention on Mercenaries, which would then lead Sates to outlaw mercenaries in their systems. That would take care of some of the dual criminality issues raised by South Africa.
The representative of South Africa expressed appreciation to the outgoing members of the working group.
Introduction of Reports
Ms. PATEL then introduced the reports of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai, whose term of office ended with his resignation on 2 September 2011. The interim report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/66/313) outlined the Special Rapporteur’s activities since last year, including a country visit to Hungary from 23 to 27 May, 2011. It also addressed thematic issues, including structural discrimination; incitement to national, racial or religious hatred; extremist political parties, movements and groups; and victims of racism.
She said the Special Rapporteur highlighted societal and historical causes and manifestations of structural discrimination, and ultimately recommended a comprehensive approach that would make it possible to address that phenomenon in all its dimensions. He also urged States to review and redesign legislation, policies and programmes that had a disproportionate and discriminatory effect. He highlighted disaggregated data as an important tool in having a comprehensive picture of the structural dimension of racism and racial discrimination.
The Special Rapporteur further emphasized that States should never lose sight of the ultimate goal of finding the most effective ways through which individuals could be protected from hatred and violence by others. He underlined that more efforts, including the protection of vulnerable groups or individuals from racist and xenophobic crimes, were needed. The Special Rapporteur called upon traditional political parties to avoid using electoral contexts to fuel populist ideas and to refrain from seeking coalitions with extremist political parties.
The Special Rapporteur also emphasized the need to adopt a victim-oriented approach in line with Durban World Conference and Review Conference documents. People of African descent, Roma, and members of communities based on caste or analogous systems of inherited status were among the victims of racism whose situation was addressed in the report. The Special Rapporteur emphasized that the empowerment of victims through access to quality and higher education was a major step to be taken by States. States should also be involved with victims in all processes related to legislation affecting them. He recommended the design and implementation of affirmative action measures or programmes, including to redress historical inequalities.
He stressed that States were not ultimately aware of the manifestations and spread of racism and racial discrimination in their societies and how it impacted the everyday life of victims. Moreover, the elimination of racism and racial discrimination was not always seen as a priority. Thus, he noted that recognition was a vital first step towards ending racial discrimination. He urged States to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In the report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance (document A/66/312), Mr. Muigai notes the efforts made by States to counter extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo-Nazis, skinhead groups and similar extremist ideological movements. He welcomed the legislative practices referred to by some States in their replies and took note of the human rights training provided to law enforcement officers.
However, the Special Rapporteur recommended that States develop a comprehensive approach based on a solid legal framework, including by complying with their State obligations under article 4 of the Convention, he said. Among other things, States were urged to bring to justice the perpetrators of racist and xenophobic crimes, and to ensure that the victims were made aware of their rights and guaranteed full access to effective legal remedies. States were also encouraged to use new technologies, including the Internet, to promote the values of equality, non-discrimination, diversity and democracy.
The Special Rapporteur emphasized that respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law should always be the cornerstone of any programme or activity developed by political parties. He also emphasized that States should share good practices and closely cooperate with international human rights mechanisms and civil society organizations.
INGRID SABJA DAZA (Bolivia), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 developing countries and China, said the eradication of racism was a pillar of her country’s national policy. Under Bolivia’s current President, forms of racism had emerged in political and economic spheres and violence had erupted. Those examples of discrimination and xenophobia were serious disruptions of rights that affected the fair sharing of State incomes, she said. Against that background, last year the President sought to pass laws in keeping with the declaration to eliminate racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. The country’s cultural ministry and its ministry for decolonization were also working in that regard, she said.
Under the State plan, there was a consolidation of dialogue under the agenda for the Durban Review Conference, she said. Bolivia respected the ancestral memory of its people and the dialogue among all civilizations, and, thus, reaffirmed its commitment to do away with all forms of discrimination affecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people throughout the world. It was also time for Membership in the United Nations for the people of Palestine, with an end to the illegal settlements on its land and the discrimination and alienation of its people. They deserved full sovereignty.
NADYA RASHEED, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said that the right to self-determination, as well as the rights to life, liberty, security of persons, freedom of movement, livelihood, education, property, development and other rights continued to be flagrantly violated on a daily basis under Israel’s occupation. There could be no justification for the deliberate planning and expansion of settlements, as well as the continuation of its expansionist wall. There could be no explanation other than that the Israeli Government was not interested in either the two-State solution, or peace and security. That evaluation had been further reconfirmed in the last three weeks, as Israel had announced the construction of nearly 4,000 more settlement units in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, where settlement expansion had been most prevalent.
She said that the Palestinian leadership remained committed to peace and committed to negotiating seriously on all final status issues when the appropriate environment was secured. However, the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, freedom and independence was not up for negotiation, nor would it be the product of negotiations. That inalienable right was the sole domain of the Palestinian people. Negotiation on the core issues and the expression of self-determination should not be confused by Israel or others as one and the same. Further, Israel should not be allowed to continue obstructing and dictating the terms of the Palestinians’ exercise of that inalienable right. Noting that Palestine’s application for admission to membership to the United Nations was now before the Security Council, she welcomed the admission of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) today.
ANG CHOO PIN ( Singapore) said his country’s independence was grounded in the pursuit of a multiracial, meritorious society based on the rule of law. Integration was at the heart of almost everything Singapore did, and it was distinct from assimilation. Singapore’s diversity made it unique; policies provided balance between rights and responsibility. No citizen exercising their rights may infringe upon the rights of other citizens – stern measures were meted out against those who incited racial or religious hatred between communities. Some limits on behaviour were necessary in order for five million citizens to live in harmony on an island smaller than New York City, but policies were put in place to maintain and expand the common secular space where all Singaporeans could interact with one another.
Ethnic integration had been incorporated into Singapore’s key policies; in public housing, all ethnicities and walks of life could meet and interact on a daily basis, he said. Schools and the compulsory military draft were other examples of common space which brought together different races and religions in continued close interaction. Interracial and inter-religious organizations had been established to develop networks of trust across communities, yet a harmonious and inclusive society could not be just about national laws and policies – they provided the necessary foundation for a process that had to emanate from the people. “For many young Singaporeans, growing up, interacting and sharing with our brethren from other races has become instinctive,” he said.
GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR ( Iceland) said it was essential to work towards the universal adherence and full implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism. Iceland supported the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the outcome document of the Review Conference. By reasserting the principles of equality and non-discrimination as core human rights, the Declaration transformed victims into rights holders and States into duty bearers. While Iceland was committed to eliminating racism, increasing immigration to Iceland called for specific measures and legislation to combat discrimination and racism. Thus, an Action Plan on Immigrants’ Issues had been put in place.
She reiterated her country’s long-standing support to peoples’ right to determine their future, noting that the right to self-determination was enshrined in the Charter and should be respected as an inalienable right. In that way, Iceland had been happy to welcome South Sudan as a newly independent State and United Nations Member State last summer. It was determined to contribute to the realization of the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and to take steps towards recognizing Palestine through a parliamentary resolution. Iceland fully supported Palestine’s application to be accepted as the 194th Member State.
ABDUL RAZAK SHARIF ( Malaysia) said the principle of self-determination was clearly enshrined in the United Nations Charter. He reiterated his country’s unwavering support for the restoration of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, self-rule, the right to national independence and sovereignty, and the right to return to their homes and property. It continued to support all efforts by the international community to find a just, lasting, comprehensive and peaceful settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It also supported the application of the Palestinians to the United Nations.
He said Malaysia had consistently expressed its concern and condemnation over Israel’s continuous military aggression in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Any form of violence, even on the pretext of ensuring security, would not contribute towards positive development of the peace process. He called on Israel to immediately fulfil all its obligations, including refraining from provocation. Its recent settlement plans were deplorable and illegal under international law. Indeed, such provocative acts had put the two-State solution in jeopardy, and Malaysia called on Israel to fulfil its international obligations by stopping its settlement activities completely and by abrogating all policies and practices that contravened international law, including the unlawful blockade of Gaza. He stressed that the only way forward in achieving an early and lasting resolution to the conflict was to afford the Palestinians their basic rights as human beings, including their right to an independent State.
MAISAH SOBAIHI ( Saudi Arabia), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said the world still suffered from escalating racism, intolerance and xenophobia. Saudi Arabia was a key supporter of international efforts to promote a culture of dialogue, tolerance and peace at all levels, striving to remove all causes of tension caused by ethnic discrimination and religious intolerance between nations and peoples. The negative stereotyping of Islam and spreading hatred against Muslims in many countries was a particular concern; the Islamic religion obliged respect and reverence for all celestial religions, messengers and prophets. Saudi Arabia had enacted several national laws to safeguard the noble values of Islamic Sharia and prohibit racial discrimination, she said.
The country had also established a number of agencies that called for elimination of racism and prejudice, including the Center for National Dialogue, which organized meetings and forums to find solutions for all issues pertaining to racism and discrimination. At the international level, the King of Saudi Arabia had launched an initiative for a dialogue between followers of different religions and cultures, reflecting the country’s desire for peaceful coexistence. Several major conferences were held in connection with that initiative in 2008, while on 13 October 2011, in Vienna, the Convention on Establishing the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Global Center for Dialogue among Followers of Religions was signed. That Center - aiming to promote peace and justice, while addressing the exploitation of religion to justify repression, violence and conflict - would be managed by an administrative board representing the world’s major religions and beliefs. She concluded by saying that undoubtedly the clearest illustration of racial discrimination today was against the Palestinian people.
MOHAMMAD ZAREIAN ( Iran) said the commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action last September demonstrated the firm commitment of the international community to fight against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Regrettably, that meeting was overshadowed by the hypocrisy shown by a number of Western countries that abandoned an important human rights event. The United Nations should continue to take its leading role in tackling racism and racial discrimination. However, minority groups, including Muslim communities, indigenous peoples, immigrants, blacks, Roma and other vulnerable groups in Western countries were suffering from racist attitudes, xenophobic actions and other forms and manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Iran called on all States to fully respect the values of the Declaration and Programme of Action, especially cultural diversity and multiculturalism, and promote understanding and peaceful coexistence among people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. Effective measures banning the Islamophobic activities of right-wing political parties must be taken.
He further stressed that the Zionist regime continued to defy the rights of the Palestinian people and it was time for the international community to abandon its indifference to the travesty of justice and humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Palestinians would realize their right to self-determination whether the international community rose to the challenge or not. However, there was historic responsibility to support the just and rightful struggle of the Palestinian people for the establishment of a national homeland. The root causes of the problem should be dealt with and a just and durable peace secured through a democratic process.
DULCE SÁNCHEZ (Honduras), aligning with the statement of the Group of 77 and China, said the first world summit of peoples of African descent had been an unprecedented event in her country, and had helped peoples move beyond the inequality that had been inflicted on persons of African decent throughout the world -- about one billion people comprising 15 per cent of the world’s population. The conference decided there needed to be a move to strategies for sustainable development for the short, medium and long term. Representatives agreed on sustained, integrated development through identity, and re-endorsed the Durban plan. While it gave hope to peoples of African descent, it noted progress was not sufficient.
Honduras itself had adopted public policies to combat racism subscribed under the Durban Conference, establishing a month for African heritage and a ministry of indigenous peoples. It also called on the United Nations to establish the decade for peoples of African descent, a fund for peoples of African descent and a permanent forum for peoples of African descent within the Organization. It was the Honduran Government’s hope that the country would become a multi-ethnic and multicultural country.
SANDRA SIMOVICH ( Israel) recalled a relationship between a Holocaust survivor, Hava, and a refugee from Darfur, Adam. Both were survivors of racially motivated persecutions who found refuge in Israel, a melting pot where people of all races came together to create a diverse and pluralistic society. Moreover, the Jewish people knew the evils of racism all too well. Many walked the earth carrying the living memory of the Holocaust. Six million Jewish people were murdered in that horrific genocide. Israel believed that it was only through education, remembrance and constant vigilance that the tragedies of the past could serve as clear lessons for the future. The United Nations could – and should – lead such efforts. To that end, she noted the International Day to honour the victims of the Holocaust, and its associated Outreach Programme. Israel supported the United Nations in such efforts and had contributed to the construction of a permanent memorial for the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.
Domestically, Israel promoted tolerance and understanding, viewing tolerance as a primary aim of its educational system, she said. At the judicial level, racism was broadly defined in the Israeli penal law, and racial motivation was recognized as an aggravating circumstance. Israeli police received extensive training to ensure that they brought a balanced and sensitive approach to all groups that made up Israeli society. Noting that Israel had not participated in last month’s commemoration of the tenth anniversary of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, she said the 2001 World Conference against Racism was misused and abused by some participants. That conference, sadly, became a vehicle for advancing hatred, anti-Semitism, intolerance and prejudice against Israel, and it was unfortunate United Nations efforts to counter racism continued to be undermined by certain States, for their own cynical political ends.
E.G. SUGAVANAM (India), aligning with the Group of 77 and China, said his country’s approach to racism was shaped by its independence struggle, and the founding fathers of independent India had enshrined the basic value of equality in the Constitution. “We naturally support all national and international measures that must be undertaken to combat racism. We share the concern of other countries and of the General Assembly that expressed alarm at the recent increase in the number of racist incidents in several countries,” he said. On the issue of self-determination, he said there was no room for it to be distorted and misinterpreted as the right of a group, on the basis of ethnicity, religion or race, to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a State.
“Ethnic or religious segregation cannot be legitimized on the ground that societies need to be constituted on homogenous lines before they can be tolerant towards diversity and accept multiculturalism. Such a view will only aid forces of extremisms,” he said. On the issue of Palestine, India maintained unwavering support and solidarity for the goal of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination. “In this backdrop, I would like to remind the distinguished representative of Pakistan, who made innumerable references to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir in his statement, that the State of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the Union of India where free and fair elections have been held time and again. India, Mr. Chairman, is an open, inclusive and democratic polity with a vibrant public and media discourse and I would urge the delegation of Pakistan to refrain from using this forum to detract from the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination,” he said.
YOUSEF N. ZEIDAN, Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine, said the Palestinian people had not been spared from the sinister experience of racism. That scourge had been used against the Palestinian people since 1948 by Israel, including by the expulsion of indigenous Palestinians from their homeland so they could be replaced with Jewish settlers. He noted that over 500,000 Jewish settlers had been illegally transferred by the occupying Power to nearly 225 Israeli settlements built on confiscated Palestinian land throughout the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel’s calculated and discriminatory policies targeted Palestinians in every aspect of their life, from residency, water, electricity, roads, education, construction, tax collection, marriage, citizenship laws, identification cards and access to holy places.
Inviting the Committee members to imagine life as a Palestinian man or woman living in the Old City of Jerusalem, he said that, among other things, they could not be absent from their city for more than two years or their residency would be revoked. Palestinians were barred from entering Holy Jerusalem to celebrate Easter at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or Eid al-Adha at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Israel’s persistent violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism and the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid of 1973 were ample proof of its intention to continue its apartheid-like policies at the expense of an entire people, as well as of peace. He noted that its belligerency and impunity had been translated into violence, including in the rise in settler attacks against Palestinian civilians, property and crops. Political will must be mustered to finally bring an end to Israel’s occupation, as well as its racist and discriminatory actions and policies.
Mr. BAYOUDH (Tunisia) said his country believed combating racism and discrimination was a responsibility of the whole international community – these challenges required communal action, with vital education. His country had undertaken a variety of actions and legislation to combat racism, and since its revolution earlier this year it had been active on a number of fronts to address social injustice and disparities. It had drawn up an ambitious economic and social programme to foster development, and used the education system as an effective way to prevent all forms of discrimination, emphasizing the universality of human rights.
Young, clandestine migrants were the most exposed to violations of human rights and needed more focus by the international community for protection, he said, urging all stakeholders to assist in that regard. Action must be taken on respect for human rights, human dignity and shared development, working together in a global strategy to combat the unemployment of young people. Despite endeavours to combat intolerance, exclusion and extremism still appeared in parts of the world – countries must do away with injustice among people, establishing freedom and justice among them, he said, urging a lasting end of the Arab-Israeli conflict through freedom for the Palestinian people.
HAIDER ABULHASSAN ( Kuwait) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report on efforts to eliminate racism and racial discrimination. Kuwait agreed with the recommendations for dialogue among civilizations. It was necessary to promote equality among all sectors of society and the rights of others must be respected. There should be a prohibition on campaigns to defame any religion or persons on the basis of their religion. Kuwait’s constitution guaranteed that all were equal before the law and had the same rights and duties. It prohibited discrimination on the basis of religion or language. Noting the number of immigrants who came to Kuwait, he stressed that democracy applied in daily life and human rights were respected. The Government promoted cooperation to defend human rights and to combat xenophobia.
He said Kuwait had acceded to a number of human rights conventions, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. He also stressed that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the occupied Syrian Golan were racist. Moreover, the construction of the barrier wall was in violation of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. He called for a genuine campaign to defend the religious sites in the area. Kuwait was also concerned with the actions of some groups, such as skinheads, that preached hatred of minority groups on the basis of racism and racial discrimination.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said his country was multicultural and multi-ethnic, and fully committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination. The Durban Declaration highlighted what could be achieved, but people of African descent remained vulnerable to discrimination, suffering the negative consequences of a history of slavery and colonialism. Public will must be mobilized at the national, regional and international levels to fully live up to commitments to the Durban Declaration, he said.
“Racism and racial discrimination must also be tackled in our own consciousness and our societies,” he said. In Costa Rica, the Government had tried to tackle racism and discrimination in a systematic manner, complying with recommendations from treaty bodies. It worked to develop a plan with assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, with participation of civil society. It had also agreed to set up a national commission of African Costa Ricans, trying to correct omissions in the history of the contributions of ethnic and minority cultures. Equality and non-discrimination was also seen in the country’s new law on immigration. Items on the agenda needed to be de-politicized; respect for all would only be achieved through proper education in human rights.
MILORAD ŠĆEPANOVIĆ ( Montenegro) said respect for human rights, tolerance, justice and rule of law were the main values of his society and the Government was accordingly implementing all anti-discrimination policies for creating an open society with equal opportunities for all citizens. The basis of the legal protections for discrimination consisted of constitutional guarantees on the primacy over national legislation and the direct application of international legal norms. The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism was incorporated in national legislation and formed part of the country’s substantive law. Montenegro had prepared its second and third periodic report on implementing the Anti-Discrimination Convention. Further, there was a network of institutional protection for human rights and freedoms. In that, the influence of the Office of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms was increasing considerably. Its cooperation with civil society had been substantially enhanced, along with its involvement in protecting the rights of the most vulnerable groups.
He further noted that a law establishing the ombudsman as the national authority for combating discrimination and preventing torture and ill-treatment was adopted with the new legal provisions in July. An advisor on human rights and anti-discrimination was appointed in September in the Prime Minister’s office. The Ministry for Human and Minority Rights was involved in anti-discrimination training and awareness-raising campaigns, as well as training for law enforcement agencies and civil servants. In other areas, the Council of all Minority Commitments, the fund for Minorities and the Centre for the Preservation and Development of Culture of Minorities had been established. The Government was also working to finalize an action on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons.
GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) said that over the decades since the adoption of the United Nations Charter, the right of peoples to self-determination had been widely recognized. Armenia was guided by the principle that the right to self-determination was a binding and recognized mechanism of international law. During recent decades, there had been attempts to deny that right. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh had already established that right and conflict had emerged because of Azerbaijan’s violation of their rights, bringing aggression and widespread hostilities.
Azerbaijan was trying to launch a new war, preaching hatred against Armenians, he said. They had preached dangerous xenophobia and racism, but the European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance underlined that all its political parties must take a firm stance against racism. By denying and destroying all that was Armenian, Azerbaijan continued to preach xenophobia, which led to the questions of whether Azerbaijan understood the goals of the United Nations Charter. The time had come for it to move towards a solution for a peaceful future for generations to come. A framework for constructive dialogue would have significant potential to diffuse tensions, increasing the potential for regional peace and human rights.
MAPHOI B. KOMANYANE ( Botswana) said the Durban agenda represented the world’s common ideals and values. They equally reaffirmed the international community’s commitment and resolve to put an end to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Her Government remained convinced that the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was the cornerstone of United Nations efforts to combat those evils and reaffirmed its commitment to implementing that programme. She noted that the political declaration emanating from the recent high-level commemoration of Durban’s tenth anniversary called for enhanced concrete actions to prevent and combat racism and to focus on victims’ concerns.
She expressed concern about an increase in racist violence and xenophobic ideas in many parts of the world, underlining the importance of urgently addressing the continuing and violent trends involving racism. The international community needed to enhance efforts to raise awareness and to remain vigilant in tackling the scourge of racial discrimination. In that regard, she highlighted the work of the Special Rapporteur and the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action and other relevant mechanisms in accurately defining contemporary forms of racism. Botswana concurred with the Special Rapporteur’s view that the first step in dealing with racism was to acknowledge that it existed. Finally, she emphasized the need for cooperation between Member States and the United Nations system, and for technical assistance to be provided accordingly.
ANDRÉS FIALLO ( Ecuador) said his country was working very hard to change stereotypes inherited from colonial days that were still found in daily life. Ecuador was in the vanguard of promoting human rights among indigenous peoples; they were to be protected from racism and discrimination and compensated through affirmative action. The country had also recently reformed its criminal code, including definitions of hate crimes, with strong sanctions against those who committed them. The Government was also promoting the Durban Declaration with a vigorous social policy for housing and social protection, he said.
Ecuador’s Government recognized the efforts of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, he said. However it believed there was a need to work in a more coordinated fashion to support the Special Rapporteur’s work. The international decade for persons of African descent and the development fund for persons of African descent were among the initiatives needed to increase the profile of that ethnic group, to bring about greater input into Government policies. Lastly, he said Ecuador recognized the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination in a Palestinian State.
KAYODE LARO ( Nigeria) said racism was an affront to humanity and since the adoption of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action in 2001 his country had been active in fighting it, including by participation in the 2009 Review Conference and the recent high-level meeting. While the Durban agenda had achieved some of its objectives, including raising awareness, its broad implementation was undermined both by developments unforeseen at its adoption and by the lack of political will. Nigeria was pleased with the establishment of follow-up mechanisms for the effective implementation of the Declaration and appreciated their contributions and efforts in that regard.
Nigeria regretted that 10 years after the Declaration’s adoption, racism was not only still pervasive in parts of the world, but it seemed to be taking new and insidious dimensions. Nigeria was particularly concerned by the trend in some countries where racism and xenophobia were being perpetrated under the pretext of freedom of speech. As a democratic country, Nigeria appreciated the need for people to be able to freely express themselves. However, the State also believed freedom came with responsibility and it was a collective duty to ensure that freedom of speech did not become license to promote and entrench racism and xenophobia. For Nigerians, racism and xenophobia were simply incompatible with democracy and respect for human rights, he stressed.
ERVIN NINA ( Albania), noting his country’s rejection and condemnation of all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, recalled that no Jews were turned over to the Nazis there during the Second World War. Instead, Albania became a secure shelter for anyone escaping persecution and discrimination during the war. The Government today shared the concerns of the Special Rapporteur on the increased use of the Internet to promote, fuel and disseminate racist ideas by individuals and groups closely connected to extremist movements around the world. And like all countries around the world, Albania had no reason to be complacent with its past record regarding racism. What mattered were the continued efforts, steps and measures to preserve and foster a tolerant society, free of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. Indeed, that remained the sine qua non for Albanian society.
In that context, he said Albania’s Parliament had unanimously adopted in February 2010 a law on protection and discrimination based on a draft law submitted by civil society. That law prohibited discrimination based on gender, race, colour, ethnicity, sexual orientation, parentage, age, civil status and residence, among other things. Broad in scope, the law’s purpose was to assure the right of every person to: equality and equal protection before the law; equality of opportunities and possibilities to exercise rights, enjoy freedoms and take part in life; and effective protection from discrimination and from every form of conduct that encouraged discrimination. It established the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination, whose office was charged with monitoring and implementing the law and proposing new legislation or reforms to existing laws. The Commissioner was also empowered to investigate complaints from persons or groups alleged to have been victims of discrimination.
FARID JAFAROV ( Azerbaijan) said self-determination represented one of the most compelling principles in modern international relations. It was well-established that the principle applied to the peoples of the colonially defined territorial units and peoples subjected to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation, including peoples under foreign military occupation. In its resolutions, the General Assembly proceeded from the position that acts of foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation resulted in the suppression of the right to self-determination. Further, that right could not be interpreted to mean that any group could decide for itself its own political status up to and including secession from an already independent State. Indeed, international law was unambiguous in not providing for a right of unilateral secession from independent States and in not creating grounds and conditions for legitimizing non-consensual secession in any sense. Moreover, secession from an existing sovereign State did not involve the exercise of any right conferred by international law, and an entity created on part of a State’s territory by means of the unlawful use of force and the violation of the fundamental international law norms was a priori illegal and could not be considered a State.
He stressed that, in its attempts to legalize the results of the use of force and ethnic cleansing, the Armenia side frequently speculated on the international legal principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, including during today’s statement by Armenia. He emphasized that all actions aimed at tearing away a part of the territory of Azerbaijan were unlawful and constituted a violation of the fundamental norm of respect for States’ territorial integrity. The root of illegality included the establishment in the occupied territory of Azerbaijan of an ethnically constructed, subordinate, separatist entity. Armenia’s revisionist claims regarding the application of the principle of self-determination were unsustainable in international law. They were also contrary to the ongoing political process, he stressed.
AMY EMEL MUEDIN, of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the most effective route to eliminating racism and discrimination was to integrate migrants as active members in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the host State. Her Organization was deeply concerned with the emerging view that the multicultural composition of societies was driving communities apart and putting democracies under pressure. Thus, she urged States to work proactively to counter such pressures. While States had the right to control and protect their borders and safeguard the security of their citizens, they also had a responsibility to protect the human rights of all migrants under their jurisdiction, including migrants in irregular situations. Those included the right to human dignity and physical integrity, as well as freedom from racism, discrimination and xenophobia.
She said that, in that regard, IOM offered assistance to States, including technical assistance and guidance in reviewing and developing legislation, policies and programmes to avoid structural discrimination. It also offered help regarding measures to facilitate access to legal mechanisms when rights were violated and the promotion of awareness about multiculturalism, diversity and the valuable contribution of migration and migrants.
Right of Reply
Speaking in exercise of the right of reply to India, Pakistan’s delegate said the statement delivered earlier by her delegation contained nothing but facts that were recognized by the international community, as well as by Security Council resolutions. Kashmir was not an integral part of India, but an internationally recognized disputed territory, the resolution of which was to be found through a plebiscite. Moreover, the majority of the references made in Pakistan’s statement were taken from India’s media. She emphasized that the statement had also mentioned that Pakistan was committed to the peaceful resolution of all outstanding issues with India, including Jammu and Kashmir.
Armenia’s delegate regretted that the Azerbaijani delegation threatened the decades-long struggle of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to the right to self-determination. Azerbaijan continued to deny that right, attempting to mislead the international community by presenting the consequences of the conflict as its causes. Just months ago, because of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, the mechanisms of protecting human rights had been absent and were instead replaced by arbitrary acts by Azerbaijani authorities.
As was known, the population of Nagorno-Karabakh had already voted overwhelmingly for its own sovereignty and had employed all available legal mechanisms in that regard. She said it was destructive to proceed with statements such as Azerbaijan’s, since they questioned the objective of the current negotiations.
Responding, Azerbaijan’s representative said that the documentary evidence proved that Armenia unleashed the war, carried out ethnic cleansing and constructed an ethnic entity. He underlined that the stance towards the issue had been repeatedly stated at the international level in unambiguous terms and no United Nations Member had recognized the entity as a State. The sooner the leadership of Armenia realized the impact of their political agenda, the sooner the people would be able to benefit from peace and stability.
Armenia’s representative reiterated that the conflict was the result of Azerbaijan’s own decision to stifle the quest of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise their right to self-determination. Moreover, it was Azerbaijan that violated the Security Council resolutions. Azerbaijan’s refusal to engage in direct negotiations with elected representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh was the main impediment to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue. What they continually failed to acknowledge was that Armenia continued to do what the Council resolutions called for it to do: use its good offices to find a solution.
Azerbaijan’s representative said the comments made by the Armenian delegation were another piece of solid evidence that her officials continued to remain under the influence of a destructive policy and were far from negotiating in a fair and sober search for a resolution. His Government was confident that the destructive political agenda of Armenia was fated never to be realized.
* *** *For information media • not an official record