13 November 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

39th Meeting (PM)



Committee Hears Rights of Reply from 13 Countries

Responding to Statements Alleging Human Rights Abuses

While migrants historically had a difficult time adapting to their new societies, their situation had been exacerbated since the terrorist attack on the United States on 11 September, a representative of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) this afternoon.

The IOM representative told Committee members as they continued their discussion on human rights issues that migrants, who were always in a difficult position, and often faced discrimination in their efforts to integrate into their new countries, were bearing a disproportionate share of the reaction to the events of 11 September.  Migrants were suddenly regarded with more suspicion than before, and whether they were asylum seekers, refugees or economically-motivated, many were being seen, unjustifiably, as potential enemies.

Prior to 11 September, he said, discussions on migration focused on issues such as integrating migrants in multicultural host societies, preventing illegal border crossings and opening legal migration channels to matching labour market needs.  Discussions now focused almost exclusively on security.  While the fight against terrorism was imperative, the vast majority of persons moving around the globe did so for legitimate reasons, and many of them needed international assistance.  IOM was therefore committed to promoting better management of migration, highlighting the positive aspects of migration, reducing exploitation of migrants and ensuring them equality of access to judicial procedures and civil liberties.  It was imperative, too, for the international community to follow.

The representative of Ecuador spoke about a different aspect of migration.  The struggling economies of developing countries, she said, prompted heads of households to seek employment elsewhere.  Children saw their fathers leave them, and families were torn apart.  The transnational nature of the migratory problem demanded action on the part of countries of origin and countries of destination, as well as international organizations.

The session also featured more than a dozen countries expressing concern about certain statements alleging human rights abuses that had been made this morning and earlier this afternoon.  Thirteen countries took the floor in rights of reply to counter the presentations of Belgium (on behalf of the European

Union), Canada, and Norway, who spoke this morning, and New Zealand, who spoke this afternoon.  Those delegations discussed the human rights situations in myriad countries.

But, as the delegate from Egypt pointed out, there was no mention of the situation in the developed Western nations.  She noted that the European Union addressed observations of 61 countries, but not one of them was in the European Union.  The representative of Sudan said those statements were consistent with the pattern of certain countries appointing themselves international custodians of human rights.  Others said no countries could claim to be free from human rights abuses, and should therefore not offer judgements of fellow nations.

Also participating in the debate were representatives from New Zealand, Nepal, Bangladesh, Republic of Korea, Cyprus, Brazil, Uganda, Croatia and Iran.

Exercising rights of reply were delegates from the Lao People's Democratic Republic, Tunisia, Cameroon, Togo, Iraq, Malaysia, China, Syria, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Eritrea and Lebanon.

The Committee will reconvene on Wednesday at 10 a.m. to continue its discussions on human rights issues.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this afternoon to continue its formal debate of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


SILVIA ESPINDOLA (Ecuador) said the twentieth century had been the scene of some of the greatest tragedies in the history of mankind.  But it was also the time when the concept of human rights had been recognized.  Ecuador had adopted a State policy recognizing all human rights in June 1998.  It was considered the most far-reaching human rights instrument in the country, and it was hoped that it would result in the widespread acceptance of all human rights.

Ms. Espindola said Ecuador was concerned with international migration, which was a problem that had become more acute in recent decades.  Migration stemmed from the human desire to find a better life for oneself and one’s family.  Many countries in the developing world, pressed by the economic crisis, had lost many people to migration.  The phenomenon of migration came at a high cost.  Children saw their fathers leave them.  Families were torn apart.  Ecuador had always maintained the policy of full respect for all migrants.  Her country had received migrants from neighbouring nations, and their rights were protected by law and international agreements.  Ecuadorians had emigrated to North America and Europe.

Ecuador had held internal consultations to adopt a plan for Ecuadorians abroad, and the national Government had agreed to sign several international instruments.  Her Government supported the work of the International Organization for Migration, and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants.  The transnational nature of the migratory problem demanded action on the part of countries of origin and countries of destination, as well as international organizations.  Ecuador called on all Governments and all sectors of civil society to work towards the protection of migrants.

DEBORAH GEELS (New Zealand), on behalf of the South Pacific Group, said good governance, in its broadest sense, provided a sound foundation for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Her Government urged States to support democratic practices that allowed for the participation of all their citizens in the decision-making processes, including through the conduct of regular, free and fair elections.  Good governance should also include the development of a strong range of public institutions run on principles of justice, accountability and transparency.  An independent judiciary, free from nefarious influence, was a particularly crucial element of good governance and the protection of human rights.  New Zealand placed great importance on the rule of law and the role of the justice system in ensuring its equitable application, as well as the right of all to a fair hearing in any trial.

Ms. Geels said New Zealand was particularly concerned about the continued use of the death penalty, and urged those States that had not yet abolished the death penalty to do so.  It was especially distressing that some countries imposed the death penalty on young people below the age of 18.  The continuing occurrence of acts of torture was abhorrent to New Zealand.  The Government urged States to redouble their efforts to conclude the Optional Protocol under the Convention against Torture, establishing a robust international mechanism focused on prevention.

She also spoke about the human rights situation in several countries.  In Afghanistan, the policies and practices of the Taliban caused great concern.  It was particularly regrettable in Iraq that the Government of Iraq continued to prevent the Special Rapporteur access to the country.  The ongoing armed conflict in Sudan also remained a concern.  While there had been encouraging signs of progress in Iran in recent years, there was disappointment that the promise shown had not been borne out by recent developments.  New Zealand was encouraged to see the Special Representative for children in armed conflict visiting Chechnya, although it expressed concern about allegations of human rights abuses on both sides of the conflict. 

New Zealand watched with dismay as violence continued in the Palestinian occupied territories over the past year, she said.  Particular areas of concern in Zimbabwe included politically-motivated killings and the torture of opponents of the Government.  It was hoped that all warring parties in Myanmar engaged in political dialogue and reform in order to facilitate the transition to democracy. 

While acknowledging China's efforts to improve its human rights record and the progress that had been made in a number of areas, she said China's human rights practice fell short of accepted international standards.  Further good practice had been made to promote human rights in East Timor, but there was also serious concern that few of those responsible for human rights abuses there in 1999 had been brought to justice.  And while New Zealand welcomed Cambodia's first Commune elections last February, it urged the authorities there to respect and further consolidate Cambodia's fledgling multi-party democracy and permit greater freedom for the media.

ISHWAR POKHAREL (Nepal) said that the institutional mechanisms to monitor the implementation of the Vienna Declaration and other international human rights instruments were an integral part of global efforts to promote such rights.  Nepal believed that the United Nations human rights machinery should carry out regular analysis, monitoring, evaluation and adaptation of all human rights instruments.  The Organization should also identify difficulties encountered in the implementation of those instruments.

He went on to say that proposals submitted by the treaty monitoring bodies, and reports presented by special rapporteurs and representatives should be given careful attention by all Member States.  Appropriate action should also be taken to streamline the Organization’s human rights machinery.  Nepal believed that adequate material, human and financial resources should be provided to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Commission on Human Rights to enable those bodied to carry out their work effectively and efficiently.  The reporting process also deserved careful attention since it had been frequently pointed out that the backlog of submission of reports and their consideration placed a considerable burden on both States parties and treaty bodies.

Turning to the human rights situation in his country, he said the restoration of democracy and the promulgation of a new constitution there had been motivated by the need to free men and women from fear and to restore dignity and freedom of expression.  Within the constitutional and legal frameworks, Nepal was determined to create an environment in which every citizen could live in dignity and achieve his/her full potential.  Nepal also recognized the links between development, democracy and human rights, and it believed that the right to development was inalienable.  Nepal had enacted a human rights commission act and had established an independent Human Rights Commission.  The country would also work to create the legal, economic and social framework to promote fundamental rights.

IFTEKHAR AHMED CHOWDHURY (Bangladesh) said terrorism was a grave threat to the enjoyment of human rights.  Terrorist activity undermined democracy, threatened social cohesion and bred hatred.  The recent attacks on the host country had demonstrated that the efforts to combat such acts required global cooperation.  Bangladesh was committed to furthering international efforts to develop a global approach to that issue, including the creation of a comprehensive covenant.  He said the fight against terrorism should not outstrip international human rights standards.  Often enough, he added, it was the absence of human rights that provided the fertile ground for breeding terrorism.

Turning to the right to development, he said Bangladesh remained concerned by the lack of progress in fulfilling the mandate of the Open-ended working group on that right.  Bangladesh had been troubled by the clear lack of will on the part of some developed countries to uphold the international consensus on the right to development.  All States must continue to acknowledge the right to development as a universal and inalienable right as well as an integral part of fundamental human rights.

On the situation in his country, he said Bangladesh’s Constitution embodied the principles and provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Special laws were also in place to further ensure the rights of women, children, minorities and other vulnerable groups.  His country was party to all core international human rights treaties.  With the assistance of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Bangladesh had undertaken a project aimed at the establishment of an independent national human rights commission.  Such a Commission would, among other things, advise policy adjustment for creating objective conditions to promote the effective enjoyment of human rights, strive to promote human rights education and oversee protection of human rights.

LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said economic and social development was crucial for human rights to thrive in any country.  However, for development to be sustainable, it must be accompanied by determined efforts to build a democratic society where the respect for human rights and the rule of law were guaranteed for all.  Openness and pluralism had to be the guiding principles in those efforts, upheld with genuine and steady commitment by the Government, people and civil society.

As part of his Government's commitment to taking the country to higher standards in human rights, preparations were now complete for the establishment of an independent national human rights commission.  That commission's mission was to consolidate national efforts to safeguard and promote human rights, as well as to redress human rights infringements and acts of discrimination.  Further, his Government had appointed a human rights ambassador, whose duty was to join the global efforts for human rights and to engage in public awareness raising activities on human rights issues.

He said that while national authorities had the primary responsibility for bringing human rights violators to justice, the international community must send the clear message that perpetrators of gross human rights violations would be subject to punishment without fail.  In addition to inter-governmental cooperation, Korea emphasized the instrumental role of individuals, non-governmental organizations and groups in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The role of civil society was growing by the day in raising public awareness, monitoring and urging Government activities, and bringing to light social injustices.  Grass-roots organizations and their bottom-up, democratic approach were instrumental in instilling the respect for human rights in every day life.  In particular, the contributions made and roles played by civil society in the promotion and protection of women and other disadvantaged groups should be recognized and encouraged in both the national and international arena.

Korea, he said, reiterated the importance it attached to human rights education for a fuller implementation of international human rights norms and effective prevention of human rights abuses.  His Government strove to elevate public awareness about human rights issues.  An educated public was crucial to the success of efforts to prevent, investigate and punish human rights violations.  The ideals and goals enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were as relevant today as they were a half-century ago.  It was the firm belief of Korea that the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms would provide a more secure foundation for peace, security and prosperity in each country and region, and around the world.

SOTOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said throughout the course of human history, the forced displacement of populations had often been used during times of war as a tool to achieve dominance in a given geographic region.  Almost always, such displacement had been closely linked to other gross violations of human rights, including genocide.  The difference today was that human rights instruments had been established in order to counter such phenomena.  Still, while those instruments were meant to serve as a shield for States -- particularly smaller ones -- against arbitrary actions and violence imposed on them by other States, Cyprus was a classic example of the inability of the international community to put an end to such practices once and for all.

He aligned his position with that of the European Union delivered earlier in the debate by the representative of Belgium.  With that in mind, he would confine his statements to the violations of human rights in Cyprus due to Turkey’s continuing occupation of one third of his country.  He said that last year an important development had occurred concerning the situation in Cyprus, namely the handing down of a landmark decision last May by the European Court of Human Rights.  That decision entailed Turkey’s responsibility under the European Convention on Human Rights and found Turkey guilty of fourteen violations of the Convention.  The Court highlighted violations broadly under the topics of Greek Cypriot missing persons and their relatives, homes and property of displaced persons, living conditions of Greek Cypriots in the Karpas region of northern Cyprus, and the rights of Turkish Cypriots living in northern Cyprus.

He said Turkey’s reaction to that decision, which noted such continuing violations as degrading and inhuman treatment, excessive measures of censorship of books for use in primary schools and violation of the right to liberty, had been to resort to threats and accusations against the Court for taking “political decisions”.  It seemed that for Turkey, the notion of human rights and international law had its own meaning, namely “might made right”.  That misguided and truly anachronistic approach had grave repercussions not only on Greek Cypriots but on their Turkish Cypriot compatriots who had lived in the occupied area and had been forced to emigrate in large numbers to escape the heavy handed tactics of the Turkish occupation forces.

Cyprus considered the decision of the Court as a test case for the international community’s efforts in promoting and protecting human rights.  If global partners did not actively address the issue of impunity, he was afraid the world would continue to witness violations of human rights on a similarly large scale in the future.  It was high time for Turkey, if it wanted to be considered a law-abiding member of the international community, to respect the decision of the Court and withdraw its troops from Cyprus and end human rights violations.

BENONI BELLI (Brazil) said words had to be matched with a new attitude, and new action. All human beings were born equal, and all human rights were universal and inter-dependent.  Unfortunately, that was not always realized when some States hid behind the idea of non-interference.  No country was completely free from abuse.  But every country had the obligation to follow the provisions of the international human rights mechanisms.  Those mechanisms needed to be strengthened so their implementation could be monitored.  The treaty bodies were also important and had to be given the means to fully carry out their mandates.

He said his Government was deeply committed to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  It cooperated with the Special Rapporteur on torture, and it had submitted its initial report to the Committee against Torture last year.  His Government had come to the conclusion by its own experience that adherence to international human rights norms was not only an obligation, it was a way to effect positive change.  Human rights was a powerful tool for changing reality.  There was no excuse to deny the basic rights to which all individuals were entitled. 

FRED BEYENDEZA (Uganda) said the representative of Belgium this morning had made reference to Uganda concerning legal questions with political parties.  The matter was before the Constitutional Review Commission, which was reviewing the actions of political parties in Uganda.  Given its history, Uganda should not be stampeded into making quick political decisions. 

He said Uganda was fully committed to the Lusaka Peace Agreement, which provided for an orderly disengagement of troops and their withdrawal from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Out of the 14 battalions initially deployed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda had withdrawn 12, and participated in all fora geared towards resolving the conflict.  The decision to withdraw the battalions had been made after a thorough assessment that threats to Uganda's security in the vacated areas had lessened.

Mr. Beyendeza said that last Thursday, the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo had been presented to the Committee.  The report contained hearsay, false statements, distortions and obvious biases, which only served to create unnecessary tensions and confusion.  It was hoped that future reports would not be the result of heavy reliance on falsehoods, unnamed sources, unsubstantiated allegations and hearsay.  The attempt to camouflage ignorance of the facts by purporting to avoid naming certain sources due to security reasons was a major flaw that should be avoided in the future.  The only conclusion that could be drawn was that his actions were deliberately biased.  It was hoped that a more competent Rapporteur would be appointed to undertake the task at hand. 

Uganda was still committed to the Lusaka Peace Accord, and was implementing it accordingly, he said.  Only through this, and the establishment of a new dispensation from inter-Congolese dialogue could the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo be improved and stability in the Great Lakes Region be attained.

DUBRAVKA SIMONOVIC (Croatia) said that along with addressing well-known challenges to efforts to protect and promote human rights, the international community must also find creative ways to confront new and emerging challenges as well.  Overall, the main goal would be linking international targets and objectives with the human rights activities of the United Nations.  New issues such as bio-ethics needed to be carefully examined.  Scientific developments in the field of biomedicine and biotechnology posed serious questions for all humankind.  Difficult human rights questions were bound to emerge for issues such as freedom of reproductive choice, medically assisted procreation, prohibition of cloning, and genetic discrimination resulting from inappropriate use of genetic data.

She said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights and the Council of Europe’s Convention for the protection of human dignity with regard to the application of biology and medicine were significant contributions.  She went on to say that following the termination last year of the mandate of the special rapporteur for human rights in her country, cooperation between Croatia and the United Nations on humanitarian issues had continued through regular convention mechanisms, through technical assistance programmes and cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

She said that since its independence, Croatia had become a party to all six core United Nations human rights treaties.  Recently Croatia had entered a new phase in its relationship with the European Union by signing the Stabilization and Association Agreement.  That would provide the underlying framework for wide-range cooperation and promote Croatia’s integration into European structures.

MOHAMMAD HASSAN FADAIFARD (Iran) said, concerning the significance of actual and potential contributions of cultural diversity to the life of mankind, that there existed some rigid attitudes towards that issue, which seemed to lack the proper rationale.  Some adopted an absolutist approach which rejected any attempt to incorporate culture, history and religion into any evaluation of human rights.  Others rejected any international instrument and held that such an instrument could be alien to their thought, tradition and culture.  Both sides were influenced by misinterpretations on the position of cultural diversity in the human rights discourse.  Different cultures could contribute to and learn from each other through interaction.  The UNESCO Declaration recognized cultural cooperation as a right and duty for all peoples and all nations, which should share with one another their knowledge and skills.

He said Iran believed that the adoption by consensus of the resolution entitled "Human Rights and Cultural Diversity" was a clear indication of the desirability and importance attached by the international community to the relationship between human rights and cultural diversity.  At the same time, it served as an appropriate preliminary measure, facilitating the commencement of a global and constructive discourse on various issues.

The recent initiative undertaken by UNESCO to adopt a Declaration on cultural diversity was a valuable contribution, he said, and constituted an essential building block in providing the impetus for a normative debate on cultural diversity which could lead to further conceptualization and codification of the issue at the international level.

ROBERT PAIVA (International Organization for Migration (IOM)) said just days after the end of the World Conference against Racism, the horrendous events of

11 September occurred.  Barely two months later, the world was in many ways a different place.  And while it was too early to see the lasting effects that those events would have worldwide, it was certain that there would be many changes in the way people thought and interacted with each other.  Unfortunately, one immediate effect had been on the way immigrants were being perceived by many individuals and societies.  Always in a difficult position, often facing discrimination in their efforts to integrate into their new countries, migrants were bearing a disproportionate share of the reaction to the events of

11 September.  Migrants were suddenly regarded with more suspicion than before, and be they asylum seekers, refugees or economically motivated, many were being seen, unjustifiably, as potential enemies.

Mr. Paiva said while the discussion about migration prior to 11 September had focused on issues such as integrating migrants in multicultural host societies, preventing illegal border crossings and opening legal migration channels to matching labour market needs, it had now shifted to security.  IOM felt strongly that, while the fight against terrorism was imperative, the vast majority of persons moving around the globe did so for legitimate reasons, and many of them needed international assistance.  The IOM was therefore committed to promoting better management of migration, highlighting the positive aspects of migration, reducing exploitation of migrants and ensuring their equality of access to judicial procedures and civil liberties.

Rights of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of the Lao People's Democratic Republic said it was regrettable that the representative of Belgium, speaking on behalf of the European Union had taken the opportunity earlier in the day to make negative remarks about his country.  He said that countries around the world, because of their different levels of development and historical or cultural backgrounds had different needs and approaches to the realization of human rights. In fact, there was no single concept of the application of human rights standards.

He said Lao People's Democratic Republic had consistently affirmed its faith in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The country had its own cultural identity and a history that dated back thousands of years.  For the last 25 years, the people of his country had spared no efforts to safeguard national security and stability.  Moreover, the Government had worked to protect and promote the human rights and freedoms of all the country’s multi-ethnic peoples.  Against that background, he firmly believed that it was essential to respect the rights of others to independently choose their social systems and paths to development.  Any cooperation in the field of human rights must be conducted on the basis of the Charter, particularly the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of States and full respect for national independence and sovereignty.

The representative of Tunisia, exercising the right of reply, said his Government regretted the paragraph which referred to the country in Belgium's statement this morning.  The very principle of making judgments on one country's practices was not acceptable, and it was an inadmissible interference in the internal operations of a country.  There was not a single model of the ideal respect of human rights.  Tunisia for a long time had defended all human rights.  It had never ceased to foster an egalitarian, free and prosperous society.  The poverty index was low in Tunisia, and school attendance was high.  Tunisian society was evolving day after day.  Europe knew this, and thus, it was a surprise to hear the criticism. 

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Cameroon said his delegation had listened to the earlier intervention on behalf of the European Union with great interest.  That statement had been intended to reflect the Union’s constant attention to human rights in the world, but instead appeared to be focused mainly on violations of human rights in the south.  His delegation would have been perhaps more interested to hear about the human rights situation in Europe so that all nations could learn from it.

As it was, he continued, the European Union’s statement had been mistaken about the human rights situation in Cameroon.  The Government had resolved the situation of operational commandos.  Justice in that regard was following its course.  He invited the representative of the European Union to come to his country and attend the hearings underway on the matter.  Cameroon had installed a good governance committee to fight against corruption.  On the question of torture, Cameroon had invited the Special Representative on torture to evaluate its progress, and relevant laws had been created to address that issue.  Cameroon had a constitutional and judicial framework for the repression of torture.

The representative of Togo, exercising a right of reply, said it was important to understand the efforts taken by the Government of Togo to organize friendly elections.  Just yesterday, the President of Togo received leaders of the opposition, and he reiterated to them the importance of working together to ensure that elections were held on time.  In Togo, no one was above the law.  All residents were treated the same, regardless of whether or not they were politically-connected.  The Foreign Minister of Togo, when the time was right, would address this further in the General Assembly.

The representative of Iraq said in his right of reply he would focus on the statements made earlier by the representatives of Canada, New Zealand and Norway. The basic problem faced by Western countries’ approach to humanitarian issues was that they could not move beyond their political leanings.  The statements were generally biased and political and his delegation had serious reservations as to their validity.  Canada’s statement had been very selective in its representation of the human rights situation in Iraq.  New Zealand’s statement repeated Canada’s selective concerns in almost an authentic copy.  They also ignored the impact of economic sanctions on Iraq.

For its part, he continued, Norway had called on the Iraqi Government to improve the living conditions of its citizens.  That Government had been in power since the 1960s and through the 1980s Iraq had enjoyed one of the highest standards of living in the region.  Norway was a member of the Security Council and knew the truth -- that two members of that body had withheld billions of dollars in humanitarian aid from Iraq.  He asked why the representative of Norway had not mentioned that fact.  Iraq had obeyed the Council’s resolutions and that body was now duty bound to lift the sanctions and live up to its commitments.  The situation of the citizens of Iraq would only improve once the sanctions were lifted.

The representative of Egypt, speaking in a right of reply, said the statement of the European Union made observations about 61 countries, but not one of them was in the European Union.  The situation of human rights in the European Union should be improved as well.  They should hold the same standards they demand of others.  There were issues regarding the treatment of minorities in each of the European Union countries.

She said the Egyptian Constitution guaranteed fundamental freedoms, and it was the basis of power in Egypt.  The situation of the Copts in Egypt had never been as bad as the European Union had stated.  They were an integral part of the social fabric of Egypt, and a big part of the country's history.  The Constitution guaranteed rights of worship and personal choice.  All attempts at portraying Copts as treated differently, were merely attempts to create division.  No country had a monopoly on the defence of human rights.  Now, more than ever, there must be a higher degree of tolerance about cultural and religious differences between countries.

Exercising her right of reply the representative of Malaysia thanked the representative of Belgium, who, speaking on behalf of the European Union, had made positive remarks about the humanitarian situation in her country.  She said that after only one year, the National Commission on Human Rights had made great progress.  Malaysia also placed prime importance on issues related to peace and security.  The Government had constantly reviewed its policies in that regard to ensure their continued relevance.  On capital punishment, she said Malaysia believed that was an issue of criminal justice and not one of human rights.  Her delegation would welcome a dialogue on capital punishment at the appropriate time.

The representative of China, exercising the right of reply, said the delegate from Belgium had made accusations concerning over 50 States, but he did not mention violations in any countries of the European Union.  China firmly rejected the accusations of both Belgium and New Zealand.  Falun Gong was not a religion, but a cult.  It spoke about the end of the world and collected money in illegal ways.  Falun Gong also said people should not resort to medical treatment for their sicknesses.  Some of their practitioners had burned and killed themselves, among them a 19-year-old girl and a 12-year-old girl.  How did these young girls get involved in such a vicious cult?  By outlawing Falun Gong, China had committed an act of justice.  It had been very tolerant with many Falun Gong practitioners, and most had realized how vicious the cult was. 

Exercising her country’s right of reply the representative of Sudan said the statements made by Canada and New Zealand earlier today were consistent with the pattern of certain countries persistently appointing themselves as international custodians of human rights.  While grateful that those delegations had shown interest in her country, she believed that the effort would have been better spent highlighting the humanitarian situation in their own countries.

She was particularly surprised by New Zealand’s statement.  The main way to assess the humanitarian situation in a country was through diplomatic representation.  New Zealand did not have such representation in Sudan.  While she did not wish to respond to any of the allegations, she would have wished that both the new custodians of human rights had raised concerns about the situation of human rights in their own countries, thus showing the virtue of self criticism.  Sudan would have wished to hear from those delegations about the humanitarian situation of their indigenous populations, particularly the difficulties they faced in preserving their cultural heritage and land rights.  She urged that delegations not make the United Nations a forum for revenge but of understanding so that the difficulties that all nations faced could be addressed in a fair manner.

The representative of Syria, exercising the right of reply, said the delegation appreciated all the issues that linked Syria with the European Union.  There were many partnership accords between the nations, and it was hoped they could be strengthened and deepened.  There was no oasis in the world where human rights were fully respected.  Syria hoped there would be no human rights violations in the States of the European Union.  However, it was likely many States of the European Union needed to improve their actions in the field of human rights.  That could take some time. 

Regarding what was said this morning by the European Union, Syria guaranteed the full enjoyments of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The principle was enshrined in the Constitution of Syria.  Human rights had made headway, particularly recently, in Syria.  All trials in Syria were conducted in an atmosphere of transparency, impartiality and objectivity.  Those were the values on which the citizens of Syria were raised.  The citizens of Syria would find it strange to hear those false accusations.

Exercising his right of reply the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the statement made earlier on behalf of the European Union had been political, and had lacked objectivity and impartiality.  He further believed those statements had been confrontational, and his government rejected the statement in its entirety.  His Government would continue to promote its social system and policies, and faithfully undertake its international obligations, as witnessed by its accession this year to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Recently the European Union and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had entered into a pact to consider extensive dialogues.  But the statement made earlier on the Union’s behalf had made his delegation cautious as to the purpose of such dialogue.

The representative of Eritrea, exercising a right of reply, said the Norwegian delegation correctly pointed out that Eritrea and Ethiopia had agreed to release all prisoners of war.  Immediately after the signing of the agreement, Ethiopia did not live up to its end of the deal.  This had been verified by international organizations.  Eritrea stood ready to resume the process at any time.  In fact, last month, Eritrea unilaterally released more than a dozen Ethiopian prisoners of war.  That was not reciprocated.  There were about 1,600 Eritrean prisoners of war, and 400 Ethiopian prisoners of war.  Further, Ethiopia had about 300 civilian prisoners, while Eritrea held no civilians.  It was a shame that civilians had to be held hostage.  Ethiopia's actions were blatant violations of the relevant Geneva Conventions.  Eritrea wanted to assure the Committee that

the prisoners were being held in sufficient Government facilities, and had access to food and medical treatment.  Their rights were not being violated.

The representative of Lebanon said his intervention was not a right of reply but a clarification of a point made by the representative of Belgium on behalf of the European Union earlier concerning attacks against the Lebanese demonstrators.  He said the demonstrators had been fired upon by Lebanese security forces.  The incident had been regrettable and not at all consistent with Lebanon’s policies on human rights and the protection of fundamental freedoms.  The Government considered it an isolated event.  At the same time, the incident was considered a serious one.  The security forces that had used violence against the demonstrators acted without instructions from their superiors.  The Government had opened an investigation into the matter, and the security officers had been punished.  Those individuals that had been taken into custody had been freed.  He added that Lebanon had always had a reputation for actively promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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For information media. Not an official record.