COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON SELF-DETERMINATION, DEFAMATION OF RELIGION

HR/CN/1032
14 April 2003

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON SELF-DETERMINATION, DEFAMATION OF RELIGION

14/04/2003
Press Release
HR/CN/1032


HR/CN/1032


COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS ON SELF-DETERMINATION,

DEFAMATION OF RELIGION


Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

of Georgia Speaks; Debate Begins on Remaining Agenda Items


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 14 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights adopted four resolutions this afternoon under its agenda items on the right to self-determination and racism and racial discrimination.


In a resolution on the situation in occupied Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 51 in favor and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State, and looked forward to the early fulfillment of that right.  The Commission requested the Secretary-General to transmit the text of the resolution to Israel.  The United States cast the lone dissenting vote.


A Representative of Israel said self-determination was primarily a political issue under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians, and unfortunately, as the record clearly showed, it was the choice of the Palestinian Authority not to consummate negotiations, but instead to resort to continuous violence in order to force Israel's hand to make further concessions on the matter.


A Representative of Palestine said the resolution was in line with the United Nations Charter on the right to self-determination and that the statement of the Israeli delegation was meant to mislead the members of the Commission.


In a resolution on the situation in Western Sahara, adopted without a vote, the Commission reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations towards the people of Western Sahara, as provided for in the settlement plan; reiterated its support for further efforts of the Secretary-General for the organization and supervision by the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara that was impartial and free of all constraints; called upon the parties to the dispute to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross in its efforts to solve the problem of the fate of people unaccounted for, and called upon the

parties to abide by their obligation to release without further delay all those held since the start of the conflict.


In a resolution on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, adopted by a roll-call vote of 37 in favor and 9 against, with 7 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed that the use of mercenaries and their recruitment, financing and training were causes for grave concern and violated the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; recognized that armed conflicts, terrorism, arms trafficking and covert operations by third powers, among other things, encouraged the demand for mercenaries on the global market; and urged all States to take the necessary steps and to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by the activities of mercenaries.


In a resolution titled "combating defamation of religion" tabled under the Commission's agenda item on racism and racial discrimination and adopted by a roll-call vote of 32 in favor and 14 against, with 7 abstentions, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still in evidence in some regions; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism; and noted with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001.


Several of the national delegations voting against the resolution said it placed undue emphasis on Islam, as many religions were subject to discrimination.


The Commission also heard an address this afternoon by Amiran Kavadze, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, who described Government efforts to end a separatist conflict in Abkhazia that had caused the internal displacement of 300,000 persons, predominately ethnic Georgians.  Regrettably, Mr. Kavadze said, the Abkhazian de facto leadership had not accepted the proposals of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General who had been seeking to resolve the conflict.


Debate also began under the Commission's remaining agenda items, all being considered at once.  The items concern specific groups and individuals (including migrant workers, minorities, displaced persons, and other vulnerable groups and individuals); the report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; the promotion and protection of human rights; effective functioning of human rights mechanisms; advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights; and rationalization of the work of the Commission.


Contributing statements were Representative of Greece (on behalf of the European Union), Cuba, China, Ireland, Costa Rica (on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries), Australia, the United States, Burkina Faso, Austria, Bahrain, Croatia, India, Peru, the Russian Federation, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Africa.


Latvia, Cuba, and Honduras spoke in right of reply.


The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 15 April, to continue discussion of its remaining agenda items.


Action on Resolutions on the Right to Self-Determination


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.5) on the question of Western Sahara, adopted without a vote, the Commission took note of the agreements reached between the Kingdom of Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y de Rio de Oro for the implementation of the settlement plan during their private direct talks under the auspices of the Personal Envoy of the Secretary-General, and urged the parties to implement those agreements fully and in good faith; urged the two parties to implement faithfully and loyally the Secretary-General's package of measures relating to the identification of voters and the appeals process; reaffirmed the responsibility of the United Nations towards the peoples of Western Sahara, as provided for in the settlement plan; reiterated its support for further efforts of the Secretary-General for the organization and supervision by the United Nations, in cooperation with the African Union, of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara that was impartial and free of all constraints, in conformity with relevant Security Council resolutions; noted the fundamental differences between the parties in implementing the main provisions of the settlement plan; supported the efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Personal Envoy to reach a political solution to the dispute on Western Sahara that would provide for self-determination; and called upon the parties to cooperate with the International Committee of the Red Cross in its efforts to solve the problem of the fate of people unaccounted for, and called upon the parties to abide by their obligation to release without further delay all those held since the start of the conflict.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.7) on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination, adopted by a roll-call vote of 37 in favor and 9 against, with 7 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed that the use of mercenaries and their recruitment, financing and training were causes for grave concern and violated the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; recognized that armed conflicts, terrorism, arms trafficking and covert operations by third powers, among other things, encouraged the demand for mercenaries on the global market; urged all States to take the necessary steps and to exercise the utmost vigilance against the menace posed by the activities of mercenaries, and to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and other territories under their control, as well as their nationals, were not used for mercenary activities for the planning of activities designed to impeded the right to self-determination, to overthrow the Government of any State, or to dismember or impair the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the right to self-determination; requested all States to exercise the utmost vigilance in such matters; welcomed the entry into force of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries; invited States to investigate the possibility of mercenary involvement whenever and wherever criminal acts of a terrorist nature occurred; requested the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to publicize and adverse effects of mercenary activities on the right of peoples to self-determination; and urged all States to cooperate fully with the Special Rapporteur on the topic.


The results were as follows:


In favour: (37) Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Russian Federation, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.


Against: (9) Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions: (7) Austria, Croatia, France, Ireland, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.9) on the situation in occupied Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 51 in favor and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission reaffirmed the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish their sovereign and independent Palestinian State, and looked forward to the early fulfillment of that right; and requested the Secretary-General to transmit the present resolution to Israel.


The results were as follows:


In favour: (51) Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.


Against: United States.


Abstention: Guatemala.


A Representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of European Union and acceding countries which were members of the Commission, said that the EU supported and had cosponsored the draft resolution entitled "situation in occupied Palestine". The text reaffirmed the rights of the Palestinians to self-determination. The EU believed that the resolution did not prejudice final status negotiations between the two parties. It was the firm belief of the EU that the right of the Palestinian people to build a sovereign, democratic, viable and peaceful State might not be brought into question.  That right was established.  Moreover, the international community, including the parties, shared a common vision of two States, Israel and a democratic Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders.


A Representative of Israel, in a statement before the vote on draft resolution L.9, said that the Commission should carefully consider its vote on self-determination for the Palestinians.  This was primarily a political issue under negotiation between Israel and the Palestinians. Unfortunately, as the record clearly showed, it was the choice of the Palestinian Authority not to consummate negotiations, but instead to resort to continuous violence in order to force Israel's hand to make further concessions.  The effort made in the Commission by several parties commanding a certain majority was an attempt to increase military and terrorist pressures on Israel and to force her hand diplomatically.  Israel's position remained that self-determination must be achieved through direct, peaceful negotiations between the two sides directly involved.  In the Palestinian view, the right of return meant that if and when a Palestinian State was established, Palestinian refugees could return not only to a Palestinian State, but also to Israel, thus effectively annulling Israel's right to self-determination. The goal of the Palestinian leadership was neither to co-exist nor to negotiate with Israel but rather to end Israel's existence and to eliminate Israel's national movement.


A Representative of Palestine, in a statement before the vote on draft resolution L. 9, said that the draft resolution was in line with the United Nations Charter on the right to self-determination.  The draft only mentioned in one paragraph the issue of the self- determination of the Palestinian people.  Israel had spoken on issues which had nothing to do with present draft resolution. The statement of the Israeli delegation was meant to mislead the members of the Commission.


A Representative of the United States, in an explanation of vote before the vote on draft resolution L.9 on the situation in occupied Palestine, said it was long past time for this Commission to embrace a similar vision for peace as that of President Bush's speech on 14 March for peace in this troubled region.  Resolutions such as the one before the Commission only served to reinforce the distrust and fear that were obstacles to a genuine and lasting peace for the Palestinian and Israeli people.  The repeated efforts of some members of the United Nations to isolate and vilify the Government of Israel were an affront to the Charter of the United Nations.  This resolution damaged the ability of the United Nations to play a constructive role in the search for peace in the Middle East.  It tainted the organization with bias and prejudice, polarization and mistrust.  Any Government that supported a role for the United Nations in the peace process must oppose this resolution and help to shape a debate in the Commission that could dispel the fear and misunderstanding that had fueled war in the region for too long.  The United States would therefore call for a vote on this resolution, and would vote no. 


A Representative of Australia said Australia supported resolution L.9, which recognized the legitimate right of the Palestinians to self-determination. However, Australia was concerned at the lack of reference in the resolution to the need to resume negotiations to find a solution to the conflict.


A Representative of Guatemala, in an explanation of vote after the vote, said the delegation had abstained in the vote on resolution L.9.  Guatemala did not agree with the text, which made allusion to the State of Israel.  The sphere of human rights and politics should not be mixed.  The fundamental concern of Guatemala was respect for human rights.  The value judgment on the situation of human rights with regard to self-determination was not supported by the delegation.  Guatemala supported the self-determination of all peoples without any distinction.


A Representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union member States of the Commission as well as the acceding country to the EU that was a member of the Commission, in an explanation of vote on resolution L.7, on mercenaries, said the EU shared many of the concerns about the dangers of mercenary activities and the duration and nature of armed conflicts and it strongly condemned the involvement of mercenaries in terrorist activities wherever they occurred.   However, the EU could not support the draft resolution before the Commission.  The EU believed that the Commission was not the right forum for dealing with the problem of mercenary activities.  While fully recognizing the numerous dangers caused by mercenary activity, the EU doubted that the use of mercenaries could be dealt with as a human rights problem and as a threat to the right of peoples to self-determination. The EU shared the view that the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries should be terminated.


Action on Resolution on Racism, Racial Discrimination, and All Forms of Discrimination


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.16) on combating defamation of religion, adopted through a recorded vote of 32 in favor and 14 against, with 7 abstentions, the Commission expressed deep concern at negative stereotyping of religions and manifestations of intolerance and discrimination in matters of religion or belief still in evidence in some regions; expressed deep concern that Islam was frequently and wrongly associated with human rights violations and terrorism; noted with deep concern the intensification of the campaign of defamation of religions, and the ethnic and religious profiling of Muslim minorities, in the aftermath of the tragic events of 11 September 2001; deplored the use of the media to incite acts of violence, xenophobia or related intolerance and discrimination towards Islam or any other religion; Expressed deep concern at programmes and agendas pursued by extremist organizations and groups aimed at the defamation of religions, especially when supported by Governments; urged all States to combat hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and acts of violence motivated by religious intolerance; urged all States to ensure that all public officials did not discriminate on grounds of religion or belief; strongly deplored physical attacks on businesses, cultural centres and places of worship of all religions; called upon the international community to initiate a global dialogue to promote a culture of tolerance based on respect for human rights and respect for diversity; called upon the High Commissioner for Human Rights to promote and include human rights aspects in the dialogue among civilizations; and requested the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism to examine the situation of Muslim and Arab peoples with special reference to physical attacks against their places of worship, cultural centres, businesses and properties in the aftermath of the events of 11 September 2001 and to submit a progress report on his findings to the Commission.


The results were as follows:


In favour: (32) Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Kenya, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.


Against : (14) Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.


Abstentions: (7) Armenia, Chile, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Peru, and Republic of Korea.


A Representative of Ireland, in a statement before the vote on draft resolution L.16, speaking on behalf of the European Union, associated and acceding countries, said the EU opposed any form of religious discrimination and intolerance.  It believed in the principles of tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.  The Union also believed in the value of a dialogue among civilizations.  Religious intolerance, in all its forms and manifestations, was a matter of great concern to the EU.  Discrimination based on religion or belief was a violation of human rights that could affect adherents of all religions or beliefs, in all contexts.  However, the draft resolution L.16 had been diverted from its main objective, and for that reason, the European Union would vote against it.


A Representative of India, in a statement before the vote, said India opposed the negative stereotyping of any religion, including Islam.  In these times, post-September 11, this message had greater importance than ever before.  No religion must be linked to fanaticism or extremism.  However, the Indian delegation opposed obscurantist and self-serving resolutions.  In relation to this draft resolution, it was clear that the issue of defamation of religion was best dealt with under the item of civil and political rights.  India also did not like the references to “non-Muslim” countries, since there was not one single country were there were no people of Muslim faith.  Furthermore, all religions faced defamation in one way or another -- prejudice and violence were not committed against only one religion.  India would abstain in the vote.


A Representative of Canada, speaking before the vote on resolution L.16, said Canada was aware that religious intolerance was a matter of great concern in all areas of the world and for all peoples of the world. Canada found it troubling that the issues of racism and religious intolerance were mixed in the resolution. The resolution did not adequately address questions of the links between diversity and the fight against racism.  Furthermore, the resolution stressed the protection of one religion above all others.  For these reasons, Canada would vote against the resolution.


A Representative of Sri Lanka said that being a multiethnic and multi-religious country, Sri Lanka accorded equal protection and rights to all religions. The country was extremely concerned if any attempt was made to defame any religion.  Sri Lanka's support of the text was therefore based on its concern for all religions, including Islam.


A Representative of the United States, speaking before the vote, said it was with great reluctance that the United States opposed this resolution.  In many ways, the resolution recognized situations that must be addressed in many countries.  That said, the resolution should have been drafted to protest defamation of all religions.  Mention should also have been made of the need to ensure that educational systems did not teach defamation of or prejudice against other religions.  

A Representative of Costa Rica said the country would vote in favour of draft resolution L.16 as it shared concern over discrimination against people of the Muslim religion. Costa Rica was convinced of the need for religious tolerance.  It hoped, however, that in the future the resolution would be more universal.


A Representative of Cuba said Cuba accorded equal consideration to all religions.  However, currently Islam was being defamed more than other religions.  The equating of terrorism with the practice of Islam was deplorable.  Cuba would vote in favour of the text of L.16.


A Representative of Algeria, speaking before the vote, said the draft before the Commission deserved more attention from members of the Commission.  If the draft was reduced to something less in terms of its language, then there would be no recognition of the current sources of tension between civilizations today.  The draft did not seek to defend only the Muslim religion, but to produce momentum for united tolerance.  It represented a preventive effort.


Address of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia


AMIRAN KAVADZE, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, said his Government had over the last decade demonstrated its growing concern and determination to more effectively address internal displacement.  As was well known, in Georgia some 300,000 persons, predominately ethnic Georgians, remained internally displaced as a result of military conflict and ethnic cleansing committed by Abkhazian separatists forces, foreign regular army recruits and mercenaries.  Internally displaced persons and refugees were among the most painful consequences of the conflict.  Regrettably, the Abkhazian de facto leadership had not accepted the proposals of the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General in relation to the conflict, even for the preliminary consideration.  The de facto authorities of Abkhazia had once again demonstrated full ignorance not only of international law, but also of specific recommendations elaborated by the international organizations for Georgian-Abkhaz conflict resolution.

In addition to international efforts, the Georgian and Russian Presidents recently had convened a bilateral meeting with an agenda on the dignified and safe return of internally displaced persons and refugees to the places of their origin in Abkhazia, restoration of railway infrastructure, and rehabilitation of energy facilities in that province of Georgia.  Current bilateral negotiations were an integral part of the Geneva process of negotiations, which could be catalyzed by more active involvement of the Russian leadership in the conflict resolution process.   Last year, the Georgian delegation had drawn the attention of the Commission to policies of double standards and concrete abuses of human rights, that is, Russian authorities ignoring Georgian legislation having already granted citizenship to almost half the population currently living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


The separatist regime was doing everything it could to create double occupancy problems and conditions, which would make the process of driving ethnic Georgians out of their homeland irreversible.  For that purpose the de facto authorities of Abkhazia continued to give out houses and apartments belonging to Georgians as a reward to foreign military personnel and mercenaries taking part in the armed conflict, as well as to foreign citizens willing to reside permanently in Abkhazia.  Over the last decade, the Georgian delegation together with concerned parties had been trying to work out mechanisms for ensuring a fair and transparent process for property restitution or compensation for internally displaced persons. 


Specific Groups and Individuals


Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a series of documents.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on the status of the International Convention on the Protection of the Right of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and efforts made by the Secretariat to promote the Convention (E/CN.4/2003/80).  As of 15 December 2002, the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 19 States.  The Convention will enter into force when at least 20 States have ratified or acceded to it.  Therefore, only one more ratification or accession is needed for the Convention to enter into force.  On 10 December 2002, on the occasion of Human Rights Day, Timor-Leste declared its intention to accede to the Convention shortly.  The report accounts for efforts made by the Secretariat to promote the Convention.  On 18 December 2002, International Migrants Day, the Secretary-General called upon Member States that had not yet done so to ratify or accede to the Convention as soon as possible as a way of ensuring full and effective protection of the human rights of migrants.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities (E/CN.4/2003/82).  In this report, the Secretary-General provides information on activities carried out by the High Commissioner for the promotion and protection of the rights of minorities, and gives the view of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief with regard to freedom of religion or belief concerning religious minorities.  

There is a report of the Secretary-General on the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (E/CN.4/2003/83).  The report supplements and updates the report of the Secretary-General to the General Assembly on the status of the Trust Fund.  The report contains the recommendations of the seventh session of the Board of Trustees of the Fund for 2002, which were approved by the High Commissioner for Human Rights on behalf of the Secretary-General, including the list of projects and travel grants recommended; the new guidelines adopted by the Board and relevant statistics on the amount of applications received and approved as well as on contributions received.  Relevant information is also included on the implementation of those recommendations.  There is an addendum to the report which consists of the recommendations of the eighth session of the Board; the financial status of the Trust Fund; and the Board's needs assessment for 2004.


There is a report of the High Commissioner on progress in the implementation of the recommendations contained in the study on the human rights of persons with disabilities (E/CN.4/2003/88).  The report shows that implementation of the recommendations on the study “Human Rights and Disability: the current use and future potential of United Nations human rights instruments in the context of disability” may have a considerable impact on the promotion and protection of the human rights of persons with disabilities.  Some progress has been made by the different stakeholders in the implementation of the recommendations.  Several States have started to treat disability as a human rights issue and to report on disability as part of their periodic reports on the implementation of human rights instruments they have ratified.  National human rights institutions have showed an increasing interest in the issue, as evidenced by both the activities of individual institutions and the conclusions and recommendations adopted by recent regional meetings of national institutions.


There is a report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Human rights and mass exoduses (E/CN.4/2003/81).  Section I of the report provides a brief description of activities undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner in recent years to address this issue.  Section II provides a summary of information received from Governments, intergovernmental organizations, specialized agencies and non-governmental organizations.  The report concludes that the challenges of addressing human rights situations that lead to mass exoduses and displacements continue to be of utmost concern, even if the international community has become more aware of this global problem.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on the protection of human rights in the context of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) (E/CN.4/2003/84).  The report states, among other things, that the HIV/AIDS epidemic needs to be addressed through a broad range of efforts including human rights strategies. People living with and affected by HIV/AIDS are often stigmatized and discriminated against in law, policy and practice.  Stigma and discrimination tend to isolate those in need and to prevent them from accessing care, treatment and support.  This worsens the impact of the disease on those directly affected and increases the vulnerability of others to HIV infection.


There is a report of the High Commissioner on the situation of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, in particular with respect to conflict prevention (E/CN.4/2003/87). The report states, among other things, that problems faced by minorities have most often been caused by non-recognition of constituent elements of their identity, including their languages, religions and histories.  Minorities complain about the relative disadvantages of their members as regards access to employment, public service and political institutions, as well as about inadequate access to resources that could enable minorities to preserve their identities.  Representatives of minorities also speak of the need for development programmes which would not threaten their identities and cultures and would not lead to enforced displacement.  Political participation and autonomy granted to minorities have been identified as contributing to the prevention or resolution of conflicts. The report compiles and analyzes information concerning the rights of persons belonging to minorities through the lens of conflict prevention.


Report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it, among other things, a report by the Chairperson of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (E/CN.4/2003/94).  The report is a personal account by the Chairperson of the work carried out by the Sub-Commission in 2002.


There is a report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2003/95). The report contains information on possible ways and means of addressing issued raised by the Sub-Commission in its draft decision 8 (E/CN.4/2-E/CN.4/Sub.2/2001/40, Chapter I)


Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


The Commission will consider several documents under this agenda item.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on human rights and bioethics (E/CN.4/2003/98).  In his report to the General Assembly at its fifty-sixth session, the Secretary-General recommended that responsibility for further action be allocated to the bodies of agencies that have already developed programmes of activity in this field.  He recommended that UNESCO and WHO, in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner, carry out further consultations with other United Nations bodies and specialized agencies on the best way to ensure effective cooperation and coordination of activities.  In January 2002, the High Commissioner organized a consultation of high-level experts on human rights and bioethics to consider possible issues of cooperation.  The report of the expert consultation is annexed to the report.  The report also contains summaries of substantive information provided by Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Poland and Venezuela.  There is an addendum which states that replies on this issue have been received from the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO, as well as from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which stated that human genetic resources were not included within the framework of the Convention.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on public information activities in the field of human rights, including the World Public Information Campaign on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2003/99). It contains information of the public information activities of the Office of the High Commissioner in terms of publications programmes, use of electronic means, media liaisons, external relations programmes, and the World Conference against Racism.  It also covers activities of the Department of Public Information, including provisions on the World Conference against Racism; activities of the United Nations information service at UNOG; and activities of other United Nations information centres and services and United Nations offices. 


There is a report of the High Commissioner on the implementation of the Plan of Action of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education, 1995-2004  (E/CN.4/2003/100).  The report provides supplementary information received in the period from mid-July to mid-November 2002 in response to the notes verbales and letters addressed in May 2002 to all Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.  The report includes information on related activities undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner as well as additional information about public information activities in the field of human rights. 


There is a report of the High Commissioner on a study on the follow-up to the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (E/CN.4/2003/101).  The report includes a study that the High Commissioner had been requested to produce on the follow-up to the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education including possible means of strengthening human rights education at the national, regional and international levels as well as the elaboration of the concept of a series of intersessional workshops to take place in 2003-2004 to address major current human rights education issues.  The report presents the findings of a series of activities organized by the Office of the High Commissioner.


There is a report by Hina Jilani, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders (E/CN.4/2003/104).  The report provides a resume of some of the Special Representative's activities over the year as well as an analysis of the situation of defenders, looking at some trends.  These trends concerns the type of violations committed against them; the categories of the most vulnerable defenders; the types of perpetrators and their places in a State hierarchy; the significance of the absence of information on human rights defenders from some countries; public opinion and the role of the media; and some positive developments.  The Special Representative continues her focus on the violations confronted by defenders, as developed in her previous reports.  She draws attention to particular types of violations of the Declaration on human rights defenders and identifies the countries in which these violations are alleged to have occurred.  The conclusions and recommendations identify a number of strategic areas through which the protection of human rights defenders can be reinforced, including: strengthening national judicial systems; setting minimum human rights standards for counter-terrorism and security legislation; protecting the contextual space that defenders require for the work; the human rights responsibilities of multinationals; and the need to focus on States where defenders are not seen or heard.   There are four addenda to the report.  Addendum 1 contains communications to and from Governments.  Addendum 2 is on a mission to Guatemala.  Addendum 3 and 4 are notes from the Secretariat which inform the Commission of the postponement of the Special Representative's reports on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and on Thailand.


There is a Note by the Secretariat on human rights and human responsibilities.  The note indicates that information on the status of the International Covenants on human rights may be found on the web sites of the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs, Treaty Section, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2003/96).


There is a report of the Secretary- General on impunity (E/CN.4/2003/97).  The report contains a summary of the replies received from Governments and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on the issue of impunity.  The information received indicates broad agreement that there should be no impunity for human rights violations, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide.  Member States provided information on important developments in combating impunity at the national level.  This includes information on action under taken by courts, truth commissions and special programmes, as well as relevant legislative changes, administrative procedures and national dialogues.  The contributions highlighted the importance of pursuing prosecutions; finding and publicizing the truth; assisting and protecting victims, witnesses and other participants in the proceedings; and providing reparations and remedies.


There is a Note by the Secretariat on the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/102). The Note indicates that information on the convening of a seminar to study the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights can be found in the Report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2003/103).


There is a report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/103).  The report provides an analytical summary of information received from States and intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations on activities that have been effective in strengthening good governance practices for the promotion of human rights.  The replies reflected a broad understanding of the concept of good governance as well as its relevance for the promotion of human rights at the national level.  They also reflect a growing interest and awareness in the international community of the importance of good governance for the realization of the broad range of human rights and sustainable development.


There is a final report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights and human responsibilities (E/CN.4/2003/105). The report states that ethnics, morality, justice and human solidarity offer rules and principles that are essential for advancements in the field of human rights.  To this effect, it is absolutely necessary to create and develop a new individual and collective awareness of the need to find a solid balance between the rights of the individual and his/her social duties and responsibilities.  The report asserts that every right is linked to some legal obligation or to an ethical responsibility, and that compliance with the latter prevents violations of the former.  The report also touches on the duties that exist between States, such as the duty to contribute to the effective compliance by every State with its obligation to promote, realize and protect the rights and liberties recognized for every person under its jurisdiction, in particular by means of joint efforts to create a social and international order in which those rights and freedoms may become a reality.  According to the report, international cooperation to achieve the right to development is a must in order to arrive at such an international social order.


Effective Functioning of Human Rights Mechanisms


Before the Commission under this agenda item are a number of documents.


There is a note by the Secretariat on effective functioning of human rights mechanisms (E/CN.4/2003/6), which transmits the report of the ninth meeting of special rapporteurs and representatives, experts and chairpersons of working groups of the special procedures of the Commission and of the advisory services programme.  The report states that 29 mandate holders participated and exchanged experiences and information of common concern, in particular with regard to the situation of human rights in the aftermath of 11 September 2001 and the consequent fight against terrorism.  Concerns were raised about repressive actions taken by several countries and the repercussions of these actions on vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples and migrants.  The thematic discussion focused on cooperation with other United Nations organs, in particular the Security Council, and bodies, particularly in the field, and cooperation with regional organizations.  The issue of human rights and corporate responsibility received special attention.  


There is a report of the Secretary-General on the state of regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/107).  The report focuses on the regional strategies of the Office of the High Commissioner and the most significant developments since 2001, and should be read in conjunction with the Secretary-General's report on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights delivered to the General Assembly as its last session.  In order to maximize the impact of the activities of the United Nations at the national level, the Office of the High Commissioner has been systematically pursuing regional and subregional efforts through a variety of complementary means and methods, in particular by supporting the establishment of regional frameworks for the promotion and protection of human rights, adopting a subregional focus where appropriate, out posting regional and subregional advisers, concluding cooperative agreements with United Nations agencies and regional institutions, undertaking joint regional projects, and sponsoring or organizing consultations and dialogues.   


There is a report of the Secretary-General on conclusions and recommendations of special procedures (E/CN.4/2003/108) in the context of the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms.  In view of United Nations rules prohibiting the republication of material that has already been issued under general distribution, it has been decided to make such a compilation available on the web site of the Office of the High Commissioner  (www.ohchr.org).  In the meantime, the annex to the present document contains references to pertinent chapters containing the conclusions and recommendations of reports submitted to the Commission at its fifty-ninth session by thematic special rapporteurs and working groups.


There is a report of the Secretary-General on regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Asian and Pacific region (E/CN.4/2003/109).  The report focuses on the results of the eleventh Workshop on Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Asian and Pacific Region held in Islamabad in February 2003, as well as on activities carried out since the 2002-2004 Programme of Action for the Asia-Pacific Framework for Regional Cooperation for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights was adopted in March 2002.  Participants reviewed progress achieved since the tenth Workshop and, among other things, noted the new draft Guidelines on Poverty Reduction Strategies, the launch of the OHCHR Handbook on National Human Rights Action Plans and the activities conducted under the Teheran Framework for Technical Cooperation, including intersessional workshops.  


There is a report of the Secretary-General on national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/110), which covers activities for the period November 2001 to November 2002, and contains information on the activities undertaken by the Officer of the High Commissioner to establish and strengthen national institutions; the measures taken by Governments and national institutions in this regard; and consultations held by treaty bodies and special mechanisms of the Commission with national institutions.  Information regarding the work of national institutions in respect of specific thematic issues is also included in the report.  Additional information on assistance provided to national institutions can be found in the OHCHR reports on activities of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights.    


There is a report of the High Commissioner on the composition of the staff of the Office of the High Commissioner (E/CN.4/2003/111).  In an effort to widen the pool of candidates interested in the subject of human rights, the High Commissioner had recommended that the Office of Human Resources Management establish a human rights occupational group.  It was felt that such a measure would contribute to attracting to the area of human rights qualified junior professionals from unrepresented or underrepresented countries. 


Advisory Services and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights


There is a report of the Secretary-General on advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/112).  The report contains information on the technical cooperation programme for 2002, including sections on policy orientation; project identification, formulation, appraisal and approval; implementation modalities; project monitoring, evaluation and lessons learned; substantive areas; integration of a gender dimensions; and management, administration and financing.  


There is a repot of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the High Commissioner in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/113).  The OHCHR/Cambodia continued to monitor the general human rights situation, document specific patterns of human rights violations and investigate complaints of violations of human rights.  It has continued to contribute to law-making and efforts to advance legal and judicial reform, as well as to work with and assist Cambodian non-governmental groups in strengthening their capacities to carry out activities to promote and protect human rights.  It has also continued to participate in a number of United Nations and donor coordinating mechanisms on human rights and rule of law issues, and in activities and meetings of the United Nations Country Teams. 


There is a report of the Independent Expert, Ghanim Alnajjar, on assistance to Somalia in the field of human rights (E/CN.4/2003/115).  The period covered by the report has been one of both consolidation and uncertainty.  Somalia remains without a central government.  While “Somalialand” in the northwest has maintained calm, providing an environment for expanded commerce, construction and political development, “Puntland” in the northeast, previously noted for its relative peace, was the scene of significant violence during a period of Constitutional crisis and slowly regained a modicum of stability.  In Bay and Bakool regions, a new South West State of Somalia was declared amidst battles for political positions.  The rest of the country witnessed the shrinking authority of the Transitional National Government (TNG) in the capital and the resurgence of activity on the part of faction leaders, with attendant violence, shifting alliances and volatility.  The Independent Expert was struck by the conditions of internally displaced persons (IDPs) for whom the provision of security, basic sanitation and educational services remained seriously inadequate.  The Expert concluded that there could be no lasting peace in the whole of Somalia without adherence to the principles of human rights and without making respect for such principles the basis of any political process.  The Expert remains convinced of the vital role of civil society in monitoring, promoting and protecting human rights and is heartened by efforts to build their capacities, notably with the sponsorship of donor Governments.


There is a report of the Independent Expert, Louis Joinet, on the situation of human rights in Haiti (E/CN.4/2003/116).  He focuses attention on the security of citizens; the upsurge in violence against specific targets, which curtails or dispenses altogether with the freedom of opinion and expression that is at the heart of democracy; the deficiencies observed in the operation of the penal system and their consequences, especially for prolonged pre-trial detention; and the fate of “the just” who are the prime agents of change.  The Independent Expert is of the view that a long-term programme of international aid should be planned as part of a renewed technical cooperation programme that targets State bodies or organizations of civil society, as well as professionals who play a decisive role as agents of change.  In this context, the international community and the Office of the High Commissioner should continue with, or resume, technical assistance and cooperation programmes, giving priority to the administration of justice, human rights and the protection of human rights defenders. 


General Debate on Specific Groups and Individuals; Report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; Effective Functioning of Human Rights Mechanisms; Advisory Services and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights; and Rationalization of the Work of the Commission


TASSOS KRIEKOUKIS(Greece), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the EU wished once again to stress the important role of human rights defenders in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Human rights defenders had made a significant contribution to progress achieved at the both national and international levels in the field of human rights. At the national level, they documented human rights violations, provided victims of such violations with legal, psychological, medical or other support and fought against the impunity of perpetrators.  At the international level, they drew international attention to human rights violations all over the world.  The EU was concerned at the violations of the rights of human rights defenders, which included executions, death threats, intimidation, arbitrary arrest sand detention, prosecutions and defamation.  The EU agreed that counter-terrorism and security legislation should be consistent with States' obligations under international human rights law and should not have a negative effect on or restrict the work of human rights defenders.


Human rights capacity building was an essential element of the UN human rights policy.  While the benefits of technical assistance in the field of human rights could hardly be overestimated, advisory services and technical cooperation could not replace the monitoring function of the UN in the field of human rights.  Neither could technical assistance and advisory services exempt a country from being monitored through the various procedures established by the UN. 


      JORGE-ALBERTO FERRER RODRIGUEZ(Cuba) said that while the United States – self-appointed defender of human rights – had adopted restrictive and punitive measures against irregular migrants from the countries of the South, it continued to condone the impunity of trafficking in Cuban migrants, and encouraged illegal migration from Cuba, as part of its policy of double standards.  For the last few weeks, the world had witnessed the serious manifestations and consequences of the infamous deliberate policy of tolerance, privileges, benefits, protection, impunity and propaganda which had been implemented for over 40 years by successive US Governments in order to politically manipulate the Cuban emigrants.  Such action had cause thousands of deaths and the hijacking of over 50 planes. 


In the midst of a war allegedly declared against terrorism, in less than three weeks, between 19 March and 10 April 2003, two Cuban passenger planes were hijacked and diverted to the United States, in the same manner that the planes which had crashed into New York's twin towers were hijacked.  A ferry was hijacked, but finally intercepted by Cuban patrol boats.  In addition to that, another plan to hijack a third plane was thwarted while being carried out.  The hijackers were delinquents with criminal records for common crimes; and they were lumpens and social scum.  Countless accomplices of the hijackers were freed and exonerated from all responsibility by the United States, even without being investigated, as the two Cuban hijacked planes were arbitrarily confiscated.  In contrast, the innocent Cuban victims of those terrorist acts were handcuffed, frisked, arrested for several days and even dressed in prison uniforms, in violation of their rights.  The US authorities had refused to extradite these criminals and stated they would prosecute the perpetrators for air piracy, despite the fact that the real crime committed was terrorism.


SI TA (China) said China had promoted the comprehensive development of ethnic minorities in the political, economic, cultural and other fields.  In the field of the legal system, since 1991 China had formulated more than 20 regulations on ethnic regional autonomy, and a series of specific resolutions.   They contained detailed provisions on the various rights of ethnic groups and, as such, provided a solid legal guarantee for safeguarding their human rights.


On the economic front, ethnic minority regions had experienced fast economic growth, resulting in steady improvements to people's living standards.  The Government had adopted a preferential policy which favoured the development of ethnic minority areas and had provided strong support in the fields of finance, technology and human resources. From a cultural perspective, the provision ethnic education had made considerable progress.  During the past decade, China had adopted various measures to train a large number of ethnic teachers for the ethnic minority regions.  The State also fully respected and protected the freedom of the religious beliefs of ethnic minorities, along with their religious activities.


JOHN BIGGAR (Ireland) said the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders provided evidence that many people around the world continued to face intimidation, imprisonment or death in their efforts to disseminate information on human rights.  Indeed, since the beginning of this session of the Commission, reports had been received on human rights defenders being imprisoned in large numbers.  HIV/AIDS presented the international community with a human rights crisis of enormous magnitude.  People living with, and affected by, HIV/AIDS frequently faced discrimination based on ignorance and fear.  Frequently, they did not enjoy the right to the highest attainable standard of health.  Over the last decade, the volume of Ireland Aid funds committed to the fight against HIV/AIDS had increased ten-fold and Ireland strongly supported the efforts of the Office of the High Commissioner to promote an effective and sustainable human rights based response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. 


Ireland welcomed the emphasis placed in the technical cooperation programme upon supporting countries in their endeavors to promote and protect human rights.  The participatory approach and the links to national development objectives had Ireland's full support.  Particularly welcome were the strategy for strengthening the Office's capacity to support United Nations Country Teams, as well as the acknowledgement of the need of the Office to develop a more strategic approach to technical cooperation.  Ireland looked forward to the outcome of the global review of the programme in this regard. 


MANUEL GONZALEZ SANZ (Costa Rica), speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), said GRULAC respected international migration as a necessity in a globalized world.  Such migration was prompted by the need for better living conditions.  Some migrants had been faced with vulnerable situations of exclusion and human rights abuse.  Migrants were also faced with discrimination and were victims of xenophobia and intolerance in their host countries.  It was necessary to develop a harmonious mechanism to deal with the situation, particularly between countries of origin and destination.  The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Member of Their Families was an important international instrument in this context, and had been ratified by 20 States from GRULAC.  The work done by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of Migrants was important.


According to United Nations estimates, there were 600 million disabled persons in the world.  Their integration into society was a challenge to the international community, and it had to be done in an urgent manner.  The idea of a convention for the protection and promotion of the human rights of disabled persons had been promoted by the United Nations for 20 years.  The existence of such an instrument would be very important for guaranteeing the rights of such persons.


AMANDA GORELY (Australia) said that governance cut across all parts of the development agenda.  Democratic and accountable governance laid the foundation for effective community participation.  Sound economic and financial management was critical, as was establishing strong and accountable institutions that operated transparently, enabling participation by citizens in decision making and acting in accordance with the rule of law.  The development of sound governance systems encouraged economic growth and enabled greater gains in poverty reduction to be made.  Human Rights were best protected in environments where democracy was combined with a strong rule of law, and independent judiciary, and efficient and accountable public sector, and sound economic policies. 


JEANE J. KIRKPATRICK (United States) said human rights depended on democratic institutions.  Promoting democracy and encouraging its spread was the centrepiece of American foreign policy and the Government supported programmes to build civil societies and democratic institutions, to promote transparency and to increase civil engagement.  Human rights defenders were persons who took grave risks to expand the domain of freedom, often risking their own freedom.  It was an unwelcome coincidence that at the very same time this Commission was spending six weeks discussing the promotion of human rights, the Government of Cuba had imposed long prison sentences on 75 persons – doctors, librarians, academics, and journalists.  The Cuban regime would have the Commission believe that all these individuals were organized by the U.S. Government to subvert it.  Many of the 75 persons were involved in the Varela project to petition the Cuban Government to permit an alternative to its one-party, un-elected legislature.  Others were merely trying to disseminate literature and news prepared by independent organizations.


The sentences of the 75 dissidents handed down from April 3-7 ranged from between 12 to 26 years, at trials lasting less than a day for each.  The names of these authentic human rights defenders were appended to the U.S. statement.  A second testimony to the quality of Cuban justice could be seen last week at the summary trial and execution of three Cubans charged with the attempted hijacking of a passenger ferry to Florida.  No one was hurt in the attempted hijacking except the three executed.  Yes, they committed a serious crime, but they, like everyone, deserved due process and a just sentence.


      MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said the globalization of the economy, human progress in communications, and the promotion of regional integration could lead to the conclusion that the world had become a village.  Inter-ethnic relations were similarly  closely inter-dependent.  That situation had prompted an increase in migration.  A mosaic of nationalities had been created in different countries, which was a source of wealth, as it contributed to the building of a universal civilization.  However, migration had also caused a rise in narrow nationalism and in restrictions on the right to freedom of movement and the right to chose one's residence.  This amounted to a rejection of others.  The pretext for such acts was the economic crisis, despite the wealth of the countries concerned.  The situation might dangerously contribute to the economic problems of host countries, where migrants played important role in the production of wealth.


Burkina Faso was concerned by the issue of migration because 5 million of its citizens lived outside the country. Attention should also be given to those thousands of millions in the world who had been subjected to humiliating conditions.  The Commission should use its weight to ensure that the different conventions pertaining to the rights of migrants were respected. 


GEORG MAUTNER-MARKHOF(Austria) said the exclusion of minorities from political participation and socio-economic development was still widespread.  In some parts of the world, this exclusion had become a major cause of violent conflict.  Austria believed that the existing UN human rights system had not dealt with minority problems in a manner that was commensurate with their magnitude and with the potential for conflict that they could generate.  It was therefore high time to address the gaps in the existing UN system of minority protection and to consider possible ways and means for ensuring the effective protection of the rights of persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities. Austria thought it was time to examine seriously the establishment of a special mechanism on minority issues.


The plight of more than 25 million internally displaced persons around the world remained deeply disturbing.


MOHAMED FEZEI(Bahrain) said wars and armed conflicts resulted in many victims, deaths, and disabilities, and in the creation of displaced persons.  Bahrain believed in peaceful neighborly relations and non-interference in matters of State but had always contributed to maintaining peace and security in a peaceful manner.  Persons missing due to war were innocent victims and no stone must lay unturned until missing persons had been found and returned home.  In this connection, Bahrain stressed the importance of all parties, including non-State actors, to all conflicts to respect the provisions of the Geneva Conventions.


The international community must show solitary and assist in finding missing persons in the Gulf region.  It was Bahrain's hope that the efforts of international organizations would result in successfully bringing missing persons home.  In this connection, Bahrain thanked the International Committee of the Red Cross for its efforts so far to find and return missing persons. 


      GORDAN MARKOTIC(Croatia) said the question of mass exoduses and displacement of persons remained one of the most serious human rights problems.  Since 1995, when a massive return of refugees had started, there had been over 300,000 registered returnees to Croatia.  More than 200,000 internally displaced persons were still residing temporarily in other parts of Croatia, and over 95,000 refugees were awaiting their return to Croatia.  The Government had undertaken activities aimed at accelerated the reconstruction of homes and infrastructure destroyed in the war, along with providing temporary accommodation, clearing landmines, and economically reviving the return areas.  The Government had adopted a plan of action for the implementation of property repossession.  The Croatian Parliament had also adopted amendments to relevant legislation, thus setting up a more consistent and transparent procedure for property repossession.


Croatia also had supported the return of refugees to Bosnia and Herzegovina through a direct assistance programme, allocating for that purpose 5.5 million euros.  Cooperation between two countries on that issue had been strengthened as well through the conclusion of an important new agreement on refugee return.


PANKAJ SARAN(India) said that as a multi-cultural pluralistic society, India was a mosaic of diversity.  It took pride in its heritage, myriad religions, languages and ethnicities.  Secularism was a fundamental tenet of the Indian Constitution and political system.  Religious tolerance and pluralism were the hallmarks of Indian society.  India had the second largest Muslim population in the world.  Muslims lived and worked in every part of the country.  The Constitution laid down special provisions for safeguarding the rights of minorities.  It had prescribed that the State would not deny to any person equality before the law.  There were also several provisions in the Constitution that protected the rights of the disabled.


Concerning the protection of human rights in the context of HIV/AIDS, the Indian National Health Policy gave priority to the containment of HIV/AIDS infection and set a target of zero growth in HIV/AIDS by the year 2007.


DIEGO BELEVAN TAMAYO (Peru) said migration was a phenomenon of great moral, social and ethnic importance.  Migrants made up a very vulnerable group faced with constant and systematic violations of human rights.  Peru agreed with what had been said by the relevant Special Rapporteur on putting further emphasis on the human rights of migrants.  Ensuring the human rights of migrants and members of their families was the responsibility of all States.


In Peru, in an effort to organize migratory flows and prevent trafficking, the Government had undertaken an information campaign informing people on the legal situation in Peru as well informing people who might take advantage of others for trafficking.  The Government had also undertaken studies on Peruvian migrant communities abroad.  Peru was looking at the possibility of signing the International Convention on the Human Rights of Migrants and members of their Families and appealed to countries of destination, transit and origin also to accede to it. 


      ANDREI LANCHIKOV(Russian Federation) said the Commission had made a contribution to the study of the rights of disabled persons.  The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of the disabled was carrying out his mandate within the context of work done by the Commission.  Such duplication of work was not needed.  Russia was concerned by the situation of people of Russian origin in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, where those countries were not fully complying with the recommendations and observations of international bodies.  In Latvia and Estonia, problems concerning Russians had continued.  They were discriminated against in many ways, including in matters of citizenship and elections.  They were even hampered from using their own language because of attempts by those countries to impose their own national languages on people of Russian origin who had been there for many years. 


Latvia and Estonia were not complying with the International Convention on the rights of minorities and with other relevant conventions to which they were parties.  The international community should pressure those States to abide by international provisions concerning minorities in their territories, such as Russians.


ANTOINE MINDUA KESIA-MBE (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that since the beginning of the war of aggression conducted and orchestrated in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since 1988 by Uganda and Rwanda with the assistance of Congolese rebels, the population had been displaced and continued to be displaced massively. This displaced population, which numbered 3 million people, was made up of women and children, including widows and orphans and unaccompanied children. The displacement was a true humanitarian catastrophe.


The massive displacement had worsened living conditions in the major cities of the country. Kinshasa, for example, had seen its population of 5 million almost double in five years of war, resulting in a housing shortage, an increase in unemployment and an upsurge in certain illnesses linked to promiscuity. This situation constituted a violation of the fundamental rights of the civil population.  The international community was urged to exert pressure on the parties involved in the war in the DRC to bring an end to hostilities.  The DRC also called on the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on displaced persons to visit the country and to write a report on the situation of the displaced population as a result of the war.


J. NDHLOVU (South Africa) said the disability debate was not so much about the enjoyment of specific rights as it was about ensuring the equal and effective enjoyment of all human rights by persons with disabilities without discrimination.  South Africa believed that many shared the same objective.  However, the common commitment to the concretization of this objective could not be measured by words but by the speed with which one finalized the desired convention.  South Africa welcomed the work done by the Office of the High Commissioner, the Special Rapporteur of the Commission of Social Development and the Government of Mexico in providing a draft convention to be used as a basis to expedite the early conclusion to a negotiation of a convention. 

In the short period of time since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the Government had taken effective and progressive measures in the area of promotion and protection of the rights of persons with disabilities.  The Government continued to provide public infrastructure and facilities accessible to all, including people with disabilities.  There were many factors that worsened the situation of persons with disabilities, such as poverty, lack of access to affordable medicine, poor nutrition and an unhealthy environment.  South Africa urged developed countries to play a meaningful role and through collaborative action with the developing countries assist them with the necessary resources to realize the goals of the Millennium Summit as well as the outcome documents of other major conferences, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development. 


Right of Reply


  A Representative of Latvia, referring to a statement made by the delegation of the Russian Federation under agenda item 14, said Latvia had enjoyed the highest level of social growth since the restoration of its independence.  The reference to his country by the Russian delegation was a simply a distraction from the main issue.


A Representative of Cuba speaking in right of reply, said that the attempt by the United States to present itself as defender of human rights was ridiculous.  The United States was responsible for deaths of four million Vietnamese, disappearances in Latin America, and the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. Hundreds of civilians were also executed in the United States.


A Representative of Honduras, speaking in right of reply, referred to the statement made by a non-governmental organization that had made allegations about the lack of investigations into the status of children in Honduras.  The information provided was unreal, since from 1998 to 2002 there had been 140 deaths of minors.  This information came from reliable sources.   The Government recognized its responsibility to investigate and clarify all cases related to this wave of violence.  The same non-governmental organization that had spoken had earlier congratulated the Government for its efforts in this area. 


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For information media. Not an official record.