EXPERTS IN THIRD COMMITTEE HIGHLIGHT SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS IN DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA, SUDAN, MYANMAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
EXPERTS IN THIRD COMMITTEE HIGHLIGHT SERIOUS HUMAN RIGHTS CONCERNS IN DEMOCRATIC PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF KOREA, SUDAN, MYANMAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-first General Assembly
25th & 26th Meetings (AM & PM)
Experts in third committee highlight serious human rights concerns in Democratic
People’s Republic of Korea, sudan, Myanmar, Democratic Republic of Congo
Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Urges
Establishment of Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Sri Lanka
United Nations experts today urged action by the international community to address serious human rights concerns in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sudan, Myanmar, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sri Lanka as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its dialogue with Special Rapporteurs and independent experts on human rights.
Philip Alston, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, warned that the special procedures system as a whole was at risk as the number of States which had failed to respond to requests for invitations was approaching crisis proportions. Of the 22 countries to which he had directed requests, 19 had either failed to respond altogether or proved unable to make any concrete progress on arrangements for a potential visit.
He said it was especially problematic to note that eight of those 19 countries were Human Rights Council members, each of which specifically undertook to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, [and to] fully cooperate with the Council.” The General Assembly should specifically call upon those States to uphold their commitments to cooperate with the Council and its procedures.
Of the human rights experts addressing the Committee today, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar were not able to visit the countries that were the subject of their mandate during the past two years or more.
Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the human rights situation in that country was a major cause for concern, aggravated by weapons tests in 2006, which further limited the space for humanitarian action. Saying there remained many egregious transgressions, compounded by the undemocratic and militaristic nature of the country, he called on the international community to continue to provide humanitarian and food aid. He also urged respect for the principle of asylum, particularly non-refoulement, to protect refugees. Finally, he called for use of the totality of the United Nations system —- including the General Assembly, and beyond -— to address serious human rights violations.
Sima Samar, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, said that the human situation in Darfur had dramatically deteriorated, despite the signing of the peace agreement in May 2006, which unfortunately, had not led to peace. The Government, allied militia and rebel groups continued to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including attacks on villages, killing of civilians, torture, rape, looting and forced displacement. The conflict was spilling across borders, with militia based in Darfur attacking civilians across the border in Chad and the Central African Republic. The Government had failed to comply with its obligations to protect the human rights of its people.
The immediate priority should be to ensure effective human rights protection and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan, she said. She urged the international community to provide the necessary technical support and resources to the African Union Mission in the Sudan to ensure effective protection for civilians; to continue to provide financial and technical support to the Government of National Unity and the Government of southern Sudan to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement and build democratic institutions for the protection of human rights; and to support an inclusive dialogue process across the Sudan that would address the roots of conflict.
Mr. Alston, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, focused on the situation in Sri Lanka, a country which stood on the brink of a crisis of major proportions and demanded greater engagement from the international community. He urged the General Assembly to call upon the United Nations Secretariat to establish a full-fledged international human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka. High-level international involvement was needed to pressure the parties to move toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict, he said.
Titinga Fréderic Pacéré, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Democratic Republic of the Congo, recommended the establishment of an international criminal tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo that would deal with crimes committed in the country since 1994. He said that there had been violations of human rights of all kinds, often very serious. Twenty-three people had died, and 43 had been injured, in unrest that followed the proclamation of election results. The humanitarian situation was worrying, and the State had been hard-pressed to deal with the scale of the problem of war refugees and displaced peoples. Insecurity prevailed in all regions, and not a day had gone by without a threat to security. Sexual violence was a problem demanding immediate attention, as did the plight of children, particularly child soldiers.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said that grave human rights violations continued to take place with impunity. He noted the decision by the Security Council to add Myanmar to its agenda, adding that there was an urgent need to better coordinate the different approaches among Member States to find ways to contribute to a transition to democracy in Myanmar. It was important for Member States to support initiatives to deal with common concerns in Myanmar and the region, he said.
The Committee will meet again at 11 a.m. on Monday, 23 October, to continue its debate on human rights questions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of human rights questions. For background, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3856, GA/SHC/3857 and GA/SHC/3858 of 17, 18 and 19 October, respectively.
Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions
PHILIP ALSTON, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, focused on two particular concerns related to challenges confronting the system of special procedures, and the need to sound an early warning alarm in relation to developments in Sri Lanka. He noted that the creation of a new Human Rights Council represented a major achievement, but was only a first step. The real challenge emerging from that period of upheaval and renewal was to re-establish the credibility of the United Nations itself to protect human rights effectively, consistently and fairly. If the Council failed to rise to the challenge, a great deal of damage would be done to the credibility of the United Nations as a whole.
He said that one of the ways in which the system of special procedures risked being undermined was in the failure of States to issue invitations sought in response to requests for visits, which had reached close to crisis proportions. Of the 22 countries to which he had directed requests, 19 had either failed altogether to respond or proved unable to make any concrete progress on arrangements for a potential visit. It was especially problematic to note that eight of those 19 countries were Human Rights Council members, each of which specifically undertook to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights, [and to] fully cooperate with the Council.” The General Assembly should specifically call upon those States to uphold their commitments to cooperate with the Council and their procedures. He was deeply troubled that a great deal of energy within the Council appeared to be devoted to efforts to change the rules of the game in such a way that the special procedures would be severely constrained.
Turning to the situation in Sri Lanka, he said that the alarm was sounding as the country stood on the brink of a crisis of major proportions. The issue had placed squarely before the Human Rights Council last month, but signs were that any action the Council might take in November would do very little to make a difference, as the tragic situation threatened to reach the bursting point. The first challenge was to acknowledge the need for significantly more sustained and high-level international involvement to pressure the parties to move toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The second challenge was to accept that there was no national institution capable of monitoring human rights throughout Sri Lanka and, third, to establish an effective international human rights monitoring mechanism. His report urged the General Assembly to call upon the United Nations Secretariat to establish a full-fledged international human rights monitoring mission in Sri Lanka.
He also briefly touched on his report on Nigeria, in which he urged the Government to commute the death sentences of all those who had spent more than five years on death row, and to international standards regarding the use of lethal force by law enforcement officials.
In the discussion that followed, Mr. ALSTON responded to a question asking him to expand on his remarks that efforts were being made at the Human Rights Council to change the rules of the game in ways that would constrain the special procedures. He noted that the system of special procedures had been developed over a period of a great many years, and that it had taken a long time to develop a methodology which was credible. He recalled that one of the objectives of the procedures was to preserve the credibility of the United Nations, as 25 years ago, there was a perception that major violations of human rights were occurring, and the United Nations was ignoring them.
The creation of the new Council provided an opportunity for maintenance and development of the system of special procedures, he said. However, virtually the only proposals he had seen were proposals that seemed designed to hamper or constrain the functioning of the special procedures, though they had been put forward on the basis that they were designed to make the system more effective. He was concerned that those States which were strong supporters of the special procedures system, which he believed to be the clear majority, were not responding effectively. Unless there were strong counter-measures to ensure the integrity of the system, the Human Rights Council would suffer considerably.
Asked what could be done to address the failure of countries to respond to requests for visits by the special procedures, he said that the General Assembly could call initially on members of the Human Rights Council to respond.
Turning to a question about how the newly established National Commission of Inquiry in Sri Lanka could achieve maximum impact, he pointed to a precedent from Nigeria, where that Government had appointed a judicial commission to investigate the killing of six people, known as the Apo Six. That inquiry was a model, he said, public throughout, with no closed-door consultations, and fully transparent. Its final report had been published, and the Nigerian Government had responded quickly and affirmatively by taking up each of its recommendations. He called on the Government of Sri Lanka to undertake a similar initiative.
He said that he would continue to focus on the situation in Sri Lanka, as he believed that the Assembly and the Human Rights Council had responsibilities to its people and its Government. Asked about the plight of the Muslim community in Sri Lanka, he said there was no question that the community had not been adequately involved in the peace negotiations and hoped that was changing. The full participation of the Muslim community in the peace process was indispensable.
In response to a question on extrajudicial executions in Nigeria, he regretted that he had not had a response to his report from the Government other than the dialogue at the Human Rights Council, where he had raised the importance of the federal Government reaffirming federal law which prohibited the use of the death penalty by stoning for offences of adultery and homosexuality.
Finally, asked about his visit with three other rapporteurs to Lebanon and Israel, he noted that their joint report had made clear that both international human rights and international humanitarian law were applicable. The careful analysis by four rapporteurs in the joint report was a compelling legal statement of the importance of linking those bodies of law. That report, unfortunately, was not given much consideration by the Human Rights Council. A majority of comments received by States had been based on a leaked version of the draft report, with the result that the final report had not been read widely. In that report, the four rapporteurs concluded that there was a strong case to be made that war crimes had been committed by both sides -- by Hizbollah and by Israel. He hoped that the strong recommendations in that report would still be considered by the appropriate bodies.
Human Rights in Myanmar
PAULO SÉRGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, recalled that he had not been permitted to conduct a fact-finding mission to Myanmar since November 2003. He had, however, met with representatives of Myanmar in Geneva and New York, and was pleased that the Government had replied to a number of communications; that indicated a will to cooperate with the Human Rights Council. The reform process in Myanmar, proposed in the “seven-point road map for national reconciliation and democratic transition,” had been strictly limited and delineated. However, the National Convention had resumed its work, and it was hoped that it could become more inclusive. If a timetable for implementing a road map was defined, it would be a clear demonstration of a commitment to realize political transition.
The stability of Myanmar had not been well served by the arrest and detention of several political leaders or by severe and sustained restrictions on fundamental freedoms, he said. The house arrest of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, had been prolonged by 12 months on 27 May, despite international appeals from the Secretary-General, among others. As of the end of August 2006, the number of political or security prisoners was estimated at 1,185. It was deplorable that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had, since January, been unable to visit all places of detention. Grave human rights violations had taken place with impunity, authorized by “security laws.”
He said there had been some progress in the area of forced labour, however, and a delegation from the International Labour Organization (ILO) was today in Myanmar. The military campaign in ethnic areas of Eastern Myanmar, and its effect on human rights, especially on civilians who had been targeted, had been a source of worry. There had been marked signs of deterioration in the economic and social sectors that could aggravate the humanitarian situation. Despite a forecast of 7 per cent economic growth this year due to gas exports, the hardships of the population would remain very serious. Humanitarian assistance could not be made hostage to politics.
The decision by the Security Council to add Myanmar to the agenda had been noted, he said. That was a new development that needed to be followed with attention. There was an urgent need to better coordinate the different approaches among Member States to find ways to contribute to a transition to democracy in Myanmar. It was important for Member States to support efficient initiatives in society to deal with common concerns in Myanmar and the region.
U WIN MRA ( Myanmar) thanked the Rapporteur for having taken into consideration some of the comments made in consultations with his delegation; however, his report had lacked objectivity and impartiality. It had been very intrusive and prescriptive, and contained a litany of unfounded allegations which the delegation totally rejected. The Special Rapporteur had visited Myanmar on six occasions, during which the Government had extended the fullest possible cooperation. No country could claim to be perfect where human rights were concerned, but from year to year, the reports from the Special Rapporteur had become longer, harsher in tone, and replete with unfounded allegations. At least the Special Rapporteur had acknowledged some positive developments.
The report contained unobjective criticism and allegations regarding the National Convention process, to which the National League for Democracy had been invited, but had declined to participate. The description of the situation in eastern Myanmar had been totally devoid of truth and blown out of proportion. Myanmar was not a country in armed conflict; the return of 17 major armed groups to the legal fold had led to peace and stability, especially in border areas. Only the Kayin National Union and remnants of former narco-trafficking armed groups had been fighting the Government.
The Government had been making every effort to promote and protect the human rights of the people, especially in fulfilling basic requirements such as food, clothing and shelter, he continued. The report alleged that the level of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis infection had remained among the highest in Asia, when the prevalence rate had been brought down to 1.2 per cent. Myanmar remained committed to continuing its cooperation with the United Nations in its efforts to promote human rights.
Responding to questions and comments from the representative of New Zealand, Mr. Pinheiro said one of the problems of the Commission on Human Rights had been to not put energy into follow-up recommendations. Recommendations had been repeated like mantras, but without follow-up, what was the point of a Special Rapporteur making recommendations? More could be done in this regard, but it was a matter that rested on the shoulders of Member States.
Responding to the representative of Finland, Mr. Pinheiro said that the deplorable decision of the Global Fund to suspend its programme in Myanmar had been a good contribution to the aggravation of the humanitarian situation. Better assessments of the humanitarian situation were needed, but that would require full access being granted to United Nations and other agencies. Regarding the National Convention, he said he did not think it had been inclusive, and he knew of no contribution by any group that had been taken on board. Regarding Karin State, he said an update was needed. It was unfair to say that he had not been objective in his report; had he had access, it would have been much better. Nothing could substitute for a mission in a country.
In response to the representative of Canada, whose remarks had prompted the Chairman to ask representatives to use the official name of a Member State, he said it was very important to continue every diplomatic effort and to convince the Government of the advantages of an inclusive political process. Myanmar had not been the first case of political transition; indeed, there had been many examples of such transition in Latin American and in Asia.
Responding to the representative of China, he said the word “confrontation” had never been in his vocabulary. He did not believe in pressure and confrontation, but rather in a constructive approach aimed at motivating involvement.
In reply to the representative of Japan regarding an upcoming visit to Myanmar by Ibrahim Gambari, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, he said that was a positive development, and that any contact with Myanmar was positive. The United Nations had a duty to be present in Myanmar, and it would be wonderful if its agencies had access to all of the country. Regarding special procedures, he said these had been one of the jewels in the crown of human rights; an important tool for international cooperation would be renounced if special country Rapporteurs were done away with.
In response to the representative of Uzbekistan, he said he did not know what report the representative had read. He had devoted one-third of his time, pro bono, to the report, with worldwide travel. The problem was that the Government of Myanmar had not provided information. Special Rapporteurs had been doing a remarkable job, a pro bono job, and the purpose of their reports was to criticise, as criticism was a part of dialogue.
Responding to the representative of Myanmar, who said the special Rapporteur -– a very experienced Rapporteur with a lot of wisdom -- might have been carried away by suggesting that the Government had provided no information, he said that any progress in that regard, however small, had been inserted in his reports.
Human Rights in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
VITIT MUNTARBHORN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted in his statement that the authorities of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had declined to cooperate with his mandate, and invite him to the country. He urged the Government to view his mandate as a window of opportunity to engage with the United Nations system. He highlighted a number of human rights concerns, starting with the right to food and life. He recalled that the country had been hampered severely by food shortages since the mid-1990s, mainly due to natural disasters and mismanagement by the authorities. In recent years, the country had depended upon food aid and other humanitarian assistance from international donors, but since 2005, had moved to restrict assistance. The 2006 missile tests and reported nuclear test launched by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had a further negative impact on the food situation of the country, as they had caused various contributors of humanitarian assistance to discontinue aid.
He raised concerns over the right to security of the person, humane treatment, and access to justice, noting that the judicial system lacked independence and was heavily influenced by the regime in power. There was also a parallel quasi-penal regime, such as people’s courts, that did not comply with the rule of law. There were also concerns regarding the treatment of prisoners, particularly political prisoners, with reports of appalling conditions in detention centres and prisons and the use of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. He also raised concerns about the abductions of foreigners, restrictions on freedom of movement, and restrictions on the rights to political participation, access to information, and freedom of expression and religion.
In conclusion, he said that the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a major cause for concern, aggravated by various weapons tests in 2006 which further limited the space for humanitarian action. There remained many egregious transgressions, compounded by the undemocratic and militaristic nature of the country, requiring effective reform and redress. He invited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take a number of measures, including to implement the four human rights treaties to which it was a party, including the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; to allow humanitarian agencies to stay in the country to ensure food distribution with effective monitoring and to promote sustainable agricultural development to ensure food security; to initiate reform of its prison system in line with the rule of law; and to enable the Special Rapporteur and other mechanisms to visit the country and assist in the promotion and protection of human rights.
SIN SONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) opened the discussion by restating his delegation’s rejection of all the “anti-DPRK” resolutions tabled before the United Nations over the last few years. The DPRK did not, and would never, accept the mandate of the Special Rapporteur given by such resolutions. Anti-DPRK resolutions had nothing to do with genuine human rights concerns but served a political agenda, he said. In that context, it was not necessary for him to argue about the contents of the report. He added that the people of the DPRK would never change their faith in the socialist system chosen by them and defended with their blood. He advised Mr. Muntarbhorn to grasp the “dirty and dishonest” purpose of the anti-DPRK resolutions and their connection to the history between the DPRK and the United States, and to behave with due discretion.
Mr. MUNTARBHORN responded that he had been polite and respectful in his dealings with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and would continue to be so.
He then turned to a question from the representative of Japan on what the international community could do at present. He referred to a section in his report which contained recommendations for the international community and went on to highlight some immediate priorities. He stressed that, despite everything, humanitarian and food aid was necessary. He also urged the international community to respect the principle of asylum, particularly non-refoulement, to protect refugees. He also noted that reform of the prison system was possible, and without much additional resources. He also suggested that the international community package human rights initiatives with security guarantees. Finally, he urged use of the totality of the United Nations system — including the General Assembly, and beyond — to address serious human rights violations.
In response to a series of questions from the representative of Finland, on behalf of the European Union, he said that strengthening the judiciary in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was primarily a matter of political will. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provided the necessary guidance. He noted that both the formal judicial system and “quasi-system” required reforms. The Covenant also provided guidance regarding access to information. He had stressed repeatedly that the Government should not punish people for dissent, but should liberalize the system so that all would have access to information.
On the question of treatment of vulnerable groups, such as women, children, and older persons, he said that discrimination was not in law, but de facto. He said there was a need to promote broader access to food aid and also food security. In response to a separate question from the representative of New Zealand on the key elements of a rights-based approach to humanitarian assistance, he said that food aid must be accessible to target groups, including women, children and older persons. Proper monitoring was needed, and the rule should be “no access, no food,” he said. He noted that the World Food Programme (WFP) sought to provide aid to 1.9 million people, but only a trickle of that was getting through, a situation that had been aggravated by the nuclear tests. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should shift its military expenditure to food security and social development, he added.
Asked by the representative of the United States about what other international mechanisms were available for dialogue and cooperation, he suggested that the treaty bodies could undertake visits to the country.
Human Rights in the Sudan
SIMA SAMAR, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, reported on findings from two missions to the country this year, in February-March, and in August 2006. The people of the Sudan had high expectations that their lives would improve after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the adoption of the Interim National Constitution and the Interim Constitution of southern Sudan. However, there had been significant delays in implementing the Peace Agreement, as well as ongoing violations of the interim Constitution and international human rights law.
The situation in Darfur had dramatically deteriorated, despite the signing of the peace agreement in May 2006, which unfortunately had not led to peace. The Government, allied militia and rebel groups continued to commit serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including attacks on villages, killing of civilians, torture, rape, looting and forced displacement. The conflict was spilling across borders, with militia based in Darfur attacking civilians across the border in Chad and the Central African Republic. The Government had failed to comply with its obligations to protect the human rights of its people. Thousands of Sudanese troops had been deployed to Darfur in clear violation of the ceasefire agreements, the Darfur Peace Agreement, and Security Council Resolution 1591 (2005). The Government was using aerial bombardment to attack villages controlled by rebel groups and continued to support large-scale attacks by militias on villages.
The immediate priority should be to ensure effective human rights protection and humanitarian assistance to vulnerable populations in Darfur and elsewhere in the Sudan, she said. Meanwhile, the human rights situation in southern Sudan, eastern Sudan, and other parts of the country should not be overlooked due to the crisis in Darfur. All parties should facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance and grant relief workers unimpeded access to internally displaced persons and other communities in need. The Janjaweed militia and other armed groups need to be disarmed without delay, and strict vetting procedures implemented to ensure that those responsible for the most serious human rights violations were not absorbed into the regular armed forces of given Government positions. The Government should also strengthen its cooperation with the International Criminal Court and ensure that there was no amnesty from prosecution for persons who had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.
She urged the international community to provide the necessary technical support and resources to the African Union Mission in the Sudan to ensure effective protection for civilians; to continue to provide financial and technical support to the Government of National Unity and the Government of southern Sudan to implement the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and build democratic institutions for the protection of human rights; and to support an inclusive dialogue process across the Sudan that would address the roots of conflict.
Discussion on human rights situation in the Sudan
Mr. ABDLHALIM ( Sudan) noted that his Government’s commitment to human rights and a cooperative attitude were evident in the fact that the Special Rapporteur had made three visits to the country since her appointment in August 2005. The Government had complied with its international obligations, including under the treaties to which it was a party. Since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005, the country had undergone tremendous changes in peace and development, in terms of political participation, and in the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Special Rapporteur’s report on implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was not grounded in a clear vision of reality, he said, and contained imprecise information. That was unfortunate, considering that the Special Rapporteur had made three visits to the country and had had the opportunity to visit the South, and other provinces. That should have enabled her to form a clear picture of the phases of implementation of the peace agreement. The Special Rapporteur should have urged the international community to honour its commitments to the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, now nearly two years old, and to take up the challenges of demobilization, reintegration, and the implementation of development projects in a country wracked by civil war.
He added that, the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement had further demonstrated his Government’s will for peace and concern to stop the suffering of its people. It was working to implement that agreement, which was only five months old. The Government had promulgated presidential decrees, established a fund for the compensation of persons affected by war, a fund for reconstruction, and a commission to demarcate borders. It had facilitated humanitarian access to camps and provided an action plan to the African Union for disarming militias. The international community should exert pressure to ensure that armed groups joined the peace agreement.
In response to criticisms of the judiciary, he said that, the legal system in Darfur was one of the oldest in the region and was totally independent. The Government continued to try to put an end to impunity and had established several tribunals to deal with so-called crimes committed in Darfur, specifically serious crimes and violations of international humanitarian law. The courts had dealt with a number of cases, including cases where persons belonging to Government forces had been punished. No one was above the law. The Government was also making efforts to combat violence against women in Darfur, and had launched an action plan, which included the deployment of several women police officers in Darfur.
He added that, all that the Special Rapporteur had said regarding the situation in eastern Sudan belonged to the past, as the Government had just last week, on 14 October, signed a peace agreement with the Eastern Front together with several regional representatives. The eastern areas were now involved in the peace process, and the Government had lifted the state of emergency there.
He disputed the Special Rapporteur’s findings on displacement due to construction of the Merowe Dam, which was one of the biggest dam projects in the region. Everyone was aware of the benefits the dam would have for the country. His Government had undertaken a dialogue with the inhabitants of the affected region, and they had been compensated for the land used.
In response, Ms. SAMAR again thanked the Government of the Sudan for its openness and cooperation in facilitating three visits over the past year. She said her report included more details on the positive steps undertaken by the Government. In response to the Sudanese delegation’s claim about the judiciary, she said that while it might be functional in Khartoum, it was not in Darfur. She said there were only two prosecutors in Darfur serving more than 1 million people, and there was clearly not enough staff, or enough resources, to tackle the issue of justice in the whole State. She added that many people did not want to come to the state because of the conditions there, including poverty and lack of facilities. She noted that while the Government had an action plan to address gender-based and sexual violence, problems persisted, and perpetrators had not been brought to justice. While there had been a few positive cases, the number of people brought to justice was very low compared to the number of cases reported. The Government needed to be more proactive to uphold its responsibility to protect its citizens.
She noted that the Comprehensive Peace Agreement had stopped fighting between the north and the south, which was positive, but she remained concerned about the delay in implementing the Agreement. Asked by the representative of Algeria whether it was not too soon to say that the Darfur peace agreement had not led to peace, she noted that although it had only been five months, the situation should have gotten better, not worse. Instead, there had been more fighting, not just by Government forces, but by the rebels as well. Civilians were caught between both sides.
Asked by the representative of Egypt why she was making her report to the Committee now, and not at the last session, as established in her mandate, she said that she was appointed in September 2005 and did not, therefore, have time to prepare a full report for the General Assembly’s consideration at its 60th session. Her mandate had been extended along with that of the other special rapporteurs, which was why she was reporting now. That was not a politically motivated decision. The representative of Egypt took the floor again to suggest that the timing of her presentation to the Committee, coming soon after the Security Council resolution on the Sudan, appeared to be a way of putting additional pressure on the Sudan. He also expressed concern over political content in the report, which was supposed to focus on human rights, and questioned whether it should have been brought before the Third Committee in that form. Ms. SAMAR responded that she had no political motivations, but noted that it was not possible to separate questions of human rights, security and justice from politics.
Asked by various delegations what more the international community could do to protect and promote human rights in Sudan, she stressed the need for the financial and technical support to implement the peace agreements. The African Union needed more financial and logistical support from the international community to protect civilians. Sexual and gender-based violence had risen because the African Union forces were not able to do their job fully. No one could say there was no problem in the Sudan. There were political problems, security problems, and human rights violations, she said.
Responding to a question from the representative of Iran on whether rebel groups were also responsible for human rights violations, she said that issue was covered in her report. Asked by Cuba which actors were opposing peace in the Sudan, she said there were different actors in the Sudanese government itself.
Asked by the representative of the United States on what positive steps the Government of Sudan had taken to implement the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, she cited their pledges on legislative reform. The Government had said it would change 63 laws to comply with the interim national constitution. So far, they had not changed much, she noted, but promises had been made and consultations were ongoing.
Human Rights in Democratic Republic of Congo
TITINGA FRÉDERIC PACÉRÉ, Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recalled that, on the political level, the end of 2005 and beginning of 2006 had been dominated by electoral preparations. During that time, however, there had been violations of human rights of all kinds, often very serious ones. Twenty three people had been killed, and 43 injured, in unrest that had followed the proclamation of the election results. The humanitarian situation had been worrying. Persistent threats, confrontations and aggressive acts had led to forced displacements, and the State had been powerless to face the problem of war refugees and displaced peoples, due to the problem’s scale. All regions faced insecurity, and not a day had gone by without a threat to security.
Sexual violence had been a permanent feature of the Congolese drama that cried out for immediate solutions, he said. One rape victim had been a woman more than 70 years old; another, a girl aged four months. The situation for children, not only in conflict zones but throughout society, had been worrying, notably for child soldiers and so-called “witch children.” Penal conditions of detention, had been deplorable almost everywhere, including overpopulated prisons; a lack of hygiene, food and care; and delays in handling cases. The justice system had been the last rampart of social inequalities, putting limits on peacebuilding. It faced a serious lack of staff, equipment and infrastructure in a country as big as Western Europe. There was a need to fight impunity and a growing crime rate.
He said all sides in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should reinforce the authority of the State and respect for a culture of peace and human rights. The international community should support the country’s transition, as well as all national and international institutions on the ground, including the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). An international criminal tribunal for the Democratic Republic of the Congo should be established to deal with crimes committed since 1994 or, alternatively, a joint criminal chamber in existing Congolese courts for the same purpose.
ZĖNON MUKONGO NGAY (Democratic Republic of the Congo) said that while the Independent Expert’s report had reflected the reality in the country, it had been rendered out of date by recent developments, such as an agreement between the President and Vice President to declare a weapons-free Kinshasa, and the signing on 17 October of a code of good conduct for electoral candidates. The report had rightly referred to insecurity, sexual violence and other abuses carried out by the regular armed forces and by militia still active in the east of the country. However, there was a risk in referring to the armed forces of a sovereign State on a par with illegal armed groups. Large quantities of weapons had entered the country from neighbouring States, and the responsibility for that rested not only with those States, but also with the States where the weapons had been manufactured. Most abuses had been the daily lot of renegades within the armed forces who had been drawn from former rebel movements.
Regarding sexual violence, given the scale of the problem, the institutions of the State had not been indifferent, he said. The President had promulgated a law on sexual violence that integrated international norms and took into account the protection of women, children and male victims. Regarding the political transition, it had reached a point of no return. The lower chamber of Parliament had been constituted, with the Senate to follow. A Government would be formed after a second round of presidential elections in the coming days, and a law on the status of judges had been promulgated last week, enshrining the principles of judicial independence and separation of powers.
Responding to the representative of Finland regarding the electoral process, Mr. PACÉRÉ said that the process had gone off the rails at one point, resulting in death and injury, and condemnations had been issued by virtually all institutions, including the Secretary-General, who had called on all sides to either re-establish peace, or be held responsible. Almost all observers had said that from an electoral standpoint, despite reports of fraud and contested results in some areas, the outcome should be recognized. The head of the African Union mission had clearly stated that despite difficulties, one should not challenge the credibility of the ballot.
He said that as far as the European Union was concerned, Finland had, through its defence minister, expressed its satisfaction with the way the elections had been held. Regarding the code of good conduct, the report had to be submitted quickly so that translations could be made and it could be printed for delegations. That meant it had to be sent in well in advance.
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