SPEAKERS IN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION CALL FOR REFORM OF ITS SUBCOMMISSION ON PREVENTION OF DISCRIMINATION AND PROTECTION OF MINORITIES19960404 GENEVA, 2 April (UN Information Service) -- The fascination of the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities with country situations represented a distortion of its mandate, the representative of India told the Commission on Human Rights this afternoon as the Commission continued is general debate on the work of its subsidiary body.
India's representative said the Subcommission's efforts no longer appeared to be concentrated on providing studies and recommendations on the basis of objective and thorough research, as it was charged with doing. The Subcommission's practice of passing judgment on countries in a highly selective manner contributed to politicization and undermined efforts to promote human rights through cooperation, consensus and dialogue.
India's views were echoed in a statement by the representative of China, who said there was no need for the Subcommission to invest most of its energy on country-specific situations.
Discussion this evening was largely based on the Subcommission's most recent report. Speakers touched on a number of issues raised in that document, including human rights and disability and the rights of minorities. Representatives of a number of non-governmental organizations also called on the Commission to support the appointment of a special rapporteur to study systematic rape and sexual slavery during wartime, as recommended by the Subcommission. The groups made particular reference to the use of "comfort women" by Japanese forces during the Second World War.
The Commission also heard calls for the elaboration of a declaration on minimum humanitarian standards applicable in times of conflict. The representative of Norway said there was a need for a broad and thorough discussion of that issue. An appropriate forum for such a discussion could be a workshop with the participation of governmental as well as non-governmental experts from all regions.
Also this evening, the Commission began discussing the rights of detainees and the prevention of torture. Delegates heard the introduction of the report of the Commission's open-ended working group on a draft Optional
Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment. According to the Group's Chairman, much progress had been made in elaborating the draft, which would permit periodic visits by independent experts to places of detention in States that accepted the instrument.
Participating in the debate were the representatives of the Philippines, Ukraine, Australia, China, Republic of Korea, India, Russian Federation, El Salvador, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Norway, Poland and Switzerland.
The following non-governmental organizations also made statements: Association of American Jurists, Indian Council for Education, Four Directions Council, Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization, Muslim World League, World Society of Victimology, International Institute for Peace, International Committee of the Red Cross, African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Franciscans International, Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, Liberation, Disabled People's International, World Peace Council, International Federation of Women in Legal Careers, African Association of Education for Development, International Human Rights Association for American Minorities, World Council of Churches, Transitional Radical Party, Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Arab Organization for Human Rights, International Association Against Torture, International Federation of Human Rights, International League for Rights and Liberation of Peoples, International Institute for Peace, Pax Romana and International Pen.
LUIS IVAREZ GARCIA of the Association of American Jurists said excessive recourse by the Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to confidentiality and the secret ballot could damage its credibility and moral authority. The argument that with the secret ballot it avoided pressure from Governments, thus strengthening the independence of members, revealed the true nature of the problem of independence.
REENA MARWAH of the Indian Council for Education said that in a civilized society, it was the responsibility of the State to promote and protect the human rights of all individuals, including vulnerable minorities, as recognized under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, there was no dearth of countries which, despite their alleged commitment to the human rights charters, continued to ruthlessly deny basic rights to their minorities. A further complication over the past decade had been the emergence of a number of conflicts around the world which had their roots either in religion or ethnicity. Those developments threatened the fabric of those societies which had made a conscious effort to institutionalize equal treatment of people irrespective of race, colour, gender or belief.
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JOHN HARDBATTLE of the Four Directions Council said Botswana had failed to recognize the Khwe as a people. The Khwe people had been systematically driven from their traditional territories. In 1976, they had been told by the Government of Botswana that they would have to move from their lands in order to preserve the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Khwe children were forced to go to schools where they could not study in their own language. The Government of Botswana had told the Commission that the Khwe had made no complaints, but fear could silence a people. He urged the Commission to send in a team of observers to Botswana.
AHADUZZAMAN MOHAMMAD ALI of the Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization said there were States which, despite professing democratic ideals, had institutionalized and legalized discrimination against religious groups and sects and where minority groups had in effect been made to accept second class status. The resurgence in intolerance could be directly traced to the policies of such States. Unless this menace was checked, the international community was likely to see increasing persecution of minorities. He was pained that such persecution continued to thrive in some regions, as was the case in Pakistan, a country created as a homeland for Muslims with a guarantee of freedom of worship for all minorities. Today in Pakistan not only were minorities such as the Christians treated as second class citizens, but even Shias and Zikris experienced oppression.
GHULAM MUHAMMAD SAFI of the Muslim World League said the issue of the massive human rights violations perpetrated in Kashmir by the Indian occupation forces had been repeatedly raised at the last session of the Subcommission. Jalil Andrabi, Chairman of the Kashmir Commission of Jurists, had eloquently told the Subcommission of the plight of the Kashmiris under Indian rule. Little did he know then that the practice of extra-judicial killing he had so decried would one day claim his life, as it had last month. He urged the Commission to endorse the recommendation of the Subcommission to appoint a Special Rapporteur to prepare a report on the recognition of gross and large-scale violations of human rights perpetrated on the orders of governments or sanctioned by them.
NAZIR AHMAD SHAWL of the World Society of Victimology said Jalil Andrabi, Chairman of the Kaskmir Commission of Jurists, had been illegally detained by the Indian Rashtriya Rifles troops on 8 March, unlawfully detained, tortured, and finally shot dead. While the entire valley of Kashmir was mourning the death of one of its peaceful sons, the Indian authorities had killed another 24 Kashmiri civilians, including women and children. Another political activist, Shabbir Siddiqui, had been gunned down. It was the responsibility of the Commission to defend the defenders of human rights.
TATIANA SHAUMIAN of the International Institute for Peace said that after the end of the cold war, internal and international conflicts stemming from ethno-national and territorial tensions had not disappeared; they had
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burst out with particular strength and brutality in certain regions. In recent decades, with the growth of ethnic consciousness and nationalism, the question of territorial integrity had become an extremely acute political problem. Worse, ethnic sovereignty and territorial integrity had become virtually irreconcilable, giving rise to bitter and extremely bloody conflicts. One of the reasons for the flare-up of formerly stable ethnic situations into bloody conflict was the exploitation of smouldering tension by political parties and groups which came into power in the wave of nationalism. An important role was played by the economic and financial interest of criminal groups, closely connected with some official circles which gained vast profits from instability, military actions and arms sales -- whether in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya or any other hot spot in the world. The problem called for special attention because it was one of the key contradictions of the present global situation.
HERNARDITAS DE CASTRO-MULLER (Philippines) said it was in the trafficking of women and girls for purposes of exploitation that the violation of the rights of minorities took its most vile form. It had spawned related illegal activities by syndicates operating multi-million dollar sex industries through elaborate transnational networks. There was a clear need for urgent action at the national, regional and international levels. One immediate action that could be taken was adherence to the relevant international instruments, such as the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, which only 69 States had signed. Meanwhile, an excellent basis for concrete action would be the draft Programme of Action on the Traffic in Persons elaborated by the Subcommission's Working Group on Contemporary Forms of Slavery. The Commission should give its full support to that programme.
OLEG SHAMSHUR (Ukraine) said the establishment by the Subcommission of an inter-sessional working group to examine peaceful and constructive solutions to situations involving minorities deserved attention and support. But the positive trends the delegation had noted in the Subcommission did not diminish the pressing need to reform its work so that it could make the best use of its unique position and intellectual capacities. Without reforming itself, the Subcommission would not be able to maintain its well-deserved status and prestige. Priority should be given to agreed recommendations based on the scholarly analysis of particular situations and general human rights problems, rather than to the proliferation of politically-charged resolutions adopted by secret ballot.
MAC DARROW (Australia) said the cornerstone of his Government's commitment to social justice was a fundamental belief in the equality of all people and that one group should not be favoured to the exclusion of others. In recognition of the equal rights of persons with disabilities, Australia had enacted in 1992 the Disability Discrimination Act which was designed to make it unlawful to unreasonably discriminate against people on the grounds of
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their disability. The Act defined "disability" very broadly and included disability that might currently, previously, no longer or in future exist. Moreover, it had clear objectives and incorporated individual and group complaints mechanisms. In the absence of a binding convention concerned specifically with disability, it was Australia's belief that the most significant human rights advancements were embodied in the 1993 Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities. All human rights of persons with disabilities should be recognized as universal and interdependent, to be pursued and safeguarded by all necessary means.
LIU XINSHENG (China) said that for years, the Subcommission had contributed positively to the elimination of massive and gross violations of human rights by supporting just struggles against aggression, foreign occupation, racism and apartheid. In pursuing its work, the Subcommission should keep its proceedings away from cold war influence in order to uphold the principle of fairness and objectivity and put an end to unfounded charges against countries from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Being an organ of independent experts, the Subcommission was by nature different from the Commission. It should concentrate on studying questions of a universal nature in the field of human rights with a view to providing advisory opinions to the Commission. There was also no need for it to invest most of its energy on country-specific situations. As the superior body of the Subcommission, the Commission should look into how the two bodies could divide their work without causing redundancy and wasting resources.
CHANG IL PARK (Republic of Korea) said inaction on the part of the international community had exacerbated mass and systematic human rights violations in various parts of the world. There was therefore an urgent need for renewed vigour and fresh approaches to the protection and promotion of human rights. The practice of systematic sexual violence demanded the attention and condemnation of the international community. The delegation of Korea supported the appointment of Linda Chavez as Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission charged with the task of undertaking an in-depth study of the situation of systematic rape, sexual slavery and related practices during periods of armed conflict. The Republic of Korea was convinced that those who committed, directed or facilitated violations of human rights must be held accountable. It was also important to develop a mechanism for dealing with those violations of human rights which were committed by States.
HEMANT KRISHAN SINGH (India) said the impartiality and objectivity of the Subcommission, as well as the independent status of its members, should be respected by all States. It was equally important for the members of the Subcommission to discharge their functions in their capacity as independent experts. It was also important for the Commission to give guidance to its subsidiary body to ensure that the latter's work complemented and supported its own work, without duplicating it. However, the Subcommission's efforts no longer appeared to be concentrated on providing studies and recommendations on
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the basis of objective and thorough research. Its fascination with country situations was a distortion of its mandate, as was its preoccupation with passing resolutions -- 59 at its last session. Resolutions were fundamentally political acts, and as such a prerogative of the Commission. The Subcommission's practice of passing judgement on countries in a highly selective manner contributed to politicization and undermined efforts to promote human rights through cooperation, consensus and dialogue.
GRIGORY LOUKIANTSEV (Russian Federation) said the Subcommission acted as an analytical centre and its value was in that capacity. The studies on human rights it had initiated, for example on states of emergency and compensation for victims of human rights violations, had been of great interest. However, some studies had been extended from year to year while others had been truncated. Some members of the Commission and observers had not been able to tap the Subcommission's potential fully; moreover, work had become politicized and occasionally duplicated that of other bodies. The Subcommission must make serious efforts to restructure its work.
CARLOS ERNESTO MENDOZA (El Salvador) said the Commission should transmit to the Conference on Certain Conventional Weapons expected to meet in Geneva at the end of the month, the resolution adopted by the Subcommission regarding the traumatizing effects of land-mines. The Commission should also take action on the draft programme of action for the prevention of trafficking in persons and the exploitation of prostitution proposed by the Working Group on contemporary forms of slavery. It should also invite the Special Rapporteur of the Subcommission on human rights and disability to submit a report on his activities.
MIJARUL QUAYES (Bangladesh) said the Subcommission had strayed from its mandated role. The Subcommission had not been envisaged as a parallel Commission on Human Rights. Did States wish the Subcommission to complement the Commission, or to replicate the latter's agenda? During its last session, the Subcommission had passed 59 resolutions, in which many saw an increasingly political bias. The Subcommission need not be pushed to compete with its parent body for recognition -- its positive achievements in its mandated fields were many. Deemphasizing its political load would allow the Subcommission to enhance its research work as well as its role in the 1503 procedure, which was a tool to identify cases representing a systematic pattern of gross human rights violations.
KHALID JAVED (Pakistan) said that apart from contributing to the elaboration of standards, the Subcommission was also entrusted with a major responsibility, under the 1503 confidential procedure, to serve as the objective evaluator of specific situations of gross and consistent violations of human rights. The years had revealed the strengths and weaknesses of this procedure, mainly that it was too slow. It took almost one and a half years from the moment individual complaints were received by the United Nations
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Centre for Human Rights to the point where the Commission was in a position to take any action. Secondly, written communications often militated against populations and peoples where the levels of literacy were low and there was no knowledge of the procedure. Thirdly, the 1503 procedure was currently engaged more in cases of individual violations than situations which revealed "a consistent pattern of gross and reliably attested violations". Moreover, since the decisions in most United Nations bodies were based on governmental judgements, they were more likely to be political.
PETTER WILLE (Norway), speaking also on behalf of Denmark, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, said gruesome internal strife and conflicts had caused serious and increasing instability. Great suffering in all parts of the world had given rise to questions about what could be done to reduce the brutality and destructiveness. The normative protection of human rights was at its weakest in such situations. There were, however, some minimum guarantees from which no derogations were permissible, irrespective of the legal characterization of the situation and whether or not a state of public emergency had officially been proclaimed. Several efforts had been made to formulate such minimum rules, including the adoption by the Nordic countries of a declaration on minimum humanitarian standards in Turku, Finland, in 1990. There was a need for a broad and thorough discussion of minimum humanitarian standards. An appropriate forum for such a discussion could be a workshop with the participation of governmental as well as non-governmental experts from all regions.
KRZYSZTOF DRZEWICKI (Poland) said that for many States, the applicability of humanitarian and human rights standards in situations of internal disturbance, tension and emergencies did not pose a problem. But there was a growing number of States in which there had been situations that constituted neither peace nor armed conflict -- situations characterized by a collapse of civil order and the subsequent acceleration of the violation of human rights. The very existence of disputes and ambiguities about the applicability of either human rights or humanitarian standards in those situations confirmed the need for a declaration on such standards. The Commission should support the further examination of such a declaration by convening a workshop of governmental and non-governmental experts that could enable the Secretary-General to submit an analytical report on the issue to its next session.
JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) said people were protected by international humanitarian laws and human rights conventions in times of peace and war. However, the protection offered to the individual appeared to be insufficient, falling halfway between peace and armed conflict in certain situations. Such gaps could be normative or result from the disputed applicability of international law. Circumstances in which authorities, armed groups and individuals violated the elementary rights and human dignity of others needed special attention; it was necessary to adopt a political
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declaration on minimum humanitarian standards that could be added to international positive law. The December 1994 Budapest Summit of the States of the Organization of Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) had underlined the importance of such a declaration. Participants had also expressed willingness to cooperate with the United Nations in elaborating such a text.
PAUL BONARD of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the ICRC had been seeking for a long time to improve humanitarian values in situations of conflict. Too often ICRC staff were confronted in the field with flagrant violations such as mass detentions, disappearances, ill-treatment of detainees, torture, and the taking of hostages, to name but a few. It was necessary to reinforce the protection of individuals, notably in consolidating the grip of law in this type of situation, without forgetting that a priority was respect for numerous already existing regulations. The ICRC could not help but support all initiatives toward convening a meeting on that vast subject, as had been proposed.
WILDA SPALDING of the African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters said that rehabilitation of the whole person in Africa, including the rehabilitation of his or her intelligence, critical mind, and generous sense of solidarity, was based on the Organization's strategy to treat individuals in their own social, cultural and political environment in order to obtain more visible results from the medical and social treatments provided. The African Commission's strategy was aimed at boosting the self-reliance of civil populations as well as national institutions in the promotion and protection of human rights and in democratic development of every African country.
MYRIAM SCHREIBER of the International Movement Against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism said that for many years the Subcommission had been the voice of the weak, the discriminated against, the enslaved, the excluded and the poor. The Movement was concerned over the plight of millions of women and young girls made victims of slavery-like practices such as trafficking in persons and prostitution, particularly in parts of the world suffering from severe economic conditions. It had organized a workshop against trafficking in women at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and since then had been asking for a campaign and joint efforts to put an end to such exploitation. Military sexual slavery also had to be stopped. The Movement also called for protection of indigenous peoples, whose way of life was threatened by such projects as the proposed Bakun hydroelectric dam in Malaysia.
JEAN FALLON of the Franciscans International said the Subcommission had recommended that the Commission approve the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the situation of systematic rape, sexual slavery, and slave-like practices during periods of armed conflict. That was an urgent matter, a
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challenge founded on the highest principles of humankind, as it questioned how much longer past victims must wait for the international justice that was their right as human beings. The Franciscans International and the women from Japan for whom it spoke asked for immediate support of the whole Commission for adoption of the resolution to appoint the Special Rapporteur. There should be no further delay.
RIYAZ PUNJABI of the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation said a major threat to indigenous peoples was the process of promoting socio-political uniformity on the basis of religion, particularly in multicultural and multilingual societies; this was a problem in Pakistan. The Subcommission also had submitted a draft decision on contemporary forms of slavery. That text would play a significant role in eliminating the menace of systematic rape and sexual-abuse slavery during periods of armed conflict, but there was an apprehension that those efforts might reflect one-sided involvement in such inhuman crimes. The menace of systematic rape at the hands of non-State armed groups was reaching alarming dimensions, too, as in Afghanistan. The Commission should take note of it in developing a long-term strategy to safeguard the rights of indigenous peoples and women.
PAE RYONG of Liberation said that after the Second World War, a total of 34 suspects had been prosecuted by the allied forces for "forcing prostitution". A total of 115 suspects had been prosecuted for maltreating civilians. That number included suspects accused of forcibly recruiting labourers for the Hanaoka mine in Japan. They had been convicted of crimes against humanity after standing trial in Yokohama, Japan, from 1947 to 1948. Japan had been trying to cover up related materials and documents to deny its war crimes and crimes against humanity. Japan was afraid of being punished for its war crimes; it had burned many documents during the last two weeks of August 1945.
TERESA DEGENER of Disabled People's International said the issue of the human rights of disabled people did not receive sufficient attention; an ombudsperson should be appointed. Concern arose that unethical experimentation carried out on disabled people continued in some countries. The resolution dealing firmly with the problem was welcome. In efforts to address racial discrimination and violence against women the situations of disabled people were not taken sufficiently into account. Such people were especially vulnerable, and often abuses took place in places of supposed treatment. Another serious concern was developments in eugenic and euthanasia laws that decreed that disabled people had no right to marry or reproduce, or even to live. Increasingly, disabled persons were regarded as too costly for society. Such attitudes must be changed.
BHARATI SILWAL of the World Peace Council said the right to development had been acknowledged at last as an inalienable human right; democracy also was vital. Pakistan called itself a democracy, yet denied the office of Head
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of State to any member of a minority religion, and had so designed its legal and constitutional structure that discrimination against minorities was sanctioned and codified. The Singhi community in Pakistan continued to be seriously affected by persecution. The Commission must call on all Governments to dismantle legal and constitutional structures that not only allowed but encouraged discrimination on the basis of religion, race, or creed. Only then could its members claim to be serious champions of universal human rights.
PAK SONG OK of the International Federation of Women in Legal Careers said resolutions of great importance had been recommended by the Subcommission in relation to Japan which the Commission should support unconditionally. It was important that there be a settlement by the Japanese Government for past crimes. The Government of Japan had repeatedly expressed apologies for the crime of turning hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slaves during the Second World War, but that was a mockery; apologies did not come with words but deeds. It was time for justice. Similarly, recompense was needed for Korean men who had been drafted into forced labour during the war. The compensation fund to atone for "comfort women" created by the Japanese Government was not sufficient. Legal compensation was required for individual victims in accordance with international law.
C.M. EYA-NCHAMA of the African Association of Education for Development said that organization was worried by suggestions submitted to the Economic and Social Council requesting that the Subcommission meet every two years instead of annually. For the first time the role of the Subcommission and its calender were being questioned. Ten years ago, the thirty-ninth session of the Subcommission had been suspended because of a financial crisis of the United Nations. Non-governmental organizations had reacted by organizing in Geneva a seminar on human rights in the United Nations, in which several members of the Subcommission had participated. The seminar had underlined that human rights were the recognized priorities of the Charter.
MAJID TRAMBOO of the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities said that organization was particularly glad to see the Subcommission's draft decision on gross and massive violations of human rights being designated as an international crime. Unfortunately, ignoring the Subcommission's measures entirely, Indian forces continued torture and other gross human-rights violations in Kashmir, and continued violations of international standards for detainees held by Indian security forces. Interrogations could run for several hours or several weeks, during which time detainees were not allowed any outside contact, and torture was frequently carried out. In Kashmir, disappearances continued. The Commission should set up an independent body to investigate all reports of torture in Jammu and Kashmir.
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YUN CHUNG OK of the World Council of Churches said the Commission should support appointment of a Special Rapporteur on wartime sexual slavery. Sexual slaves taken by Japanese forces during the Second World War were called "royal gifts" by the Emperor to his soldiers and were thrown away when no longer useful. Many had since died, although a few had survived. In the Republic of Korea, about 160 former comfort women still survived, and demanded today an official apology from the Japanese Government. The World Council of Churches strongly urged support of the Subcommission's resolution to appoint expert Lynda Chavez as Special Rapporteur to study the issue, as she had so far approached those problems with deep understanding, honour and dignity. The problems must be studied on the broadest, most far-sighted scale possible, so that clarification could be achieved.
Rights of Detainees; Torture; Enforced Disappearance
CARLOS VARGAS PIZARRO (Costa Rica), Chairman-Rapporteur of the Commission's working group on a draft optional protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment, introduced the report adopted by the Working Group earlier in the afternoon. He said the draft protocol took the approach that States assumed responsibility for protecting detainees against torture. Those States signing the protocol would commit themselves to periodic visits by independent experts to make sure that there was no ill-treatment in places of detention in their territories.
Confidentiality was a major ingredient of the draft protocol, he continued. The intent was to establish a confidential dialogue between signatory States and the independent authority established under the protocol in cases of concern.
According to Mr. VARGAS PIZARRO, the working group felt its mandate should be renewed, as it had made so much progress already, including the completion of a first reading. A second reading was now necessary so that an effective instrument could be drawn up in a reasonable period of time.
The report details the progress made during the fourth session of the working group, held last November in Geneva. According to article 1 of that text: "A State Party to the present Protocol shall permit visits ... to any place in any territory under its jurisdiction where persons deprived of their liberty ... are held or may be held".
MARINO BUSDACHIN of the Transnational Radical Party said the incidence of torture in Kosovo and in China had increased in recent years. In Kosovo, it had been used against all categories of the population, including women and children; the Convention against Torture had been ignored by the Serbian State authority. In China, the situation was particularly serious in Tibet, where torture and ill-treatment of persons arrested for political reasons was
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pervasive, and reportedly included beatings, electric shock, deprivation of food and drink, exposure to cold, and denial of medical treatment. The Commission should consider those abuses in its thematic resolutions and should back a resolution and appointment of a Special Rapporteur to investigate the human-rights situation in China. Attention to the use of the death penalty also was needed, both in China and in the United States.
FRANCOISE BRIE of the Fondation Danielle Mitterrand drew attention to allegations of human rights violations in Bahrain, according to which exceptional legal measures were being adopted to arrest and detain persons to be tried before special tribunals. Her organization was alarmed by the magnitude and scope of the situation of repression in that country, she said. So far, 1,106 persons had been detained for expressing dissenting opinions. Some 315 persons had previously been detained for the same cause. Among the prisoners, 119 were minors ranging in age from 10 to 18 years.
In Iran, she continued, information received indicated that persons were being executed without due trial. There was no respect for the international norms concerning fair trial in that country.
MOHAMMAD SAFA of the Arab Organization for Human Rights said the situation of Lebanese detainees in Israeli prisons deserved attention. International pressure had managed to ensure that the ICRC could visit prisons in 1995 where such prisoners had been held. Further pressure was needed, because those visits had shown the mistreatment suffered by detainees. Necessary medical care was not provided. Some detainees went insane. Electric shocks were used in some cases, while in other cases there were beatings and broken bones. Humane treatment must be demanded for these detainees, who were in fact hostages. An official investigating committee should be set up by the Commission to go to these prisons and to demand release of the detainees.
ROGER WAREHAM of the International Association Against Torture said free-market democracies should accept credit when their "students" followed their example and violated human rights in the areas of detention and imprisonment. The current South Korean regime still committed violations of the rights of prisoners, forced them to renounce their political beliefs, and had incarcerated former prisoners of war for many years. In Peru, amnesty had been granted to perpetrators of State terrorism. In Chile, prisoners were not given health care or minimum acceptable conditions for incarceration. In the United States, a police state was being developed where the administration of justice and conditions of incarceration violated international human rights norms. In other places in the United States there was a frenzy to implement the death penalty.
AMOR CHERIF of the International Federation of Human Rights said that in Egypt, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms guaranteed by
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international instruments was non-existent because of the state of emergency in force for the last 15 years. About 16,807 persons were under arbitrary detention under the state of emergency law. Meanwhile, in Syria, a state of emergency had been in force since March 1963. Since the seizure of power by the actual President in 1970, thousands of prisoners of conscience had been tried by the Tribunal of State Security, and today, 2,700 prisoners languished in Syrian jails. The rights of detainees were also violated in Lebanon, Tunisia, Peru, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam and Northern Ireland.
VERENA GRAF of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples said the Peruvian law of amnesty passed last year would put a veil of ignominy over 15 years of death and terror in the country. That and other laws made a mockery of Commission resolutions designed to combat impunity and end forced disappearances, and the Commission must oppose those Peruvian measures. In Argentina, neither truth nor justice had been restored and laws of impunity had prevailed since the era in which 30,000 citizens had disappeared and thousands had been assassinated. Steps must be taken to find the authors of the disappearances, torture, and extra-judicial executions. The Commission must also urge the Argentine Government to cooperate with the Italian judicial system's efforts to investigate the cases of Italian victims of violations of human rights during the Argentine period of dictatorship.
ASHOK BHAN of the International Institute for Peace said that while the problem of wrongful detention by States itself remained serious, another dimension had been added to it by the practice of hostage-taking by terrorist groups. Unfortunately some of those terrorist groups got support from outside countries and therefore felt encouraged to violate the basic human rights of innocent persons. At its forty-seventh session the Subcommission had expressed its serious concern at the brutal murder by the Al-Faran group in Jammu and Kashmir of the Norwegian hostage Hans Christian Ostro and the death threat held out by the group to four other foreign hostages. By now it had become quite clear that Al-Faran was an organization helped and supported by Pakistan.
SUZY KIM of Pax Romana said the trial of two former presidents of the Republic of Korea for corruption and for the role they had played in the massacre of Kwangju in 1980 was of great importance for the Asian peoples in their struggle for democracy and human rights. She suggested that the Government of the Republic of Korea confiscate the assets of the two former presidents to be used as compensation for the victims of human rights violations during their dictatorial regimes. According to recent revelations, the United States had knowledge of the massacre of Kwangju before it occurred. The United States had been in a similar situation concerning the invasion of East Timor by the Indonesian army.
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JOANNE LEEDOM-ACKERMAN of International Pen said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, in his visit to the Republic of Korea, had referred to a law that penalized with a maximum of seven years in prison acts "praising, encouraging, and propagandizing the activities of an anti-State organization" -- and penalizing contacts with members of such organizations. Lack of precision in enforcement of those laws in fact violated the right to freedom of expression. Unfortunately, the Special Rapporteur had not been able to visit North Korea. In Turkey, journalists detained under an anti-terror law for writing about the Kurdish issue were being unjustly punished for exercising their right to free expression. The Special Rapporteur also should visit Syria, where currently eight writers and journalists were serving prison terms of up to 15 years in trials that fell short of international standards for fairness.
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