Fifty-seventh General Assembly
45th and 46th Meetings (AM & PM)
DELEGATES IN THIRD COMMITTEE URGED TO CREATE ‘HUMAN RIGHTS CULTURE’, ENSURING
RIGHT TO ADEQUATE FOOD, HOUSING, DEVELOPMENT, SOCIAL SERVICES
Draft Resolution Approved on Trafficking
In Women, Children; Human Rights Discussion Concludes
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) concluded its annual consideration of human rights questions, the representative of Suriname urged delegations to strive to create a "human rights culture" -- one that ensured the right adequate food, housing, development and necessary social services -- where human rights became the birthright of all men, women and children.
Speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), she said United Nations Member States should not only live up to the principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), but they also were responsible for promoting and protecting the indivisibility of all human rights. Strong cooperation between the two human rights monitoring bodies –- on Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- could promote the necessary universality of human rights. Perhaps merging the two committees would be an even greater step in the right direction, she added.
Other delegations also stressed the need for effective support and strengthening of existing treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms -- essential pillars in monitoring implementation of the commitments made under relevant human rights instruments. The representative of Jamaica said urgent measures must be taken to reduce the growing complexity of the current human rights machinery. He also believed that, in order to preserve the integrity and credibility of the international human rights system, the international community's approach must be defined by the principle of impartiality and non-selectivity.
Carrying that further, the representative of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia said that, while the goal was certainly the universal ratification of the six core human rights treaties, a full and effective implementation of the agreed international standards was also necessary. That should be accompanied by a strong, national human rights policy and human rights institutions -- also essential for sustained protection and advancement. Moreover, future human rights instruments must be “new generation” instruments, seeking more transparency and cooperation, rather than declaration and commitment.
The Committee began its work in the afternoon by approving a draft resolution which would have the General Assembly call upon all governments to
criminalize trafficking in women and children, particularly girls, and to condemn and penalize all those offenders involved, either in the country of origin of the offender or in the country in which the abuse takes place, while ensuring that the victims of those practices were not penalized for being trafficked.
That text would also have the Assembly call on Governments to take steps to ensure that the treatment of victims of trafficking is applied with full respect for their human rights and is consistent with internationally recognized principles of non-discrimination. It would further urge governments to provide or strengthen training for law enforcement, immigration and other relevant officials in the prevention of trafficking in persons. The draft will be submitted to the Assembly for final adoption later in the session.
Also in the afternoon the representative of Cuba introduced a draft on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights, through the promotion of international cooperation.
Also participating in the debate were the representatives of Canada, India, Myanmar, Tunisia, Turkey, Morocco, Cyprus, Armenia, Malaysia, Suriname and Greece.
The observer of Palestine also addressed the Committee, as did the representatives of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Cuba, Ethiopia, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe, Israel, Uganda, Pakistan, Turkey, Norway, and Cyprus.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow morning, 13 November 2002, at 10 a.m., when it will resume to its discussion of matters related to refugees, returnees and displaced persons.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its joint consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs.
In the afternoon, delegations were expected to take action on a draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/57/L.17), by which the General Assembly would urge governments to take appropriate measures to address the root factors that encourage trafficking in women and girls for prostitution and other forms of commercialized sex, forced marriages and forced labour, in order to eliminate trafficking in women, including by strengthening existing legislation.
Under the draft, the Assembly would call upon all governments to criminalize trafficking in women and children, and to condemn and penalize all those offenders involved, including intermediaries, whether their offence was committed in their own or in a foreign country, while ensuring that the victims of those practices were not penalized. The Assembly would also ask governments to take steps to ensure that the treatment of victims of trafficking is applied with full respect for the human rights of those victims and is consistent with internationally recognized principles of non-discrimination. The Assembly would urge governments to provide or strengthen training for law enforcement, immigration and other relevant officials.
Delegations may also hear the introduction of a draft text on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/C.3/57/L.40), which would have the Assembly reiterate that all peoples have the right to freely determine, without external interference, their political status and to pursue their economic, social and cultural development.
Also by the text, the Assembly would underline the obligation that governments have to promote and protect human rights and to carry out their responsibilities under international law. The Assembly would also express its conviction that an unbiased and fair approach to human rights issues contributes to the promotion of international cooperation, as well as the effective, promotion, protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Statements on Human Rights
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) said it was the responsibility of each and every Member State to fulfil its human rights obligations. Canada was committed to fulfilling these obligations and believed that, through engagement and constructive dialogue with partners, real progress could be made in improving the situation of human rights in the world.
Commenting on situations of particular concern to Canada, he said he welcomed constitutional amendments which allowed for direct presidential elections in 2004 in Indonesia, but strongly urged continued judicial reform. While welcoming China’s efforts to improve standards of living, he was concerned about the persistent scale and scope of restrictions on freedom of expression, association and religion, and about the application of the death penalty.
In Cambodia, the Government was urged to continue working with the United Nations to establish an internationally credible tribunal to address war crimes committed during the Khmer Rouge period, he said. Canada was disappointed that the conditions that had led the Montagnards to flee from Vietnam had not improved. Furthermore, his country remained concerned about the continuing lack of political freedom and deplorable violations of human rights in Myanmar. While welcoming the resumption of dialogue between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea and Japan, he expressed concern about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
He remained hopeful that the peace process would be successful in Sri Lanka, but stressed the need for effective measures for safeguarding human rights. While welcoming Pakistan’s recent reform measures, he remained concerned by the ongoing human rights violations in that country, particularly as they affected religious minorities and women, and called for the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws. The continued support of the international community was essential to address the enormous refugee and internally displaced persons population in Afghanistan, as well as the country’s debilitated human rights structures.
Canada was deeply disturbed by reports of individuals in Nigeria being sentenced to death by stoning for adultery. He was pleased that the Government of the Sudan and rebels had agreed to continue the negotiations, but called for the unimpeded humanitarian access to all areas and for people in need. Canada was encouraged by the May elections in Sierra Leone, but remained concerned by ongoing regional tensions and their impact on the human rights situation. He also raised concerns as to the continuing human rights violations in Côte d’Ivoire, as well as in the Great Lakes region of Africa. He encouraged the Government of Rwanda to stop restricting the activities of the press and the opposition, and regretted the absence of a ceasefire in Burundi. Canada was also concerned by the situation in Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Togo.
On Iran, he remained concerned by the steady deterioration of the human rights situation. Canada hoped that new regulations in Saudi Arabia would bring about changes in the legal process and a reduction of executions and corporal punishment in the penal system. Thorough, impartial and timely investigations of reported human rights violations in the Republic of Chechnya were suggested. He further expressed concern about the Presidents of Turkmenistan and Belarus, who had imposed oppressive and authoritarian cults of personality, as well as the reported use of torture in Uzbekistan.
He supported the Colombian Government’s effort to re-establish democratic security and called on the Government to intensify its efforts to sever links between the armed forces and the paramilitary. Canada welcomed the positive steps taken by Guatemala toward strengthening institutional judicial and human rights mechanisms, but stressed that much remained to be done to address the insecurity faced by human rights defenders in Guatemala. The Government of Cuba was encouraged to allow greater space for peaceful dissent. Finally, he expressed Canada’s concern about the human rights situation in Haiti, and urged the authorities to bring the perpetrators of human rights violations to justice.
IRMA LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the delegations she represented had ratified most of the six core human rights instruments and were fully aware of the responsibility to live up to the principles enshrined in them and to fulfil their reporting obligations. In that regard, the Council for Human and Social Development had been established within CARICOM to manage its member States’ obligations under those instruments. During its recent meeting, held in Guyana from 23-25 October, the Council decided, among other things, to develop a human and social development strategy focused on core elements in the areas of education, health and labour, and to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other threats to democracy in the region, such as drug trafficking, rising crime rates and environmental degradation.
In the Caribbean region, special attention was also being paid to the rights of older persons, indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities. After highlighting the importance of the many reports before the Committee -- including those on the right to food, human rights and poverty, and on human rights of migrants -- she said the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004) was necessary to enhance the knowledge of everyone on those and other human rights issues. That Decade was also necessary to increase knowledge about the necessity of implementing those rights. She said that the people of the least developed countries (LDCs), small island developing States (SIDS) and landlocked developing States needed official development assistance to be at least doubled to meet the human rights needs of their people. It was necessary for the developed countries to live up to their commitments in providing at least 0.7 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) in that regard.
Moreover, everyone should be reminded that each and every person had the right to a standard of living, as well as adequate health and well-being, as prescribed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). That right included the right to food, clothing, housing, medical care and necessary social services, among others. She urged all Member States to live up to the principles of human rights and to strive to create a "human rights culture", where human rights became a birthright.
She said that strong cooperation between the two human rights monitoring bodies -- Civil and Political Rights, and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights -- could promote the necessary universality of human rights. Perhaps merging the two committees would be an even greater step in the right direction. Her delegation supported the view that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) needed additional resources to ensure more effective execution of its important duties.
K.YERRANNAIDU (India) said there could be no justification whatsoever for terrorism. Terrorist acts constituted not only a criminal activity -- they were a violation of human rights. They sought to violate the most fundamental of human rights, namely the right to life. Attempts to provide justifications by looking at causal relationships of such acts would only serve as encouragement to terrorists and detract severely from the global war on terrorism. He added that, as a democratic nation, India appreciated the statement of the High Commissioner upholding the principle of the rule of law as the cornerstone of his activities, and looked forward to its development.
He was, however, concerned at some very subjective comments and concepts included in the report. These included the notions on membership of the Commission on Human Rights; the notion that human rights treaty bodies could interfere with the judicial processes of Member States by urging them to release prisoners and reduce prison terms. The last-mentioned would be the very antithesis of the ideas of constitutional order and the rule of law within a given society, ideas which the new High Commissioner had promised to uphold.
On allegations regarding violations of human rights and the panoply of mechanisms mandated to deal with them, he said that these mechanisms must satisfy themselves that domestic remedies had been fully exhausted. Furthermore the special procedures must work strictly within their mandates, and the mechanisms must be mindful of the burden being imposed on the reporting States in collecting accurate information. Also, care must be taken to avoid unnecessary duplication and overlapping.
NADYA RASHEED, Observer for Palestine, said the Palestinian people had been, and continued to be, denied the most basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, both individually and collectively. For nearly 35 years, the Palestinian people had been subjected to the Israeli occupation of their land and the denial of their natural and inalienable rights, in flagrant violation of international legitimacy, international law and international humanitarian law. In this connection, she thanked the Special Rapporteur for his report on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967. Throughout the period covered by the report, the Israeli occupying forces had waged a large-scale military assault against the Palestinian people, unprecedented in its scope and intensity. As a result, the Palestinian people had not only suffered extensive loss of life and injury, but also the vast destruction of homes, properties, institutions and vital infrastructure.
During the reporting period of the Special Rapporteur, over 700,000 people had not been able to leave their homes to work, buy food, go to the doctor and go to school, she said. Furthermore, Palestinians had been continuously subjected to humiliation and harassment by the Israeli occupying forces at roadblocks and checkpoints. The Special Rapporteur’s stated, in the addendum to his report, that the seriousness of the situation had been understated in his initial report, and corroborated the urgent need to end all Israeli human rights violations against the Palestinians. What was the international community waiting for?
U LINN MYAING (Myanmar) said his country was cognizant of the fact that the promotion and protection of human rights was a major concern for the international community. Myanmar was fully committed to the principles enshrined in the Charter and the UDHR, and the Government had been striving to promote social progress for the people of the country. Measurable success had been achieved, and as a result, Myanmar had been able to fulfil its peoples' fundamental rights to adequate food and shelter, among others. He added that the Government had cooperated with the Secretary-General's Special Envoy, who was currently in the midst of his ninth visit to Myanmar. The Government was also cooperating with the International Labour Organization (ILO) on the issue of forced labour.
The country had recently embarked on a human rights initiative, as in April 2000, a Human Rights Committee had been formed. That body, chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs, had been holding series of workshops and seminars with the cooperation and assistance of the Australian Government. Those seminars disseminated information on human rights standards for public officials, as well as for the wider citizenry. Awareness-raising activities were also under way, most notably last February's mine action awareness workshop, and human rights workshops for law enforcement personnel had been held last March. He went on to say that, for the first time in nearly 50 years, the armed conflicts that had plagued Myanmar since its independence had practically ceased, except in a few border areas.
The Special Rapporteur had commended the agreements reached between the Government and some 17 armed ethnic groups, which indeed had been the centerpiece of the national reconciliation process. Further steps were under way, he said. All restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of the National League for Democracy (NLD) Party had been lifted last May, and over 700 detainees and prisoners had been released. The NLD Party and its leader were freely interacting with the press, media and civil society, as well as the with the diplomatic community and United Nations agencies. With all that, he stressed, the political climate in Myanmar was moving in a direction that was conducive to national reconciliation.
O’NEIL FRANCIS (Jamaica) stressed the need for effective support for existing treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms and procedures -- essential pillars in monitoring implementation of the commitments made under relevant human rights instruments. Yet, urgent measures must be taken, including through improved coordination and the standardization of reporting requirements, to reduce the growing complexity of the current human rights machinery. Jamaica also believed that improving the quality of reports and analyses from special procedures, including the system of special rapporteurs and representatives on human rights, must be treated as central in enhancing the international human rights mechanism. There was a need for the highest level of impartiality and professionalism to define the approach by special procedures.
To preserve the integrity and credibility of the international human rights system, the principle of impartiality and non-selectivity must define the international community’s approach to addressing violations of human rights in all parts of the world. This approach necessarily dictated that human rights must not and should not be used as a tool for narrow interests and objectives, but must, rather, represent a common framework of standards equally applicable in all regions and to all States. In this regard, he stressed that respect for cultural, ideological and religious diversity was essential to this approach and to the very concept of human rights. It underpinned the essence of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights, and he, therefore, welcomed efforts to enhance global respect for diversity, through the promotion of a dialogue among civilizations.
GEORGES PACLISANU, representative of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), focused his statement on the issue of missing persons. Uncertainty about the fate of their loved ones was a harsh reality for countless families affected by armed conflicts and situations of internal violence. Throughout the world, parents, spouses and children were desperately trying to find lost relatives. Many were unable to move on with their lives or begin the process of recovery, thus undermining relations between groups and nations, even decades following actual events.
Action must be taken, he said. Governments should take the lead, backed, where required, by humanitarian and human rights organizations to prevent persons from going missing and to deal with the consequences. For many years, the ICRC had sought to prevent disappearances, to restore family ties and to ascertain the whereabouts of the missing.
Still, in many contexts, the ICRC had been unable to fulfil its mandate, because of a lack of political will of the parties concerned, or simply because of general confusion prevailing in societies affected by conflict. The ICRC had accordingly decided to launch a two-stage process of reflection with those concerned. The first stage had been devoted to gathering and analysing information on a select number of topics -- including protection work, restoration of family links and management of human remains -- in close cooperation with academic institutions and some 120 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and experts. A report on the outcome of the process should be ready by the end of January 2003.
For the second stage, the ICRC was organizing an international conference, bringing together a broad spectrum of governments, NGOs and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, among others. That conference was expected to take place in Geneva from 19-21 February 2003. The ICRC hoped that the outcome of the conference would be of direct use to the political and humanitarian actors working in situations of armed conflict and internal violence.
FLORENCE CHENOWETH, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said that at the World Food Summit last June, Mr. Zieigler had reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, and had invited the FAO Council to establish an Intergovernmental Working Group to elaborate, over the next two years, a set of voluntary guidelines to support Member States in achieving progressive realization of the right to adequate food. The FAO Council had held its 123rd session two weeks ago and had formally established the Working Group. Its membership was open to FAO members and United Nations Member States.
Other stakeholders, including NGOs, academics and private sector representatives, would participate as observers. The secretariat of the Working Group would be provided by the FAO secretariat, drawing on the experience of other actors, particularly the OHCHR as well as Rome-based food agencies. Some extra budgetary funding had already been provided, and it was hoped that more would be forthcoming, in order to finance documentation, research and the effective participation of developing countries. The FAO would soon be issuing a call to all States and stakeholders to provide their views and suggestions for inclusion in the voluntary guidelines, in preparation for the first session of the Working Group, which would be convened early next year.
Action on Drafts
The Committee began its work in the afternoon by approving without a vote a draft resolution on trafficking in women and girls (document A/C.3/57/L.17).
Statements on Human Rights Questions
NOUREDDINE MEJDOUB (Tunisia) said there was no doubt that events of the past year had affected the promotion and protection of human rights. With that in mind, the international community must persist in its efforts to combat terrorism. Tunisia would, therefore, appeal to Member States to consider convening an international conference at which a global code of conduct and frame of reference would be elaborated to help the international community combat that scourge. He added that Tunisia had always drawn attention to the need to root out the causes of violence, and to work toward strengthening cooperation and cohesion among and between all nations. As an African country, Tunisia paid particular attention to conflict issues and the human rights questions arising from violence. He urged all parties to conflict to settle their differences peacefully and adhere to the provisions of international law.
Another issue of concern for Tunisia was the human rights situation of peoples living under foreign occupation or domination, he said. Therefore, the social, economic and humanitarian situation in the Palestinian occupied territories was particularly troubling. The international conscience was duty bound to denounce Israeli abuses in those territories and to ensure that the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, as well as international human rights instruments, were implemented.
It was in joint, concerted action that the true universality of human rights -- economic, social, political, cultural and civil -- could be found. Any selectivity, or attempts to give priority to any one of those rights over another, was sure to disrupt the very heart of all societies. Examining human rights questions together, in mutual respect, might also be way to bring societies closer together. "We all have something to learn from each other," he concluded.
HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said that, as a country that had lost thousands of its citizens to terrorism, Turkey had always emphasized the damaging impact of this scourge on the full enjoyment of human rights. Recent terrorist attacks around the world had demonstrated the need to avoid double standards in dealing with terrorism, as well as human rights issues. Those events must not be used as a pretext for restricting fundamental rights and freedoms. Another worrying trend in the post-11 September era was growing prejudice based on religion, ethnicity, nationality or race. To break this vicious cycle of hatred and violence, the security and stability of the world was, now more than ever, dependent on working towards equality, understanding, tolerance, respect for human dignity and the rule of law in every part of the world.
The third package of a new Civil Code, adopted in November 2001, had brought with it wide-ranging amendments. Those amendments included the removal of legal restrictions on the learning of various languages and dialects, as well as their broadcasting and amendments to the Turkish Penal Code, affecting laws on associations, meetings and demonstration marches, the press and the duties of police, among others. Encouraged by those positive developments, Turkey was determined to redouble its efforts and eliminate any shortcomings in those fields. In doing so, Turkey also expected that criticisms took into account the remarkable progress that had been achieved so far.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said civil and political rights could not be developed unless economic, social and cultural rights were equally enhanced. Morocco had made the respect for human rights one of the fundamental elements of its social policy. The Government's commitment had led to Morocco's accession to the various human rights treaties and instruments. It had also attempted to harmonize its laws with the spirit of those instruments. Many changes were under way which aimed to ensure the promotion and protection of the human rights of all citizens. He added that more than 35 women were now participating in Parliament, and the Government had made sustained efforts to integrate a national human rights education programme into all school curricula.
He expressed particular concern for the protection and promotion of the rights of migrants. The international community must work to ensure adherence to all relevant international laws and instruments on behalf of migrants, and that immigrants might be able to enjoy all their rights without distinction. He appealed to other concerned States to ratify the Convention on the protection of migrants and their families, adding that it was important to ensure the implementation of the Durban Plan of Action. Finally, he drew attention to the grave and persistent human rights violations that were occurring in the Palestinian occupied territories. The international community should assume its responsibility and ensure adherence to relevant Security Council resolutions on that issue.
SOTIRIOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said international judicial and other bodies had repeatedly pointed to Turkey’s exclusive responsibility for the violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cyprus. Quoting extensively from the decisions of international bodies, particularly from the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Cyprus versus Turkey in May 2001, he said Turkey had been found guilty of 14 violations of the European Convention on Human Rights and had not yet implemented that decision. Concerning the Greek Cypriot missing persons and their families, he said Turkey must carry out a real, effective and credible inquiry, including exhumations and DNA examinations of remains and inform the relatives of the results.
He also referred to judgements of the European Court of Human Rights on the home and property of displaced persons, on the living conditions of Greek Cypriots in northern Cyprus, and on the situation of Turkish Cypriots. A policy by an occupying Power to change the demographic situation of an occupied country was a crime under international law, reiterated in the Rome Statute. Such a policy could neither be condoned nor accepted, and its effects or objectives could not be legalized ex post facto. The solution of the Cyprus problems must be based on Security Council resolutions, and must safeguard and restore the human rights of all Cypriots, who had the right to live in their country without occupation troops and settlers in a re-united federal Cyprus.
MOVSES ABELIAN (Armenia) said that, although the promotion and protection of human rights had been high on the international agenda for some years, global actors were still far from calling past efforts a "victory". Much remained to be done, particularly since it was a well-established fact that human rights were vital tools for ensuring stability and security by decreasing the likelihood of violent social and political conflicts.
He said that countering the scourge of terrorism was emerging as a new area of concern. And, while terrorism must be confronted with all the international community's resolve, it was also important to realize that such response must not be conducted callously. Moreover, the international community must not let the current climate prevent or hinder legitimate dissent, or lead to the suppression of other human rights in the name of the war on terrorism.
Speaking of human rights was also speaking of tolerance, understanding and open-mindedness, he continued. While his country might be considered a success story of interaction of cultures and civilizations, other regions were witnessing a severe lack of tolerance and respect for diversity. The international community must spare no efforts to ensure that diversity was a source of strength and inspiration, not one of fear and mistrust. Since its independence, Armenia had declared its commitment to building democracy and promoting respect for human rights and the rule of law. It had undertaken significant reforms to anchor those values. Armenia's accession to the Council of Europe in 2001 highlighted the international recognition of those achievements. Currently, major legislative and judicial reforms were under way, aimed at bringing Armenia's national institutions in line with international norms and ensuring their effective implementation.
SRGJAN KERIM (The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) said that, while the goal of the international human rights community was the universal ratification of the six, core United Nations human rights treaties, a full and effective implementation of the agreed standards was necessary. In this context, the de lege ferenda must be upon creating and strengthening the monitoring mechanisms for the implementation of accepted obligations. The future human rights instruments must be “new generation” instruments, seeking more transparency and cooperation, rather than declaration and commitment. The adoption of the Optional Protocol to the torture Convention by the Third Committee last week was a significant step forward. Bearing in mind the positive experiences of the European Committee against Torture, he strongly supported the establishment of a control system to ensure regular visits to places of detention at the global level.
Concerning the rule of law, he said securing the rule of law required a full commitment at the national level. The primary responsibility for the effective implementation of human rights belonged to States. A strong, national human right policy and strong human rights institutions were essential for sustained protection and advancement. Those were his country’s guidelines and principles, and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was proud to have resolved the armed conflict faced a year ago. The recently conducted parliamentary elections had been another test for the democratic maturity of his country. As the international monitors had pointed out, the elections had been organized and conducted in accordance with international standards and democratic values.
ASTANAH BANU SHRI ABDUL AZIZ (Malaysia) said that, in the wake of 11 September and, more recently, the bombing in Bali, many States were enacting or re-enacting tough measures, including legislation, in the guise of tackling terrorism. Malaysia was concerned that human rights was the first casualty of such measures. Racism in the West had received new currency -- as witnessed by the success of political parties with anti-immigration platforms. Ostensibly on the pretext of fighting terrorism, it had given many developed countries greater rationale for restrictive immigration policies.
Draconian measures against refugees and asylum-seekers were also rationalized in the name of anti-terrorism, she said. States that had hitherto referred to themselves as champions of freedom and democracy around the world were the first ones to compromise the same. She stressed that it was at a time of most serious challenges that adherence to international norms and standards must prevail. Therefore, Malaysia invited all States to re-examine their policies and legal provisions, and ensure that the words espoused in international forums matched their deeds at home.
Concerning the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights and the practice of bloc voting, she said many reports had mentioned this practice without any attempt to try to explain why more than half of the membership had felt it necessary to bring forward “no action” motions, so that certain resolutions would not be acted upon. Some States continued to table resolutions
targeting specific countries, ignoring positive developments that had taken place. The increase in bloc voting was indicative of States rejecting not the universality of human rights, but the culture of “naming-and-shaming”.
Ms. LOEMBAN TOBING-KLEIN (Suriname) stressed the importance of human rights education as a powerful tool to address inequalities, injustices and abuses at home, in the workplace, in schools, in the relations between countries and peoples, in the streets, in prisons and in court. Everyone must be taught to understand and to make optimal use of their human rights, enshrined in the many human rights instruments. Suriname had tabled a resolution on “human rights education”, with at least 25 co-sponsors from different regions of the world. It was the third time Suriname was asking for special attention and support for a resolution on human rights education. She added that the valuable support of all distinguished delegates for this resolution would be highly appreciated.
There was a need to focus more attention to the indivisibility and interdependence of the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights, she said. Resolutions on countries must contain the interconnected nature of all human rights, to make it easier for all to make decisions and, where necessary, to vote on those resolutions. Another important issue was the human rights-based approach in poverty-reduction strategies aiming at empowering the poor. She also stressed the need to double official development assistance and the importance of the realization of the commitment of 0.7 per cent of the GDP of the developed world for development assistance.
PERIKLIS TSAMOULIS (Greece) stressed the concern of Greece regarding persisting violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cyprus, despite numerous resolutions of the Security Council and the Commission on Human Rights. According to the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights, Turkey had violated 14 articles of the respective Convention of Human Rights. Turkey had also been found guilty of violating the rights of some 500 Greek Cypriots who remained enclaved in the northern occupied areas, the right of Greek Cypriot refugees to their property, and the rights of the relatives of missing persons by refusing to inform them of their fate. Out of the 20,000 Greek Cypriots who had opted in 1974 to stay in their ancestral homes in the area occupied by Turkey, less than 500 had managed to remain there.
Acts of violation against the island’s cultural heritage had been systematically and deliberately carried out, including the destruction of more than 500 Greek Orthodox churches. Others were converted into mosques, vandalized or turned into hotels or restaurants. Smuggling of priceless treasures and works of art had taken place. Furthermore, in a sustained effort to alter the demographic balance of the island, more than 10,000 settlers from mainland Turkey had been transplanted illegally to the occupied part since 1974.
The outcome of eight months of direct talks had not been optimistic, he said. No progress had been achieved due to the intransigence of Mr. Denktash. Greece supported any effort deployed by the Secretary-General within his good office services and believed that the gaps dividing the parties could be bridged.
Introduction of Drafts
The representative of Cuba next introduced a draft text on strengthening United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/C.3/57/L.40).
Rights of Reply
The representative of Cuba, exercising his right of reply, said he had hoped the discussions of the Committee would have been based on constructive dialogue and cooperation. However, interventions from Canada and Norway had made it clear that this was not the case. Human rights protection was based on the Charter and principles such as the right to self-determination and choice of political system. What kind of human rights was the Committee trying to promote without respecting the Charter? Countries such as Canada and Norway were re-interpreting human rights in a manipulative way, responding to the interests of a few.
He added that the negative language of the United States was arrogant, incomplete, selective and politically motivated. Such language and accusations were discriminatory towards developing countries and showed a clear double standard in approaching human rights. He pointed out that both Norway and Canada faced huge human rights violations in their own countries, particularly with regard to the indigenous people, who faced a precarious situation through economic exploitation of their lands.
Canada, who was so arduously fighting for human rights in United Nations bodies, was restricting the rights of indigenous peoples -- its own citizens. Furthermore, in Canada there were several violations of basic civil and political rights under the pretext of anti-terrorism measures. With regard to Norway, he told the Commission that Norway faced problems concerning the rights of women, religious minorities and trafficking in human beings. Cuba stressed that it was important to give a proper perspective to these countries’ attempts to civilize developing countries.
The representative of Ethiopia, exercising his right of reply, responded to Canada’s statement on the situation of human rights in Ethiopia. Ethiopia was open to criticism and welcomed concern, as long as it was based on solid facts. Ethiopia was always ready to learn from developed democracies, since, like other democracies, Ethiopia was bound to have implementation challenges. He hoped the Committee would respond to his call and give assistance towards capacity-building.
Concerning a clash between the armed mob and the police, he said necessary measures had been taken. Furthermore, the alleged human rights violations of the Ethiopian army were a total fabrication. The so-called “human rights council” that had reported those allegations was actually the politically motivated opposition party to the Government. He reiterated his plea to the international community to come forward with assistance towards capacity-building and the training of a police force.
The representative of Viet Nam, exercising her right of reply, said her country acknowledged the poor living conditions of the Montagnards, and the Government was doing its utmost to change those conditions. In fact, the Government's efforts had been commended by the world community. She added that there were outside factions that were enticing the Montagnards to leave Viet Nam and which were also interfering with the Vietnamese Government's efforts to have those people return home. Viet Nam was working with the Governments of Cambodia and others to ensure that the Montagnards returned, and that their rehabilitation was ensured. Viet Nam would not only request the world community's assistance, but also its understanding, as it worked to ensure the safe return of Montagnards.
The representative of Zimbabwe responded to the statements made earlier by the United States, Norway, Australia, New Zealand, the European Union and Canada. Those countries had made themselves monitors of human rights situations in selected developed countries and passed judgement on countries they did not like. Canada, the United States and others would like the international community to believe that they supported the promotion and protection of human rights, but in truth they did not -- at least not within their own countries.
Indeed, those countries never even addressed the human rights violations in their own countries. They did not speak about roiling mistrust and precarious race relations in their own countries, particularly in the United States. The Committee was supposed to be blind to those issues. Questions had been raised about the democratic process in Zimbabwe, but he reaffirmed that his country was a functioning democracy. When was an election in any developing country "free and fair"? When its outcome was satisfactory for those countries that had appointed themselves arbiters of human rights. Zimbabwe had failed the test of the European Union and the wider "white commonwealth" when it had affirmed the leadership of President Robert Mugabe. The representative called for an end to politicization of human rights issues and a retreat from "holier than thou" attitudes.
The representative of Israel, in right of reply, said the incessant ritual of repeating insidious and slanderous accusations as truths did not make them living truths. Just two days ago, an Israeli mother and her two children had been murdered. The perpetrators had been identified as members of a branch of the Fatah sect headed by Yassir Arafat, Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. Following that incident, Arafat had this time condemned the killing and had gone further by saying the Palestinian Authority would investigate the repugnant crime. Israel was patiently waiting to learn the outcome of the investigation.
The representative of Uganda, in right of reply, said she would have expected Canada to speak out more strongly against the resistance army and to call for an end to the cruel suffering of innocent Ugandan people. This had not happened. She reminded Canada that even the President of Uganda had mobilized to northern Uganda, to help in the situation referred to. She added that the Government of Uganda would not tolerate a situation where people feared for their lives, and would not rest until all abducted children were released. The delegation of Canada was invited to visit northern Uganda to get real information, rather than making superficial interventions in the Committee. Uganda was a free country and its Government addressed the rights of all its people through the Constitution. She added that corruption was not condoned in Uganda and there was a commission of inquiry for such crimes.
The representative of Pakistan, in his right of reply, said Canada’s statement had been full of objectionable comments about a select few countries -- an approach “reeking of human rights imperialism”. The intent and content of the statement was flawed, and it ignored the steps taken by the Government of Pakistan in several fields. A spate of new laws on human rights had been enacted, he said.
The Canadian statement also ignored the steps taken with regard to the status of women, children, separate electorate systems and the election of more than 40,000 women in municipal elections. At the same time, Canada had ignored its own human rights situation. He referred to an Amnesty International report of 2001, which concluded that police had used excess force and teargas in non-violent demonstrations in Quebec, including the use of plastic bullets in situations where the safety of police officers had not been threatened. The report had also highlighted the harassment by the police of indigenous people, which in one case had led to death from hypothermia. He asserted that the Canadian statement had made no mention of the massacre of Muslims in India or the situation in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had raised its concern for the high rate of incarceration of indigenous people and people of African descent in Canada. Canada’s statement, he said, connoted ignorance and was like that of a tabloid magazine. Pakistan rejected it in its entirety.
The representative of Turkey, in right of reply, said he was surprised by the language used by the Greek delegation on the situation in Cyprus, particularly since there had been so much progress in recent days. He would have expected the Greek delegation to encourage the Greek Cypriot side to conduct a constructive dialogue rather than “spouting baseless allegations”. With regard to the Cypriot statement, he said solutions to the situation in Cyprus would not be found at the European Court of Human Rights and that the mere repetition of accusations was of no constructive use.
In exercise of right of reply, the representative of Norway said, in response to Cuba and others, it was her delegation's view that the full implementation of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms was a challenge for all States, including her own. She could assure Cuba that Norway took seriously the issues outlined in its statement. Norway's earlier intervention had simply sought to point out the situations that were important to the Government.
Responding to the statement of Turkey, the representative of Cyprus said that, as far as the talks were concerned, Cyprus believed that the good will of parties was shown at the negotiating table. And in that regard, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had reported earlier that, during the ongoing negotiations, the Turkish side had been "less constructive".
The representative of Cuba said he agreed with Norway. He also believed that cooperation and the principle of non-selectivity were prerequisites for ensuring the promotion and protection of human rights. States should be allowed freedom of expression and the right to develop their own social, political and economic identities. Any attempt to impose a single human rights model or viewpoint on diverse situations would only make things worse.
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