9 April 2003


Press Release



Hears Statement by Chairperson of Committee on Rights of Child

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 9 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning continued with its general debate on civil and political rights by hearing from representatives of countries, international organizations and some 60 non-governmental organizations.

Country delegations spoke of national efforts to uphold civil and political rights and challenges facing them, while international organizations underscored the need to combat specific crimes, such as discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS.

Representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) alleged specific violations of civil and political rights in a number of countries.  The presence of torture, forced disappearances, impunity and violations of the right to freedom of expression and freedom of religion was highlighted by the NGOs.

The Chairperson of the Commission opened agenda item 13 on the rights of the child briefly in order to hear an address by Jacob Egbert Doek, the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, who said that the Committee had received with great satisfaction the information that Paulo Sergio Pinheiro had been appointed to conduct an international study on violence against children.  Violence against children was widespread and the Committee intended to be involved in this study and would support Mr. Pinheiro as much as possible.

Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yemen, Serbia and Montenegro, Turkey, Cyprus, Belarus, San Marino, Netherlands, Nepal, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Morocco and Liechtenstein took the floor.  Interventions from the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were also heard.

The following non-governmental organizations took the floor: Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations speaking on behalf of B'nai B'rith International and Women's International Zionist Organization; Federation of Cuban Women speaking on behalf of Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos;; Centro de Estudios Europeos speaking on behalf of National Union of Jurists of Cuba and Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia; Africa and Latin America;

Dominicans for Justice and Peace speaking on behalf of Franciscans International; Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches; Pax Christi International and International Catholic Peace Movement;; International Association for Religious Freedom speaking on behalf of several NGOs*; World Jewish Congress; speaking on behalf of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Human Rights Advocates; Inc; speaking on behalf of International Possibilities Unlimited; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education; speaking on behalf of International Young Catholic Students; New Humanity and Women's Board Educational Cooperation Society; Amnesty International; International Commission of Jurists; Baha’i International Community; International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; International Union of Socialist Youth; Association for World Education; Federal Union of European Nationalities; Friends World Committee for Consultation (QUAKERS); World Organization Against Torture; War Resisters International; International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty; South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; World Federation of Trade Unions; International Institute for Peace; Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos; Colombian Commission of Jurists; Transnational Radical Party; A Woman's Voice International; World Federation of United Nations Associations; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Conscience and Peace Tax International; International Educational Development, inc.; International Confederation of  Free Trade Unions; American Association of Jurists; World Peace Council; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; General Conference of The Seventh-Day Adventists; Asian Legal Resource Centre; Liberal International; Christian Democratic International; International Pen; World Union for Progressive Judaism; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM); Catholic Institute for International Relations; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Freedom House; Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud; Association for the Prevention of Torture; Médecins sans frontières; Liberation; All Pakistan Women's Association; International Indian Treaty Council; International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations; World Alliance of Reformed Churches; Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization; France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand; Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples; Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance; World Muslim Congress; Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation; Australian Council for Overseas Aid; Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation; and Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women.

The Commission today was holding an extended meeting from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with a break from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.  When it resumes its meeting at 2 p.m., it will continue with its general debate on civil and political rights, and then will start its consideration of item 12 on the integration of the human rights of women and the gender perspective, including violence against women.

Statement by the Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child

JACOB EGBERT DOEK, Chairperson of the Committee on the Rights of the Child, said that the Committee had received with great satisfaction the information that Paulo Sergio Pinheiro had been appointed to conduct an international study on violence against children.  Violence against children was widespread.  It happened in all States parties to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was committed not only by strangers or State’s agents, but also by parents and other caretakers, persons the children depended upon for their healthy and harmonious development.  The Committee intended to be involved in this study and would support Mr. Pinheiro as much as possible.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child fully agreed with the Secretary-General that improvements of the efficiency and effect of the existing human rights reporting and monitoring system were necessary and should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.  States Parties should develop a more efficient reporting system by establishing a computerized mechanism for the collection of information and data that covered all the major human rights treaties.  Such a mechanism could considerably facilitate adequate and timely reporting.

Mr. Doek said that the Committee would meet for the first time in its new composition of 18 members.  The enlarged membership provided welcome and necessary opportunities to improve the guidance the Committee should provide to States Parties in their efforts to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, inter alia by issuing general comments.  It also allowed the Committee to better deal with its growing workload, in particular the initial reports on the two optional protocols.

General Debate on Civil and Political Rights

MILOS VUKASINOVIC (Bosnia and Herzegovina) said the questions of missing persons today still represented not only a humanitarian but also a political problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and were part of tragic consequences of the four-year-long war.  According to available data until now, approximately 15,500 bodies had been exhumed, and half of that number had not been identified yet.  Identification showed that 92 per cent of identified remains were civilians, 12 per cent were women and two to three percent were children.  The United Nations must remember the horrific events of Srebrenica with the deepest pain.  To this day, high officials indicted for leading the massacre had not been apprehended.  It was important to ensure that such crimes were never again repeated and that justice was carried out fully through the work of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

MIRIAM MALUWA (Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said that the enjoyment of all rights, including civil and political rights, were essential for an effective HIV/AIDS response.  The lack of human rights protection exacerbated the negative impact of the epidemic at a personal and societal level, as the rights of people who were infected or assumed to be infected were constantly violated; vulnerability to HIV/AIDS was increased and the response was hindered.  People living with HIV/AIDS were often segregated in schools and hospitals, including under cruel and degrading conditions.  Cases of degrading treatment were particularly significant in prisons where inmates were often mandatorily tested, and if found HIV-positive, isolated or put in solitary confinement, often without their basic needs being met, including access to sufficient medical care.

ALI HASSAN AL-SHARAFI (Yemen) said his country had adopted a number of legislative measures to protect civil and political rights in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, namely legislation related to the prohibition of torture, and the prevention of summary arrests and detentions.  A number of non-governmental organizations were regularly inspecting places of detention including prisons, and anyone guilty of political and civil human rights violations was brought to justice.  The Government of Yemen also promoted the freedom of expression, the freedom of association and the freedom of the press in order to ensure that all its civilians enjoyed civil and political rights. 

MILORAD SCEPANOVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that organized crime in the region represented one of the most dangerous threats to security as well as the most flagrant form of all fundamental human rights violations.  The recent assassination of Prime Minister Djindic imposed the need for introducing a state of emergency in the Republic of Serbia.  As was already known, the main goal of these unpopular measures was to protect the Constitutional order, as well as the personal and property security of all citizens.  Wide support from the citizens affirmed that this decision was highly justified and encouraged the Government to resolutely proceed until eradicating this evil.  All steps were being implemented strictly by the law.   

RENE AQUARONE, of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), said that sadly, a representative of the Centre Simon Wiesenthal had made an inflammatory statement against UNWRA before the Commission.  He had accused UNRWA of deliberately fostering anti-Israeli venom.  In fact, UNWRA had spoken out repeatedly against unwarranted violence perpetrated by both sides to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and specifically against suicide bombings.  Concerning the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied areas, it was stressed that the protection of human rights in the current conflict was an issue of grave importance.  UNWRA’s mandate focused on the implementation of the right to education, and the right to health which were essential social goods. 

TURKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said that despite guarantees in international human rights law, violations regrettably continued worldwide.  No country was immune from such breaches and room for improvement in this field remained for each and every country. Turkey remained committed to further improve human rights.  Successive legal reforms had been realized to strengthen democracy, promote respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and to consolidate the rule of law.  The death penalty was abolished in the Turkish legal system in peacetime.  The legislative packages brought about sweeping reforms for fighting torture.  Legislative changes were introduced to bring detention conditions in full alignment with the Council of Europe norms.

Helena MINA (Cyprus) said that the Government of Cyprus had always been committed to a humanitarian solution to the problem of the missing persons in Cyprus and for the restoration and respect of the human rights of the missing and their families.  The Government of Cyprus was calling upon all those concerned to join in this humanitarian endeavor, with the same spirit and the same goals.  In this respect, a special appeal was made to the Government of Turkey to exercise the necessary will and take the necessary humanitarian steps in order to assist the efforts to solve this problem.  Turkey’s cooperation was absolutely essential and indispensable to any efforts pursued for a humanitarian solution of this problem, which was affecting Greek Cypriots, Greek and Turkish Cypriot families. 

Georges MALEMPRE, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that the new communications strategy adopted by UNESCO was aimed at encouraging the free flow of information, at the international as well as at the national level in order to promote the wider and better balanced dissemination of information without any obstacle to freedom of expression and to strengthen communication capacities in the developing countries and increase their participation in the communication process.  Since then the Member States of UNESCO had regularly reaffirmed the relevance of the New Communication Strategy and stressed the fundamental principle of freedom of expression and its corollary freedom of the press.

Vladimir MALEVICH (Belarus) said although the main criteria for a democratic society was the expression of opinion, the truth was that even in governments that had a deep tradition of democracy, such rights were often violated.  The example of this practice was particularly telling in the United States, a beacon of democracy, that was still violating the right to free expression in relation to the war of Iraq.  This was a tragic situation, attested to by independent media, since the population was not accurately informed about the situation leading to and currently underway in Iraq.  In Belarus, the Government had enacted Constitutional guarantees for the right to free expression and freedom of the press.  Most media organizations were non-governmental, which showed the independence of the media. 

Federica BIGI (San Marino) reaffirmed the importance of promoting human rights. All human rights were universal, indivisible and interdependent. The respect of the fundamental freedoms of all human beings should never be restrained, even when States were obliged to take special measures to address dangerous and exceptional situations.   As the High Commissioner for Human Rights had noted, it was erroneous to assume that security and respect for civil and political rights were mutually exclusive.

Ian DE JONG (Netherlands) said the Government of the Netherlands fully supported the work of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion or belief.  In his report he had emphasized the potentials of religions and beliefs for the promotion of peace, tolerance and mutual understanding.  The Netherlands Government fully supported the idea of a dialogue among civilizations, and believed that such a dialogue could take place among governments, between governments and civil society and among non-governmental organizations.  The Netherlands called in this respect for a revitalization of the ideas behind the Global Agenda for Dialogue among Civilizations.  As a candidate for membership to the Commission on Human Rights, if elected, the Netherlands would actively work with other members in order to promote the freedom of religion and belief and the dialogue among civilizations. 

GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal) said that the announcement of the cease-fire and the subsequent agreement on a code of conduct had come as a source of relief in Nepal.  The spate of violence and senseless killings had been stopped.  Peace had dawned upon the country.  In the code of conduct, a great deal of stress had been laid on the maintenance of peace, harmony, and the law and order in the country.  It also forbade intimidation, extortion, display of firearms and resort to any act of violence and particularly stressed the respect by all sides for fundamental freedoms.  Nepal was party to many international human rights mechanism and was making efforts to the best of its capacity and with the resources available to it to put in place necessary domestic institutions for their integration in its national policies.

ALEXANDRE DA CONCEIÇAO ZANDAMELA (Mozambique) said his contribution to the topic under consideration was mainly to reaffirm the Government’s strict and unreserved observance of all provisions as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and in the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, instruments to which Mozambique remained a faithful party.  The Government had relentlessly devoted special attention to the promotion of a national dialogue with all political parties and civil society at large in the search for concerted solutions for matters of national interests, as well as on the reinforcement of democratic institutions.  Parliament had just approved the electoral package which would guide the process leading to the forthcoming municipal elections scheduled for October this year, throughout the general elections due for the second half of next year.  Against this backdrop, resource constraints were by far the most serious handicap for the smooth implementation of these decisions by the lawmakers.

OMAR HILALE (Morocco) said that 1,160 Moroccans were detained by the so-called Polisario.  Their detention was considered by the Red Cross to be the longest in the world it violated article 118 of the Third Geneva Convention that stipulated that prisoners of war should be freed and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities.  These detainees were subjected to cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment.  In February 2002, the Red Cross had expressed its alarm at the continued deterioration in the physical and psychic health of the prisoners.

PIO SCHURTI (Liechtenstein) said the question of impunity was of paramount importance for the effective promotion and protection of human rights and must therefore take an important place on the agenda of this body.  Combating impunity for serious human rights violations was not only an effective means of redress for victims, but also and more importantly an indispensable tool of prevention – and prevention must of course be at the center of any effective human rights policy.  Very significant progress had been made in this respect, the most significant element of which constituted the entry into force of the Rome Statute and the establishment of the International Criminal Court.  The International Criminal Court was undoubtedly a landmark development in the history of international law, and both the election of judges in February and the existing informal agreement on the person of the Prosecutor made in very clear that this Court would be based on the most qualified legal expertise available from all regions of the world. 

KLAUS NETTER, of Coordinating Board of Jewish Organizations speaking on behalf of B'nai B'rith International and Women's International Zionist Organization, in a joint statement, said that the Jewish people had been the object of persecution for many centuries, with the aim of their  extermination.  Throughout history, the concept of anti-Semitism had evolved from hostility towards the individual to hatred against a group, a people and a nation.  Anti-Semitism had undergone several developments: a theological phase, a pseudo-racial and scientific manifestation and a political manifestation. The latter form was linked to the perception of the State of Israel, which was often designated as the Zionist entity, as if to deny its right to exist. This was the only case in the world where the right of a Member State of the United Nations was challenged.  The cynical expression "Zionism equals racism" was aggravated by a call for the “elimination of new Nazi Zionism”.  The racist manifestation saw the exhumation of classical anti-Semitic texts such as the Protocol of the Elders of Zion, which was used  for the fabrication of a series broadcast by the Egyptian television throughout the Arab world

M     AGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, of Federation of Cuban Women speaking on behalf of Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos, speaking on behalf of Movimento Cubano por la Paz, said women of many countries had suffered from individualism over solidarity.  Those who exercised solidarity were accused of violating human rights.  Everyone had seen what the so-called freedom of expression meant in the so-called first world during recent demonstrations.  As Cubans, the organizations understood the true nature of arbitrary detention.  The arbitrary detentions referred to had been committed by the United States.  The United States had arbitrarily detained five Cuban men and denied them fair trial, solely because they had tried to speak out against violence and injustice.  The Commission on Human Rights or the international community at large must not accept the power of force, arrogance and coercion. 

IVONNE PEREZ GUTIERRES, of Centro de Estudios Europeos speaking on behalf of National Union of Jurists of Cuba and Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, in a joint statement with Centro de Estudios Europeos de Cuba, y la Organizacion de Solidaridad de los Pueblos de Africa, Asia y America Latina, asked the Commission to ensure the freedom of five Cubans who had been detained arbitrarily incommunicado in the United States for the past month.  They had no right to a fair trial and were prevented from appealing against their detention.  Their offence was that they had defended Cuba against terrorist aggressions from Miami.  The treatment of the five Cuban detainees violated international norms and the Constitution of the United States.

PHILIPPE LEBLANC, of Dominicans for Justice and Peace speaking on behalf of Franciscans International, Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Pax Christi International and International Catholic Peace Movement, also speaking on behalf Franciscans International, Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Pax Christi International, and International Catholic Peace Movement, said that religious discrimination was to be found in Pakistani legislation which promoted a culture of intolerance, division and extremism.  The legislation was the Blasphemy Laws 295 B and C of the Penal Code that decreed the death penalty for their violation.  That had resulted over the years in religious intolerance and violence against Christians, Hindus and members of the Ahmadiye community, the imposition of discriminatory and repressive laws against religious minorities and extremist attacks against religious minorities, especially Christians.  Sectarian violence in Pakistan had increased since 1997 when the groups raised before the Commission the case of the destruction by extremist groups of two Christian villages in the country.

JOHN TAYLOR, of International Association for Religious Freedom speaking on behalf of several NGOs*, said the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief had referred to the need for follow-up of the Madrid Conference to be undertaken not only by states but also by non-governmental organizations and educators.  It would be useful if the emphasis on education for religious tolerance could be combined with the promotion and, ideally, prolongation of a second Decade for Human Rights Education. 

Human rights education must make reference to human rights instruments and mechanisms of protection, and to procedures for ensuring accountability.  Hatred, violence and injustice must never be justified or excused in the name of religious or humanist values.  On the other hand, spiritual and cultural values could motivate concerted efforts to help those in need.  If whole generations were allowed to grow up in ignorance of their own cultural heritage and of that of their neighbors, they might become prey to those who would manipulate and use religion as a tool for oppression.  Indeed the aggravated discrimination of which the Special Rapporteur wrote was one of the most alarming features of the human situation today.

MAYA BEN-HAIM ROSEN, of World Jewish Congress, speaking on behalf of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, speaking on behalf of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, said that it was amazing that the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief had omitted any analysis and denunciation of the alarming increase in anti-Semitic manifestations throughout the world, including physical assaults on Jews.  In addition, the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism was no longer enjoined to report on anti-Semitism precisely when it was having a major recrudescence in Arab and Islamic countries as well as in Europe.  All this raised the gravest concern over the Commission’s indifference.

The Special Rapporteur was correct to warn against the dangers of generalization and identification of the Muslim faith with religious extremism.  But he was urged to examine and report on the content of textbooks that were being used around the world in Muslim schools to inculcate hatred against Jews.  The international community should create a binding international convention on the elimination of religious intolerance.

MATTHEW HEAPHY, of Human Rights Advocates, Inc, speaking on behalf of International Possibilities Unlimited, also speaking on behalf of International Possibilities Unlimited, said that in combatting terrorism after 11 September 2001, several nations had threatened the human rights of their citizens and residents.  In the United States, for example, an effort to capture the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks and to prevent future tragedy had caused the singling out and mistreatment of individuals of Muslim and Middle-Eastern descent.  Arbitrary and incommunicado detention as well as the frequent moving of detainees in the weeks following detention undermined the right to counsel.  Subsequent practices in the United States had caused a systematic erosion of civil and political rights.  Muslim and Middle-Eastern males who were not citizens or residents were singled out for special registration in violation of the Race Convention.  Some who compiled with the requirement were detained without charges, held incommunicado and moved frequently in the days following their initial detention.

JEAN DAVID PONCI, of International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education, speaking on behalf of International Young Catholic Students, New Humanity and Women's Board Educational Cooperation Society, speaking on behalf of International Young Catholic Students, New Humanity, and Women’s Board Educational Cooperation Society, said information and communications technologies had now spread the notion of freedom of expression.  It had been hoped that these new technologies would improve the situation of human rights, since the spread of knowledge was the basis of well being.  The right to freedom of expression and the right to education must therefore be at the heart of the human rights debate.  Every effort must be made to ensure that all alphabets, not just the Latin alphabet, be made available on the Internet.  Unfortunately the concept of an information society was not a reality yet - it was still an ideal.  There were still some misgivings in the air since there was not broad and international access to technologies.  It was important to remember that information was a quantitative concept and different from the concept of knowledge.  To ensure the respect of human rights, knowledge of human rights needed to be spread to all regions of the world.  

MELINDA CHING, of Amnesty International, said the organization welcomed the adoption of the optional protocol to the Convention against Torture, a protocol that allowed for independent international and national experts to conduct regular visits to places of detention within States parties.  Amnesty International called on all States to ratify the protocol.  The organization also welcomed the preliminary study by the Special Rapporteur on torture of trade in and production of equipment specifically designed for inflicting torture or other cruel treatment; up to now international human rights law had addressed the circumstances in which such equipment was used, but measures to stop its production were needed as well.

Amnesty International supported the adoption of a legally binding instrument to protect persons from enforced disappearances and for combating impunity, with a monitoring body capable of receiving individual cases and intervening with authorities to trace the “disappeared”.

LINDA BESHARATI-MOVAED, of International Commission of Jurists, said that with respect to the independence of judges and lawyers in Tunisia, the Commission had written numerous interventions and had twice attempted to send a fact-finding mission, which was denied entry into the country each time.  At present, the Council of the National Bar Association was on trial for having called its members to strike in protest against grossly unfair trial proceedings.  One of the Arab world's oldest non-governmental organization, the Tunisian League of Human Rights, was currently on trial as well.  In Turkey, the Commission observed the trial of 27 lawyers who were accused of "professional misconduct" for representing detainees from Ulucanlar prison.  That charge was a serious offense punishable by imprisonment, a heavy fine and dismissal from public service.  The Commission had also expressed its grave concern at the collapse of the rule of law in Zimbabwe.

DIANE ALA’I, of Baha’i International Community, said the harassment and injustices targeting the Baha’is in Egypt were clear violations of the freedom of religion or belief.  Regrettably, the Government had not taken any steps to right these wrongs.  The Baha’is faced active persecution in Egypt.  Decree No. 263, restrictively interpreted by the courts, was still used today for police investigations, arrests, domicile searches and the destruction of Baha’i literature.  All members of the community were under police surveillance.  They had no access to legal marriage, child custody and allowances, and were often denied pensions and inheritance.  They could not even obtain a family record – a document required for many official purposes.  They were regularly denounced as apostates in the media or in widely publicized court decisions.  The Egyptian Baha’i community was a law-abiding, peaceful community.  The only request of its members was that the Government remove all official restrictions that targeted them, including the Presidential Decree No. 263.   

ANTOINE MADELIN, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said that in Iran, corporal punishments and discrimination against women persisted.  In Algeria, there was continued impunity for forced disappearances, summary executions, and inhuman treatment.  In the United States, arbitrary arrests, violations of due process, and summary executions were being carried out in the context of the fight against terrorism.  In Viet Nam, there were violations of the

rights to freedom of opinion, expression and religion.  In the Republic of the Congo, torture, forced disappearances and summary executions went unpunished.  In Egypt, the state of emergency and violations of civil and political rights continued. 

The efforts of the Working Group on an instrument to prevent enforced disappearances were supported.  The appointment of an Independent Expert on impunity deserved support.  And there should be a second informal meeting to finalize the examination of a draft instrument on principles for reparations for victims of human rights abuses.

TSERING JAMPA, of International Union of Socialist Youth, said that the Tibetan people living under Chinese occupation continued to be denied their civil and political rights.  China tried to hide that fact by making token gestures and statements in an attempt to convince the world that it was cooperating with the various mechanisms of Commission.  The most recent of those was the release of Ngawang Sangdrol, one of Tibet's most famous female political prisoners.  She was allowed to leave Tibet last week to seek medical treatment in the United States.  The Union welcomed that development.  China continued to use people as diplomatic pawns and this highlighted China's insincerity towards human rights.  China should do more to prove that it was cooperating with the mechanisms of the Commission. 

DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said his statement concerned Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, unjustly jailed 3 years ago, who had been acquitted 3 weeks ago by Egypt’s Appeal Court.  It was recommended that this landmark decision was made available to the Commission.  The second case concerned the former Director of the Cairo El Khanka Mental Hospital who was still in arbitrary detention.  A grave injustice had been done to a distinguished doctor and a highly respected member of the Coptic community.  The Association was renewing its call to President Mubarak to grant a full presidential pardon on compassionate grounds for the Coptic Easter.  The Association also referred to cases of British detainees and concerned mothers from the United States, and elsewhere, whose children had been carried off, or abducted, to Saudi Arabia by divorced husbands. 

In conclusion he said that the international human rights set out in the universal instruments and ratified by Iran, Saudi Arabia, any Member State of the Organization of Islamic Conference, or any States, must be considered binding under all circumstance, and must be manifestly seen to be upheld by all State parties. 

JOSEPH V. KOMLOSSY, of Federal Union of European Nationalities, said that in Romania there was religious intolerance towards the archaic Hungarian speaking ethnic group of Csangos.  The high clergy of Bucharest and Iasi over the last 100 years had made it impossible for the remainder of the roughly 60,000 Csango community in the Bacau Country of Romania to have any church services in their mother tongue.  And since 1958 the Roman Catholic clergy of the country had ignored the pastoral order of the Pope by not permitting Csangos to have the option of church services in the Romanian language.

In a number of Csango villages, local Romanian-speaking priests had declared Hungarian to be the language of the devil.  Unfortunately,  Romanian authorities from Isai and Bacau County were ignoring both the recommendations of the Council of Europe and their obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights.  The Commission should pay attention to this matter.

RACHEL BRETT, of Friends World Committee for Consultation, said that the issue of conscientious objection to military service had a long and honourable history.  For more than 300 years, Quakers had refused to participate in war, believing it was wrong to kill or to train people to kill.  It was on those grounds that Quakers claimed the right to conscientious objection to military service, not only for themselves but for all who shared their pacifist beliefs.  Since conscientious objection to military service was an expression of the right to freedom of though, conscience and religion, any alternative service required instead of military services should be compatible with the grounds of the objection.  Many States provided a number of alternatives, including unarmed military services under civilian administration for those whose objection was to all use of military force.

ISABEL RICUPERO, of World Organization Against Torture, said that she was deeply concerned about the continuing effects of the so-called war against terror on the respect for the prohibition against torture.  In recent months, questioning in the western media of the absolute nature of the prohibition of torture alongside suggestions that certain types of light or moderate torture could be acceptable in certain situations had become routine.  The World Organization Against Torture called on the Commission on Human Rights to explicitly reaffirm the jus cogens status of the prohibition against torture in this year’s resolution on torture.  In a number of countries the adoption of anti-terror laws and measures had raised particular concern.  These countries included Egypt, Indonesia, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Uzbekistan.  The World Organization Against Torture called on the Commission to urge the government of the United States to issue an invitation to the Special Rapporteur on Torture and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit all detainees currently being held or under the control of United States agents.  

MICHEL MONOD, of War Resisters International, said the war now being waged was a cause of concern; retaliation against a State would not suppress terrorism, as terrorists were not controlled by States.   The use of massive violence would only increase violence and encourage terrorism.  Conscientious objectors understood this well, but were they heard?  Some States were opposed to the war yet did not recognize the right to conscientious objection and forced young men to enroll in the army against their will; four of those States were Albania, Azerbaijan, the Republic of Korea, and Turkey.  Eight States allowed conscripts to refuse army service but did not permit already enrolled soldiers to apply for such status: Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

Australia had a professional army and it was not possible for soldiers to be exempted from service.  The United States and United Kingdom, in time of war, suppressed the right to conscientious objection.  All States were urged to implement the Commission’s resolution 1998/77 on conscientious objection.

MAURICE VERFAILLIE, of International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty,drew the attention of the Commission to the threats against religious freedom taking place in many countries recently.  The freedom had been undermined by security measures.  There was no solution to the problem when freedom of religion was attached to public security.  It was fundamental to carry out a study on relations between security and freedom of religion.  Some States had attempted to curtail the right to freedom of religion due to security issues.  States' efforts to deal with public security should not restrict the freedom of religious consciousness.  The Commission should be seized of the issue and special attention should be given to the subject.

RINCETTA NAIK, of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, said extrajudicial killings were carried out de facto by State police in India.  This was clear for two reasons.  First, extrajudicial killings continued to occur with alarming frequency throughout India.  Second, the Central Government had failed to take adequate action to prevent the occurrence of such killings, including a failure to effectively investigate allegations of such killings or prosecute the perpetrators.  Since the 1960’s the euphemism encounter killings had been used to describe extrajudicial killings because of the frequency with which officials claimed that the deceased had been killed in so-called encounters with police.  A number of factors compelled the conclusion that the Indian Government gave de facto approval to the commission of extrajudicial killings by its police and armed forces.  The Indian Government had failed to establish effective mechanisms to ensure the accountability of the police, security forces and the army. 

RAMON CARDONA, of World Federation of Trade Unions, said the question of human rights and terrorism was a matter of concern.  Five Cuban patriots had been unjustly condemned in the United States for combating terrorism coming from that country; they were tried under unfair circumstances, on improper evidence; they had been harassed and slandered and had undergone long periods of improper confinement.

The people of Cuba had the right to adopt measures to protect their lives and interests.  The World Federation of Trade Unions demanded the release of these five Cuban patriots who had been unjustly imprisoned in the United States for combating terrorism.  The Commission was asked to support this appeal for their release.

SHAHEEN SEHBAI, of  International Institute for Peace, said he was a writer and a journalist from Pakistan and he could safely claim that if there was any journalist the military Government of Pakistan feared the most, he was the one.  Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf had in the recent months twice mentioned him publicly in his speeches.  Last November, the Government published an official advertisement in all newspapers of the country asking the people not to read his investigative Internet-based newspaper.  He could only thank the Government for the wide publicity it gave him and his newspaper.  The Government was worried because he had exposed its corruption, its illegal and unconstitutional grabbing of power, and its deceptive tactics against the vibrant press of Pakistan.

ROSA BADA, of Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de Derechos Humanos, said acts of violence carried out to counter terror must be considered as terrorism.  Acts of terrorism were extremely dangerous crimes which sought to force States and democratic countries to adopt decisions contrary to their wishes and to the law.  When a foreign State helped terrorist groups in combating a legitimate Government, they became the associates to terrorist groups and their violence.  Disproportionate use of violence and attacks of civilians on a systematic basis must also be considered terrorism.  It was therefore clear that pre-emptive aggression systematically affecting civilians must be viewed as terrorism and that States backing such acts must be considered in breach of international law, and as such they must be considered war criminals and terrorists. 

NATHALIA LOPES, of Colombian Commission of Jurists, said states of emergency, including those to combat terrorism, ignored norms of international humanitarian law in several countries, and violated human rights.  There also were problems with independence of the judiciary and judicial procedure – in Colombia, for example, search procedures had been widened and detention procedures expanded to where they amounted to a deliberate policy for tormenting lawyers, human rights advocates, and civilians.

People had a constant right to the presumption of innocence and to be heard by competent, independent judges.  The Commission must support efforts, including those of its Special Rapporteur, to enhance the independence of judges and lawyers.

VANIDA THEPHSOUVANH, of Transnational Radical Party, said that in the Democratic Republic of Lao, the negation of the freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and persecution of religious minorities had continued.  The disfunctioning of the administration of justice was of concern.  A year ago the Transnational Radical Party had mentioned the situation before the Commission concerning the human rights situation in that country.  Although a year had elapsed, nothing had changed.  The right to freedom of expression did not exist in the Democratic Republic of Lao.  For 28 years, the situation in the country had not changed under the one-party Government.  All forms of opposition were prohibited and the Government used its iron fist to put down any anti-Government movements.  Human rights defenders were arrested with the pretext that they had transgressed articles 59 and 66 of the Penal Code.

MICHAEL MEUNIER, of A Woman's Voice International, said that Copts, the Christian nationals of Egypt, had been marginalized from mainstream society since the Arab invasion of Egypt in the seventh century.  Following the Islamic invasion of Egypt, Copts had been faced with forced conversion, death, or the payment of punitive tax.  The Copts continued to survive under conditions of discrimination and inequity.  Such conditions had been the consequence of severe government discrimination through irresponsible legislation, poor and often prejudiced enforcement of the law, and a general posture of intolerance within Egyptian culture itself, facilitated by government owned media and had led to the perpetration of countless human rights abuses.  In the last several years, violent attacks against Christians and their churches had increased with little or no police intervention.  Churches had been burned, Coptic businesses ravaged, and scores of Christians harassed, raped and killed.  The Commission was urged to recognize the total absence of protection for the Coptic minority in Egypt; recommend that this population become one of particular concern to the UNHCR; and request particular follow-up by Special Rapporteurs as was consistent with their mandates.   

BRUNA FAIDUTTI, of World Federation of United Nations Associations, said the reason why there was so much religious hatred and violence was not that any particular religion was flawed but that improper things were said and done in the name of religion.  Some clerics roused their congregations to hatred of and violence against peoples of other religions and cultures.  Some autocratic Governments spread religious intolerance and undermined the rights of religious minorities.  Such minorities looked to the international community for assistance but rarely received what they needed.

In addition, there were States claiming to be secular democracies while allowing politically powerful religious groups to cause tensions by calling for unilateral laws on all citizens regardless of their religion or belief.  And there were States where organized extremist groups used economic and political influence to promote religious hatred and violence with impunity.  All Governments were urged to prevent religious violence and hatred.

ABDALLA SHARAFEDDIN, of International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, said that it was not news to most that human suffering all around the world was the result of racism, degradation, violations of human rights and violent international conflicts.  Those were anticipated definite consequences whenever there was lack of justice. There was no peace without justice.  Examples included what had happened in the Balkans, the massive destruction, humiliation and oppression taking place for over 59 years in the occupied Palestinian territories, and the continuous and dangerous clashes in Kashmir, which might lead to the use of nuclear weapons in error or miscalculation at any time.  It was those unjust, tyrant and oppressive realities and policies, as well as the cruel and heavy-handed ones enforced by the United States on central Asian nations like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, that clearly proved there could be no peace without justice.

ROSA PACKARD, of the Conscience and Peace Tax International, said that the United States Government, like other governments, dismissed the issue of conscientious objection to military taxes and forcibly collected from citizens’ assets the tax amount plus interest and penalties.  The administrative procedures did not extend to cases involving the failure or refusal to comply with the tax laws because of religious, political, constitutional, conscientious or similar grounds.  Because the United States was not a party to the First Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, American conscientious objectors could not submit their cases to the Human Rights Committee.  The right to conscientious objection to military service could be derived from Article 18 of the Universal Declaration and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Conscientious objectors continued to build a culture of peace that respected human rights.

KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, condemned the violation of human rights of the Iraqi people by the armies of the United States and the United Kingdom.  The US now proposed that the Iraqis pay, with their oil, for the reconstruction of Iraq, while it was the United States that should pay for the damage and suffering its had caused the Iraqi population.

Numerous States had used the fight against terrorism to carry out repressive policies against domestic opposition.  Such situations had occurred in Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Turkey, and other countries.  In the case of China, the persecution of members of the Falun Gong were among the worst such violations of human rights.

MARIE THERESE BELLAMY, of International Confederation of  Free Trade Unions,

said trade unionists were being unfairly persecuted and often were subjected to arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances.  Governments must introduce or strengthen effective methods for bringing to justice perpetrators of such violations.  The critical factor was independence of the judiciary, but impunity was very difficult to combat in such countries as Colombia, where steps were being made to grant perpetrators amnesty.  That meant that assassinations of unionists and their leaders were rarely punished.

The menace of death was a way of applying pressure to unionists, and it was employed in Colombia, Mexico, and Guatemala.  Concern also was expressed about improper treatment of trade unionists in Zimbabwe and Hong Kong.

JAIRO SANCHEZ, of American Association of Jurists, said that in document E/CN.4/2003/NGO/196, his organization had analysed Security Council resolution 1422 which had suppressed the independence of the new International Criminal Code.  By doing so the members of the Security Council had violated the Statute of the International Criminal Court, as well as the Vienna Convention on Human Rights.  In its paragraph 56 of the report (E/CN.4/2003/8), the Working Group on arbitrary detention had made reference to the issue, saying that the resolution of the Security Council prevailed over the treaty to set up the Court.  The resolution of the Council was equivalent to the United Nations Charter.

SHRI PRAKASHI, of World Peace Council, said that the gravest threat to the consolidation of democracy came from its anti-thesis: the continuation of terrorism and religious extremism that was spreading like a cancer across the continents and extinguishing, in its wake, the most precious of all human rights: the right to life.  Pakistan claimed that there was an indigenous uprising in Jammu and Kashmir. By doing so, it sought to hide its own complicity in fomenting indiscriminate violence that targeted innocent civilians.  The Pakistani military intelligence establishment had promoted the most virulent sectarian groups that the world had ever known.   The unceasing wave of violence and terror unleashed by the Pan-Islamic Jihadi organizations of Pakistan had eroded democracy and people’s participation in the decision making process, threatened freedom of opinion and expression and imperiled the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in large parts of South Asia, including in Pakistan itself.

SHIREEN WAHEED, of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said there were dark pockets on the planet where the dark forces of fascism and tyranny continued to wreak havoc upon the oppressed and powerless.  That, unfortunately, was the case in Jammu and Kashmir.  Having no oil and no great strategic significance, Kashmiris had suffered under the crush of the Indian occupation for over 50 years, awaiting help.

The people of Jammu and Kashmir would never bow to Indian might, not to despair over those who were liberating the liberated but were indifferent to those who really were held in bondage.  The Kashmiri struggle was just.  Kashmiris wanted dialogue, freedom, and fundamental rights as they were entitled to under the UN Charter, and called on the Commission to live up to its noble mandate and help them.

GIANFRANCO ROSSI, of General Conference of The Seventh-Day Adventists, said that Islamic terrorists had largely contributed to the diffusion of intolerance.  They represented a wrong image of Islam, which was a tolerant religion.  In certain countries where Muslims were a majority, a serious form of discrimination and intolerance had taken place against religious minorities.  The Western counties had been faced with the intolerance of Islam which had led to "Islamophobia".  For world peace, there was a need to have a correct knowledge of Islam by the Western world and Muslims themselves.  The Koran did not incite intolerance and violence.  One should commend those Muslims who tried to make known the true image of their religion.

ALI SALEEM, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that unknown numbers of persons had recently been tortured by police and security officials in Sri Lanka.  The Asian Legal Resource Centre had already raised its concerns about this situation through reports to the Committee against Torture and the Special Rapporteur on had issued a report entitled torture by the police in Sri Lanka.  The case of Mr. Michael Anthony Fernando was illustrative of how the defective Sri Lankan criminal justice system was contributing to a climate of impunity for police and security officials who committed torture.  Mr. Fernando was sentenced without receiving a fair trial, he was denied an appeal against the judgment and did not receive special protection while in custody.  Furthermore, Sri Lankan law did not provide any avenue to correct a miscarriage of justice.  The word of the Supreme Law was final.

JANNET RIVERO, of Liberal International, said attention must be paid to the policy of the Cuban Government of detaining political prisoners.  Some had been unjustly held for years, and recently there had been a wave of new repression against those advocating for human rights and democracy.  The repressive policy of Cuba had not stopped since 1959 and was aimed at keeping people from enjoying their civil and political rights.

Franciso Chaviano Gonzalez had been a prisoner of conscience for 15 years.  Liberal International pointed out that a Government that denied civil and political rights to its citizens was not a legitimate Government.  Liberal International called for the Cuban Government's repression of the Cuban people to cease.

JOHN SUAREZ, of Christian Democratic International, said that more than 100 human rights activities had suffered searches, arrests and expedited trials in Cuba.  Many had already been condemned to sentences of up to 26 years in prison for defending civil and political rights in the country.  On 7 April 2003, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was tried without due process and today was facing up to 25 years in prison for defending human rights in Cuba.  In Cuban prisons, political prisoners were denied medical assistance as a form of punishment for upholding their ideas.  Highly dangerous criminals were used by State Security to attack imprisoned activities, as was the case of Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina, a young activities whose jaw was broken in three parts, and who was severely beaten on three more occasions before being taken to the hospital.

ASSAAD FAYRIA, of International Pen, said that significant restrictions on writers in Turkey who wrote on controversial issues, especially criticism of state bodies and officials and on Kurdish issues, remained in place.  At present, International Pen had on its record over 60 writers, publishers and journalists who were on trial in Turkey solely for the publication of their writings and who faced heavy penalties if convicted.  In 2002 alone, 77 books were reported to have been banned.  International Pen did not have the resources to keep abreast of the large number of trials.  Yet the trials were just one aspect of the wider problem of repression of literature, academic study and journalism in the country.  The confiscation and banning of writing was a major obstacle to the practice of free expression.

DAVID LITTMAN, of  World Union for Progressive Judaism, said religious intolerance and religious terrorism were usually directly linked to the detriment of basic human rights, especially the right to life.  Attention was drawn to the genocidal charter of Hamas and its offshoot, the jihadist/martyrdom and the bombings which had resulted from its ideas.

The Commission should include in its resolution on defamation of religions a condemnation of all who blasphemed and defamed religion by claiming to kill in the name of God.  The Commission must act urgently to condemn jihadist bombers.  By not responding to a perverted interpretation of Islam by which such bombings were supposedly justified, Muslim spiritual and secular leaders implicitly were condoning a global, sectarian threat whereby such bombers were encouraged to terrorize the world.

MARTA O. DE VASQUEZ, of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM), said that her Federation condemned the situation of enforced disappearances in Latin American countries.  In Colombia, 4 persons disappeared each day.  In many countries where democracy had been restored, the cases of disappearances during the periods of dictatorship had not been elucidated.  In Bolivia, the situation of the victims of enforced disappearances during the three decades of dictatorship remained unknown.  In Chile, the High Court had discharged General Pinochet from his responsibilities for the crimes committed during the 17 years of his dictatorship.  In Argentina, the activities of the Truth Commission had been suspended.  In Guatemala, the families of the victims of disappearances were able to see the exhumation of those buried in secret grave places.  In Peru, there was a concern that the Truth Commission was not able to complete its work.

FAISAL HADI, of Catholic Institute for International Relations, said that human rights abuses in the form of disappearances and extrajudicial killings were continuing in Aceh.  The Indonesian military crack down often targeted civilians as well as the Free Aceh Movement.  In 2002, NGOs reported 279 cases of extra judicial executions and 137 cases of disappearances, allegedly perpetrated mostly by the Indonesian military and policy.  These were part of a long-list of cases that had not been processed according to international standards of law. Human rights problems in Aceh were still ignored by the Indonesian Government.  The on-going conflict should not be an excuse for the Government to sustain impunity by not taking decisive actions to end abuses and bring those responsible for justice.

YADOLLAH MOHAMMADI, of Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said the closing of newspapers, the harassment of writers, the use of censorship and arrests of intellectuals were carried out by some countries in an effort to suppress intellectual freedom and the right to expression.

The main reason and cause behind the Islamic Revolution of February 1979 in Iran had been the struggle to achieve freedom of expression.  But it now was necessary to express concern over the recent arrests of writers and the suspension of publications in Iran.  The relevant authorities in Iran were called upon to show fairness in their approach to intellectual opposition in the country.

ADRIAN BARATTNYCHY, of Freedom House, said that sixteen countries were included in this year's list of most repressive regimes: Burma, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iraq, Laos, Libya, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam.  Three territories were also included: Chechnya, Western Sahara and Tibet.  Cuba had sentenced in speedy fashion at least 36 Cuban advocates of democracy and human rights to terms ranging from 12 to 27 years.  In Uzbekistan, democratic activities were jailed and forced into exile.  Freedom House was deeply concerned about worsening conditions in Zimbabwe.  It also regularly monitored the persecution of religious minorities in a number of countries, including China, Indonesia, Viet Nam, Egypt, Nigeria and Sudan.

EDELYS SANTANA CRUZ, of Centro de Estudios sobre la Juventud, said that in seeking to ensure the rights of its people Cuba was hampered by an economic blockade, laws and destabilizing campaigns put in place by the Government of the United States. Cuba had suffered from countless terrorist attacks that resulted in many deaths and put at risk the lives of thousands of people. The United States had recently imprisoned five Cubans who sought to protect the Cuban people from terrorist activities.  These detainees never threatened the security of the United States but only frustrated plans to inflict pain on Cuban citizens.  Cuba continued to respect human rights, despite the hegemonistic position of the United States.

D. LONG, of Association for the Prevention of Torture, said the absolute and non-derogable character of the prohibition of torture was today seriously challenged. Many States continued to use torture and to submit persons to inhuman conditions of detention and to break the customary principle of non-refoulement.  Recently several States had tried to justify these acts, notably in the name of fighting terrorism.

States could not on the one side sign and ratify international conventions and on the other side fail not only to take measures to implement them but moreover violate them.  All States were urged to take effective measures to implement their international obligations and to stop torture.  States also were urged to give priority to the ratification of the new Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.

BRUNO LAB, of Médecins sans frontières, said that Arjan Erkel, a 33-year member of the group in Northern Caucasia had been kidnapped by three armed persons on 12 August 2002 at Makhachkala, capital of Dagestan.  After 7 months, no news had been received about his whereabouts.  The higher authorities handling his case had not expressed their will to resolve the problem.  The group had brought the case of its staff member to the attention of the political authorities and international organization so that Mr. Erkel be freed.  In addition to diplomatic means, the group had used political channels, including a petition forwarded to President Putin of the Russian Federation.  At least 300,000 signatures had been collected calling for his release.  Only the political will of the highest authorities of the country could bring a solution to his kidnapping.

SHARON YOUNG, of Liberation, said that it was concerned at the incidents of torture, fabricated charges, independence of judiciary and administration of justice in India.  Five Cubans now languished in US penitentiaries on politically motivated charges.  Liberation called for them to be freed or retried outside the State of Florida.  One of the greatest crimes against humanity of the twentieth century was the massacre of up to one million Indonesians in 1965.  This crime had gone unpunished and uninvestigated for nearly 38 years.  Freedom of expression was violated in Aceh.  The year 2002 saw a progressive deterioration of civil and political rights in Colombia where disappearances, violations of the rights of prisoners, torture, death threats and summary executions were daily occurrences

ATTIYA INAYATULLAH, of All Pakistan Women's Association, said that since 1990, some 1,100 people had disappeared in Kashmir.  No one responsible had faced judicial consequences for these crimes.  Torture was routinely practiced by Indian forces, and India had conveniently forgotten about standards for the administration of justice.  Freedom of speech was another casualty – Kashmir had been stoned into silence.

India also used religious intolerance in its effort to strangle the freedom struggle in Kashmir.  Kashmir still awaited implementation of the UN resolution which gave it the right to self-determination.  It still awaited the dawn of peace.

JAMIE DUCHENEAUX, of International Indian Treaty Council, expressed concern that the United States had taken away their sacred areas in 1877.  The Government also took their culture, language and spiritual ceremonies away in 1890 and their people had been suffering from injustices since then.  For over 100 years, they had to take all they had underground.  In 1977, the President of the United States signed an American Indian Religious Freedom Act which gave back some rights; however, that excluded their land that they considered to this day sacred.  The Government had desecrated their sacred areas with development, tourism, pollution, vandalism, looting and other federally authorized undertakings.  It was destroying mother earth for its rich resources at a fast rate.

MS. SABA, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said that the violations perpetrated in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir included torture and killing, humiliation, harassment, molestation and rape.  The armed forces could enter homes, shops, schools and hospitals at any time without extending warnings or restrictions. In short, the invasion of privacy was almost total.  For years, Kashmiris had been trying to draw the attention of the Commission to these situations, but in vain.  It appeared that even the Commission’s role in the situation of human rights in the occupied territories was severely restricted by powerful political interests. 

WENCESLAO MANSOGO, of World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said the organization was asking for the release of political prisoners in Equatorial Guinea.  There had been a wave of detentions and imprisonments of members of the political opposition.  This had occurred at the same time as there had been a movement in the Commission to exempt Equatorial Guinea from the scrutiny it had been subjected to for years.  Two persons brought to trial had died of the treatment they received.  Almost all those tried bore marks of torture, but the judge at the trial forbade any mention of the subject of torture.  Those held were isolated in their cells and could not receive family visits or any visits.

The use of torture and inhumane treatment by the leaders of Equatorial Guinea was condemned, and the Commission was requested to resume firm consideration of the situation in Equatorial Guinea.

TAHIR NASEEM MANHAS, of Afro-Asian Peoples' Solidarity Organization, said that among the major impediments coming in the way of the effective enjoyment of civil and political rights by people in several parts of the world, including the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, was the recourse to indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians by non-state actors.  The negative impact of violence unleashed by non-state actors in Jammu and Kashmir, which had been bearing the brunt of terrorism sponsored by Pakistan for the past 13 years, consisted of seeking to extinguish the most basic of all rights, the right to life, in the form of kidnapping, summary and arbitrary executions.  It also consisted of seeking to erode democracy and people's participation in the decision-making process.

ANNE GUERIN, of France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said that the Council of Guardians in Iran had refused to endorse a bill voted by Parliament to abolish all forms of torture committed against prisoners under interrogation.  France Libertés also drew the attention of the Commission to the large number of prisoners that were sentenced to death and executed in public in Iran after spending several years in prison. It urged the Commission to call upon Iran to free all political prisoners, abolish the death penalty and put an end to inhuman and degrading practices, and ensure fair, equitable and public administration of justice and humane detention conditions for all prisoners.  France Libertés also drew the Commission’s attention to the oppression of the caodaiste church in Viet Nam. 

JEAN-JACQUES KIRKYACHARIAN of Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, said imprisonments in Cuba were a matter of great concern.  A revolutionary Government must not, among all Governments, consider freedom of expression as an obstacle but rather as a way of reaching its goals.

Turkey was committed to joining the European Union, and to that end the country’s many Kurds should be granted the rights they were entitled to under EU human rights standards.  In Morocco, all opinions should be able to be expressed freely over the conflict in the Western Sahara.  In Mauritania, the prevailing tensions could not be settled unless light was shed on all that had occurred since independence, or at least on all that had occurred there over the last 15 years.

LOUIS CRISMO, of Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance, drew the Commission's attention to the situation in the Philippines regarding enforced or involuntary disappearances.  The fall of the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 had not stopped enforced disappearances.  The group had so far documented more than 1,600 cases of disappearances from 1971 to the present.  Even as involuntary disappearances continued, the cases of the past had not been resolved.  Forensic experts who assisted the group in the exhumation of 66 victims since 1995 had attested that all the victims were tortured to death.  Regrettably, none of their perpetrators nor those of the more than a thousand other cases had been punished.  Impunity in all those acts of atrocity and assault to human dignity knew no human face, defied time and space, negated morality, and mocked domestic and international law.

TABBASUM AMIN, of World Muslim Congress, said that fundamental human rights were under threat and assault in some key regions of the world particularly in the Indian- occupied Kashmir.  In Kashmir, the occupation forces were utilizing the most inhuman methods of warfare to crush the freedom struggle.  Since the Commission met last year, another sham and farcical elections had been imposed on the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir. They would also be remembered for mass rigging and intimidation of the Indian security forces.  India, as befitted the occupying power and puppet regime planted in Jammu and Kashmir, had been hitting headlines with lofty promises on justice, accountability and an end to repression.  The ground realities presented a contrary picture.

BILAL AHMAD KHAN, of Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, said freedom of expression continued to be repressed in many parts of the world.  In recent times the challenges had started coming from non-state actors in a big way.  In Jammu and Kashmir in India, journalists had been facing grave challenges to freedom of expression from foreign-sponsored terrorists for more than 12 years.  Last month a young and popular journalist, Parvaz Mohd. Sultan, had been gunned down by terrorists.  Other brutal attacks had followed.

Media persons in Jammu and Kashmir were subjected to indirect as well as direct pressures.  The Special Rapporteur should look into the matter of damage to the right to free expression by the forces of anarchy, and should deal effectively with the issue, particularly as it applied to situations of armed conflict.

atnike nove sigiro, of Australian Council for Overseas Aid, said that in November 2001, the Committee against Torture had elucidated Indonesia’s poor exercise of protection against torture and provided 17 recommendations.  However, extended practices of torture in Indonesia, particularly in conflict areas such as Aceh and Papua, represented the Indonesian Government’s trivial efforts in responding to the recommendations. One of the main factors responsible for the continuation of torture and arbitrary detention in Indonesia was impunity.  The Commission was urged to call upon the Government to take responsibility for providing remedies to victims of torture and arbitrary detention by making efforts for recovery, providing restitution, rehabilitation and compensation. 

Mr. MUGIYANTO, of Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation, said that the problem of enforced or involuntary disappearances was an Asian phenomenon.  Hundreds of person disappeared in China during the 4 June 1989 massacre in Beijing.  In Thailand, there were 293 cases of disappearances during the May 1992 massacre Bangkok.  In Sri Lanka, 60,000 persons had disappeared in its southern region alone.  In the Philippines, 1,200 cases had not been documented from 1971 to 2000 while 27 more cases had been added during the present administration.  In India, 6,000 cases had been reported in the disputed regions of Kashmir.  In Indonesia, the Commission of the Missing Persons and Victims of Violence had documented 1,290 cases of disappearances that took place between 1965 and 2002.

RIBKA TJIPTANING, of Third World Movement Against the Exploitation of Women, said her father had been detained illegally for 12 years and had been tortured extensively as part of the widespread illegal imprisonments carried out by the Suharto regime in Indonesia beginning in 1965.  The Government admitted that some 200,000 people had been put in concentration camps.  Her father had died of a heart attack in 1991 as a result of the bad treatment he had received for years.

The Commission should take notice of the crimes committed under Suharto's 32-year regime, should urge Indonesia to set up a national investigation team to look into the regime’s human rights violations, should urge Indonesia to bring justice for the victims of the regime, and should urge Indonesia to invite the Special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country.


     * Joint statement on behalf of:  International Association for Religious Freedom, International Council of Jewish Women, International Council of Women,

International Federation of University Women, International Alliance of Women, World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women, Institute of Global Education, All India Women's Conference, Susila Dharma International Association, Inc, World Organization of Former Pupils of Catholic Education and World Union of Catholic Women's Organizations.

* *** *

For information media. Not an official record.