NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS TELL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF FURTHER ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSES AROUND GLOBE

HR/CN/1018
3 April 2003

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS TELL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS OF FURTHER ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSES AROUND GLOBE

03/04/2003
Press Release
HR/CN/1018


NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS TELL COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS

OF FURTHER ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSES AROUND GLOBE


Official of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Gives Address


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 3 April (UN Information Service) -- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carried on this afternoon with debate under the Commission on Human Rights' agenda item on the "Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world", contending, among other things, that governments were using anti-terrorism measures unfairly as a means of clamping down on the legitimate activities of political opposition groups, minorities, foreigners and migrant workers.


Their opinions were echoed in an address by Christian Strohal, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Mr. Strohal said, among other things, that any strategy to combat terrorism must have human rights at its heart -- that violating human rights in the fight against terrorism was self-defeating and counterproductive.


Among NGOs, Femme Africa Solidarité, speaking on behalf of 13 other organizations, charged that government priorities had shifted from a focus on human security to counter-terrorism, which threatened women’s physical security as well as their economic, social and cultural rights, and that there had been insufficient consultation with women’s groups with regard to ongoing conflicts.


The American Association of Jurists said it had analysed the anti-terrorist legislation of the United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain and found it vague in terms of defining terrorism, which allowed those Governments to classify as terrorist activities things that had nothing to do with terrorism, and hence allowed them to curtail the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens and foreigners.


The International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations said the war against global terrorism should not lead to supporting tyrannical regimes and illegal occupations, yet many governments were misusing the campaign against terrorism to crush genuine political freedom movements.

Other topics mentioned several times at the afternoon meeting were the war in Iraq, the human rights situation in Tibet, and recent arrests of democracy and human rights activists in Cuba.


Among those speaking were representatives of the following NGOs:  Femmes Africa Solidarité, speaking on behalf of others organizations; Médecins du monde - international; American Association of Jurists; Society for Threatened Peoples; Andean Commission of Jurists; Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies; Catholic Institute for International Relations; Asian Legal Resource Centre; North South XXI; Liberation; General Conference of the Seventh-Day Adventists; International Union of Socialist Youth; International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; International Human Rights Law Group; International Association against Torture; December Twelfth Movement International Secretariat; Christian Democratic International; Liberal International; Association tunisienne des droits de l'énfant; Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; Amnesty International; International Pen; International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty; Interfaith International; Comité international pour le respect et l'application de la charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; Aliran Kesedaran Negara - National Consciousness Movement; Rural Reconstruction Nepal; France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran; International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples; International Possibilities Unlimited; International Indian Treaty Council;and International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations.


Representatives of Uganda, Armenia, Japan, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and Turkey spoke in exercise of the right of reply.


The Commission will meet at 9 a.m. Friday, 4 April, for an extended meeting.  During the course of the day, it is expected to conclude debate under its agenda item on the question of the violation of human rights anywhere in the world and to begin discussion of economic, social and cultural rights.


Address from Podium


CHRISTIAN STROHAL, Director of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), said that in the current international context, with armed conflict in Iraq, respect for human rights and humanitarian law was of paramount importance.  Indeed, the need for intensified cooperation in promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms had never been stronger than today.   The ODIHR was perhaps most widely known for its mandate to promote democratic elections as an essential element of democracy.  It had a mandate to assist the 55 OSCE participating States to ensure full respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, to abide by the rule of law, to promote principles of democracy and to build and promote tolerance throughout society.


Mr. Strohal said any strategy to combat terrorism must have human rights at its heart.  It must be recognized that violating human rights in the fight against terrorism was self-defeating and counter-productive.  In the climate that had followed September 11 the OSCE had increased its efforts to promote tolerance, non-discrimination and freedom of religion across the region.  This year there would be number of meetings dedicated to tolerance and non-discrimination, anti-Semitism, and freedom of religion and belief.  Torture remained one of the most egregious human rights violations in the OSCE region.  While the ODIHR could assist governments in their efforts to eradicate torture, it was also important to acknowledge that prevention of torture must begin with the political will to address this violation.


Mr. Strohal said the cycle of violence, human rights abuses, disappearances and impunity that had characterized conditions in the Chechen Republic could end only if the rule of guns was replaced by the rule of law.  This could take place only if the referendum held on 23 March was followed by a serious effort by all sides to engage in a sustained political process to bridge the divide between Moscow and the people of the Chechen Republic.


General Debate on Question of Violation of Human Rights Anywhere in World


BINETA DIOP, of Femmes Africa Solidarité, speaking on behalf of other organizations, said that adoption of Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) had heralded a new area for the realization of women’s rights through their participation in issues of peace and security by changing the role of women from victims of conflict to contributors to peace.  However, since 11 September 2001, priority had shifted from a focus on human security to counter-terrorism, which threatened women’s physical security, as well as their economic, social and cultural rights.  Moreover, there had been insufficient consultation with women’s groups in regard to on-going conflicts.


Violence against women in all its forms constituted human rights violations.  Cases of rape and other violence perpetrated against women in war-torn countries should be brought before the International Criminal Court or other international tribunals.  Given the ever-growing violations of women’s human rights, the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women should be renewed.


GRACIELLA ROBERT, of Médecins du Monde, said attention should be paid to the human rights situation in Chechnya.  In Chechnya, medical personnel were caught between two fires, and often doctors found themselves in the front line without protection.  The attention of the international community was drawn to the fact that doctors were not spared the practices undertaken by the Russian army.  The violence in the region was carried out behind closed doors and with impunity.  Medical personnel were there to help civilians and were becoming increasingly frightened for their own lives.


The Commission was urged to ensure that the Russian army ended all violence against doctors so that they would be able to assist innocent civilians.  Furthermore, the Russian Federation must allow access for humanitarian workers as well as for a Special Rapporteur of the Commission to investigate the situation.


JAIRO SANCHEZ, of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), said that following the attacks of 11 September, many countries had adopted national anti-terrorism measures and legislation that were an extension of already existing repressive and undemocratic policies.  Governments took advantage of the climate created by the attacks in order to pass these laws and measures almost without opposition.  Some governments had used the 11 September attacks to intensify, with total impunity, their repression of national movements, as was the case of Israel with the Palestinians.  The American Association of Jurists had analyzed the anti-terrorist legislation of the United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain -- that is, some of the so-called major Western democracies -- and found that it was vague as to the definition of terrorism. This allowed those Governments to classify as terrorist activities things that had nothing to do with terrorism, and allowed them to curtail the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens and foreigners.


The AAJ also had analysed the anti-terrorist policies of the Security Council and the Council of Europe.  The Security Council had adopted in September 2001 resolutions 1368 and 1373 which spoke of terrorism without defining it, thus throwing the door open to arbitrariness.  The Council of Europe had adopted a series of measures on terrorism.  These measures were based on a general definition of terrorism which allowed to the Council to define as "terrorist" a wide range of persons and organizations.


NWAGANG CHOEPHEL, of the Society for Threatened Peoples, commended, in regard to the human rights situation in Tibet, the recent reception of a high-level Tibetan delegation by the Chinese authorities, among other positive developments, as well as the Tibetan government-in-exile’s intention to create a conducive atmosphere for dialogue with the Chinese leadership.  The Dalai Lama had been seeking a solution to the Tibetan issue through his “Middle Way Approach”, which did not call for independence or the separation of Tibet from China, as a realistic and pragmatic approach.


The Tibetans, who had been engaged in one of the world's longest non-violent freedom struggles under the leadership of the Dalai Lama, urgently required the support of the international community and of the Commission.  The world must see that the renewed contact between the Tibetan government-in-exile and Chinese authorities led to earnest discussion of the future political status of Tibet.  Support for this objective would give real significance to the dialogue.


ENRIQUE TER HORST, of the Andean Commission of Jurists, said there was a dangerous and paradoxical situation in Venezuela, where a Government elected democratically on the promise of fighting the poverty and corruption of the previous 20 years had attempted to appropriate the State with the aim of imposing a personal, authoritarian project.  Starting with the flagrant violation of the principle of the separation and independence of the branches of government, the regime had been further deepening its authoritarian and hegemonic character by verbal and physical intimidation, which had found its first and foremost expression in the discourse of social hatred pursued by the highest level of Government.


The Andean Commission of Jurists called on the Government of Venezuela to seize the opportunity of this session of the Commission to confirm to the entire would the peaceful and democratic character it proclaimed to have.  This session of the Commission could be instrumental in helping to preserve peace and democracy in Venezuela and in providing an example of preventive diplomacy.


BAHEY ELDIN HASSAN, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the organization strongly condemned the aggressive war launched by the United States and United Kingdom against Iraq.  It absolutely denounced the initiation of this war, which pretended to be in the name of the noble principles people had long struggled and aspired for in order to establish values of freedom, justice and peace.


The Cairo Institute rejected any pretext given for the British/American military intervention, which justified war of occupation and conquest in the name of the Iraqi people, and called for a concerted international effort to free the Middle East region, including Israel, of all weapons of mass destruction.  This effort must be conducted with integrity and through the application of the same criteria.


AMADO HEI, of Catholic Institute for International Relations, said violence in Timor-Leste in 1999 had constituted “crimes against humanity,” as evidenced by the International Commission of Inquiry’s recommendation that an international tribunal be established to deal with those offences.  While United Nations-led efforts to investigate, prosecute and try those responsible for these crimes had progressed, the Ad Hoc Tribunal established by the Indonesian Government had already been shown not to be operating in accordance with international standards.  The Ad Hoc Tribunal had shown itself to be partial, ignoring both the number and systematic nature of the killings, and that had allowed for impunity.


Moreover, the work of the Serious Crimes Process in Timor-Leste had been deliberately frustrated by Indonesia.  A review should be undertaken to assess whether the Ad Hoc Tribunal remained the appropriate process or whether another mechanism or universal jurisdiction should be applied to secure justice for the crimes committed in Timor-Leste.


TIMOTHY GILL, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, drew the attention of the Commission to the findings of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002.  The Tribunal was formed in response to the anti-Muslim carnage in the state of Gujarat, India, during February and March 2002.  Hundreds of people were killed, women and children were sexually abused in the most horrific ways, and an enormous amount of property was destroyed.


What occurred in Gujarat was not mere rioting.  It was a crime against humanity meticulously organized by militant nationalist groups operating under the aegis of the state Government.  Elected officials, including cabinet ministers, had led the attacks on Muslims.  They coordinated the attacks by mobile phone.  The Commission must bring its will to bear on the Government of India to ensure that the perpetrators of this crime against humanity were brought to justice. This was imperative not only for ensuring the safety of the people of Gujarat but also for ensuring the very integrity of the Commission. 


OMAR EL KHALED, of North-South XXI, said the organization condemned the unjustified American terrorist war against the Iraqi people which would cost thousands of civilian lives.  It was a war against humanity and peace in the world.  It had been three years since Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon, yet it continued to detain Lebanese citizens in an arbitrary way.  In addition to these detainees, there were dozens of disappeared Lebanese citizens who had been kidnapped by Israeli troops during their invasion.


The Lebanese hostages in Israeli prisons shared their suffering with the thousands of Palestinian prisoners.  Israel had transformed Palestinian villages and cities into collective detention camps where the most repulsive kinds of torture were being practiced.  The issue of the Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners was an international humanitarian issue that had not received any serious attention from the international community.


ANNA HERMOSILLO, of Liberation, said widespread human rights violations continued in Turkey, particularly regarding the treatment of prisoners.  In Bangladesh, massive violations of human rights, particularly the torture and death of innocent civilians in the custody of the army and police during Operation Clean Heart, were of concern.  Supposedly a crackdown on crime, it actually had constituted a crackdown on the Government’s political opponents.


In Kashmir, the world confronted not only one of the largest scenes of human rights violations but also the danger of nuclear catastrophe.  In Timor-Leste, prosecutions by Indonesia’s Ad Hoc Tribunal had not been undertaken in good faith nor with due diligence.  Finally, in West Papua, there was concern that human rights defenders were under threat following a serious shooting incident in which military personnel might have been involved.  Three employees of the Freeport mine had been killed in that incident.


GIANFRANCO ROSSI, of General Conference of Seventh-Day Adventists, said human rights were trampled upon in many countries and regions of the world.  The world wanted peace.  This could be evidenced by the outcry for peace in recent times.  Even religious leaders had spoken out for peace and the end of the use of religious values for inciting violence.


Religion must play an essential role in the development of a world of peace.  In this connection, it was essential to develop the notion of dialogue between civilizations, as well as between religions.  People must learn to accept each other, with each other’s differences and different beliefs.  To build a peaceful world it was also necessary to eliminate injustices and to achieve reconciliation between peoples.  Religions taught to forgive.  This was only one of the important contributions of religions to peace.  The Commission must therefore support further work on inter-religious relations.


TSERING JAMPA, of International Union of Socialist Youth, said horrific human rights abuses continued to occur daily in all corners of the globe.  Some of these abuses took an overt form -– they were visibly obvious and images of them invaded our homes daily, the latest example being the sad developments in Iraq.  Others were more obscure but equally cruel, harmful and degrading.


The situation of human rights in Tibet over the past 10 years was typical of this latter form. China’s blueprint to assimilate Tibet involved a four-pronged approach. One, to intensify Beijing’s merciless repression policy against Tibetan nationalism.  Two, to use propaganda and diplomatic means to paint a positive, unbalanced picture of the situation in Tibet.  Three, to push misguided economic development plans to counter Tibetan nationalism.  And four, to marginalize the Tibetan population by encouraging Chinese settlers to move to the Tibetan Plateau.  Thus, Tibetans lived today in a severely controlled environment and under intense pressures.


SahfbzadaISHAQ ZAFAR, of International Islamic Federation of Students Organizations, said 11 September 2001 had showed that much remained to be done to achieve recognition of the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family.  The war against global terrorism should not lead to supporting tyrannical regimes and illegal occupations, yet many governments were misusing the campaign against global terrorism to crush genuine political freedom movements, such as India in occupied Kashmir.


The Commission should officially declare every government official liable to criminal prosecution in every nation of the world for either direct or indirect complicity in human rights violations.  International peace and harmony would ensue only when the United Nations was ready to discharge its obligation towards the people of the world and was ready to enforce its will with justice and impunity.


TAKNA JIGME SANGPO, of International Fellowship of Reconciliation, said that when he was 37 years old, the Chinese authorities had detained him for remarks he had made about the 10th Panchen Lama of Tibet.  He had been charged for having Acounter-revolutionary views.  He had been sentenced to 41 years of imprisonment, out which he still had nine years to complete.  His dignity as a human being had been humiliated and crushed.  His physical appearance today was proof of the immense suffering he had endured.


The situation in Tibet and the plight of Tibetan political prisoners deserved adequate attention from the Commission. The unfortunate people of Tibet, including political prisoners, were the same human beings as everyone else in this hall, and they urgently needed the Commission's support before it was too late. 


VENANTIE BISIMWA NABINTU, of International Human Rights Law Group, said the organization was concerned by the current situation in the Great Lakes region in Africa.  Notwithstanding the start of a peace process in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the populations there continued to be victim of war crimes committed with total impunity by the belligerents and their allies.  The attention of the Commission was drawn to the vulnerability of women and children to the violence.  Sexual crimes were on the rise in both countries and the recruitment of child soldiers continued. Everywhere, the right to life and physical integrity were not respected.  The authorities, armed groups and their allies tortured and killed arbitrarily on a large scale.


The Commission was called upon:  to urge the signatories of the ceasefire agreement to respect their undertakings and stop immediately the recruitment of children into the army and crimes against women; to urge the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) to protect the civilian population, especially in the region of Ituri, where thousands of people risked being victims of atrocities; to urge the Security Council to conduct an enquiry of experts to find ways to put an end to impunity in the Democratic People’s Republic of the Congo ; and to urge the Government of Burundi to speed up the process of judicial and institutional reforms relating to the prosecution crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.


ROGER WAREHAM, of International Association against Torture, said a growing mountain of human rights violations was being left in the wake of the push to Baghdad by the “Coalition of the Bribed and the Bullied”.  The United States had used the attacks of 11 September 2001 as an excuse to pass legislation violating the civil liberties of its citizens and non-citizens, and had labeled any form of dissent or questioning of the status quo “unpatriotic”.


Among other concerns, the United States had continued to hold more than 100 political prisoners, and had targeted Venezuela and Zimbabwe as new members of the “axis of evil.”  Spain had also used the cover of the fight against terrorism to slash democracy within its borders, including outlawing Batasuna, a legitimate political party representing the interests of the Basque population. 


VIOLA PLUMMER, of December 12th International Secretariat, said the world was no living in an era where one superpower, the world's greatest economic force and history's most technologically advanced military colossus, had taken a concept -- unilateralism -- which was the antithesis of what the United Nations stood for, and transformed it into a weapon for violating human rights.  This unilateralism could be seen in the refusal to adhere to the policies and protocols of the Security Council when it became clear that the Security Council would not act as a rubber stamp for aggression against Iraq.


It also could be seen in the United States refusal to ratify the International Criminal Court; the United States walkout of the World Conference against Racism; and the United States refusal to observe the Kyoto Accord on climate change, which it had ratified.  The Commission must demand that the United States be held accountable for its violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


JOHN SUAREZ, of Christian Democrat International, said that in recent days the Cuban Government had carried out one of its largest crackdowns ever against democratic opposition in Cuba.  Homes were ransacked, books and computers confiscated and about 48 activists were arrested.  During 2002 the number of assaults and arrests against independent journalists and human rights activists in Cuba had increased considerably.  Taking advantage of the fact that the international community was primarily focused on the outbreak of war in Iraq, Cuban authorities had arrested dozens of non-violent activists in the past two weeks.


There were hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba.  These defenders of human rights were systematically denied medical and religious attention and were held in provinces far from their places of residence.


JANNET RIVERO, of Liberal International, said the President of Liberation International had recently made an urgent appeal for the immediate release of dozens of human rights activists arrested in Cuba.  During 2002, nearly

30 activists had been arrested and many were still in prison, not yet having been tried.  Also during 2002, dozens of independent journalists had been arrested or fined for exercising their rights to inform and be informed freely.  And more than 180 elementary, high school and college professors had been fired from their jobs or prevented from teaching for not responding unconditionally to the ideas and political campaigns of the Government.  University students, meanwhile, had been expelled for signing a citizen initiative seeking the restoration of fundamental rights.


Furthermore, on 18 March of this year, a severe government crackdown on peaceful dissidents had been carried out.  The world could not remain silent in the face of crimes against such people who peacefully struggled against totalitarianism.


HABIB ACHOUR, of Association tunisienne des droits de l'énfant, said the world was undergoing new violations of human rights.  Certain specific events had marked the human rights environment of today.  The first such incident was the tragic event of September 11.


However, in the shadow of the American war on Iraq, the suffering of the Palestinian people was being ignored by the international community.  Palestinian children were fighting with mere stones in their hands, whilst Israeli tanks were demolishing their houses.  The terror that had descended on New York was the same as the daily suffering of the Palestinian people.  These suffering were doing so at the hand of extremism and fanaticism.  Unfortunately, extremists and fanatics always managed to persist and abuse the good will of believers in democracy and human rights.  The most elementary of human rights was the one that was first violated -- the right to life. 


Gianfranco FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said the decision to discontinue the oil-for-food programme had been personally taken by the United Nations Secretary-General without much explanation.  Friday’s decision to reactivate this programme suggested that this was yet another manoeuvre against the Government of Iraq and was unlikely to benefit the population.  This would not strengthen the credibility of the United Nations.


According to the Security Council resolution, implementation of the programme would depend on security conditions on the ground.  It could therefore be expected that the United States military would be closely involved in the application of the programme, both in terms of oil extraction and the distribution of aid. Consequently, the programme would constitute another weapon at its disposal.


MARIANNE LILLIEBJERG, of Amnesty International, said the war in Iraq was the focus of much international attention.  While the massive human rights violations in that country had been well documented over the years, current concern revolved around breaches of international humanitarian law.  All parties should behave in accordance with their obligations under international humanitarian law.


Another war, that in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, drew much less attention, yet the systematic and widespread abuse of human rights committed by members of the armed forces under the control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and other armed political groups were of great concern, as were the situations of human rights in Nepal -– between the Government and Communist Party of Nepal –- and the Chechen Republic.


Fawzia ASSAUD, of International Pen, said the organization had noted the rising numbers of writers and journalists arrested and detained in Iran.  Ten of the writers were serving long sentences ranging from five to 11 years in prison.  Furthermore, International Pen was shocked by the fact that sentences of flogging had accompanied these prison terms.  Also, those accused of apostasy could be sentences to death, although to date such sentences had been commuted.

The large number of arrests and detentions of writers in Iran was viewed with alarm.  As a State party to the International Convention on Civil and Political rights, the Iranian Government was committed to the principles contained within it.  International Pen urged the Commission as a matter of urgency to call upon the Iranian Government to review its policy of detaining writers, to order the release of those who were in detention, and to ensure that no more people were arrested solely for having voiced their opinions.


GIANFRANCO ROSSI, of International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty, said gross and systematic human rights violations were committed in Saudi Arabia.  Despite the fact that the country had adopted in recent years numerous measures to promote human rights and had ratified four of the six principal human rights instruments, the situation there remained unacceptable.


The Government banned the creation of political parties and did not allow any form of opposition. Citizens did not have the right or legal means to change their government.  The Government violated or restricted the rights to freedom of expression, press, association, religion and movement.  Other violations were discrimination against women and ethnic and religious minorities, and restrictions on workers’ rights.  Saudi Arabia was the only country that completely denied freedom of religion.


ALI ALI AL-ADHADH, of Interfaith International, said the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq strongly deplored the war in Iraq, which was causing the killing of civilians and the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and presented the danger of foreign domination.  Responsibility for the war, however, must be born by two sides, the regime of Saddam Hussein, as well as the United States and its allies.


The Iraqi regime had profited from the current situation by continuing its systematic aggression against the Iraqi people and against domestic opposition both civilian and military.  The Fedayin Saddam death squads were continually chasing down and killing personnel fleeing service in the Baath Party military and taking youths and children by force to be trained as soldiers for the war.  Moreover, the Iraqi regime had distributed chemical weapons to the Baath leadership in all the cities of the south of Iraq and among the Shi’a tribes and ordered them to be used against the population if there was any hint of a popular uprising.


MALUZA MAVULA, Comité international pour le respect et l'application de la charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, said the fifty-ninth session of the Commission was taking place at a unique moment in the history of the United Nations, when gross and massive violations of human rights were taking place in the name of globalization and the war against terrorism.  In this connection, one could referred to the situation in Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territories and Guantanamo Bay.


In Africa, the most serious human rights violation was the tremendous impact and consequences of HIV/AIDS.  The numbers of people suffering were staggering.  Other problems on the continent related to the trade in illicit arms as well as the exchange of blood diamonds.  Both led to tremendous human rights violations.  Something must be done about impunity, such as for those responsible for the biological and chemical programmes undertaken in South Africa during Apartheid.  The people responsible must be held accountable, and the Commission should appoint a Special Rapporteur on the topic.


TAHIR MASOOD, of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said the people of Kashmir were struggling for their right to self-determination as promised to them by the international community through United Nations Security Council resolutions.  The Government of India’s persistent denial of Kashmiris' ability to exercise this right had led to the launching of a genuine and popular uprising in the Indian-occupied territory of Kashmir.


The Indian response to the Kashmiri struggle for freedom and peace had been simply military vengeance.  Kashmiri men, women and children alike had been targets of gross human rights violations at the hands of the Indian military and paramilitary forces.  The Special Rapporteur on Torture, in his latest report, cited a number of cases in which Kashmiris had been subjected to torture. The Indian armed forces in Kashmir also committed sexual violence against women, including rape, gang rape, forced nudity and molestation.


PREMESH CHANDRAN, of Aliran Kesedaran Negara - National Consciousness Movement, said there was a despicable trend towards human rights regression in Asia in the post-11 September world.  In India, a broad definition of terrorism, including acts of violence or disruption of essential services carried out with intent to threaten the unity and integrity of India, was passed even though the National Human Rights Commission of India categorically stated that there was no need for such a law in India.  In Indonesia, the Anti-Terrorism Bill allowed for suspected terrorists to be arrested for seven days and detained for six months for questioning before prosecution.  In Hong Kong, bills had been proposed covering issues ranging from theft of state secrets to subversion and treason.


New legislation had also been introduced in Malaysia and Singapore which was used as justification for maintaining and expanding repressive national security laws.  Moreover, in the Philippines, the war against terrorism had been used as a pretext for staging an all-out war against groups seeking self-determination.


YAP SWEE SENG, of Rural Reconstruction Nepal, drew the attention of the Commission to the continued detention of the prominent human rights defender and refugee leader Mr. Pradhan in Nepal.  He was the Secretary General of the People's Forum for Human Rights and Development and was arrested without warrant in Kathmandu on September 19, 2001, for the alleged murder of Mr. Budathoki, the President of the Bhutan Peoples Party, in a place called Damak.  At the time of the murder, Mr. Pradhan was in Kathmandu, which was 500 kilometres away from Damak.  He had now spent over 18 months in Jhapa district prison in eastern Nepal.  The continued detention of Mr. Pradhan under the pretence that an investigation was being carried out could not be justified.


Rural Reconstruction Nepal also drew the attention of the Commission to Malaysia and the detentions without trial of pro-democracy and opposition activists there.  There was no truth and no justice when it came to detention without trial.


PIRIS ZIBARI, of France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said that on 6 September 2001 the so-called Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council had passed a resolution giving all non-Arab Iraqis over age 18 the right to change their ethnic identify to that of Arab. This decision was politically motivated and its purpose was to compel all non-Arabs in Iraq to adopt an Arab ethnic identity.


This law legalized the regime’s policy of ethnic cleansing directed against all Kurds, Turkmans and Assyro-Chaldeans.  The Kurds and other ethnic minorities were issued with official forms on which they were required to declare that they had been wrongly registered as non-Arabs in previous censuses.  They were told that anyone refusing to sign these forms would be expelled.  To date, more than 120,000 had been expelled from the area under the control of the regime, especially from Kirkuk.


LOYOLA GUZMAN, of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, expressed concern over human rights situations in Latin America, especially in Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where policies of impunity had made it impossible to find out the truth about what had happened in earlier decades.  Instead, there had been repression when peoples went into the streets to protest economic rights, as seen in Bolivia, among other countries.  Moreover, the people of Cuba had been the victims of unjust blockade for decades, yet they nevertheless enjoyed better benefits of health and education than most the rest of Latin America.


In Iraq, armed invasion had resulted in the daily deaths of civilians after they already had suffered for twelve years under an unjust blockade.  The international community had failed to protect these people.


M. TH. BELLAMY, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), spoke of trade unionists who suffered for standing up and defending their human rights.  Countries where the situation was grave and where there were strong anti-union forces were far too many, and the repression far too severe.  It was a problem that affected many countries in many regions.  The Commission must take action to come to the assistance of victims who defended their human rights.


The importance of union rights could not be underestimated.  In Zimbabwe, Turkey, and Myanmar, situations were causing grave concern for the ICFTU.  Arrests had taken place, without trial and with total impunity.  Union activists were also under threat in China where the right to expression was severely repressed.  The Commission must undertake investigations into these crimes and ensure that such measures not be taken against human rights activists and union activists.


YADOLLAH MOHAMMADI, of Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said the people of Iraq were suffering because of the aggression of the United States and its allies and the aggressive policies of Saddam Hussein.  Both the Iraqi authorities and the military authorities of the United States and its allies were responsible for this strategy and they must stop the war and facilitate access to humanitarian organizations.


It had been over half a century that the occupied Palestinian lands had been subjected to war.  The level of violence had escalated so much that since the start of the intifada, more than 2,000 Palestinians had died and 40,000 had been injured.  Israel’s actions were a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians During War.


Mr. KARAMAD, of Islamic Women’s Institute of Iran, said that during the last 20 years, West Asia had been the scene of several major wars and crises which had had adverse impacts on the situation of human rights in the countries of the sub-region, given that the protection and promotion of these rights was not achievable without peace and tranquility.  Furthermore, the positions of the major powers on these conflicts had had direct impacts on people’s rights, yet it had been economic and political interests that had directed the positions of these powerful countries, not respect for human rights.


If Commission members really intended to protect and promote the human rights of those in the subregion, their colleagues in the Security Council and General Assembly must take people's prosperity and interests into account and impose sanctions on nations that did not punish dictators. 


PAUL BEERSMANS, of International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, said the realization of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was dependent on national action, international cooperation and an environment of peace and stability.  Where this did not exist, it led to the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.


This was the case in Jammu and Kashmir where, since the end of 1989, a spiral of violence had erupted resulting in endless suffering for Kashmiris.  The human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Kashmiris were violated by both foreign jihad fighters, with constant support from across the border, and by the Government.  The Governments of India and Pakistan were urged to respect the mutual communities, declarations and agreements and to resume bilateral and meaningful negotiations over Jammu and Kashmir.  A broad-based foundation of peaceful regional collaboration could provide a strong material basis for meeting the aspirations of the Kashmiri people.  The Kashmiris had the basic human right to live in peace without being the victim of violence from whichever this might come.


THOMAS MASTERS, of International Possibilities Unlimited, said the shameful practices of prosecuting children as adults and the juvenile death penalty must be ended.  Children were different; they were less culpable and more redeemable than adults.


In the United States, a 12-year-old boy named Lionel Tate was charged as an adult and later given a life sentence without parole.  His request for clemency was on the desk of  the Governor of Florida.  His life sentence was not only a violation of human rights but of international law.  The Commission was urged to condemn this practice and to immediately intervene in the case of Lionel Tate by asking the Governor to grant the boy clemency and give him a chance to be redeemed as a child.  Justice delayed was justice denied. One day could be too late.  No child ever deserved to be placed behind bars for life.  Children must be treated as children rather than the adults that they were not.


ANTONIO GONZALES, of International Indian Treaty Council, said there was much concern for life and the desperate need for peace in a world bankrupt of wisdom.  During these times the voices of victims of human rights violations were often drowned out or put on the shelf.


Although indigenous peoples had advanced their presence and activities in some areas, their human rights and fundamental freedoms were consistently violated many times, leading to confrontation, conflict and loss of life.  One such instance was that of the case of the Western Shoshone land rights, where the United States federal police had attacked the Dann sisters and confiscated their livestock.  Even though the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had rendered its final decision in favour of the Dann sisters, the United States had retaliated and confiscated their remaining livestock.  In relation to the “shock and awe” strategy employed in Iraq, the American Indian peoples shared in the grief and tragic deaths the world witnessed; American Indians had been subject to every type of “shock and awe” possible.


HAMED MOHAMED, of International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, said it was necessary to highlight the human rights situation in Western Sahara, a situation that was becoming more serious every day.  Morocco, known for its lack of indulgence of its opponents, was trampling human rights both in Morocco and in Western Sahara.  The repression went beyond comprehension, as could be seen in the Moroccan refusal to let families participate in the work of the Commission and in the general ill-treatment of human rights defenders.


Terror was a principle of the State, and human rights were violated with impunity.  Western Saharan refugees had been arrested and detained without access to trial.  Many were rotting away in the many prisons of the region.  The international community and the United Nations must ensure that all human rights and fundamental freedoms were respected everywhere, including in Western Sahara.  


Rights of Reply


A representative of Uganda, speaking in right of reply, said in response to several statements by Western countries who had included Uganda on their “lists of shame”, that corruption was indeed a problem in Uganda.  As result of an anti-corruption campaign, many had been brought to justice, including former ministers.  One must not forget, however, that last year several corporate scandals had rocked Western countries. It was worth noting that the same audit firms that approved the accounts of the bankrupt corporations were charged with approving the accounts of Third World countries. 


A representative of Armenia, responding to a statement by Azerbaijan, said that, first, in reference to the events in Khojalu, the statement of the former President of Azerbaijan, in which he accused the Azerbaijan National Mutalibov of obstructing and preventing the evacuation of civilian population, should be considered.  Second, it was sad to observe in the 1980s and 1990s the brutal acts against the Armenian minority in Azerbaijan which had been carried out with impunity.  The perpetrators of these crimes had become national heroes.  Third, on the Paris and Key West conferences, Azerbaijan had backtracked on the agreement to bring about the peace.  Fourth, on the subject of Security Council resolutions, Armenia had extended every effort to meet its obligations fully.  Azerbaijan’s remaining accusations did not deserve a response. 


A representative of Japan, speaking in response to a statement by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, said the Government of Japan had brought the issue of abductions by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea before the Commission because they violated human rights and were a legitimate concern of the

international community.  The Working Group on enforced and involuntary disappearances had been established for cases like this, and this was why it was investigating this very issue.  It was not a case of internationalizing a local issue, or an attempt to politicize a human rights issue.   Information on unaccounted for victims provided by the DPRK had also been unsatisfactory.  The North Koreans must demonstrate their willingness to resolve this issue in good faith.


A representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, speaking in right of reply, said he rejected the statement made by Japan and urged Japan to clarify its position.  Japan should state whether it intended to implement the bilateral agreement it had signed with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  Japan also was urged to give up its confrontational approach.


A representative of Turkey, speaking in response to statements by Greece and Cyprus, said these statements had been discouraging as they reflected a state of mind far from reality.  The Turkish presence on Cyprus was not an invasion but in fulfilment of treaty obligations.  The problems faced by Cyprus had not started after 1974, but after the Greek Cypriot coup of 1960.  Basic violations of human rights by the Greek Cypriot administration constituted an aspect of the problems facing Cyprus that should be discussed and resolved between the two parties on the island.  Turkey fully shared and supported the good offices mission of the Secretary-General of the United Nations and hoped that a full settlement of the issue could be reached on the basis of political equality on both sides.


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For information media. Not an official record.