STRENGTHENING RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS KEY FOR PREVENTING CONFLICT, STABILIZING POST-CONFLICT SITUATIONS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

3 November 2008
GA/SHC/3933

STRENGTHENING RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS KEY FOR PREVENTING CONFLICT, STABILIZING POST-CONFLICT SITUATIONS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

3 November 2008
General Assembly
GA/SHC/3933
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-third General Assembly

Third Committee

33rd & 34th Meetings (AM & PM)

STRENGTHENING RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS KEY FOR PREVENTING CONFLICT,

STABILIZING POST-CONFLICT SITUATIONS, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD

 

Hears from Special Rapporteur on Racism, Chair of Mercenaries Working Group;

Religious Defamation, Progress towards Durban Review Conference among Issues

Shoring up respect for human rights was key to preventing conflict and stabilizing post-conflict situations, especially where racial and ethnic differences were being manipulated for political ends, the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) was told today, as it discussed the elimination of racial discrimination and the rights of peoples to self-determination.

Githu Muigai of Kenya, appointed Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance by the Human Rights Council in August, said clashes labelled as “ethnic conflicts”, such as recent ones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, were intractable and harder to solve than other types of conflicts.  Others included those conflicts that had taken place in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and in other parts of the Great Lakes region of Africa.  Conflicts fought along ethnic cleavages required political solutions that took an “anti-racism” approach -- a concept which he planned to address with the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Department of Political Affairs.

He also welcomed progress made in the run-up to the Durban Review Conference, slated for next April, on the establishment of clear texts as the basis for future negotiations.  The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, agreed to in 2001, was important to the international normative framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance. 

In a question-and-answer session with Mr. Muigai, several speakers asked the Special Rapporteur what he would do to combat the defamation of religion, an emerging issue that presented a clash -- in some eyes -- with the right to free speech.  In response, Mr. Muigai said his predecessor, Doudou Diène of Senegal, had studied the issue in depth and had suggested that the pertinent issue was not the “defamation of religion” but more the “incitement to religious and racial hatred”.  In addition, the Human Rights Council had invited a group of academic experts to Geneva to shed light on the topic, who had been able to identify various ways in which the two views could be harmonized.

Other emerging issues highlighted by speakers included the situation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, which, as the representative of Zimbabwe noted, remained “dire”, if not worse, when compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Durban Declaration.  Tendencies to criminalize migrants and migration made the situation worse, and it was Zimbabwe’s view that more attention should be given to discrimination on the basis of economic, social and cultural rights, as States prepared for the upcoming Durban Review Conference.  Zimbabwe had taken part in the African Regional Preparatory Meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, where participants condemned the “ethnicization” and criminalization of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. 

The representative of the Republic of Korea, whose Government was also involved in preparations for the Durban Review Conference, said while many countries had engaged in in-depth and exhaustive discussions at the two preparatory meetings that had taken place so far, many issues remained to be discussed further.  He said the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had been controversial, and it was his view that broad consensus must first be reached within the international community before new standards could be elaborated.  Complementary standards, as described by the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, who spoke on behalf of the “Group of 77” and China, would help provide additional norms aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism, such as incitement to racial and religious hatred.

While most speakers said they were encouraged by progress leading up to the Review Conference, the representative of the United States reiterated his position on the first Durban Conference, which, in his view, had turned into an event pervaded by anti-Semitism.  The planned follow-up conference appeared to follow the same trajectory, with proposed paragraphs in the draft outcome document containing “dozens of unfair, unbalanced and often flatly untrue statements” about Israel, with a lack of emphasis on more serious problems in countries around the world.  Israel’s representative further noted that the upcoming Durban Review Conference risked becoming a platform for racial incitement targeting one nation. 

Also speaking today was the representatives of Antigua and Barbuda (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China).

The representatives of Cuba, Qatar, Brazil, Sudan, Bangladesh, Russian Federation, Egypt, Bolivia, Pakistan, Iran, China, Mexico, Libya, Chile, India, Singapore, Georgia, Saudi Arabia and Azerbaijan also spoke.

The representative of Pakistan also spoke in exercise of the right of reply.

Also today, Craig Mokhiber, Deputy Director, New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced several reports of the Secretary-General on the subject of racial discrimination and right to self-determination.  Fatimata-Binta Victoire Dah, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, presented an oral report of that Committee’s seventieth, seventy-first, seventy-second and seventy-third sessions.

In the afternoon, Alexander Ivanovich Nikitin, Chairperson and Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries, took part in a brief dialogue with Member States on the regulation of private military security companies, which was linked in some ways to the oversight of mercenaries.  Almost half of the work of the Working Group had been dedicated to individual cases in a number of countries, including the recruitment of persons to work in conditions that were similar to the conditions that mercenaries operated in.  The Working Group had focused on both civilian victims of private military security companies and the employees of those companies, some of whom had reported violations of their personal human rights by the companies they worked for.  Overall, there was no firm legal definition on what was allowed and what was an illegal activity by those companies.

The Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Tuesday, 4 November, to resume its discussion on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, including the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and the rights of peoples to self-determination.  It is also expected to take up the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons; and humanitarian questions.

Background

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to discuss the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, including the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  It was also expected to take up the rights of peoples to self-determination. 

Introductory statements were to be delivered by:  the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the Chairperson of the Working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination; and the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

On the subject of racial discrimination, the Committee had before it the text of four resolutions adopted by the Inter-Parliamentary Union at its 118th Assembly in April (Cape Town, South Africa), transmitted in a letter dated 8 July 2008 from the Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of Italy to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/63/123).  The first text has the Inter-Parliamentary Union urging national parliaments to pass laws requiring terror suspects to be delivered to judicial authorities immediately upon arrest, so that they are not taken anywhere else for interrogation or further detention.  The second text is on the role of Parliaments and the Inter-Parliamentary Union in ensuring a halt to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in occupied Palestine, in ending the blockade in Gaza and in accelerating the creation of a Palestinian State.  A third resolution -- on migrant workers, people trafficking, xenophobia and human rights -- emphasizes the need to protect victim’s rights.  The final resolution relates to Parliamentary oversight of State policies on foreign aid, in light of Parliament’s role in shaping decisions on their respective country’s budget allocation.

The Committee was expected to receive a report of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on its seventy-second session (document A/63/18), to be presented by the Chairperson of the Committee orally.  According to the Secretary-General’s report on the financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/63/306), as at 30 June 2008, that Committee’s total outstanding arrears amounted to $141,809.82.  A report of the Secretary-General on the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (document A/63/473) revealed that, as at 15 August 2008, the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 173 States parties.

The Committee also had before it a report of the Human Rights Council on the report of the Preparatory Committee for the Durban Review Conference on its first substantive session (document A/63/112 and Add.1), which decided that the Durban Review Conference would be convened in Geneva from 20 to 24 April 2009.

A report of the Secretary-General on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/63/366), based on inputs from 13 Member States -- Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Iran, Jamaica, Japan, Georgia, Lebanon, Mexico, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland and Tunisia -- contains summaries of developments that had taken place during the year concerning the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  It also contains information on preparations for the Durban Review Conference in 2009, where input was sought from the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism to inform the draft outcome document of the Review Conference.  Also discussed was the work of several bodies relating to the elimination of contemporary forms of racism, including that of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, at its last session from 28 July to 15 August; the Intergovernmental Working Group on the effective implementation of the Durban Declaration, at its session in March 2007; and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which helped create an anti-racism website containing information on the World Conference against Racism.

The final report relating to that topic was by the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, called combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of the follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/63/339).  The report says the Human Rights Council extended the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for a period of three years at its seventh session.  As part of his activities in 2008, the Rapporteur took part in the Africa Regional Preparatory Meeting for the Durban Review Conference.  Also in the report are descriptions of visits undertaken in Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, the Dominican Republic, Mauritania and the United States by the Rapporteur’s predecessor.

On the topic of self-determination, the Committee had before it a report of the Secretary-General on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/63/254), which outlines the proceedings of two United Nations human rights bodies in 2007, namely the Human Rights Council and the Human Rights Committee.  Palestine was a prominent subject of discussion at the Council.  The Human Rights Committee discussed issues involving Chile and the Sudan.

Also before the Committee was a report of the working group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination (document A/63/325), which argues that the general activities of these companies cannot be regulated on the basis of the United Nations Convention alone, even after an exercise of modernization and amendment has taken place.  A new international legal instrument, possibly in the form of a new United Nations convention on private military and security companies, may be required.  The Working Group further recommends that an export of military and security services, including military consultancy and training of certain types within this area of services, should be placed under a category similar or comparable to export of arms or military equipment, and that Governments be required to provide regular reports to the United Nations on contracts in this field for both outgoing and incoming military and security services.  The United Nations system might consider extending the existing mechanism of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms to cover the export/import of military and security services, or to include, at least, those involving the possession or use of lethal arms.

The Committee also had before it the text of a press conference by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 22 May 2008, transmitted in a letter dated 30 June 2008 from the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the United Nations addressed to the Secretary-General (document A/63/281-S/2008/431).  At the press conference, the Minister demands to know whether the Chief of Mission of the United States Interests Section, based at the Embassy of Switzerland, had delivered cash from parties in the United States to a group of terrorists within Cuba.  He says the activities of the Interests Section were in breach of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic relations, and amounted to the promotion of subversive activity against Cuba.

Introduction of Reports

CRAIG MOKHIBER, Deputy Director, New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the Secretary-General’s reports on the status of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/63/473); the financial situation of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (document A/63/306); and on global efforts for the total elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (document A/63/366).

He said six more States parties had made the required declaration during the past two years, which brought the total number of States that had accepted the Committee’s competence to consider communications by individuals or groups of individuals, as provided for by article 14 of the Convention, to 53.  The Convention had envisaged that States parties would be responsible for the Committee’s expenses, but an amendment to the Article was adopted in 1992 to provide for its financing from the United Nations regular budget.  The amendment would take effect only when two-thirds of States parties had accepted it; so far, only 43 States parties had taken steps to that end.  A number of States parties were still in arrears from the non-payment of previous assessments for the period prior to 1994.

He also introduced the Secretary-General’s report on the right of peoples to self-determination (document A/63/254).

Statement by Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance

GITHU MUIGAI, Special Rapporteur, said that his report before the Committee had been submitted only a few weeks after he had been appointed as Special Rapporteur in August 2008, and contained a general overview of his objectives and vision for the future of the mandate.  His main priority, since the beginning of his mandate, had been to follow and contribute to the preparatory process for the Durban Review Conference next April.  The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was important to the international normative framework to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  Yet, many provisions of the Declaration had yet to be implemented.  Member States should engage in a process of “profound reflection and self-assessment” that would underline the good practices, as well as the shortcomings, of implementation.

He welcomed the important progress made in inter-State negotiations during the second substantive session of the Durban Review Conference and, in particular, the establishment of clear texts as the basis for future negotiations.  He also expressed his hope that all parties would work together to produce a sound, consensual document that would be of concrete use for those engaged in the fight against racism.

Turning then to the key issues that he would be addressing in depth in the coming years, he noted that, in an ever more globalized world, migration had become an inevitable phenomenon in every country and region.  “While the positive economic, social and cultural contributions made by migrants are usually acknowledged, we also see how the issue of migration is manipulated and instrumentalized in times of economic slowdown and mounting unemployment,” he said.  Migrants were often depicted as competitors for scarce resources and as threats to livelihood, something that was particularly relevant today, as the world faced simultaneous crises in world finance, food and the environment.  In recent decades, migrants had become one of the most vulnerable groups to racist and xenophobic attitudes and attacks.  The Durban Declaration and Programme of Action recommended steps to be taken to combat that phenomenon, and he intended to further develop those steps in the future.

“Ethnic conflict continues to claim the lives of thousands of people around the world,” he said, referring specifically, as an example, to clashes in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, in the previous week.  Many of the conflicts that had broken out, particularly after the cold war, had come to be defined in terms of “ethnic cleavages”.  However, he did not subscribe to the notion that ethnic hatred lay at the root of the causes of such conflicts.  Rather, in most of the recent conflicts, racial and ethnic differences came to be “manipulated and instrumentalized” for political ends.  In general, once racial or ethnic divisions came to the fore, conflict became more intractable and harder to solve, as had been the case in the Balkans, the Caucasus, and in the Great Lakes region of Africa.  Political solutions to such conflicts were essential.  However, the centrality of a human rights approach -- in particular, an anti-racism approach -- could not be denied.  Human rights played a key role in prevention and were central to post-conflict settings.  As such, he intended to work closely with the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide and the Department of Political Affairs, in an effort to address prevention of conflict from an anti-racism perspective.

“The relationship between racism and poverty lies at the centre of this mandate,” he continued.  Victims of racism and, in particular, minorities, tended to form the most economically marginalized groups in any society, both in developed and developing countries.  No effort to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance would be successful while race or ethnicity and poverty continued to overlap.  The relationship between poverty and racism was complex and simple arguments about causal primacy failed to address the most important issue:  that poverty and racism were mutually reinforcing factors.  Breaking with that “double trap” was an essential means to promoting human and social development and, as such, he was committed to addressing the issue in great depth in a future thematic report.  In particular, it was essential to identify the appropriate legal tools and policy mechanisms and put forward concrete recommendations that could be implemented by Member States at the national, regional and international level.

Questions and Answers

Following the statement made by Mr. Muigai, the representative of France, speaking on behalf of the European Union, congratulated the Special Rapporteur on his recent appointment and asked him what lessons he had learned when he attended the Abuja Regional Meeting in preparation for the Durban Review and whether he was in a position to set forth the procedures he intended to follow in regards to preparations for the follow-up conference.  She also asked for more information on his travel plans and which countries and regions he intended to visit in the near future.

The representative of Egypt expressed his delegation’s opinion on a topic of great concern, the issue of defamation of religion.  The global counter-terrorism strategy adopted by Member States included a commitment to prevent defamation of religion.  However, his delegation had noted that several reports continued to note ongoing negative stereotyping of followers of various religions and defamation of religion in various forms.  Such defamation was a “serious affront to human dignity”, leading to the restriction of freedom of religion and incitement to religious hatred and violence.  As such, the Organization of the Islamic Conference would be presenting a draft resolution on the issue and he called for the support of Member States on that text.

Also on the subject of defamation of religion, the representative of Sudan said that everybody was aware that there was a campaign in certain media to “fuel the fire” of incitement to hatred and to disfigure certain persons or figures through caricature.  He asked what the Special Rapporteur’s view was on that particular issue.  In addition, he asked for more details on the outcome of the Rapporteur’s visit to the United States and to elaborate on the treatment of immigrants and asylum seekers in Europe and North America.

Joining the comments made by the representatives of Egypt and Sudan, Libya’s delegate asked for further details of the Special Rapporteur’s approach to the defamation of religion, in particular, the use of the media and the link between defamation of religion and freedom of speech or expression.  Turning to the issue of migrant labourers, he said that, though regulated migration contributed to the economy of countries, unregulated migration could have a negative impact, such as fostering criminal activity.  As such, it was his delegation’s opinion that countries should try to encourage regulated migration, while combating irregular migration.

Following up on Libya’s initial question, Kuwait’s delegate asked whether the Special Rapporteur intended to study the link between racial discrimination and freedom of expression.

Cuba’s representative joined other delegates in expressing concern over racial hatred and its links to freedom of expression.  He asked, specifically, what the challenges were in preparing for the Durban Review Conference and what obstacles might stand in the way of a consensus document to be adopted at the Conference.

The representative of China expressed his delegation’s support for the Special Rapporteur’s call to all parties to carry out cooperative consultations and preparations for the Durban Review and asked what the Rapporteur’s plans were for ensuring that such work would be done.

The representative of Algeria asked whether it was possible that religious defamation was not so much about religions being slandered, but, rather, about religious faithful being discriminated against.  As well, she asked how immigrants could be protected from new migration policies that had been implemented in some countries, as a result of the global financial crisis.

Kenya’s delegate asked for a clarification of the Rapporteur’s views regarding racism and conflict, specifically the relationship between groups fighting for self-determination and groups rallying behind ethnicities to be able to hold on to power or resources.

Noting the work of the previous Special Rapporteur on defamation of religion, the representative of Pakistan asked how Mr. Muigai would follow up on his predecessors “valuable recommendations” on that important and cross-cutting issue, which had affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrants and ethnic and religious minorities across the world.  He also asked what the Rapporteur would do, in his future work, in relation to the link between defamation of religion and freedom of expression.  Turning to the “dragging of feet” in the preparatory process for the Durban review, he asked how that process could be put back on track and result in a consensus document.

Responding, Mr. MUIGAI said the list of issues to be covered by his mandate were a “work in progress”, and presented the opportunity to review long-held ideas in light of “contemporary changes and contemporary practices”.  The Durban Review offered a time to reaffirm the world’s commitment to fighting racism in all its manifestations, and to clarify thinking about concepts, as well as specific programmes, to achieve international goals to eliminate racism.

Regarding country visits, he said he visited South Africa and would like to visit Germany, Mexico, United Arab Emirates, Bolivia, Indonesia and the Sudan, among others.  He had also renewed his interest to visit those countries that his predecessor had sought an invitation to, which were listed in various public documents.

He said his predecessor had conducted a commendable study on the complicated issue of defamation of religion and where it stood in relation to the protection of free speech.  His predecessor had written a recommendation on that topic, which Mr. Muigai then presented in Geneva, in which he talked of a need for a paradigm shift from “defamation of religion” to “incitement to religious and racial hatred”.  Religion was itself a complex issue, and made ever more complex by the fact that religious piety was considered differently from culture to culture, and civilization to civilization.  As for his own work, on the issue he saw a clear need for confronting the question and offering intellectual leadership, and he expressed the belief that it was possible to reconcile the two rights.

Elaborating further, he said freedom of expression was a supreme and fundamental “pillar” of free, democratic societies.  The right to religion and belief, and to hold a body of beliefs and practice them, was likewise a fundamental cultural, spiritual and political right of any civilization.  Any danger posed to the right to religious belief was a question that raised human rights concerns.  Tragedies occurred not when right met wrong, but when “right met right”.  “We must live in a world where harmony prevails,” he said.  “I will spend the rest of my mandate trying to find ways and means in which the recognition of these two fundamental principles was granted, with sufficient latitude to ensure that none in any way imperils the exercise of the other.”  He called on nations to join in that effort.

He said the Human Rights Council had invited academic experts to Geneva to shed light on the topic.  Their discussion had provided a lot of insight on the question, and had identified various ways in which the two views could be harmonized.  He hoped that it would be possible one day to build on a body of human rights principles that would help resolve situations in which there were infractions of either right, and that would protect both rights as fundamental pillars of free and democratic societies.

Regarding the visit of his predecessor to the United States, he said a report would be presented to Council in due course, which he would share with the Third Committee next year.

On the question of the special vulnerability of asylum seekers, particularly from developing countries, going to Europe and America, he said he had not had a chance to build any expertise in that area.  He intended to work with bodies on the ground, especially the Special Rapporteur on that issue, to integrate that issue into his own work.  New forms of racism and xenophobia had begun to be expressed in terms of asylum seekers, which were of grave concern to him.

The representative of Libya then took the floor to protest that the Rapporteur had not answered his questions adequately.  Nobody disagreed that freedom of speech was a fundamental right.  Indeed, at issue was the “misuse” of that right, especially in its use to insult or to incite others to hatred and intolerance, in which case the right should be limited.  Rights were indivisible, and as such, it was not possible for “right” to clash with “right”.  Problems occurred when right met wrong, or when two wrongs clashed.  He reasserted his view that migration must be regulated.

The Rapporteur reassured the representative of Libya that he was indeed persuaded that there were some areas that lay outside the protection of free speech, namely when speech was used to incite racial and religious hatred.  He was of the view that the systematic ridicule of religious figures or images in a manner to incite such hatred was a legitimate area of concern within his mandate.

Oral Report by the Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

FATIMATA-BINTA VICTOIRE DAH, Chairperson of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, presented the reports for the seventieth, seventy-first, seventy-second and seventy-third sessions of the Committee, saying the invitation extended to her to appear before the Committee was “timely”, in light of the Durban Review Conference happening next year.  It was also timely because the international community was due to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights on 10 December, which was the “mother of all our Conventions”, with the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination being the oldest.

She said during 2007-2008, the Committee had held four regular sessions, during which it considered 30 country reports.  In each case, the Committee had held a dialogue with a delegation from the country under review, in Geneva.  During that period, the Committee had also reviewed the implementation of the Convention in some States parties that had not submitted a report, and whose periodic reports were overdue by at least five years.  It considered, as well, a number of situations under its early warning and urgent action procedures.  A number of individual complaints had been considered, in accordance with article 14 of the Convention.

She said the Committee was committed to continuously improving its methods of work.  In terms of streamlining the reporting process, the Committee adopted revised reporting guidelines by which States parties that had already submitted a “Common Core Document” were encouraged to focus in their periodic reports only on matters specific to the implementation of the Convention, without having to repeat more general information.  The Committee had also adopted new guidelines for its early warning and urgent action procedure, to have clearer criteria to guide the Committee in that area.  In addition, the Committee discussed the need to continue dialogue with the Human Rights Council on matters related to the Universal Periodic Review process, and it looked forward to discussing that issue with the Council’s President.

She added that the Committee had held a thematic discussion on the subject of “special measures” that States could put in place to promote disadvantaged racial or ethnic groups within their territories.  The Committee met the representatives of interested States Parties, United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations, whereupon the Committee decided to embark on the elaboration of a general recommendation on the subject –- its thirty-second such recommendation.

As for partnerships with other organizations, she highlighted the Committee’s regular interaction with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Labour Organization (ILO), which had provided valuable contributions to the Committee’s other sessions.  It had also held dialogues with various Special Rapporteurs of the Human Rights Council.  Independent national human rights institutions were also becoming increasingly involved in the follow-up process at the national level.  In addition, the Committee was cooperating with the Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and was actively participating in the preparatory process of the Review Conference.

She said the principal challenge facing the Committee was in tackling its backlog of country reports.  A number of States had called for additional resources to be provided to the Committee from the United Nations regular budget to ensure that it could fulfil its mandate.  The need for resources was also specifically highlighted in the outcome document of the regional preparatory meeting held in Brasilia.  In addition, the body’s yearly meeting time amounted to six weeks, which was not enough to time to consider the reports in a timely manner.  For that reason, the Committee had decided to request the General Assembly to approve the extension of the annual meeting time by two weeks, as of 2010.

Questions and Answers

Following the remarks made by Ms. Dah, the Secretariat informed the Committee that the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference would not be travelling to New York to speak to the Third Committee, as expected.  The following day, 4 November 2008, a representative would deliver the Chairperson’s statement, on her behalf.

The representative of Cuba asked for further details regarding the absence of the Chairperson, which the Secretariat said he did not have at the current time.

Statements

AQEELAH AKBAR (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China, said that any denial or violation of the principle of equal rights ran counter to the United Nations Charter and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action should be the basis for the effective elimination of racism and related intolerance.  The 2001 World Conference had provided a platform for the identification of concrete measures and initiatives towards that end, and she welcomed the progress made at the national, regional and international level in line with the obligations and commitments of Durban.  However, the world had not remained static since 2001 and much more remained to be done to achieve the objectives of the World Conference since in some places there had been an erosion of the international legal framework and of international commitments established to combat racism.

Further, since 11 September, 2001, racial profiling had intensified and had diminished civil liberties protections, she said.  Those assaults on human rights were alarming, as was the resurgence of violent incidents of racism and the negative stereotyping of religions.  The Group of 77 and China continued to be concerned with the use of information and communication technologies as a means to disseminate racist propaganda.  Freedom of speech was a valuable component of a democratic society, but its exercise should not infringe on the rights of others.  Also, attempts to disguise incitement to racism and hatred under the cloak of freedom of speech negated the relevant provision of related human rights instruments, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  To that end, she welcomed the establishment of an ad hoc committee to elaborate complementary standards, possibly through an additional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which would help provide new normative frameworks aimed at combating all forms of contemporary racism, including incitement to racial and religious hatred.

The tendency to criminalize certain groups of migrants as a result of racism and racial discrimination was particularly troubling, she said, while drawing attention to the former Special Rapporteur’s comments against the exclusively security-based approach applied by some States to questions relating to immigration and the situations of foreign nationals.  Finally, she noted the funding challenges of the preparatory process for the Durban Review Conference, which had impeded effective participation from some groups, especially civil society representatives from developing countries, and called on Member States to contribute generously to the voluntary fund for the Conference.

B.G. CHIDYAUSIKU (Zimbabwe), speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, remarked that SADC Member States had lived through the worst forms of institutionalized racism and racial discrimination, and had drawn lessons from it.  Such discrimination was a “total negation of the purposes and principles” of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  Legal provisions against discrimination did not provide a sufficient solution to the problem; elimination of racism must entail equitable distribution of economic, social and cultural resources to ensure social justice and fairness, and to promote equality of opportunities.

He noted that, since the World Conference against Racism was held in 2001, there had been some erosion in the internationalcommitment towards the establishment of a legal framework to combat discrimination.  As such, States must reaffirm, at the Durban Review Conference, the need for political will to end the impunity of perpetrators of discrimination, and must seek to provide maximum protection and remedies to victims.  The situation of minorities, people of African descent, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers remained dire, if not worse, when compared to the situation prior to the adoption of the Durban Declaration.  Tendencies to criminalize migrants and migration only exacerbated the situation.  The Vienna Declaration had called on the international community to treat human rights in a “fair and equal manner”, and it was Zimbabwe’s view that more attention should be given to discrimination on the basis of economic, social and cultural rights in the Durban preparatory process.

He voiced appreciation for the African Regional Preparatory Meeting held in Nigeria, where participants had identified some best practices from African Member States.  But, he expressed dismay at what that meeting noted was an upsurge of racist violence.  Countries should summon the political will not to trivialize acts of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, and should reject the use of such discrimination in politics and electoral campaigns.  They should systematically combat “racist and xenophobic political platforms”.   He drew attention to the fact that, as the preparatory meeting also noted, discrimination affected women differently from men.  The meeting had condemned “ethnicization” and criminalization of irregular migrants and asylum seekers.  Since funding was a major challenge to the preparatory process, he encouraged Member States to generously contribute to the voluntary fund for the Durban Review Conference.  He welcomed the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation that efforts to eliminate racism be undertaken in conjunction with policies to eradicate poverty and promote human development.

MAX-OLIVIER GONNET ( France), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated countries, said that racism and racial discrimination were problems facing every society around the globe, and it was crucial for the international community to remain united to combat the problem, consensually.  Since 2001, the European Union had stepped up national and regional efforts and had established best practices in that regard.  Racism and racial discrimination could come in many forms, and United Nations initiatives to fight the phenomenon should not be restricted to a specific form of racism and should be based on a comprehensive assessment of that “global blight”.  The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination should be fully implemented and States parties should respect their obligations by submitting national reports to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on time.

Seven years had passed since the Durban Conference and, two years ago, the European Union had supported the organization of a Review Conference, on condition that the proceedings would be held within the framework of the General Assembly and would be focused exclusively on the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action, without any re-examination of those documents, he said.  Subject to compliance with those elements, the European Union would do everything to support the Conference’s preparation process and to encourage the international community to adopt a balanced position at the close of the Conference.  In regard to the possible development of complementary norms, the European Union had always maintained that the issue should only be dealt with once certain criteria were met, such as the full implementation of the existing normative framework.  In addition, new norms should only be drawn up if they were deemed necessary, were subject to a broad consensus and did not go back on universal achievements by restricting the current scope of human rights.

Continuing, he expressed the European Union’s concern that the “thought process” on the possible creation of complementary norms was moving in a direction that could reduce the level of human rights promotion and protection.  The Union would “not allow the United Nations principles to be undermined” and would work in accordance with the principles that had been set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  The Review Conference should concentrate on the implementation of the existing framework, without restricting any human rights, establishing any hierarchy among victims, or excluding any one group.  As well, the review conference should show how promoting human rights, especially the freedom of speech, could play an important role in fighting racism.

CLAUDIA PÉREZ ( Cuba), aligning herself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said democracy and the true implementation of human rights could not coexist with racism and racial discrimination.  There was only one human race, but racism and racial discrimination persisted across the world.  Indeed, developed countries had adopted xenophobic and racist immigration policies that, among other things, had “demonized” Islamic groups.  Many laws against migrants, adopted by industrialized countries, were of great concern, for example the “return directive” adopted by the European Union.  As well, ongoing racism and discrimination in other developed countries, such as the United States, was also of great concern.  In that country, the vast majority of prisoners were African-Americans and many African-Americans were not provided proper welfare and, as was the case following hurricane Katrina, were not properly cared for by the State.  The full Durban Programme of Action needed to be implemented by all States, including industrialized countries, in order to fight such situations.

The right to self-determination was one of the most essential human rights and, as such, her delegation called for the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from all occupied territories, as well as the full respect of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to their sovereignty.  Similarly, in Cuba, the presence of the United States in Guantanamo was a violation of State sovereignty and the rights of all Cubans.  The territory had been “illegally usurped” and her delegation called for its return to Cuba.  Her delegation would be presenting a draft resolution on the use of mercenaries and she asked for the support of Member States for its adoption.  She drew attention to the support that some countries had given to mercenary groups that had acted against Cuba and who had never been held to account for those actions.  She also drew attention to the five Cubans who were currently being held in the United States for having committed murder and other illegal acts and she called for the “immediate freedom” of those five courageous Cubans who had been fighting against terrorism and terrorist acts committed against their country.

Mr. AL-BINARI( Qatar) said his country was in general agreement with international principles concerning racial and religious discrimination.  Under the Islamic Sharia, which set out the rights and duties of individuals, citizens were equal before the law regardless of ethnic origin or religion.  Provisions contained in the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination were reflected in Qatar’s laws, which were extended to all who lived within Qatar’s territory, without discrimination, as overseen by the Ministry of the Interior.

He explained that national laws protected individuals from “embarrassment” or violence by officials or government institutions.  In addition, national laws ensured that there was no discrimination in terms of who could hold public posts and that people could access public services without discrimination, in line with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 111.  Regarding religious defamation, the State had taken legal and administrative procedures to enable the free exercise of religious rituals and to guarantee freedom of expression for all citizens.  The right of people to health, education and training were also strictly upheld in accordance with Islamic Sharia.  The State was committed to eliminating racial discrimination and fostering tolerance amongst people and nations.  It would promulgate principles contained in the Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and was promoting those principles in its public schools.  Qatar had a national Human Rights Committee, which prepared reports on those matters for submission to competent authorities.

PIRAGIBE TARRAGO ( Brazil) joined the representative of Cuba in asking to know why the Chairperson of the Preparatory Committee of the Durban Review Conference could not be present.  Addressing Brazil’s activities with regard to the elimination of discrimination, he said the fact that the first regional preparatory meeting for the Durban Review Conference was held in Brasilia was a reflection of the country’s strong commitment to that cause.  The comprehensive outcome document adopted at that meeting in June touched on the Review Conference’s main objectives, and discussed, as well, issues important to Latin American and the Caribbean.  Among them was the importance of including a gender perspective in attaining those objectives; the incorporation of the promotion of racial and gender equality in public policies; and the increase in protection against all discriminatory practices, including acts of violence and discrimination against indigenous populations, migrant workers and individuals due to their sexual orientation and gender identity. 

He said that, further, the document emphasized the importance of laws to foster equality and eliminate racism, the creation of national organs and specialized mechanisms to deal with those issues, and the increase of dialogue with civil society.  In addition, it highlighted the necessity of elaboration and implementation of specific programmes to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases of violations of rights due to racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance committed by police officers and other officials responsible for law enforcement.  It stressed the importance of measures to guarantee the access of indigenous peoples and “Afro-descendants” to ancestral lands, and measures to prevent and penalize “contemporary manifestations” of racism and xenophobia.  It drew attention to laws that discriminated against migrants and that ran contrary to internationally recognized human rights norms.

OSMAN MOHAMMED EL-BASHIR (Sudan), aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that the Secretary-General’s report on the implementation of the Durban Declaration reflected the importance that the international community gave to those principles and the need to step up efforts and coordination to eliminate all forms of racism and racial discrimination.  Racism came in many forms and he welcomed the efforts made by the preparatory committee for the Durban Review Conference, as the Conference would provide an impetus to overall efforts to combat all forms of racism.  New manifestations of racism were being seen across the world, for example in the area of sport, which should be a forum for cooperation and coexistence.   New forms of racial discrimination against immigrants were also of concern, since such actions led to the exclusion of those persons from economic and social life.

He said his delegation “totally rejects” racial discrimination against Muslim communities and attacks against those communities in the context of the war against terrorism.  Muslims contributed to the social, economic and political life of the countries in which they lived.  Dialogue between cultures and civilizations should be enhanced and no one model of civilization should be forced on any other.  Indeed, there should be no discrimination at all -- based on race, religion, language or any other criteria -- since all citizens were equal and all citizens should be allowed to live in peace.  He reaffirmed the Sudan’s vision with regard to the rights of people to self-determination, while emphasizing that the right could not be used by others as an excuse for the disintegration of countries, or to violate State sovereignty.  Erroneous interpretations of that right had placed the territorial integrity of some countries at risk and that, in turn, threatened to exacerbate conflicts and was a risk to international peace and stability.  In closing, he reiterated his delegation’s support for the Durban Review Conference and for all efforts to combat all manifestations of racism.

TAREQ MD. ARIFUL ISLAM ( Bangladesh), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said racial discrimination was at the root of many wars and instances of genocide, slavery and bigotry.  Even as technology brought people closer together, and as political, cultural and ideological barriers tumbled, human societies continued to be plagued by newer and more sophisticated forms of racism, racial discrimination and ethnic violence, and other forms of intolerance.  New media, like the World Wide Web, was a breeding ground for horrors like ethnic cleansing and hatred, requiring the attention of the international community.  As racial discrimination and ethnic violence grew in complexity, they posed greater challenges for the international community and needed addressing through innovative tools.

He said that, given the interplay and mutually reinforcing character of racism and poverty and sustainable development, efforts to eliminate racism must be undertaken in conjunction with poverty eradication and human development.  Minorities, refugees, asylum seekers, migrants and internally displaced persons continued to be the victims of racial discrimination, xenophobia and ethnic intolerance.  Affluent countries, in particular, were introducing a “barrage” of restrictive policies and practices targeting those individuals, requiring the international community to be steadfast in its commitment to protect the rights of migrant workers.  Further, there must not be any impunity for perpetrators of hate crimes.

He noted that defamation of religion under the pretext of freedom of expression was on the rise, creating an ideological divide that pushed the world into a clash of civilization and religion.  Education espousing a culture of peace could go a long way in bridging the divide and promoting tolerance and mutual trust.  Those convictions were reflected in the draft resolution on culture and peace, of which Bangladesh was a main sponsor.  For its part, Bangladesh expressly prohibited discrimination against any of its citizens on the grounds of race, religion, cast or creed, gender, or place of birth.  The Government practiced affirmative action for disadvantaged groups.  It rejected racism and racist practices, and believed that racial discrimination must not be a part of any State’s anti-terrorist policy.  Civil society had an important part to play in encouraging Governments to eliminate intolerance and curb racism.  While appreciating the considerable progress made in the preparatory process for the Review Conference, Bangladesh urged Member States to commit resources to address funding gaps.

OLEG MALGINOV ( Russian Federation) said that his country was playing an active role in the preparations for the Durban Review Conference.  Yet, despite all efforts undertaken, there remained a long list of challenges to the holding of that Conference.  Tops among those were ongoing issues involving the financing of the Conference and the lack of progress on the outcome document.  The lack of funding, in particular, would seriously affect the role that civil society and other groups could play at the Conference.  In particular, he expressed concern over the “passive role” of Europe in the preparatory process.  In Europe, discrimination against minority groups was ongoing, particularly in regard to language and ethnic groups.  Some forms of discrimination had become systemic and he referred, specifically, to the language policy of some countries and the situation in which language inspectors would issue fines, or even fire, individuals.  That “repressive machine” was used to put pressure on minorities, reduce their ability to take part in cultural activities, and force their integration into a particular way of life.

The growth of neo-fascist and neo-Nazi groups in some countries was also of concern, he continued, and attempts had been made, with the support of some Governments, to distort history and historical facts relating to the actions of fascist or Nazi groups in the past.  As mentioned by the Special Rapporteur, political forces often used racism and the incitement to hatred for political means.  Indeed, those forces often used outdated stereotypes to create an external enemy, which was, in itself, a form of xenophobia.  The Russian Federation had consistently advocated in support of the rights of all peoples, regardless of race or culture.  At the national level, his Government had implemented a number of measures to counter various forms of racism and to eliminate crimes committed based on race or racial discrimination.  Though there were still problems left to be resolved, the Russian Federation was fully committed to overcoming racism in the country.  In closing, he noted that overcoming racism across the world had to take place at national, regional and international levels and that the upcoming Review Conference should be seen as an opportunity to mobilize action in that

WAEL M. ATTIYA (Egypt), aligning himself with the statement made on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, said that humanity had witnessed several manifestations of racism, based on colour, race or religion.  Despite international efforts to eliminate all forms of discrimination and the successful adoption of two international human rights treaties on discrimination, new forms of racism continued to “attack” society.  The indicators of extremism, xenophobia and racism, as described in the reports before the Committee, were a major cause of concern.  The week response of some groups to issues regarding racism was cause for concern, as were the programmes of some political parties that deepened racism, based on some sense of racial superiority.  Some political parties even “turned a closed eye” to religious hatred or hatred shown towards religious symbols.  Further dialogue and understanding was needed to combat the unjustified persecution of some groups, based on religion.  Such persecution frequently took place under security pretexts and revisions would need to be made to policies that supported such actions.

The culture of impunity for such actions also needed to be addressed, he continued.  The Human Rights Council had a role to play in ensuring that international instruments dealing with racism and discrimination would be implemented, especially in regard to women and other vulnerable groups that faced different levels of marginalization in their countries of residence.  At the national level, cooperation among civil society, non-governmental organizations and other relevant groups should be promoted.  As well, efforts should be made to promote the freedom of the press and to establish limits between the right of expression, on the one hand, and insulting the rights of others or instigating hatred towards others, on the other.  It was time now to “face the epidemics of racism and racial discrimination” in all its forms, and to strike the necessary balance between the rights and responsibilities of all individuals, regardless of the societies to which they belong

Statement by the Chairperson/Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries

ALEXANDER IVANOVICH NIKITIN, Chair and Rapporteur, presenting the Working Group’s third report, said that the Group had conducted country visits and conducted dialogues with specific companies.  It had sent communications to the Governments of Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Israel, Mexico and the United States, in light of allegations received from other Governments, non-governmental organizations and individuals concerning situations involving private military and security companies.  At the request of the Human Rights Council, the Working Group had begun to convene three sessions each year devoted to consultations with Member States, United Nations bodies, international organizations, academics, civil society and representatives of private military and security companies.  It had held two regional consultations, the first of which took place in Latin America and the second with the States of Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

He said the Group had visited Chile, Ecuador, Fiji, Honduras, Peru and the United Kingdom, and was hoping to visit the United States and Afghanistan.  In addition, the Group was collecting data from Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as from Eastern Europe and Central Asia, to assist it in generating guidelines on the oversight of private companies offering military assistance, consultancy and security services on the international market.

The Group had studied the results of the “Swiss Initiative”, contained in the Montreux Document on Pertinent International Legal Obligations and Good Practices for States related to Operations of Private Military and Security Companies during Armed Conflict, which was recognized to represent only a part of the broader spectrum of countries and approaches.  The Group intended to elaborate further on the parameters for systemic regulation at national, regional, and international levels.  The Group came to the firm conclusion that the United Nations should assist countries to define which military and security areas were principally “non-outsourceable” to private companies.

He said the framework of principles would require countries to adopt, as the main initial step, legal standards defining the activities of private military and security companies.  In that regard, he noted that the definition of mercenarism, contained in the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries took into consideration the use of violence to bring about the collapse of a Government, or to undermine the constitutionality or territorial integrity of a State.  In addition, it criminalized the recruitment, financing, training and use of mercenaries.

But, he acknowledged the difficulty in legally qualifying activities performed by private military and security companies, most of whom operated in a “grey zone” not clearly defined by international legal norms.  Currently, most national Governments did not possess systematized information on companies registered in their territory, or those originating from their country but registered abroad, perhaps in off-shore jurisdictions.  In light of that, the United Nations might consider extending the existing mechanism of the United Nations Register on Conventional Arms to cover the export and import of military and security services, at least those involving the possession and use of lethal arms.  Further, setting up an open international register for such companies at the United Nations level would constitute an important step in regulating their activities.  Minimum obligatory transparency criteria should be formulated, requiring private military and security companies to submit annual data on their operations, and vetting mechanisms could be put in place to ensure accountability of individuals and companies providing security or military services.

He suggested the use of a licensing mechanism that might require obligatory training of personnel in humanitarian norms and international human rights law, as well as the establishment of a complaint mechanism to ensure civil liability on companies.  National legislation should clearly list types of activities prohibited to private military and security companies, such as activities involving weapons of mass destruction.  There should be parliamentary oversight of private military and security companies, and adequate transparency within those companies.  They should be prohibited from using weapons resulting in “overkill” or mass casualties.  The Working Group hoped to present the General Assembly with concrete proposals on potential international mechanisms next year.

He said the United Nations Convention on mercenaries was an important legal instrument for the prevention of the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and the rights of people to self-determination.  However, it was still felt that the international community needed a new international legal instrument, possibly in the form of a new United Nations Convention on private military and security companies, which could be supplemented by a model law on private military and security companies, to assist countries in the elaboration of national legislation to regulate those companies.  There was a need to move away from perceiving them as part of a country’s regular exports, towards perceiving them as a highly specific field of exports and services requiring supervision and constant oversight by national governments, civil society and the international community, led by the United Nations.  Both national Governments and the United Nations system must take greater responsibility for what, where and how private military and security companies were doing worldwide.

Questions and Answers

Following the Chairperson’s statement, the representative of Cuba asked Mr. Nikitin why the current instruments, especially the International Convention against the Recruitment and Use of Mercenaries, were inadequate to regulate the activities of private military security companies and why a new mechanism would be necessary.  He also asked whether the Working Group would consider the situation of individuals who participated in mercenary activities of a terrorist nature, against Member States of the United Nations.

Also on the subject of private military security companies, the representative of Switzerland said that the Montreux Document, adopted in September, would help States carry out their international obligations in regard to the use of those companies and would list best practices in that regard.  That document would hopefully be of use to the Working Group in its efforts in that field.

The delegate from the United States said that his delegation had been pleased to participate in the negotiations surrounding that Montreux Document, which recognized the legal obligations of States and would serve as a valuable tool for States and international organizations to regulate such companies.  The United States did not favour the negotiation of a new international instrument on the regulation of private military security companies.  While his delegation did not agree with all the factual assertions made in the report, he expressed his appreciation for the work of the Working Group.  It was important, however, for the Group to recognize that not all private military security companies were mercenaries.

Clarifying his Government’s position in regard to the relationship between the law of war and international humanitarian law and human rights law, he said that the protections of human rights conventions did not cease in times of conflict.  However, some conventions did not apply extra-territorially and, as a general matter, acts committed by individuals must have the necessary participation of Government to formally be considered as human rights violations.  Turning to the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said that the report failed to address the dangers and complex nature of the operating environment.  The United States understood the importance of standards of professionalism and accountability for private military security companies and, as such, the United States had ensured that all such standards were adhered to by any private military security company that it had engaged.

Responding to the comments and questions by delegates, Mr. NIKITIN said the regulation of private military security companies was relatively new to international relations and was “deeply interfaced” with the issue of mercenaries.  The Working Group understood the differences that existed between the two different groups, a difference that was defined by the legal essence of traditional mercenaries and the legal essence of private military security companies.

Almost half of the work of the Working Group had been dedicated to individual cases in a number of countries, including the “problematic recruitment” of persons to work in conditions that were similar to the conditions that mercenaries operated within, he said.  Indeed, the Working Group had focused on both civilian victims of private military security companies and the employees of those companies, who sometimes claimed to be victims themselves.  Employees were often third-country nationals and some reported violations of their personal human rights by the companies they worked for.

Referring to comments regarding a new international instrument to regulate the work of those companies, he said that there had been an “unusual parallelism” in efforts to regulate the work of private military security companies, such as the Swiss Initiative, and an initiative to improve the African Regional Convention of 1977, among others.  Private military security companies were also used in the work of the United Nations and even the Organization had its own means of regulating that work.  However, those regulations had been developed out of necessity, to deal with a variety of situations.  But, overall, there was still a lack of a “general legal definition” between what was an allowed activity and what was an illegal activity by those companies.

The United Nations Convention on Mercenaries described illegal activities by mercenary groups that were common in the 1970s and 1980s, he explained.  However, there were new and emerging activities that did not necessarily fit into that Convention.  It was timely, therefore, to look at a number of new options, both regional and international, to deal with some of the issues not dealt with in other instruments.  He stressed that at least another year or two of intensive legal work and consultation would be needed to agree, first, on a basic set of principles for such an instrument.  To date, consultations with Governments and the companies themselves had shown a general support for a certain type of format for regulation, to allow for greater transparency and accountability.  He welcomed further consultations by all relevant stakeholders, in an attempt to interface between the various regional efforts towards the elaboration of regulations on private military security companies.

Resumption of Statements

Ms. PELLON ( Bolivia) described a series of events that had taken place in her country, which she said amounted to acts of terrorism and racism.  It began when President Morales, the country’s first indigenous leader, spearheaded the drafting of a new constitution for Bolivia, with the involvement of a highly inclusive Constitutional Assembly.  Unfortunately, opposition elements within the Assembly had sabotaged the President’s attempts at dialogue by insisting that decisions be passed by two thirds majority vote.  They asked that the proposed text include provisions on the transfer of capital from La Paz Department, which in the past had triggered the only civil war in Bolivia.  Next, the Governments of some states called for a referendum to implement regional legislative bodies, with separatist characteristics.

She said that, in response, the President called on a referendum to renew his mandate, through which he won overwhelming support for his initiatives.  The President then called for dialogue once more, to unify the Assembly in its attempts at a new constitution and to solidify the autonomy of regional governments.  The opposition responded by fuelling confrontations within various departments of the country.  In the four departments, the headquarters of the indigenous peoples were attacked; entrances to cities were blocked; indigenous leaders were assaulted; and gas pipelines were closed and in some cases blown up.  The acts of terrorism and racism culminated with a massacre of native peoples in September.  Peasants were forced to flee along the river bank while gunmen, commandeered by the Department, opened fire on them.  Some 15 people were killed and 34 were wounded, leading the government of one Department to declare a state of siege.  The central Government communicated that measure to the United Nations Secretary-General, leading the Presidents of South American nations to express support for President Morales.  As a result of subsequent national dialogues, in which the indigenous movement showed flexibility, a referendum on the new constitution was held on 25 October, with the watchful eyes of international observers.  The Constitution was then approved by consensus, including a chapter on autonomous government.  Bolivia was pleased to have achieved such consensus, and it was hoped that the acts of racism and terrorism that took place would not remain unpunished.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said the exercise of the right to self-determination had empowered suppressed and disenfranchised peoples to strive to achieve equality before the law and to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems.  Today, the existence of that right continued to engender hope among millions of the poor and vulnerable, whose fundamental rights to chart their own destiny had been suppressed or denied.  In strengthening the right to self-determination, the following principles must be constantly reaffirmed:  first, the forcible occupation of a people’s territory whose right of self-determination had been mandated by the United Nations should be recognized as a clear violation of international law; second, the right to self-determination must be exercised freely and unfettered by overt and covert coercion or influence; third, the right was immutable and could not be extinguished by the passage of time; and fourth, the legitimacy of a people’s struggle for self-determination could not be compromised by tarnishing it with accusation of terrorism levelled by occupying powers.

Turning to the situation in Indian occupied Kashmir, he said that six decades had passed since the Kashmiri people were promised they would be able to exercise their right to self-determination by the United Nations Security Council.  However, the inability to remove troops from that area had delayed self-determination and, now, the complete removal of troops ordained by the Security Council resolution could not be ignored.  Pakistan was pursing a composite dialogue process with India to resolve all outstanding issues, including the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.  In a recent spate of violence, the Indian occupying forces brutally killed innocent protestors and the Kashmiri political leadership was put behind bars to silence their protests.  Such actions created tension and aggravated the situation on the ground.  An improvement in the human rights situation in the Indian occupied Kashmir would facilitate and enhance the dialogue process between India and Pakistan and, he called on all parties to seize the opportunity provided by the ongoing dialogue to find a negotiated settlement on the Jammu and Kashmir issue.

SEYED HOSSEIN REZVANI (Iran), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, said he welcomed the ongoing process of the Durban Review Conference, which his Government trusted would culminate in enhancing global efforts to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.  He congratulated the Group of Latin American and Caribbean countries, as well as the African Group, for their regional preparatory meetings, which had resulted in substantive inputs and contributions to the process.  Regrettably, seven years after the Durban Declaration was agreed to, millions of people were made daily targets of discriminatory treatment.  Modern-day racism was no longer based on a supposed inequality between races, but was based on culture, nationality or religion.  Those included racist and xenophobic acts against migrants, refugees and asylum seekers; defamation of religions; religious intolerance; racial profiling; and the intellectual legitimization of racism.

He said those forms of racism were being carried out in the media, including through the Internet, and were being encouraged by some policies.  They targeted vulnerable social groups such as aboriginals, immigrants, non-nationals, and ethnic and religious minorities.  When societies did not recognize those trends, it led to racism and increased discrimination.  New forms of racial discrimination and xenophobia were taking place under the pretext of the combat against terrorism.   For instance, increased waves of discrimination in the aftermath of 9/11 had led to the legalization of restrictions on the rights and freedoms of individuals to perform their religious duties, which not only created an obstacle to their full participation in public life, but also generated or legitimized new forms of discrimination.  It would seem that intolerance towards religions was an outcome of certain forms of radical secularism, and was inconsistent with the United Nations Charter.  “Human rights are exercised in a context where rights coexist with each other,” he said.

YAN JIARONG (China), aligning herself with the Group of 77, remarked on the formidable challenges that remained in the cause against racism, on top of traditional problems of racism, such as Islamophobia, neo-fascism and other forms of racial hatred.  The international community should pay full attention to those problems, and particular attention should be given to the provision of financial and technical assistance to developing countries to help them eradicate poverty and realize development.

She said China was pleased to note the preparations for the Durban Review Conference were well under way, and called on all parties to support and actively participate in the preparatory process to make the conference a success.  As for the right to national self-determination, shesaid it was the “sacred political right” of the people of a country to fight foreign aggression, occupation and interference, and to safeguard national sovereignty, independence and the people’s dignity.  To that end, China supported the Palestinian people in their struggle to realize their right to self-determination, and called on the international community and all the parties concerned to work actively towards the early realization of lasting peace and stability in the Middle East.

T. VANCE McMAHAN ( United States) said his nation was founded on the principle that all people were created equal.  Nonetheless, the United States had had to struggle to overcome the legacies of racism, racial and ethnic intolerance, and past discriminatory policies and beliefs.  Today, Americans from diverse backgrounds had risen to the top levels of government, academia and other fields.  But challenges still existed and a great deal of work remained to be done.  The challenge was to break down stereotypes and battle ignorance and hatred, which was not a task that Government could achieve alone.  Indeed, he was proud of the nation’s private sector and civil society for their contribution in teaching tolerance, though the Government did not always agree with the conclusions or strategies of those organizations.

He expressed concern at the trend of conflating issues of racism and religion, which were two distinct issues.  His Government was also concerned by the approaches taken by many delegations to focus their efforts on prohibiting speech, whether through “defamation of religion” concerns or article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, rather than focusing on the promotion of freedoms and rights set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It was not the role of the Government to decide which opinions and views citizens and residents could share.  In addition, the United States Government was concerned by numerous incidents in which governments had jailed or punished individuals for “inciting hostility”, when, in reality, they had done nothing more than share their interpretation of their own religion -- one that happened to be at odds with the government’s interpretation.  The cure for intolerance was more dialogue and speech, not less.

He said the United Nations must continue to address the issue of race and racism, and Member States should be encouraged to implement their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.  The United States Government was disappointed with the current emphasis on conferences rather than efforts to achieve full equality by implementing legal obligations.  Its position on the World Conference against Racism was well known; it remained deeply disappointed that what should have been an opportunity for genuine dialogue and exchange had turned into an event pervaded by anti-Semitism and focused on demonizing Israel, which was a multi-ethnic, tolerant, democratic society.  The same could not be said for some of the countries that attacked Israel.  Regrettably, the planned follow-up conference appeared to follow the same trajectory.  Proposed paragraphs used in the drafting process of the outcome document for the Durban Review Conference contained “dozens of unfair, unbalanced and often flatly untrue statements” about Israel, with a lack of emphasis on more serious problems in countries around the world.

ROBERTO DE LEÓN HUERTA ( Mexico) reiterated his country’s commitment to eliminating all forms of racism.  Evidence of that commitment was found in the work his Government had undertaken towards preparations for the Durban Review Conference.  Mexico had also promoted the adoption of concrete measures by States at the legislative, institutional and public policy levels, with a view to improving international cooperation to promote and protect the rights of all persons, regardless of race.  In that context, Mexico considered the finalization of the first draft of the final document of the Durban Review Conference as the top priority for the international community.  That document would provide an impetus to international efforts towards the elimination of racism.

The compilation of proposals and recommendations stemming from the regional preparatory conferences in Brasilia and Abuja were particularly useful and significant, he said.  At the Brasilia Conference, Latin American and Caribbean stakeholders had elaborated a concept of discrimination that incorporated a number of factors, including ethnic or national origin, gender, social or economic conditions, language, religion, migratory situation, and sexual preference, among other things.  The outcome of that Conference could make a significant contribution to the work that would take place at the Durban Review Conference and included recommendations oriented towards action and the full implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.

TIBOR SHALEV-SCHLOSSER ( Israel) said Israel was committed to doing everything in its power to end hatred shown towards any person or group.  It was not enough to ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, however.  There had been a sharp rise in racist and discriminatory acts around the world, a trend that the Special Rapporteur had called “unprecedented” in his report earlier in the year.  Recent data had put the incidence of anti-Semitic attacks in 2007 at nearly 7 per cent above the year before.  Veiled anti-Semitism, often in the guise of anti-Zionism, which needed to be “unmasked”, must not be mistaken for ordinary political discourse.  For instance, the President of Iran had repeatedly called for the destruction of Israel, and, two months ago, he had stood before the General Assembly uttering “despicable characterizations” that should have brought universal condemnation.  Many States had not condemned his “vile platform of hatred”, showing that alliances had trumped ideals.  All nations with a genuine desire to promote peace should guard against the co-opting of legitimate language and ideas by racist demagogues.

He said that any attempt to create a hierarchy of aggrieved groups ran contrary to the spirit of the mandate given to the Special Rapporteur.  Bigotry toward all religions must be given equal attention.  He also voiced concern about preparations leading up to the Durban Review Conference, in which only one State, Israel, was mentioned from among nearly 200 Member States.  The draft outcome document, compiled from inputs of the regional groups, portrayed Israel as the enemy of humanity, using language that reproduced almost word for word the rhetoric of the Tehran planning meeting in 2001 that had led to the first Durban meeting.  It gave Israel reason to believe that the upcoming Conference would be, once again, a venue for the obsessive vilification of Israel and the Jewish people, and the Conference would miss a rare opportunity for States to jointly address the real work that needed to be done.  It risked becoming, itself, a platform for racial incitement targeting one nation.  Words might quickly turn into action.

He said Jews would soon commemorate the seventieth anniversary of Kristallnacht, a night when “nascent anti-Semitism had exploded into the maelstrom that would consume much of world Jewry”.  It also started with words.  Through education, all people could learn of the consequences of prejudice, fear and hatred.  The Government of Israel was heartened by the emphasis given to indoctrination and incitement in the Special Rapporteur’s recent reports, since indoctrination moulded racists and incitement was the genesis of racist acts.  Political leaders had an important role to play in reinforcing those lessons.  Their public commitment to combating prejudice such as anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and Christianophobi, could set an example for the general population.  One way to ease tensions between communities was through intercultural dialogue.  For its part, Israel stood ready to engage in meaningful dialogue with the goal of lasting peace and coexistence.

WAEL M. ATTIYA ( Egypt) said international pledges to support and respect the right to self-determination as an inalienable right had not yet been implemented.  People under foreign occupation had the right to resist occupation and to be free.  Democracy and occupation could not coexist, and he drew attention to the situation in the Middle East, where Israel continued to claim that it was the only democracy, while continuing to deprive the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable right to self-determination.  The information contained in the report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries only added to the concerns his delegation already held regarding the role of some private security companies in exacerbating conflicts, undermining international mechanisms aimed at curbing the illicit arms trade and the illegal exploitation of natural resources.  While welcoming the efforts of the Working Group, he also stressed the importance of consolidating efforts to enhance the national capacities of States emerging from conflict to develop their security sectors, based on the principle of national ownership and in an effort to further support the Working Group in carrying out its mandate.

Despite the tangible positive developments in the activities of the Human Rights Council, the Council’s success in performing its role in addressing the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories was still not ensured, he said.  Success would require a solid determination to ensure Israel’s full adherence to its international obligations and its full cooperation with the Special Rapporteur on the issue.  The protracted nature of Israel’s occupation in the Palestinian territories multiplied the negative effects suffered by Palestinians, and it was necessary now to “invigorate” the role of the United Nations in dealing with the human rights of the Palestinian people, along with other Arab peoples suffering under occupation.  As the end of the second International Decade for the Elimination of Colonialism approached in 2010, it was incumbent upon the United Nations to reaffirm its commitment to implement the 1960 Declaration on Granting Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, through concrete steps to liberate all peoples from each and every form of foreign control.

SEYED HOSSEIN REZVANI (Iran), before delivering his statement on the rights of peoples to self-determination, responded to the comments made by the representative of Israel, calling those statements “absurd distortions” and “baseless allegations”.  Iran, along with other States, had condemned and continued to condemn acts of genocide committed against any group.  There was no justification for genocide of any kind and the Israeli Government should not exploit past crimes as a pretext for committing new ones.  He asked whether now was not the time for the international community to put an end to the “abhorrent Israeli crimes”.  Turning then to his prepared statement on the right of people to self-determination, he said that the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination had been obstructed for 60 years by the occupying power.

At its sixth special session in January 2008, the Human Rights Council had adopted a resolution that expressed grave concern over the repeated Israeli military attacks carried out in the occupied Palestinian territories, he said.  However, despite that resolution and similar ones by other international bodies, the occupying power continued to perpetuate massive abuses of human rights and to deny the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people.  The denial of the right to self-determination and the subjection of people to occupation and subjugation constituted a “grave denial” of fundamental human rights and was an impediment to the promotion of world peace and security.  In closing, he emphasized the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and said that any non-cooperation by the occupying power should be met with concrete measures in response.

Mr. EL-SHAKSHUKI ( Libya), aligning himself with the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the Secretary-General’s reports on both racism and self-determination.  The United Nations Charter had enshrined the rights of all people, which were indivisible, to be enjoyed without discrimination.  Despite efforts in recent years to combat discrimination and related intolerance, modern forms of racism called for urgent action by the international community.  Libya condemned the defamation of religion and acts against Islam that had occurred in recent years following 9/11.  Western countries and the extreme right in those countries had waged a bitter campaign against Muslims and Islam, using the media.  Freedom of expression had often been invoked to justify such acts.

For its part, Libya was a party to the Covenant against slavery and trafficking, believing that such activity should be punished.  It was also party to the convention on the rights of migrants and their families, and was doing its utmost to tackle the abuse of migrant rights.  It was party to the Convention on the use of mercenaries, and, in view of the way in which private military and security companies had become a contemporary form of mercenarism, Libya called on others to become party to that instrument as well.

He then turned to the issue of illegal settlements, which were established in violation of the principles of the United Nations Charter and Declaration of Human Rights, and which he said was a new form of racism, crime against humanity and a serious threat to international security.  His country supported the right of self-determination and the right of people to their natural resources.  People under occupation were, likewise, entitled to those rights.  He expressed concern over the situation of the people living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, who were subject to discrimination.  Israel persisted in building the separation wall, despite numerous resolutions against it.  The Palestinian people had the right to establish their own state and to enjoy their rights.  At the Conference against Racism in 2001, the world had adopted the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, which guided States in their efforts to combat racism and related intolerance.  He called on countries to implement their obligations, as stipulated by various international conventions.

ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON ( Pakistan) said that racism had persisted in many forms and in many societies, deepening the vulnerability and marginalization of certain groups.  The Special Rapporteur had the mandate to comprehensively assess the issues surrounding discrimination against persons from a variety of backgrounds, including discrimination based on ethnicity, religion, migration and national origin.  In his work, the Rapporteur should also consider violations of articles 19 and 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  Among the contemporary forms of racism, Islamophobia had emerged as one of the most worrisome.  Misperceptions about Muslims had been reinforced, in the context of security concerns and the larger war against terrorism.  Discrimination against Muslim groups was particularly visible in societies where Muslim communities were involved in territorial conflicts, or had been victims of historical prejudice or cultural stereotyping.

In many of those cases freedom of expression had been exercised selectively and, though Governments might have acted with restraint, they often allowed other groups or institutions to produce discriminatory materials, he said.  Considering the complexity of the issue, he expressed his delegation’s hope that the Special Rapporteur would continue to address that new manifestation of racism in his future work.  The successful holding of two preparatory conferences for the Durban Review indicated the strong interest of Member States in the process.  The outcome of the Durban Conference must provide a comprehensive protection for all victims, including those victims of emerging and contemporary forms of racism.  In regard to the outcome document from that Conference, he said it could, among other things, focus on:  international cooperation and dialogue; the availability of effective legal and judicial mechanisms for victims; increasing investment in education and awareness-raising; and provide more substance on the ways and means of the elimination of discrimination.  While expressing his delegation’s regret over the possibility of some countries boycotting the Conference, he said that, differences of opinion notwithstanding, the international community must be united in the common fight against racism.

IGNACIO LLANOS ( Chile)reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the fight against racism.  It was party to all major instruments relating to the elimination of racial discrimination and had submitted its report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination last June.  In December 2000, Chile had hosted a regional conference in the Americas in preparation for the first Durban Conference and had participated in negotiations at that conference.  More recently, it had participated at the regional preparatory conference in Brazil, where the Brasilia document had been produced.  That text was valuable to the preparations for the upcoming review conference.  As a member of the Bureau, Chile would continue to contribute to that process.

In addition, he said Chile was committed to protecting the rights of all migrant workers and was party to the convention protecting migrant rights.  In an effort to rebuild relations with the first peoples of Chile, the Government ratified, in September, ILO Convention 169 on indigenous peoples in independent countries, after 17 years of parliamentary proceedings.  Further, President Bachelet had submitted a draft constitutional amendment reaffirming Chile’s multi-ethnic make-up and which recognized the rights of indigenous peoples and outlined the nation’s obligations to protect indigenous lands and waters.  On 1 April, the President unveiled a programme to integrate Chile’s first peoples into government institutions, with an accompanying Programme of Action spelling out detailed tasks for the next two years.  The ultimate goal of that programme was to ensure that all people enjoyed equal opportunity and treatment, and that Chile’s diversity could be fully appreciated.

RAJEEV SHUKLA ( India) said the forthcoming Durban Review Conference would offer an opportunity for all stakeholders to assess the successes and shortcomings of the implementation of measures to alleviate discrimination against certain groups of people.  It would also contribute to strengthening development and equality through the wider involvement of all stakeholders, including civil society.  His delegation supported a multifaceted approach to combating racism, through the adoption of relevant legislation and amendments to existing laws, combined with national action and strategies based on national action plans.

Turning to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories, he said that India had consistently maintained unwavering support and solidarity for the goal of the Palestinian people to attain their inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination.  Indeed, India was with the “overwhelming majority” of countries who had affirmed their commitment to a negotiated two-State solution, accepted by the two principals.  In that context, he welcomed all efforts to push the ongoing dialogue forward and to the achievement of the objectives set out in the Annapolis Conference.  However, the United Nations and other international forums should not be used to “selectively redefine” some of the core principles of the United Nations Charter, in order to satisfy domestic political rhetoric.  The right to self-determination should be seen in a historical perspective and should be applicable to peoples of non-self-governing colonies and trust territories.

Further, it could not become an instrument to promote subversion and erode the political cohesion or territorial integrity of sovereign Member States and could not be abused to encourage secession or undermine pluralistic and democratic States.  As such, he regretted the “factually incorrect” statements made by the representative of Pakistan regarding the situation in Jammu and Kashmir.  Such comments were counter to the principles laid out in the United Nations Charter.  Pakistan pretended to be concerned about human rights, but denied those rights to the people living in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.  On its part, India looked forward to the deepening of a constructive dialogue between the two countries towards the shared objective of peace, prosperity and security.

CRAIG LIM ( Singapore) said his country was multi-ethnic, and was fortunate to have enjoyed many decades of peace, harmony and cooperation among the various races.  It recognized that the coming together of migrant communities, each with their own traditions and identities, would require a spirit of tolerance and understanding.  The Government of Singapore had worked hard to bring the various races together and to create common spaces.  It had not attempted to build a nation based on a common culture, language or tradition.  Instead, each ethnic group was encouraged to learn their own mother tongue in schools, follow their own religious beliefs, and practice their own cultural traditions.  It celebrated diversity through special commemorative events, such as Racial Harmony Day.  Every morning, school children recited the pledge to build a democratic society, based on justice and equality.  The idea of equality, based on the concept of meritocracy, was a key building block on Singapore’s current society.

He said that the Presidential Council for Minority Rights had been created in 1973 to ensure that bills were not passed into law if they risked discriminating against minority communities.  Furthermore, a national steering committee on racial and religious harmony was established to provide a national platform for ethnic and religious leaders to engage in dialogue with the political leadership.  “Inter Racial and Religious Confidence Circles”, consisting of religious and community leaders, were aimed at fostering trust in peacetime and to help the country withstand strains on social cohesion during crises.  In recent years, Singapore had seen a significant number of new arrivals from the world over, including students that had studied in Singapore who decided to stay on and work after graduation.  The new wave of migrants could affect the society’s dynamic, and appropriate responses were needed to ameliorate any friction that might arise.  Indeed, Singapore remained vigilant to the dangers that threatened to ensnare the country, and believed in taking a pragmatic approach in creating a safe, harmonious home for all people living in Singapore.

MAIA SHANIDZE ( Georgia) said that the Russian Federation had “practiced, sponsored and supported” racial discrimination, through attacks against Georgians and the mass expulsion of those persons, as well as other ethnic groups, in the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia.  The Russian Federation now sought to consolidate those changes by preventing the return of forcibly displaced ethnic Georgian citizens to those regions and by undermining Georgia’s capacity to exercise jurisdiction in that part of its territory.  Further, the Russian Federation had violated its obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination during three distinct phases of intervention in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  During the first phase, between 1991 and 1994, the Russian Federation provided support for separatist groups in the region for attacks against the entire ethnic Georgian population.  Such actions had resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians and the forced displacement of more than 300,000 people.

During the second phase of intervention, beginning in June 1992 in South Ossetia and in May 1994 in Abkhazia, she said the Russian Federation implemented racially discriminatory policies in those regions “under cover of its peacekeeping mandate” and sought to consolidate the forced displacement of ethnic Georgian populations that had taken place in the first phase.  At the same time, the Russian Federation conferred its citizenship on almost the entire non-ethnic Georgian population in those regions and now sought to justify its discriminatory military intervention with references to the presence of Russian citizens in the area.  The third phase of the Russian Federation’s intervention in South Ossetia and Abkhazia began in August 2008, when Russian ground forces, warships and airplanes launched a full-scale invasion of Georgia, in support of ethnic separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  Such actions by a permanent member of the Security Council violated the basic principles of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and, as such, she called on all Member States to “raise their voices” against such actions by the Russian Federation.

SAMER ALKHARASHI ( Saudi Arabia) said his country was very disturbed by all forms of discrimination, especially discrimination against Islamic groups and individuals.  Islam rejected all forms of discrimination and in Saudi Arabia1 there were legal provisions for the protection of the rights of all persons, regardless of race or religion.  In addition, equal rights before the law and before the courts were recognized for nationals and foreigners alike.  His country’s laws regarding the protection of economic, social and cultural rights also contained provisions that ensured equal rights for all.  As well, there were legal provisions that ensured equal opportunities for all and the right of all people to full social development.  A national body on human rights had been established, as had a number of other institutions that encouraged dialogue among all groups.

His Government had also undertaken a number of measures to raise public awareness on issues of race and racial discrimination, he continued.  It had also prohibited the establishment of any racist organization in the country and had made incitement, in that regard, a crime.  Internationally, Saudi Arabia was party to a number of international conventions, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention against All Forms of Discrimination against Women.  Saudi Arabia had also cooperated fully in the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and continued to cooperate with the United Nations treaty bodies and special procedures.  Dialogue among peoples was crucial in order to promote tolerance and understanding among different groups and, as such, his Government had played an active role in the holding of the Madrid World Conference on Dialogue and had encouraged a similar dialogue in the General Assembly, which was expected to take place later in the current session.  In closing, he said that people from different races, religions and cultures should participate in all meetings on the issue, in an effort to enter into dialogue with a show of goodwill.

JUNG JIN HO ( Republic of Korea) said no country was immune from the risk of social tensions and conflicts stemming from racism and racial discrimination, especially in the face of rapid globalization.  The political will of each country to address the issue of racism was vital to the success of international efforts in eliminating racism.  He noted with particular concern that racial hatred and xenophobia was being spread over the Internet, which was worrying given its enormous influence on children and youth.  Countries needed to monitor such occurrences, and turn their attention to positive uses of new information technologies, such as in promoting a culture of respect and tolerance.  Diversity training for media professionals was one measure nations could take to enhance such positive influences.

Hesaid the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action had provided a good framework for combating racism and intolerance with an emphasis on core human rights values and standards.  The Republic of Korea was committed to the objectives and principles of the Durban Programme of Action and global efforts to implement it.  His Government was involved in preparations for the Durban Review Conference and, while many countries had engaged in in-depth and exhaustive discussions and dialogue in the two substantive sessions of the Preparatory Committee, many issues remained to be further discussed.  There were diverging views on various issues in the preparation process, and there was a chance that the international community might face greater challenges in the run-up to the Review Conference.  As such, he looked forward to seeing each participating country showing greater flexibility and embracing a spirit of compromise.  In that regard, he welcomed the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ expressions of willingness to assist in the preparation process.

He said the elaboration of complementary standards to the International Covenant on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination had been controversial, and he had welcomed the holding of the first ad hoc committee on the issue earlier in the year.  It was his view that broad consensus must first be reached within the international community, before new standards could be elaborated.  For its part, the Republic of Korea planned to host an interfaith dialogue next year, as its contribution to encouraging dialogue among peoples.  At the domestic level, the Government had introduced a new act on the treatment of foreigners, in an effort to promote a culture of tolerance.  In addition, the multicultural family support act had entered into force in September, aimed at facilitating the social integration of members of multicultural families.  In doing so, the Government was seeking to address the root causes of racism in Korean society.

TOFIG F. MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan) said self-determination represented one of the “most compelling and creative” principles in modern international relations.  That principle had played a significant role for his country, which lost its State independence in 1920 and regained it in 1991, in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.  However, in certain circumstance, there was a “flagrant misinterpretation” of the international legal principle of the right of peoples to self-determination, especially when it involved territorial consideration.  Conflicts based on actions by one territory to break away from the State were often the most difficult cases to deal with and usually led to large-scale military actions and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

It was generally acknowledged that the internal and external aspects of self-determination should be made clear, he continued. Within the external aspect, people under colonial domination and peoples subjected to foreign military occupation were entitled to the right of self-determinations.  In regard to the internal aspect, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contained both the terms “peoples” and “minorities” and the Human Rights Committee drew a distinction between the right to self-determination as stipulated in article 1 of the Covenant and the rights of persons belong to minorities, as protected under article 27.  That had given rise to the reasonable conclusion that the right of self-determination under international law was meant for the whole people -- the “demos” -- and not separate groups, the “ethnoses”.  Consequently, unilateral actions aimed at non-consensual secession from a sovereign and independent State did not involve the exercise of any right conferred in international law.

Moreover, self-determination was a priori ruled out when claims to its realization were accompanied by the flagrant violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law, he said.  International law did not remain neutral when its peremptory norms were breached in an attempt of unilateral secession.  The use of force for the acquisition of territory and commission of war crimes entailed international legal responsibilities, and the international community was under the obligation not to recognize the separatist entity.  The understanding and faithful observance of the generally accepted norms and principles of international law was of the greatest importance for the maintenance of international peace and security.

Right of Reply

The representative of Pakistan, speaking in exercise of the right of reply and in response to the statement made by the delegate from India, said that his delegation rejected the claim made by India that Jammu and Kashmir were integral parts of the Indian territory.  It was a well-known fact that the Kashmiri leadership had rejected the “so-called elections” and that wide-ranging protests had been held in that regard.  He said that Pakistan remained committed to the process of dialogue between the two countries, and was equally committed to peace and security in the region.  However, it was important to note that dialogue must produce results and should move from conflict management to conflict resolution.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.