IN THIRD COMMITTEE, SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS ON MYANMAR, SUDAN STRESS NEED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH IN BUILDING SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

6 November 2002
GA/SHC/3716

IN THIRD COMMITTEE, SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS ON MYANMAR, SUDAN STRESS NEED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH IN BUILDING SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

06/11/2002
Press Release
GA/SHC/3716


Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Third Committee

37th Meeting (AM)


IN THIRD COMMITTEE, SPECIAL RAPPORTEURS ON MYANMAR, SUDAN STRESS NEED


FOR HUMAN RIGHTS-BASED APPROACH IN BUILDING SUSTAINABLE FUTURE


As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning continued its dialogue with experts from the Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in Myanmar and the Sudan stressed the crucial necessity of promoting a human rights-based approach when building a sustainable future.


Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, read a statement issued by Myanmar’s State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on 6 May 2002, the day of release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  That statement emphasized the SPDC's commitment to a new phase of political engagement and progress toward peace and stability, by, among other things, allowing all citizens to participate freely in that political process, while giving priority to national unity, peace and stability in the country.


Mr. Pinheiro said that statement might provide indications to the process under way in the country, and while some might find Myanmar's pace too slow, the important thing was that positive change was under way.  If the main aim of Myanmar was to pursue its stated goal of political, economic and social transition, it was urgent for the international community to share the burden now, and not wait until the process was complete to become engaged.


He did, however, express his concerns about several ongoing challenges, namely the slow release of political prisoners, the condition of Myanmar's prisons and the humanitarian conditions and security situation of civilians and refugees living in border areas, particularly in the Shan state.  He was gravely concerned about allegations of widespread human rights violations attributed to the military and armed groups operating in minority communities, including sexual violence, forced relocation and forced conscription of child soldiers.  He proposed that the SPDC explore options to establish a credible mechanism to investigate those allegations.


Responding to Mr. Pinheiro's presentation, the representative of Myanmar agreed that the process begun on 6 May 2002 had marked a new phase of political evolution for Myanmar's Government.  Myanmar firmly intended to make further progress only under conditions of peace and stability within the country, which were essential for Myanmar's infrastructure development, as well as for its aspiration to establish a stable multi-party democratic State.  Only then could

the rights of all citizens be fully restored.  Even more importantly, such


political steps had been taken neither because of political pressure nor because of dire socio-economic consequences threatened by other countries exerting economic pressure.  They had taken place because they were the right thing to do for the people of Myanmar.


Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, welcomed the Machakos Protocol, as well as the resumption of peace talks on 14 October 2002.  Introducing his report, he stressed that the Machakos Protocol must be built on specific mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights, including the creation of independent internal institutions, as well as the establishment of an effective monitoring system from the outside.


The Sudan needed increased assistance to build up civil society and to prepare the population for peace and democratic governance, Mr. Baum stressed, adding that the report provided an overview of the situation in the Sudan by comparing the commitments made by the Government during the last year with action taken.  Unfortunately, most of the commitments had not been sufficiently implemented.  In some other important human rights areas, no commitments had been made, which led him to conclude that overall, despite some positive developments, the human rights situation had not yet changed significantly in the Sudan.


Following Mr Baum's presentation the representative of the Sudan stressed his Government's opposition to the politicization and selectivity employed when assessing human rights in any part of the world.  Human rights issues must be addressed through the root causes, with an aim of preventing violations.  However, misleading data and failure to separate fact from fiction were commonplace.  The Sudan had hoped that the Rapporteur would have recognized more of its Government's efforts to achieve peace.  Criticizing and spreading lies was not the right approach.  Furthermore, several sections of the report showed that the Special Rapporteur had greatly exceeded his mandate.


He went on to say The Commission on Human Rights had entrusted Mr. Baum with a specific mandate, which included submitting his reports to the Assembly and the Commission.  Regrettably, he had held a press conference on the report in London in August, three months before his visit to the Sudan.  The only explanation for such behaviour was the fictitious pursuit of stardom.  Indeed, it made the Sudan wonder whether the Commission had given the Mr. Baum a mandate of which the Sudan was unaware -- "as the mover and shaker and the absolute ruler of Sudan".  If there were shortcomings in the Sudan, the Government was ready to act, but not based on the mixing of fact and fiction.  The Government was doing all in its power to ensure the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Also participating in the interactive dialogue with the Special Rapporteurs this morning were the representatives of Denmark (on behalf of the European Union), Netherlands, United States, Republic of Korea, Canada, India, China, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and Lebanon.


The Committee will reconvene this afternoon at 3 p.m. to continue hearing from Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights.


Background


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its dialogue with experts and special rapporteurs from the Commission on Human Rights.  It was expected to hear presentations from, and participate in dialogues with, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Gerhart Baum, as well as Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.


Delegations will have before them a note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Sudan (document A/57/326) containing the interim report of Mr. Baum, who highlights the need for human rights to be put at the centre of the recently resumed peace talks.  In view of the links between peace and democracy and human rights, peace talks should be more comprehensive and include all stakeholders in what is not simply a North-South conflict.  Democracy is needed for confidence-building and reconciliation.  Overall, the situation of human rights has not improved, and civil society structures need to be strengthened.  Implementation of the peace agreement is key, and international monitoring is necessary.


Mr. Baum recommends that the United Nations play a stronger role, particularly in the post-conflict scenario, both in monitoring implementation of peace and in strengthening civil society.  In this connection, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the technical cooperation programme undertaken by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and will monitor its impact on the ground.


The Committee will also consider a note by the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/57/290), which contains the interim report prepared by Mr. Pinheiro.  The report states that a complex humanitarian situation continues to have an impact on the exercise of economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development in Myanmar.  Human rights violations continue to be reported, especially in areas where military operations continue.  In recent years, counter-insurgency operations have reportedly affected hundreds of villages in Shan and Karen states, where armed opposition groups are suspected to be operating from bases located along the Thai-Myanmar border.


He states that there can be no credible democratic political transition in Myanmar without four fundamental conditions:  the inclusion of all components of society in political dialogue in a spirit of participation, mutual respect, cooperation and equity; the release of all political prisoners; the lifting of the restrictions which continue to hamper the ability of political parties and groups having concluded ceasefires with the Government to meet, discuss, exchange and peacefully conduct their legitimate activities; and the explicit discussion of political democratization that cannot take place without free elections.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Myanmar


PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, presented his interim report and recounted his activities and developments in the human rights situation in Myanmar between 1 January and 1 July 2002.  He also gave a brief update on his third fact-finding mission to the country, from 17 to 28 October 2002.  His mission included meetings with the Secretary of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the Foreign Minister, the Chief of the Bureau of Investigations, members of the Central Executive Committee of the National League for Democracy (NLD), and representatives of ethnic groups and political parties.


He opened his presentation by reading a statement issued by the SPDC on     6 May 2002, the day of release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  That statement, entitled "Turning of a New Page", emphasized the SPDC's commitment to a new phase of political engagement and progress towards peace and stability, by, among other things, allowing all citizens to participate freely in that political process, while giving priority to national unity, peace and stability in the country.  He said that statement might provide indications concerning the process under way in the country, and his role was to examine it from a human rights perspective.  While political processes were not linear and were bound to variations and setbacks, and humanitarian actors might find the current pace too slow, it was important to recognize that what mattered was that it was continuing.


Even though the SPDC and the NDL remained in regular contact, he still believed that structured substantive political negotiation had not yet begun.  During his last mission, he had tried to better understand how political prisoners were released and why the pace of releases was so slow.  So far, some     836 prisoners had been released since January 2001, including some 435 political prisoners and 401 pregnant women or mothers with young children.  He added that it was important to make a distinction between political prisoners being detained under credible evidence of violent activities and those imprisoned for expressing their real or imputed opinions or for participating in peaceful activities.  Without an open and transparent process, it was difficult to make such a determination.  That second category made up the majority of political prisoners.  Keeping them prisoners was unjust and served no constructive purpose.  His own meetings with the SPDC and even the prisoners themselves had revealed no threat to the public.  Indeed, those he had met loved their country and had expressed the desire to participate actively in Myanmar's reconciliation process.  Their immediate and unconditional release of those persons would testify to the sincerity of the SPDC about its commitment to political transition.


The release of the others could be considered through an amnesty in the context of national reconciliation, he said.  Through confidential interviews with political prisoners and others, he had been able to deepen his assessment of conditions in prisons.  While he was convinced that there had been no retaliation against those with whom he had met, he was still concerned that some of those persons had been interviewed by military personnel either after or even before his own visits.


While criminal offenders were worse off than political detainees in terms of treatment, he noted with concern that at least two political prisoners had died since last July, allegedly because of delays in getting clearance from prison authorities for the provision of urgently needed medical care.  That brought to  73 the total number of deaths of political prisoners in custody since 1988.  He added that penal code provisions allowed detention periods for political prisoners to be extended indefinitely beyond their original sentences.  With few exceptions, political prisoners were denied writing and reading materials other than religious books and newspapers, thus condemning them to an "intellectual death".


Security concerns might help explain several related phenomena, including the process of conditional release of political prisoners, and why the NLD was still not allowed to publish and disseminate party or political information.  While it was clear that the political space was being reopened for the NLD to revive its activities, it remained to be seen the extent to which that opening would continue.  He expressed grave concern about credible reports of widespread human rights violations attributed to the military and armed groups operating in communities of ethnic minorities, including, but not limited to, sexual violence, forced relocation, extortion, persecution of Muslims and forced conscription of child soldiers.  His mission had explored the possibility of investigating such abuses further.


Further, he had received detailed briefings on investigations conducted in the past three months by the SPDC into recent allegations of rape in the Shan state.  There had also been reports of human rights violations in other areas.  He said he had declined a visit to the Shan state, as a short visit would have not allowed him to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the alleged violations.  During his mission, he had proposed to the SPDC to explore several options to establish a credible mechanism to investigate those and numerous other allegations, and stressed the importance of committing to such an initiative as early as possible.  Those options had included an independent assessment team under his mandate; an international commission of inquiry, which would require a new mandate from the United Nations; or the creation of a balanced national inquiry mechanism which would include the participation of the SPDC and other concerned parties. 


Finally, he said serious human rights violations were undoubtedly occurring in the areas where armed groups were operating.  Those violations been primarily attributed to the army, but there had also been evidence of groups operating from neighbouring countries which showed little regard for the lives and security of civilians.  Their continued activities in those areas had provoked counter-insurgency measures, which had a devastating effect on local civilian populations.  Those problems would not disappear by denial, he said, and they should be recognized and addressed properly.


The most reasonable way to address the issue would be to investigate the allegations in a credible manner, to establish facts, to take action against perpetrators to prevent their recurrence, to ensure control over armed units and to compensate victims.  He said that if the main aim of Myanmar was to pursue its stated goal of political, economic and social transition, it was urgent for the international community to share the burden and not wait until the process was complete to become engaged.  Such a process would be arduous, and the people of Myanmar urgently needed the help and solidarity of the international community.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur 


Responding to the presentation of the Special Rapporteur, KYAW WIN (Myanmar) commended Mr. Pinheiro for his integrity and the high quality of the work he had carried out thus far.  The process, begun on 6 May 2002, had marked a new phase of political evolution for Myanmar's Government.  Myanmar firmly intended to make further progress only under conditions of peace and stability within the country, which were essential for Myanmar's infrastructure development, as well as for its aspiration to establish a stable multi-party democratic State.  Only then could the rights of all citizens be fully restored.


Even more importantly, he continued, the point had been emphatically made that such political steps had been taken neither because of political pressure nor because of dire socio-economic consequences threatened by other countries when they tried to inflict negative economic measures.  Indeed, the changes had taken place because they were right thing to do for the people of Myanmar.  Despite some difficulties, Myanmar had remained on its feet and was even able to rectify some of the negative effects inflicted on its people by countries that had imposed sanctions in recent years.  He acknowledged that some political rights, such as the ability to publish political journals, still remained to be instituted for legally standing political parties, and the Government had every intention to effect that change during the course of the political transition.


He pointed out that those who had provided information to the Special Rapporteur might not necessarily be using "friendly angles" when they did so.  Myanmar, as a country that was only beginning to take steps towards political reform, would not recommend to everyone to apply a simple mathematical formula to calculate when such a reform would be complete, or for the release of all "genuine" political prisoners.  Such reform would not be simple.  Indeed, it was likely that the pace of change, as well as the release of prisoners, would only speed up when external pressures and interference declined or ceased.  Moreover, at the moment when the Government was installing a new political order in which all legal political parties could operate on a level playing field, there had been pressures to initiate dialogue with only one political party.


Several humanitarian issues of universal character, including poverty, poor education, HIV/AIDS and a slumping economy, affected many developed as well as developing countries today.  In Myanmar's case, those should be examined comparatively with developing countries in similar situations and be based on credible United Nations reports in order to present a realistic picture of the situation.  To a good measure, countries imposing economic sanctions on Myanmar were responsible for current conditions, but the Government had nevertheless been able to protect and provide for its population.  He also stressed that armed conflicts in border regions and the activities of armed insurgents were not ethnic but political in origin.  Ethnicity and religion were cruelly used by the insurgents to divide the people of Myanmar.


Although Myanmar's attempts to effect a multi-party democratic system had begun some years ago, it was true that some sinister, separatist armed organizations had, for the past half century, colluded with foreign organizations to stifle that process. Even today, the Government was aware that those "multi-coloured" forces, which the people of Myanmar considered unpatriotic or even treasonous and which had once ravaged the countryside and tried to overthrow the first democratically elected Government, were desperately spreading propaganda and using other methods to reignite their movement.  For that reason, the Government would continue to tread carefully along the path towards full transition, in order to dispel any designs of outsiders to endanger homegrown efforts at national reconciliation and progress.


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked what could the international community do to help enhance the dialogue between all the political parties in Myanmar in order to speed up progress toward peace.  What could be done to ensure the release of political prisoners?  Did he believe the authorities were sincere about civilian rule?  What was the role envisioned for the opposition in the democratic process?

Mr. PINHEIRO said the involvement of all parties was essential, but substantial political negotiation between the SPDC and the NLD was also absolutely necessary.  On the release of political prisoners, he said he believed the authorities were trying to effect a controlled release programme to perhaps avoid destabilization.  He noted that all the political prisoners he had spoken with had conversely expressed the desire to be very actively and positively involved in Myanmar's political transformation. 


He would continue to press for the release of all political prisoners and would continue to call on the international community to add its voice to that call.  The international community must continue its dialogue with both sides.  It was very easy to get access to the leadership of both sides. 


The representative of the Netherlands asked whether the Special Rapporteur was confident that authorities would respond to his inquiries on allegations of rapes in some regions, including the Shan state, by military and security personnel.  He also wondered if he foresaw authorities allowing full access to the country by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).


Mr. PINHEIRO said he had offered to coordinate a study with the authorities into the allegations of rapes.  He had not visited the region because he felt it would take two or three months to undertake a thorough assessment.  The Government had indicated that perhaps such a visit would be possible in the near future.  The Government had indicated that it had undertaken its own investigation, but in order for any study to be credible, it must be carried out or led by an independent body, which he felt he could effect under his mandate.


He had always stressed the importance of ensuring the presence of the UNHCR as well as other humanitarian actors.  On human rights violations provoked or exacerbated by counter-insurgency groups operating in border areas, he said it was indeed necessary that investigations into such incidents take place inside the country.  That was the only way to prevent such atrocities.  The international community must continue to press -- for the sake of the victims, democracy and human rights -- for the development of a mechanism that would prevent the hardships of those who continued to suffer violations of their human rights inside Myanmar.


The representative of the Netherlands expressed concern about the allegations of rapes carried out by security personnel.  She also wondered if the Special Rapporteur had had any contact with representatives of the armed insurgency groups.  How had the Myanmar authorities responded to greater United Nations involvement in areas where human rights violations continued to be reported?


Mr. PINHEIRO said he was convinced that all allegations, whether of rape or other human rights violations, must be included in an examination of the entire human rights situation.  Therefore, the main interest of the United Nations must be to work with the Government to create a structure within the country that would end those violations once and for all. 


On his assessment of the situation with armed insurgency groups, he said the United Nations approach must be very consistent -- there could not be one set of standards for the Government and another for armed groups.  The human rights of everyone in the country must be ensured, and all actors must be engaged.  Humanitarian actors must work to ensure that the overall society was better prepared to live in the new democracy once it was in place. 


The representative of the United States joined other delegations in expressing concern about the allegations of systemic rape and wondered if similar reports had come in from other regions.  Could the Rapporteur give a time frame for any investigation into the matter?


Mr. PINHEIRO said that he had declined to go to the region but had read reports of the allegations. He was not in a position therefore to give a time frame for a comprehensive assessment of the situation.  Even though he was stressing the need to assess the humanitarian situation inside Myanmar, he was not discounting the importance of reports from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other agencies working with refugees along the Thai border or outside the country.


He added that he had spoken with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who had noted some improvement in situations along the border areas or in some prisons.  That was not saying so much, however  -- prisons were still "hell".  Still, he was convinced that the extended presence of the ICRC in areas where human rights violation allegations had been reported could only be beneficial.  Its presence would also spur further cooperation between government authorities and humanitarian actors.


The representative of the Republic of Korea said he understood that the Rapporteur had not visited the Shan state region, but at the same time believed that at least an initial visit would not have harmed the process.


Mr. PINHEIRO said he had been criticized for not visiting the Shan state region.  He had preferred not to go because he felt it would have been impossible to undertake a comprehensive study in such a difficult region in the short period of time he would have had.  The authorities had expressed initial interest in cooperating with a visit to the region and were convinced that his main interest would be to work out a scheme to prevent such violations.


The representative of Canada said he appreciated the Rapporteur's commitment to ensuring a credible prevention mechanism.  She wondered whether he intended to ensure the involvement of experts on sexual violence in any investigation of the rapes?  What were his plans to ensure the safety of victims and survivors?


Mr. PINHEIRO reiterated that a total of about 836 prisoners had been released since January 2001.  There was somewhat of a consensus -- among his staff as well as government representatives -- that there were between 1,400 and    1,600 political prisoners still in custody.  He added that he would annex updated figures to his next report.


He believed it was essential to include experts on sexual violence in investigations. If the Government agreed to discuss the terms of reference; if the High Commissioner’s Office was ready to provide technical assistance; and if the international community was prepared to commit its time and resources, the investigation would get under way.  Broad involvement was essential to ensure the protection of witnesses and survivors.


The representative of India wondered if it was time to ensure the broad engagement of all parties in reconciliation efforts.  Had the Rapporteur given any thought to proposing sanctions for continued human rights violations?


Mr. PINHEIRO said that, indeed, broad engagement of the entire international community in reconciliation efforts was necessary.  He recalled the situation of Brazil during its struggle towards democracy and said that country might be under a military regime today, if not for such engagement.  It was precisely because world democracies had been involved in that change that it had held.  He said the goal should be to dialogue and not to isolate.  It was not in his mandate to advise the international community or Member States about the politics of sanctions.  He already had too many issues to handle and would leave that discussion to others.


Statement by Special Rapporteur on Sudan


GERHART BAUM, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, said his report was mainly based on his last visit to the Sudan, Kenya and Egypt from September to October 2002.  As part of the visit he also traveled to El-Fasher, northern Darfur, to look into the issue of special courts.  He welcomed the Machakos Protocol, as well as the resumption of peace talks on 14 October   2002 -- it was the first real change for peace in a long time.  Since the beginning, he had stressed the important role that the United States could play and that the Danforth’s initiative was a good preparation for this process.  Peace negotiations were not compatible with ongoing hostilities, and a comprehensive ceasefire was a pre-condition for the peace process to continue.  Similarly, human rights abuses must be stopped.


The Machakos Protocol must be built on specific mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights.  These must include the creation of independent internal institutions, as well as the establishment of an effective monitoring system from the outside.  In the same vein, he noted with appreciation that the civil society was playing an increasingly active role.  Human rights NGOs were more visible, organized and keen to participate actively in the peace process. 


The Special Rapporteur stressed that the country needed increased assistance to build up civil society and to prepare the population for peace and democratic governance, including civil administration and education.  Also, specific human rights benchmarks must be envisaged in the peace process within an established time frame. 


During his last visit, he had noted a number of new elements mainly focusing on the building up or strengthening of institutions and training activities.  He had taken note of discussions relating to the creation of a national human rights institution, as well as the training activities organized by the Office of the High Commissioner within its technical cooperation programme.  Furthermore, in rebel-held southern Sudan, he had noted the initial steps taken toward the strengthening of civil society. 


The report of the Special Rapporteur included areas of concern for the human rights situation regarding civil society, the role of police and security officers, freedom of the press, freedom of religion and belief, human rights and humanitarian law in the context of the conflict, the situation of internally displaced persons, the situation of women and children, the SPLM/A-controlled territories, international conventions, individual cases, and special courts in northern Darfur.  He said the report also dealt with the oil issue within the context of the right to development and the positive role that could be played by the United Nations, particularly in the framework of the peace process. 


He said the report provided an overview of the situation by comparing the commitments made by the Government during the last year and action taken.  Most of the commitments had not been sufficiently implemented.  In some other important human rights areas, no commitments had been made.  Overall, the human rights situation had not yet changed significantly, even though there were some positive developments.


Dialogue with Special Rapporteur


Following the presentation of Mr. Baum, delegations responded to his report in an interactive dialogue segment, where the representative of the Sudan said, before responding in detail, that he wanted to stress his Government's opposition to the general politicization and selectivity employed when approaching human rights in any part of the world.  Human rights issues must be addressed through the root causes, with the aim of preventing their violation.  However, misleading data and failing to separate fact from fiction were commonplace, and he regretted the continuation of accusations against countries in the Committee, all of which happened to be developing countries. 


Human rights concerns expressed were primarily linked to the conflict in the Southern Sudan, he said.  The conflict had had an effect on the human rights of the population and the Sudan’s development.  The Government had, therefore, spared no effort to achieve a peaceful settlement and a comprehensive ceasefire.  A recent and welcomed development had been the resumption of peace talks and the signing of the Machakos Protocol.  The peaceful settlement of the conflict in the Sudan would drastically improve the situation there.  Raging wars tended to have negative consequences that affected human rights. 


The Sudan had hoped that the Special Rapporteur would have recognized more of the efforts undertaken by the Government to achieve peace.  Criticizing, pointing fingers and spreading baseless lies was not the right approach, he said.  Furthermore, several sections of the report showed that the Special Rapporteur had greatly exceeded his mandate. 


The Commission on Human Rights had entrusted the Special Rapporteur with a specific mandate, which included submitting his reports to the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights, he said.  Regrettably, the Special Rapporteur had held a press conference in London in August on the report, preceding the visit to the Sudan.  That press conference had been held three months before the submission of the report to the General Assembly and had prejudiced the contents of the report. 


The Special Rapporteur’s judgement was biased, and he had overstepped the mandate entrusted to him, said the representative of the Sudan.  The only explanation for the press conference was his fictitious pursuit of stardom among circles of people with known hidden agendas.  He had over-interpreted the mandate given to him on a whim.  It made the Sudan wonder whether the Commission had given

the Special Rapporteur a mandate of which the Sudan was not aware -- as the mover and shaker and the absolute ruler of the Sudan, a country that had won its independence in the 1950s.


Comments had also been made about Islamic Law, suggesting its incompatibility with human rights.  He deplored the Special Rapporteur’s irresponsible statements against Islam -- the faith of over 2 billion people.


The Special Rapporteur had also overstepped his mandate when suggesting alternate spending of oil revenues -- a recommendation that was interfering with State sovereignty.  It was further stressed that the sources of information were undisclosed sources and rumours.  


In the report, the Special Rapporteur spoke about a conference where one participant had spoken about female excision, he said.  Even though there were laws against female excision and the Government of the Sudan opposed it, the Special Rapporteur had suggested that one opinion of one person might affect Government policy.  This was not true, and the representative of the Sudan did not understand why this section had even been included in the report.


If there were shortcomings in the Sudan, the Government was ready to act, but not based on the mixing of fact and fiction.  The Government was doing all in its power to ensure the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.


Mr. Baum said he was disappointed that the delegation of the Sudan had not provided answers regarding the recommendations on the peace process and capacity-building.  Mr. Baum was also surprised that he had mentioned the press conference, an issue that had already been discussed and clarified.  It was a total misunderstanding, much like the perceived comments about Islam.  The Sharia had not even been mentioned in the report.  Similarly, the discussion in London on the situation in the Sudan had been based on the report, which had been given to the Commission on Human Rights, not the report considered at the moment. 


He added that some human rights violations were a result of the conflict; however, some violations were most definitely linked to the behaviour of the security police.  His mandate aimed to find out the truth, not to judge.  His main concern was not to criticize, but to build structure to overcome human rights violations. 


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the importance of involving civil society had been underlined.  Were there concrete proposals as how this could be done?  The peace talks were welcomed, but were there further human rights elements that could be included in the talks?  She also asked for more information as to the special courts allegations, as well as whether there were signs of improvement in the rebel-held areas.


The representative of China said the Sudanese Government had always attached importance to upholding human rights, and that the human rights situation had been improved due to the efforts of the Government.  The international community appreciated the Government's solving the conflict through peaceful means.  The report, unfortunately, failed to capture the improvements made and did not correspond to reality.  The report did not help in understanding the full developments concerning human rights.


The representative of Morocco said that the Special Rapporteur’s mandate was to report to the General Assembly and the Commission on Human Rights.  He, therefore, wanted some clarification on the press conference held in London last August. 


The representative of Libya said the report was biased and selective.  The report suggested a continuation of human rights violations without explaining what these violations were.  Recommendations made regarding the oil revenues were not within the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, but a question for the Government of the Sudan, as a sovereign State.  Using human rights as an excuse to criticize the Sudan was an excuse to exploit the Sudan’s oil supplies.


The representative of Egypt said discussing the question of human rights must not be a pretext to interfere with the internal affairs of a sovereign State.  The Special Rapporteur had no right to criticize the manner in which the Sudan used its natural resources or spent its revenues.  Furthermore, exceeding the mandate by addressing the press was unacceptable.  Egypt asked for the motivations that led the Special Rapporteur to give this press conference.  Had it in any way led to the improvement of the situation of human rights in the Sudan? 


Mr. Baum said the same issues had been mentioned by several delegations, and he was forced to repeat that in London he was asked what the message of the March report to the Commission on Human Rights had been.  It had been publicly distributed several months earlier.  Concerning the criticism that the current report was too vague, he recommended that delegations re-read the report, which contained several details on people who had been tortured, their names, location and so on.  Concerning the perceived double standards, Mr. Baum stressed that in the Sudan there was a unique and specific situation where peace was needed, as well as a process of confidence-building.  The basis of reconciliation was human rights, respect for minorities and tolerance. 


A lot could be done from the outside, Mr. Baum said, and challenged the international community to build up structures for peace and democracy.  Concerning the special courts, he repeated his concern that many people were sentenced to death without having had an adequate chance to defend themselves. 


The representative of Iran said, concerning the press conference, that it was true that the report had already been published and discussed.  However, according to his source, it was the current report that had been disclosed in the press conference.  Furthermore, Special Rapporteurs did not tend to hold press conferences on country situations, due to the very sensitive nature of human rights.  He also asked what an international non-military monitoring mechanism, a recommendation in the report, actually meant.


The representative of Cuba said that a number of important recommendations had been made; however, establishing a mechanism to ensure the adherence to the peace agreement went far beyond his mandate.  In suggesting an international non-military monitoring mechanism he also exceeded his mandate.


The representative of Syria said there was evidence in the report of gross interference in the State sovereignty of the Sudan.  Such an approach would serve no one. 

The representative of Lebanon said the Sudan had gone through 19 years of civil war, and finally peace talks were under way.  Sudan was a developing country with a lot of pressure.  The Special Rapporteur must not give recommendations dealing with self-determination and pre-judge the Sudan’s form of governance. 


The representative of Canada expressed interest in the creation of human rights verification mechanism and asked for elaboration.


The representative of the Sudan assured the Special Rapporteur that he was fully aware of what was going on in his Government.  When talking about the press conference, it was not the previous report already presented to the Commission but the report under consideration today that had been disclosed.  He believed that the Special Rapporteur had indeed met many people or unknown sources; however, the actual reference of having heard “rumours” was unacceptable.


The representative of Denmark, speaking on behalf of the European Union, reacted to a number of questions regarding the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.  The European Union supported the mandate and the way in which it had been conducted.  Furthermore, it was an accepted working method to base some aspects of the report on undisclosed sources. 


Mr. Baum said he thanked delegations for their controversial interventions; however, he wanted to concentrate on the future of the country and not the past.  It was time to bring peace to the Sudan -- the country with the highest number of internally displaced people in the world. 


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For information media. Not an official record.