COMMISSION ADOPTS EIGHT RESOLUTIONS ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, CULTURAL RIGHTS, AS WELL AS TEXT CONDEMNING NEO-NAZISM

HR/CN/1088
16 April 2004

COMMISSION ADOPTS EIGHT RESOLUTIONS ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, CULTURAL RIGHTS, AS WELL AS TEXT CONDEMNING NEO-NAZISM

16/04/2004
Press Release
HR/CN/1088


COMMISSION ADOPTS EIGHT RESOLUTIONS ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL, CULTURAL RIGHTS,


AS WELL AS TEXT CONDEMNING NEO-NAZISM


Extends Mandates of Special Rapporteur on Illicit Dumping, Independent Expert

On Extreme Poverty; Recommends Consideration of Thematic Procedure on Cultural Rights


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 16 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted a resolution concerning racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination, and eight resolutions related to economic, social and cultural rights.


Through the resolutions, the Commission extended the mandates of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights for three years and the mandate of the Independent Expert on extreme poverty for two years.


It also requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult States and relevant organizations on the possibility of establishing a thematic procedure aimed at the comprehensive implementation of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for different cultural identities.


In a resolution on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 13 opposed, with 4 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed the provision of the Durban Declaration in which States condemned the persistence and resurgence of neo-Nazism, neo-fascism and violent nationalist prejudice and stated that these phenomena could never be justified.


Concerning the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, the Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 13 opposed, with 2 abstentions, a resolution in which it categorically condemned such illicit dumping in developing countries.  It urged all governments to take appropriate legislative and other measures to prevent illegal trafficking in such wastes and products and extended for another three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur.


With regards to the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour and 14 opposed, with 10 abstentions, the Commission requested the Independent Expert on the subject to draft general guidelines to be followed by States and by private, and public, national and international financial institutions in the decision-making and execution of debt repayments and structural reform programmes.


On the right to food, the Commission adopted a resolution by a roll-call vote of 51 in favour and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, in which it considered it intolerable that there were around 840 million undernourished people in the world.  It encouraged all States to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right to food.


Concerning the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for different cultural identities, the Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 1 opposed, with 14 abstentions, a resolution in which it recognized that States had the primary responsibility for the promotion of the full enjoyment of such rights and for enhancement of respect for different cultural identities and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult States and relevant organizations on the possibility of establishing a thematic procedure aimed at the comprehensive implementation of the present resolution.


An amendment to the draft proposed by the United States was rejected by a roll-call vote of 15 in favour and 29 opposed, with 8 abstentions.


With regards to the issue of adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, the Commission adopted by consensus a resolution in which it recognized that good governance within each country and at the international level, democracy and respect for the rule of law and human rights were essential to achieve the progressive realization of the right to an adequate standard of living.


On human rights and unilateral coercive measures, a resolution was adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 14 opposed, with 3 abstentions, in which the Commission urged all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which created obstacles to trade relations among States.


Concerning human rights and extreme poverty, a resolution was adopted by consensus in which the Commission recalled that to ensure the protection of the rights of all individuals, non-discrimination towards the poorest and the full exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and a better understanding was needed of what was endured by people living in poverty, including women and children.  It decided to extend for two years the mandate of the Independent Expert on extreme poverty.


And with regards to globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights, the Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 15 opposed, with no abstentions, a resolution in which it recognized that the promotion and protection of all human rights was first and foremost the responsibility of the State and reaffirmed the commitment to create an enabling environment at both the national and international levels that was conducive to the elimination of poverty.


The Commission also began its consideration of a draft resolution on the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights (E/CN.4/2004/L.38), but delayed the vote on the draft and the multiple amendments to it until the afternoon meeting.


Making general comments or explanations of votes during the voting this morning were the representatives of China, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), India, Egypt, Pakistan, Armenia, Republic of the Congo, Chile, Cuba, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Bahrain, Qatar, United States, Australia, Burkina Faso, Sudan, Japan, Argentina, Australia, Germany, and South Africa.


At the beginning of the meeting, the Commission continued its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights by concluding its inter-active dialogue with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, who in response to questions from Ireland (on behalf of the European Union) and Switzerland said that human rights defenders for women and indigenous peoples faced a global threat of discrimination.  She also reaffirmed the need for national legislation to enshrine the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and its implementation in national practice.


Also addressing the Commission during the general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights were the Representatives of the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Australia, Iceland (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Egypt, Sri Lanka and the United States.


The Commission will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue to take action on draft proposals related to economic, social and cultural rights and to continue its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights.


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


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.16/Rev.2) on the inadmissibility of certain practices that contribute to fuelling contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 13 opposed, with 4 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed the provision of the Durban Declaration in which States condemned the persistence and resurgence of neo-Nazism, neo-Fascism and violent nationalist prejudice and stated that these phenomena could never be justified; expressed deep concern over the glorification of former members of the Waffen SS organization, in particular, erecting monuments and memorials to the SS men and holding public demonstrations of former SS members; stressed that the practices described above did injustice to the memory of the countless victims of the SS organization and poisoned the minds of young people; also stressed that such practices fuelled contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance and contributed to the spread and multiplication of various extremist political parties, movements and groups, including neo-Nazis and skinheads; emphasized the need to take the necessary measures to put an end to the practices described above; and requested the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism to reflect on this issue and to make relevant recommendations in his report to the Commission at its sixty-first session.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (36):  Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.


Against (13):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (4):  Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Honduras and Republic of Korea.


WANG MIN (China), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said his country supported the present draft resolution and would vote in favour of it.  Such racism and xenophobia constituted a gross violation of human rights.  The draft resolution was highly relevant to the present world situation in which such racist and xenophobic practices had again raised their ugly heads.  For instance, in the Asian context, one had recently witnessed the glorification of former, aggressive regimes.


MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the European Union considered that the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination was one of the most serious challenges requiring to be addressed at all levels.  Neo-Nazism was a phenomenon that existed in the broader European region and in other areas of the world, and it should be combated wherever it may be found.  The decision of the Russian Federation and Belarus to introduce the resolution was regretted, as it failed to address the issue of Neo-Nazism in a global and balanced way, and was better addressed in other decisions before the Commission, which the European Union strongly supported. Further, the motivation and timing of the decision were questioned.  These phenomena of discrimination could never be justified.  The European Union believed that the draft decision did not contribute to the consideration of these issues, and would not support it.


HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that his delegation had studied the substance of L.16 and viewed that the text was not directed against a specific country or group of countries.  The practices of right wing extremists and skinheads in many countries had been noted by a number of special rapporteurs.  Since the draft text was not intended to condemn activities in one particular country or group of countries, India would vote in favour of the draft resolution.


NAELA GABR (Egypt), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that her country had studied the resolution, as well as its revisions, and viewed the draft text as dealing with a form of discrimination, based upon an internationally agreed text –- the Durban Declaration.  Having voted against all resolutions that criticized specific countries, Egypt would vote in favour of this text, which sought to address an issue globally.


SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that Pakistan had had concerns about the original draft resolution.  The revision reflected a considerable improvement in the substance, and the sponsors had made an earnest effort to make it acceptable.  The contents of the draft were being examined, and it was thought that it addressed a phenomenon, an issue that caused concern to a large number of countries because of their minorities in various parts of the world, and this was how it had relevance for so many countries.  The text did not target any one country or group of countries.  It addressed a phenomenon that was sometimes invisible and should be a concern for all, and it was on this understanding that Pakistan would vote in favour of the draft resolution.


ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN (Armenia), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that his delegation considered the text on its merits. The activities of neo-Nazi groups and other extremists were known.  Armenia would therefore vote in favour of the text.


ROGER JULIEN MENGA (Republic of Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the African Group, given the importance of the problem emphasized by the draft text and the particular concern of African peoples in that regard, was prepared to support the resolution.


JUAN MARTABIT (Chile) said in an explanation of vote before the vote that Chile, faithful to its determination to condemn all forms of racism and given the resurgence of neo-Nazi groups which were to be found around the world, would support the resolution, although it could have been better prepared and presented in other resolutions before the Commission such as the resolution against racism. 


JUAN MIGUEL FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that his delegation unequivocally supported the draft text contained in L.16.  The text was very relevant and his delegation was surprised to hear the position of some delegations on the issue.  The sponsors highlighted the rise in violence committed by neo-Nazi and other extremist groups at the international level.  The Cuban delegation would vote in favour of the text.


JANETTE NDLOVU (South Africa), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that her country, having suffered from the most vicious forms of modern racism, had examined the text.  It was a fact that modern forms of racism were cropping up worldwide and it was a duty incumbent upon all to fight such scourges.  Humanity would do itself much good to continue the fight.  For that reason, her delegation would vote in favour of the draft resolution.


ABDULWAHAB ABDULSALAM ATTAR (Saudi Arabia), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said Saudi Arabia was looking at the resolution from the context of its contents.  Taking into account that it was not aimed at any country, Saudi Arabia would be voting in favour of the resolution based on this consideration; it also agreed with the statements of Egypt and Pakistan.


BENJAMIN ZAPATA (Honduras), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that L. 16 addressed an important issue within the context of racism and racial discrimination.  However, his delegation would abstain on the draft.


SAEED MOHAMED AL-FAIHANI (Bahrain), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft text did not refer to any particular country; that its contents dealt with objective matters.  For that reason, Bahrain would vote in favour of the draft resolution.


FAHD AL-THANI (Qatar), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the draft resolution did not target any particular party.  All forms of discrimination and xenophobia were condemned. Qatar would vote in favour of the resolution.


BIODUN OWOSENI (Nigeria) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that his delegation endorsed the position expressed by the speaker for the African Group.  Nigeria's foreign policy was designed to combat racial discrimination.  Nigeria would vote in favour of the text.


SHOTARO OSHIMA (Japan) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that his delegation had listened to all the views expressed, but continued to have questions related to the text.  To the Representative of China, on his remark about Japan, the visit cited had nothing to do with the Government, nor with the subject under discussion.


Action on Draft Resolutions on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.18) on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights, adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 13 opposed, with 2 abstentions, the Commission categorically condemned such illicit dumping in developing countries; urged all Governments to take appropriate legislative and other measures to prevent illegal trafficking in such wastes and products; and requested the Governments of developed countries, together with international financial institutions, to provide financial assistance to African countries for the implementation of the Programme of Action adopted at the First Continental Conference for Africa on the Environmentally Sound Management of Unwanted Stocks of Hazardous Wastes and Their Prevention.


The Commission also urged the international community and the relevant United Nations bodies to continue to give appropriate support to developing countries, upon their request, in their efforts to implement the provisions of existing instruments controlling the transboundary movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes; urged all Governments to ban the export of toxic and dangerous substances that were banned or severely restricted in their own countries; called upon countries that had not done so to consider ratifying the Rotterdam Convention; urged States to strengthen the role of national environmental protection agencies and non-governmental organizations, local communities and associations, trade unions, workers and victims, and provide them with the legal and financial means to take necessary action; urged human rights bodies to be more systematic in addressing violations of rights associated with the practices of multinational companies, toxic waste and other environmental problems; and decided to extend for another three years the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the adverse effects of the illicit movement and dumping of toxic and dangerous products and wastes on the enjoyment of human rights.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (38):  Argentina, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.


Against (13):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (2):  Armenia and Ukraine.


Mr. OSHIMA (Japan) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the illicit movement and dumping of toxic waste and similar products was a great concern.  Japan shared the concern of the co-sponsors of the resolution.  Japan sympathized with countries where such waste had been dumped.  However, the Commission was not the appropriate forum, due to the lack of expertise on this issue which should be examined in those bodies that did have the expertise and mandate to do so.  Therefore, Japan requested a vote and would vote against the draft resolution. 


Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the issue raised in the draft text was important.  However, the European Union had difficulties with some of the contents of the draft.  The Union understood the position of the African Group on the issue.  However, the issue was environmental and was not directly related to human rights.  The right place to deal with the issue was elsewhere.  The resolution had concepts that were not acceptable to the European Union which would vote against it.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.23) on the effects of structural adjustment policies and foreign debt on the full enjoyment of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, adopted by a roll-call vote of 29 in favour and 14 against, with 10 abstentions, the Commission recognized that structural adjustment reform programmes limited public expenditure, imposed fixed expenditure ceilings, and gave inadequate attention to the provision of social services, and that only a few countries managed to achieve sustainable higher growth under these programmes; expressed concern at the fact that the options for macroeconomic policy of developing countries were constrained by demands for adjustment and that many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, still carried very high external debt burdens relative to their gross national products; and expressed concern that the majority of the countries that reached the intermediate phase under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative had yet to reach the final stage and that even for countries meeting all criteria, the Initiative might not result in a sustainable debt burden.


The Commission recognized that for the heavily indebted poor countries to achieve debt sustainability, long-term growth and poverty reduction goals, the debt relief under the Initiative would not be sufficient and that additional resource transfers in the forms of grants and concessional loans, as well as removal of trade barriers and better prices for their experts, would be required; regretted that up till now there had been little headway made in redressing the unfairness of the current system of debt resolution, which continued to place the interests of the lenders above those of indebted countries and the poor within them, and therefore called for an intensification of efforts to devise effective and equitable mechanisms; recognized that debt relief could play a key role in liberating resources that should be directed towards activities consistent with attaining sustainable growth and development; recalled, once again, the call on industrialized countries to implement the enhanced programme of debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries without delay; stressed the need to implement speedily, effectively, and with continued flexibility with respect to eligibility criteria the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative; and stressed that innovative mechanisms should be explored to comprehensively address the debt problems of developing countries


The Commission also stressed the need for the economic programmes arising from foreign debt to be country-driven; stressed that the economic programmes arising from foreign debt relief and cancellation must not reproduce past structural adjustment policies that had not worked, such as dogmatic demands for privatization and reduced public services; affirmed that the exercise of the basic rights of the people of debtor countries to food, housing, clothing, employment, education, health services and a healthy environment could not be subordinated to the implementation of structural adjustment policies; requested the Independent Expert on the subject to draft general guidelines to be followed by States and by private, and public, national and international financial institutions in the decision-making and execution of debt repayments and structural reform programmes; and reiterated its view that there was a need for a broad political dialogue between creditor and debtor countries and the multilateral financial institutions based on the principle of shared interests and responsibilities.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (29):  Argentina, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russian Federation, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


Against (14):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (10):  Armenia, Bahrain, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine.


Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the European Union was not opposed to discussing issues of structural adjustment and external debt, but held that those issues were beyond the competency of the Commission and should be more appropriately addressed in other forums.  The present text risked duplication of the work of other international organizations which did have competence in this regard.  The Union would continue to support the discussion of these issues in other forums, but for the reasons expressed and due to the Union’s disagreement on some of the provisions of the draft, the European Union would vote against the text.


Mr. ZAPATA (Honduras) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that as one of the so-called heavily indebted poor countries, it supported the contents of the resolution and would vote for it.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.24) on the right to food, adopted as orally amended and by a roll-call vote of 51 in favour and 1 opposed, with 1 abstention, the Commission considered it intolerable that there were around 840 million undernourished people in the world and that every seven seconds a child under the age of 10 died, directly or indirectly, of hunger somewhere in the world when, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world produced more than enough food to feed its entire population; stressed the need to make efforts to mobilize and optimize the allocation and utilization of technical and financial resources from all sources, including external debt relief for developing countries, to reinforce national actions to implement sustainable rood security policies; recognized that the promises made at the World Food Summit in 1996 to halve the number of malnourished persons were not being fulfilled; encouraged all States to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the right to food; and encouraged the Special Rapporteur on the right to food to continue mainstreaming a gender perspective in the fulfilment of his mandate.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (51):  Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.


Against (1):  United States.


Abstentions (1):  Australia.


RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States), in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that his delegation could not support draft resolution L. 24.  The United States was the largest donor of food aid in the world.  His Government's commitment to provide food and end hunger was unquestionable.  The United States supported the progressive realization of the right to adequate food as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living. The attainment of that right was a goal to be realized progressively -- it did not give rise to international obligations or domestic legal entitlements.  His Government could not in any way recognize, support or commend the work of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.  His delegation requested a recorded vote and would vote against the text.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.25) on the promotion of the enjoyment of the cultural rights of everyone and respect for different cultural identities, adopted as orally amended and by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 1 opposed, with 14 abstentions, the Commission recognized that States had the primary responsibility for the promotion of the full enjoyment of such rights and for enhancement of respect for different cultural identities; stressed that cultural cooperation shall contribute to the establishment of stable, long-term relations between peoples, which should be subjected as little as possible to the strains which might arise in international life; recognized that the promotion and protection of such rights and respect for different cultural identities were vital elements for the protection of cultural diversity in the context of the ongoing process of globalization; reaffirmed that all peoples had the right to self-determination, by virtue of which they freely determined their political status and freely pursued their economic, social and cultural development; and recognized that the broad dissemination of ideas and knowledge, based on the free exchange and discussion, was essential to creative activity, the pursuit of truth and the development of the personality of everyone and the identity of all peoples;


The Commission also stressed that, in the face of current imbalances in flows and exchanges of cultural goods and services at the global level, it was necessary to reinforce international cooperation and solidarity aimed at enabling all countries, especially developing countries and countries in transition, to establish cultural industries that were viable and competitive at national and international levels; underlined that market forces alone could not guarantee the preservation and promotion of cultural diversity; recognized the need to seek the view of a larger number of States and relevant organizations on the possibility of establishing a thematic procedure on comprehensive implementation of the present resolution; underlined that the proposal for the establishment of a thematic procedure on cultural rights was not to develop a new monitoring mechanism but the appointment of an independent expert who could elaborate voluntary guidelines and concrete proposals and recommendations; and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to consult States and relevant organizations on the possibility of establishing a thematic procedure aimed at the comprehensive implementation of the present resolution.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (38):  Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.


Against (1):  United States.


Abstentions (14):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Sweden and United Kingdom.


The Commission rejected by a roll-call vote of 15 in favour and 29 opposed, with 8 abstentions,  an amendment to the draft proposed by the United States.


KATHERINE M. GOROVE (United States) said in a general comment that it fully supported the right to culture, as the United States was one of the world’s most culturally diverse countries.  Millions of dollars were spent annually to protect and show-case cultural diversity.  However the resolution, in particular paragraphs 17, 18, and 19 would not be supported, as the proposal’s objective was the establishment of a thematic procedure on cultural identities.  In light of existing work by the United Nations to create a dialogue based on cultural identities and the respect for values, this text was unnecessary and would further tax the resources and time of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  Market forces led to the promotion of cultural diversity.  While the resolution contained several valuable and commendable statements with which the United States agreed, the paragraphs 17, 18 and 19 as they currently appeared should be deleted.  If this was not agreed with, then there should be a vote on the entire resolution.


RODOLFO REYES RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the draft had no financial implications.  The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) had taken measures to design a universal standard on the issue. The amendment presented by the United States to remove the paragraphs reflected its dictatorial stand.  Cuba would vote against the amendment introduced by the United States.


PETER MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that UNESCO was the appropriately mandated forum on cultural issues, and was currently considering an international instrument on cultural diversities, and thus the draft resolution duplicated work of that body.  Australia would abstain from the vote.


Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the Union was committed to the promotion of cultural diversity in all its aspects.  It believed that human rights were indivisible, interdependence and universal.  The Union could not support the inclusion of paragraphs 17, 18 and 19 in the text, for that reason the Union would abstain.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.27/Rev.1) on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, adopted by consensus, the Commission recognized that good governance within each country and at the international level, democracy and respect for the rule of law and human rights were essential to achieve the progressive realization of the right to an adequate standard of living, including adequate housing, and reiterated the importance of, inter alia, infrastructure and services, particularly those related to water, sanitation, health, transportation and energy; called upon all States to give full effect to housing rights; to ensure the observance of all their legally binding national standards in the area of housing; to protect all persons from forced evictions contrary to the law;  to ensure non-discriminatory access to adequate housing; to promote residential integration of all members of society at the planning stage of urban development; to pay appropriate attention to the rights and needs of persons with disabilities in the context of adequate housing; and to enable women to obtain affordable housing and access to land; encouraged the relevant Special Rapporteur to strengthen the integration of the rights relevant to his mandate into the Global Campaign for Secure Tenure launched by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme; and welcomed the joint work of that Programme and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in developing a joint United Nations Housing Rights Programme, and invited States to provide support for its effective implementation.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.30) on human rights and unilateral coercive measures, adopted by a roll-call vote of 36 in favour and 14 opposed, with 3 abstentions, the Commission urged all States to refrain from adopting or implementing unilateral measures not in accordance with international law, international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and the norms and principles governing peaceful relations among States, in particular those of a coercive nature with extraterritorial effects, which created obstacles to trade relations among States; strongly objected to the extraterritorial nature of those measures which, in addition, threatened the sovereignty of States, and called upon all Member States neither to recognize these measures nor to apply them; condemned the continued unilateral application and enforcement by certain powers of such measures as tools of political or economic pressure against any country, particularly against developing countries; reaffirmed the right of all peoples to self-determination; reaffirmed that essential goods such as food and medicines should not be used as tools for political coercion and that under no circumstances should people be deprived of their own means of subsistence and development; underlined that unilateral coercive measures were one of the major obstacles to the implementation of the Declaration on the Right to Development; rejected all attempts to introduce unilateral coercive measures, as well as the increasing trend in this direction, including through the enactment of laws with extraterritorial application, which were not in conformity with international law; and requested once again the open-ended working group on the right to development to give due consideration to the question of the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (36):  Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.


Against (14):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (3):  Costa Rica, Honduras and Republic of Korea.


JEFFREY DELAURENTIS (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that this was a simple issue:  it was the prerogative of nation States under the United Nations Charter to determine with which States they wished to have relations and wished to trade.  For that reason, the United States would vote against the text.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.32) on human rights and extreme poverty, adopted by consensus, the Commission recalled that to ensure the protection of the rights of all individuals, non-discrimination towards the poorest and the full exercise of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, a better understanding was needed of what was endured by people living in poverty, including women and children, and that thought must be given to the subject, drawing on the experience and ideas communicated by the poorest themselves and by those committed to working alongside them; recognized the efforts of developing countries, in particular the commitment and determination of the African leaders, to seriously address the challenges of poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion, economic disparities, instability and insecurity, through initiatives such as the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and other innovative mechanisms such as the World Solidarity Fund for the Eradication of Poverty; and called upon developed countries, the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and the international financial institutions to provide new and additional financial resources appropriate to support these initiatives.


The Commission called upon the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to give high priority to the question of the relationship between extreme poverty and human rights; called upon the General Assembly, United Nations bodies and intergovernmental organizations to take into account the contradiction between situations of extreme poverty and exclusion from society, which must be overcome, and the duty to guarantee the full enjoyment of human rights; called upon the United Nations to strengthen poverty eradication as a priority throughout the United Nations system; urged States and encouraged the private sector and international financial and development institutions to promote participation of individuals and groups who were victims of racism and related intolerance in economic, cultural and social decision-making at all stages; and decided to extend for two years the mandate of the Independent Expert on extreme poverty.


MICHEL KAFONDO (Burkina Faso) said in a general comment that the resolution was a matter of greatest importance since the fight against poverty and respect for the rights of the poorest were the credo Burkina Faso espoused, and in association with the African Union a specific summit had been organized.  Due respect for the rights of the poorest and their involvement in decision-making was the only way to ensure a better grasp of human rights and the promotion of good governance and democracy.  Burkina Faso fully supported the draft resolution.


ELSADIG ALMAGLY (Sudan) said Sudan had deployed great efforts in reducing the level of poverty of its people, as attested by the visiting Special Rapporteur on the right to food.


In a resolution (E/CN.4/2004/L.35) on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of human rights, adopted by a roll-call vote of 38 in favour and 15 opposed, with no abstentions, the Commission recognized that the promotion and protection of all human rights was first and foremost the responsibility of the State; reaffirmed the commitment to create an enabling environment at both the national and international levels that was conducive to the elimination of poverty through, inter alia, good governance; underlined that, in the absence of a framework based on the fundamental principles which underpinned the corpus of human rights, globalization would continue on its asymmetrical course; and requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to study and clarify the fundamental principle of participation and its application at the global level, with a view to recommending measures for its integration and effective implementation in the debate on the process of globalization, and to submit a comprehensive analytical study on the subject to the Commission at its sixty-first session.


The result of the vote was as follows:


In favour (38):  Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.


Against (15):  Australia, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.


Abstentions (0):  None.


Mr. OSHIMA (Japan) said in a general comment that globalization had a tremendous impact on all regions and peoples.  All people enjoyed the varying benefits of globalization, including cultural exchanges and increased communication.  These benefits served to create an environment of prosperity where human rights could flourish.  While the negative aspects were not ignored, these positive outcomes outweighed the disadvantages.  However, the draft resolution did not appropriately address all issues, but focused on the negative aspects from an economic and social point of view.  It was unbalanced, and the Commission was not the appropriate location for such a discussion.  Japan would vote against the draft resolution. 


Ms. WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the issue of globalization had been reflected on in a number of reports and works of several Independent Experts, Special Rapporteurs, as well as the Working Group on the right to development.  The Union believed that it was not appropriate to deal with globalization as a separate issue in the Commission.  The concerns of globalization had also been included in several resolutions adopted by the Commission.  Her delegation would vote against draft resolution L.35.


Statements on Draft Resolution on Full Enjoyment of Economic,

Social and Cultural Rights


Voting on a draft resolution on the full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was deferred to the afternoon meeting.  Following are the explanations of the vote made before the vote concerning this draft resolution.


GREGORIO DUPONT (Argentina), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean Countries (GRULAC), said in a general comment that the importance which the Latin American and Caribbean countries attached to the issue of economic, social and cultural rights, the right to food, to health, education, adequate housing, not to live in extreme poverty and to maintain one’s cultural identity were all legitimate aspirations to safeguard human dignity and could not be underestimated.  The work of the Working Group on formulating an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights could not be underestimated, and its mandate should be renewed.  The GRULAC could consider at a forthcoming meeting of the Working Group possible modalities for the drafting of the optional protocol to the Covenant, and hoped to correct the symmetries that persisted in the corpus of binding legal instruments in the field of human rights.  For these reasons, delegations were appealed to adopt the resolution (L38) by consensus.  The GRULAC expressed thanks to the delegation of Pakistan for its willingness to ally itself in understanding draft amendment in L67 on operative paragraph 40 should be rejected.


Mr. RODRIGUEZ (Cuba) said in a general comment that his delegation had in the past co-sponsored this draft and said that the work of Portugal in this regard had been serious.  His delegation firmly supported a strong International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and could also support the contents of the amendment.  The proposal, as amended, could constitute a significant contribution to the continuing work of the Working Group.


Mr. HEYWARD (Australia) said in a general comment that his delegation fully supported the realization in all countries of economic, social and cultural rights.  His country was a party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  However, those rights were not justifiable.  His delegation had difficulties with operative paragraphs 13 and 14, and requested a separate vote on those paragraphs. 

CLAUDIA ROTH (Germany), in a general comment, said it fully supported economic, social and cultural rights and thus fully supported the resolution as presented by Portugal L38.  Germany proposed a vote on the amendments as proposed by Pakistan and Australia.


Ms. GOROVE (United States) said, in a general comment, that it was not the role of the Commission to pronounce on the issues contained in these texts.  The work of the Working Group could result in entitlements with the same goal as economic, social and cultural rights.  There was no one economic formula that could result in the guarantee of economic, social and cultural rights, and it was inappropriate for the Commission to impose a governmental solution.  Operative paragraph 14 should be deleted should the amendment of L67 fail, and the amendment proposed by Australia to paragraph 13 was supported. 


PITSO D. MONTWEDI (South Africa) said in a general comment that South Africa fully supported L.38, but regretted the amendments proposed in L.67 although it fully supported the elements, as it did during the Working Group session of some of the elements therein.  It did not believe that they belonged in operative paragraph 14, and should this be put to a vote South Africa would abstain, as it was pre-emptive to select some elements and ignore others.


DEBABRATA SAHA (India) said in a general comment that the amendment proposed by South Africa in L.67 as modified by Pakistan significantly improved it by drawing attention to an important aspect regarding the resolution of economic, social and cultural rights, which had been neglected by the Working Group.  The amendment would ensure that this omission was rectified, and the amendment would be supported and all Member States should support it too.


OMAR SHALABY (Egypt) said in a general comment that Egypt fully supported L67 as modified by Pakistan.  This amendment would ensure that the provisions of paragraph 14 would be balanced with regard to the work of the Working Group on an elaboration of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights. 


Inter-active Dialogue with Special Representative of Secretary-General

on Human Rights Defenders


EAMONN NOONAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said human rights defenders working with women’s rights and indigenous rights had been cited as being subject to additional discrimination and asked whether the Special Representative saw that as a global phenomenon.  Also, should women’s human rights defenders be recognized specifically as a category subject to such global discrimination?  He also asked, in regard of national legislation for the security of human rights defenders, what particular measures Governments should take to ensure that national legislation was not in conflict with international standards.


JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY (Switzerland) asked the Special Representative what steps she would advocate to be taken at the national level to better implement the Declaration on human rights defenders.  Also, in reference to Thailand, how was the situation evolving in respect of human rights defenders?


HINA JILANI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, said in response to the question posed by Ireland that the discrimination faced by marginalized and vulnerable communities and their human rights defenders did constitute a global trend, and that women human rights defenders were part of that global trend.  However, women’s human rights defenders should not be considered a special category, though one must recognize that they needed particular consideration and that their profile should remain suitably elevated.  With regard to national legislation on security, she said that it was clear that national laws provided the juridical framework for implementation of the Declaration, but that they must be in conformity with international standards.  Moreover, those standards applied equally to the conduct of States.  In many countries, there was a need to review national legislation and assess the need for reform better to implement those international standards, particularly in reference to the freedoms of expression and assembly.


To Switzerland, she said it was necessary to ensure that national parliaments remained seized of the question and took additional action to ensure that rights flowed to individuals.  It was also necessary to ensure the freedom of information, including through establishment of institutions that provided information freely, enabling human rights defenders to carry out their work.  With regard to Thailand, she said she had covered developments in her report, including national efforts for implementation of the Declaration.  The evolving situation was one about which she remained very hopeful.  There were some areas in which more effort should be made than others, but overall she remained confident that civil society was able to play its part and that the Government was committed to facilitating that role.


Documents on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


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


There is a note by the Secretariat (E/CN.4/2004/84) on human rights and international solidarity, regarding the request of the Commission on Human Rights to the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights to undertake a study on the implementation of resolution 2002/73, and the submission of an interim study to the Commission at its sixtieth session and a complete study at the sixty-second session.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/85) of the Secretary-General on the status of the International Covenants on Human Rights, in which the different Covenants are listed, as are the States parties, the state of ratification of the Covenants and Optional Protocols, the dates of their ratification, accession or succession, and the dates of entry into force of the various instruments for each State.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/86) of the Secretary-General regarding the question of the death penalty.  The report contains information covering the period from January 2003 through December 2003.  It indicates that the trend towards abolition of the death penalty continues, illustrated, inter alia, by the increase in the number of ratifications of international instruments that provide for the abolition of capital punishment.  The number of countries that could be considered de facto abolitionists has increased from 33 to 37, and the overall number of retentionist countries has decreased from 71 to 66.  There also has been a significant increase in the number of countries that have ratified international instruments providing for the abolition of the death penalty.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/87) of the Secretary-General on human rights and the environment as part of sustainable development.  The report reviews the consideration being given to the possible relationship between the environment and human rights, taking into account contributions made by concerned international organizations and bodies.  Submissions were received from the Governments of Bolivia, Greece, and Mexico.  In addition, information was received from the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).  Three non-governmental organizations -- Earthjustice, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions -- also provided information for the report.  The report takes into consideration the views expressed at the preparatory expert meeting and the expert seminar on human rights and the environment convened jointly by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the ECE.  Links between the environment and human rights were identified in a number of international and regional documents and instruments, including the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. 


There is a note (E/CN.4/2004/88) by the Secretary-General on the question of impunity.  It contains an independent study on best practices, including recommendations, to assist States in strengthening their domestic capacities for combating all aspects of impunity, taking into account the Set of Principles for the promotion and protection of human rights through action to combat impunity, and how they have been applied, reflecting recent developments and considering the issue of their further implementation, and also taking into account information and comments received pursuant to resolution 2003/72 of the Commission.  Domestic efforts to combat impunity have been significantly enhanced by States’ adherence to human rights treaties and by their acceptance of optional complaint procedures, the note contends.  Practical measures of inter-State and international support have significantly enhanced some States’ domestic capacities to combat impunity.  Although some aspects of the Principles, notably those pertaining to the creation of an International Criminal Court, may benefit from updating, recent developments in international law have affirmed the Principles as a whole and highlighted their contribution to domestic efforts to combat impunity.  It is therefore recommended that the Commission appoint an Independent Expert to update the Principles with a view towards their adoption by the Commission, the note states.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/90) by the Secretary-General on fundamental standards of humanity, which consolidates and updates previous reports and studies, covers relevant developments including regional and international case law and the forthcoming study by the International Committee of the Red Cross on customary rules of international humanitarian law, and which addresses the issue of securing implementation. The process of fundamental standards of humanity is not limited to situations of internal strife, and aims at strengthening the protection of individuals through the clarification of uncertainties in the application of existing international law standards aimed at the protection of persons in all circumstances, the report states.  The process of fundamental standards of humanity should thus focus on the clarification of uncertainties in the application of existing standards in situations which present a challenge to their effective implementation.  The upcoming Red Cross study on customary rules of international humanitarian law is expected to further contribute to identifying fundamental standards of humanity.  Although substantial progress has been made in clarifying issues discussed in previous reports, some issues remain to be further considered and clarified.  The question of how to secure better compliance with fundamental standards of humanity by non-State actors merits further consideration, the document states.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/91) of the Secretary-General on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  The report begins with summaries of comments from Governments on the question of the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.  It summarizes action by the Security Council and the Counter-Terrorism Committee, as well as the United Nations human rights special procedures, treaty bodies, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It provides a review of key principles as contained in a relevant publication of the Office of the High Commissioner.  It contains an interim report, pending a study requested by the General Assembly, on the extent to which human rights special procedures and treaty-monitoring bodies are able, within their existing mandates, to address the compatibility of national counter-terrorism measures with international human rights obligations.  The report closes with a number of conclusions and recommendations. 


There is a note (E/CN.4/2004/92) by the Secretariat on the role of good governance in the promotion of human rights.  It summarizes activities undertaken in preparation of a seminar on the topic.


There is a report (E/CN.4/2004/93) on the achievements and shortcomings of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education and on future United Nations activities in this area.  The report presents the findings of consultations with Member States undertaken by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO.  Most responding Governments have reported on their increased human rights activities, within or outside the Decade’s framework.  Most mention that human rights education will still remain a priority, since specific groups or issues have not been dealt with and appropriate coordinating mechanisms for human rights education are not yet in place.  Finally, the majority of responding Governments support the proclamation of a second Decade for Human Rights Education (2005-2014), as well as the establishment of a voluntary fund for human rights education.  Some detailed suggestions in this regard are provided.


There is a note (E/CN.4/2004/114) by the Secretariat on the interim report on the study on the extent to which the human rights special procedures and treaty monitoring bodies are able, within their existing mandates, to address the compatibility of national counter-terrorism measures with international human rights obligations in their work that states that the interim report has been included in the report of the Secretary-General on protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism.


Statements in General Debate on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


RHADYS ABREU DE POLANCO (Dominican Republic) said that her country, guided by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, had made education an objective in the full development of human personality and in the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Following the Commission resolution and the request of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Dominican Republic had implemented a plan of action that would correspond to the Decade on Human Rights Education.  The Government had designed a plan of action in order to cope with the necessary evolution.  It had created a strategy for the expansion of education at all levels and had strengthened programmes and capacities for education.  It had also made available materials for the expansion of education in human rights teachings; and it had disseminated the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The efforts of the Government had been supported by activities of civil society, non-governmental organizations and other international human rights organizations.


The Dominican Republic had continued to implement the United Nations plan of action on human rights education.  The teaching of human rights education had been expanded to all parts of the administration, including the judiciary, the armed forces, political parties, religious groups and the public administration.  The UNESCO had also played an important role in the realization of the plan of action on human rights education.


SALVADOR TINAJERO (Mexico) said it was committed to the development of an international system for the protection of human rights and had proved this at the national and international level.  The events of the last few years showed the need for the international community to step up protection of human rights, and to enhance their scope.  The international community was committed to combating terrorism, which was a grave problem affecting territorial integrity and States themselves.  However, the urgent need of States to protect their population did not justify the derogation or permanent suspension of the human rights of the population under their jurisdiction.  Respect for human rights, far from being an obstacle, was the only way forward.  Violations of human rights were not merely reprehensible but clearly counter-productive in the campaign against terrorism and damaged the objective pursued- to enhance the security of individuals.  Another of the problems faced by the international community in the past had been impunity, which was a common problem in many countries - and Mexico was not exempt.  Efforts had been made to combat it at the national and international levels.  Mexico was opposed to capital punishment.  It had not used it for more than 30 years, and the President had decided to ask Congress to eliminate this penalty from the legal system.


Mr. NOONAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the adoption of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders involved a commitment to act on behalf of those who found themselves in danger for speaking out for the respect of universally recognized rights, which evidence of the widespread persecution of human rights defenders had made necessary.  Among aspects of their important work at the national level, human rights defenders helped to document violations of rights, to provide support to victims of violations and to combat cultures of impunity that served to cloak systematic and repeated breaches of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Their work often involved criticizing Government.  Yet it was important to recognize that human rights defenders could also be allies of government, playing key roles in helping to draft appropriate legislation and in drawing up national plans and strategies on human rights.


Human rights violations were more likely than ever to come under international attention, he acknowledged, which was due to the courageous work of human rights defenders.  The actions of individuals -– often in defiance of considerable personal risk –- cast light on abuses and deserved international support.  And while the record of improvement in the situation of human rights defenders since the Declaration’s adoption was mixed, there had been at least one achievement:  the proposition that rights, laws and norms were irrelevant to the affairs of States, nationally or internationally, belonged to a bygone era.  Furthermore, the establishment of the post of Special Representative had been a wise follow-up to the Declaration and the Special Representative must be commended for her successful cooperation with existing special procedures, appropriate bodies of the United Nations system, regional organizations and national and international non-governmental organizations.  Among the matters of particular concern highlighted were the continued persecution of women human rights defenders and the use of security laws to persecute human rights defenders.  In conclusion, it was the international community’s responsibility to assist those persecuted for activities in favour of the rights grounded in the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


Mr. HEYWARD (Australia) said the quality of governance at the national level had a profound impact on the enjoyment of human rights.  People could not truly enjoy the many human rights that had been painstakingly elaborated at the international level without the capacity to enforce them through effective, independent institutions.  International treaties were meaningless in societies where there was a culture of violence, fear and impunity, and where the rule of law had no currency.  Citizens were powerless when they were denied a voice through the ballot box and could not speak their minds or practice their religion.  It was through good governance, and the building of the institutions that were necessary for it, that States created an environment where civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights would flourish.  The achievement and maintenance of good governance at the national level was a continuous process for all States.  Development and human rights were interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  Improved governance occurred when Governments invested in strong institutions and enabling frameworks.  The strengthening of democratic processes facilitated and encouraged the observance of human rights.  Around the world, Governments and people alike were increasingly realizing that the quality of governance had a profound impact on the enjoyment of all human rights.  Better governance could improve the lives of millions and make human rights a reality, and this would continue to be a core priority for Australia both nationally and in its joint efforts with others in its region and beyond. 


STEFAN HAUKUR JOHANNESSON (Iceland) said many of the most serious violations of human rights took place in situations of internal conflict and disturbance, characterized by disruption of internal order, tensions and acts of violence.  These situations were particularly difficult as regarded the protection of human rights and international humanitarian law.  By finding ways to ensure that States reviewed legislation that governed conflict situations, public emergency and internal strife, one would enhance the protection in these circumstances; however, as repeatedly stated, legislation in itself was not sufficient to protect individuals, it needed to be effectively implemented.  Ways of ensuring implementation of existing norms of protection was the core element in the work relating to the fundamental standards of humanity.  The entry into force of the Statute of the International Criminal Court would have significant impact on the discussions on the fundamental standards.  Ensuring that non-State actors complied with the fundamental standards and safeguards represented an important challenge.  Fundamental standards of humanity were a comprehensive concept, which covered the various forms of individual responsibility for all actors under international criminal law. This included genocide, war crimes, other violations of international humanitarian law and crimes against humanity.  While developments had contributed to clarification of various uncertainties, there were still important issues that required further consideration.


ALAA ROUSHDY (Egypt) said that his Government had been making tremendous efforts in the promotion and protection of human rights at the national, regional and international levels.  Since Egypt had been open to all aspects of international norms, it did not accept the existence of a certain group of human rights values.  It believed that human rights should also reflect cultural and traditional diversity.  The Egyptian Constitution and other laws provided for guarantees in matters of human rights respect.  A series of measures had been taken by the State in order to strengthen the observance of human rights respect.  Citizens and foreigners enjoyed their human rights, and the Government had been endeavouring to promote the rights of all individuals.  A new council had also been set up to further empower Egyptian women and their equal participation in the society. 


The state of emergency that the Government maintained to ensure peace and security within the country did not in any way derogate the fundamental freedoms of citizens that were provided by the Constitution.   That particular law was rather aimed at maintaining law and order.  The Egyptian judiciary was in full control of the implementation of the law, and it strictly monitored its application by the law-enforcing agents.  Recently, a law had been adopted to derogate some articles of the emergency law.  The Government was envisaging cancelling the whole emergency law once the necessary legal requirements were fulfilled.  The State continued to disseminate tolerance through courses introduced in the universities and police training centres.  A campaign of awareness raising programmes had also been launched on tolerance among the population.  The role of non-governmental organizations in the country had also been increased.  At present, 17,000 national and international non-governmental organizations were operating in the country.  Egypt was also promoting peace and security in the region by organizing seminars and conferences.


SUGEESHWARA GUNARATNA (Sri Lanka) said that his country traditionally pursued an active policy of cooperation with the international human rights mechanisms, even in difficult situations of internal turmoil, which had helped foster and strengthen the national protection system.  Today, his country was a signatory to all seven treaties on human rights.  It was also signatory to all eight core conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO).  The democratic tradition of the country formed the bedrock upon which the whole architecture of human rights that protected its citizens, including that of human rights defenders, had been built.  Civil society in Sri Lanka had been active in articulating the views of different segments in the society, since universal franchise was introduced in 1931.  Activities in political parties, trade unions, journalists' associations, bar council, welfare and civil society organizations at grass root level had traditionally acted as the human rights defenders of the country. 


The role of human rights defenders was a core element in both the national and international human rights architecture.  Being home to hundreds of non-governmental organizations and a number of human rights activities of international repute, Sri Lanka was naturally interested in all actions relevant to human rights defenders at the international, regional, national and grass-roots levels.  The Sri Lankan delegation reiterated its commitment to the protection and promotion of the rights of human rights defenders.


Mr. WILLIAMSON (United States) noted that the four “essential freedoms” cited by former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt were:  freedom of speech and expression; freedom of worship; freedom from want; and freedom from fear and said that, in free countries, the government served the people, not the other way around.  The hallmark of free society was individuals’ ability to associate with like-minded individuals, to express their views publicly, to debate public policy

openly and to petition their government.  In all these processes, civil society played an important role.  Non-governmental organizations fostered and met the needs of communities in a way governments often could not, or would not.  Human rights defenders around the world spoke out against human rights abuses and injustice and sought to expand the reach of liberty, often risking their own freedom or even lives in the process.  In regard of the other essential freedoms, the Commission should condemn religious persecution in all its forms –- anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobia.  All States should realize that the keys to prosperity were education, individual creativity and an environment of opportunity created by economic and political freedom.  Finally, the fight against terrorism was a fight for all who believed in progress, pluralism, tolerance and freedom.  The United States stood ready to assist other nations to build a prosperous and secure future for all – a future in which human rights were respected and protected.


* *** *


CORRIGENDUM:  In press release HR/CN/1068 of 31 March, the statement by the Representative of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of People on page 10 should read, as follows:


ELENA SANTIEMMA, of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, highlighted the importance of the mother tongue, as a real tool of personal development, in the educational process. The League wanted to underline the situation of human rights in Turkey, where, after the creation of the Republic, a complete preference as been given to the Turkish language, affecting the teaching of other mother tongues.  The main victims of this policy were the  15 million Kurds living in Turkey.  The Special Rapporteur on the right to education did not seem to have received a satisfactory answer to her questions, on the occasion of her visit to Turkey.  Even after the adoption of new decrees on the mother tongue, the Government did not actually improve the situation: hundreds of students, who were asking to be taught in Kurdish, had been arrested.  The representative asked the Special Rapporteur to undertake a follow-up visit and to make recommendations to give effect to the rights of the Kurdish people.


For information media. Not an official record.