Eliminating Racial Discrimination; Ensuring Right to Self-Determination; Protecting Refugees Issues Addressed, as Third Committee Continues Human Rights Debate
Eliminating Racial Discrimination; Ensuring Right to Self-Determination; Protecting Refugees Issues Addressed, as Third Committee Continues Human Rights Debate
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
40th Meeting (AM)
Eliminating Racial Discrimination; Ensuring Right to Self-Determination; Protecting
Refugees Issues Addressed, as Third Committee Continues Human Rights Debate
As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) neared the conclusion of two weeks of discussions on human rights, representatives of 20 countries took the floor today to address a wide range of issues dealing with self-determination, racism and refugees.
Various Governments debated the interpretation of the right to self-determination, with the Republic of Moldova’s representative stating that self-determination should not be interpreted as authorizing any action that could dismember the territorial integrity of sovereign States conducting themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights. At the same time, Armenia told delegations that there should be no hierarchy in principles of international law, and the right to self-determination should not be turned into an issue of territorial integrity when the survival of people was a consideration, such as in areas like Nagorno-Karabakh.
The representative of Azerbaijan said that international agreements did not deal with the issue of self-determination as it specifically related to secession from existing Governments, but that this had no place in accepted international law. India recalled that self-determination was the right to independence and self-government of people living in non-self-governing colonies and territories, and should not be abused to undermine pluralistic and democratic States.
In terms of developments relating to the right to self-determination, Sudan’s representative stated that the Government was preparing for a referendum in January, during which the people of South Sudan could decide whether to stay in a unified Sudan or break away. Cuba told delegates that it would be presenting a draft resolution entitled “Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”, which would draw attention to certain international companies and ensure “a new change” in the global use of mercenaries.
Numerous delegates also brought up the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian people. South Africa’s representative said it would continue to make strong statements until Palestine achieved self-determination and Nicaragua also expressed support for the right for the Palestinian people, while India stood in solidarity with Palestine toward the achievement of a two-State solution. Additionally, Kuwait, Qatar and Iran all mentioned the racial discrimination practiced against Palestinians in occupied territories, calling upon the international community to condemn this violation of rights.
To promote the elimination of racial discrimination and prevent religious intolerance, Kuwait underlined the need for the United Nations to adopt an international covenant calling for respect of religions. Qatar also noted its projects, such as its work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish training centres in Southwest Asia and the Arab region to eliminate racism.
Other innovative approaches to countering racism mentioned by the representatives included Singapore’s Ethnic Integration Policy for housing, diverse schools and commemorative days, such as Racial Harmony Day. While such initiatives “might seem like an artificial construct”, he said, they created a common space of interaction and encouraged bonding between people of different backgrounds. South Africa’s representative also noted that it had seen the important role of sports could play in unifying people, such as during the recent World Cup.
With regard to the continuing refugee situation, Kenya’s representative stressed that ending the conflict that caused displacement was the only sustainable way of reducing refugee populations and allowing them to exercise the right of return, and Algeria’s representative agreed that the future of refugees hinged on reaching a just, durable and mutually acceptable political solution. The representatives of Algeria and India added that strengthening of relationships between United Nations humanitarian institutions and national organizations was needed to enhance services provided by countries hosting refugees.
Also speaking during the discussion on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination and on the rights of peoples to self-determination were the representatives of Bolivia, Iran, Moldova, Singapore, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Georgia, South Africa, Nicaragua, Eritrea and Pakistan, as well as the observer of the International Organization for Migration.
Also speaking on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions was the representative of Morocco.
The representatives of Pakistan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russian Federation and Georgia also spoke in exercise of the right of reply in the morning session.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 4 November, to hear a statement from the President of the General Assembly and to continue and conclude its discussion on refugees. It will also hear the introduction of, and take action on, a number of draft resolutions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to conclude discussion on several agenda items: the elimination of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; the right of peoples to self-determination; and the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, questions relating to refugees, returnees and displaced persons and humanitarian questions. (For more information, please see Press Releases GA/SHC/3991 and GA/SHC/3992 of 1 and 2 November 2010).
Statements on Racism and Self-Determination
JASSIM AL-MAAWDA ( Qatar) said that his Government agreed with the principles of non-discrimination, which was the foundation on which Qatar was founded. Noting various articles of legislation in Qatar that guaranteed equal rights without discrimination, he said that Qatar had also adhered to international covenants, including those related to the elimination of all forms of discrimination, including racial and gender discrimination. Its accession to the largest possible number of international agreements showed the political will of Qatar to enhance human rights. Qatar believed in the importance of non-discrimination and equality between people, and had integrated the agreed-upon human rights principles into its school curricula. Committed to spreading the principles of United Nations Charter and conventions against all forms of racial discrimination, Qatar had developed institutional mechanisms to promote human rights, including a National Committee on Human Rights.
Qatar also contributed to capacity-building on the international level, working with the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish training centres in Southwest Asia and the Arab region to eliminate racism, he continued. Qatar took part in the United Nations conference in Durban on the elimination of racism and the follow-up conference in Geneva, reaffirming its commitment to the Durban declaration and programme of action. He noted that religious intolerance was on the rise, as seen in the new phenomenon of Islamophobia, the negative impact of which extended to the world at large. Hence, it was the responsibility of countries to take stringent legislative measures to hinder the desecration of religions, because those actions incited hatred and even terrorism. Qatar was exerting massive efforts to fight religious intolerance by promoting religious coexistence and hosting international conferences to enhance dialogue between religions. Additionally, he said, concerning the situation of the Palestinian people, the continuation of Israeli occupation and dangerous practices, including the building of a racist wall, had negative repercussions. The suffering of the Palestinian people was a test for the international community as it confronted racial discrimination and promoted the rights enshrined in international agreements, particularly the right to establish an independent state.
PABLO BERTI OLIVA ( Cuba) associated with the statement by Yemen on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, stating that the nation “considers unacceptable the intentions of relating certain cultures to terrorism and violence”. That was particularly reflected in anti-terrorist and anti-immigrant laws adopted by a number of industrialized countries. Attention also had to be paid, he said, to negative stereotypes by promoting cultural and religious diversity through educational systems.
He noted that Cuba would be presenting a draft resolution entitled: Use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination. That draft resolution would draw attention to certain international companies and ensure “a new change” in the global use of mercenaries. The exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination was a precondition for the enjoyment of all human rights, he emphasized. In that context, Cuba supported the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian State and recalled that the General Assembly had adopted — by an overwhelming majority — a resolution calling for the end of the United States blockade against Cuba. The will of the international community cannot continue to be ignored”, he asserted, adding that “the blockade against Cuba must cease.”
YASEEN AL MAJED (Kuwait), stating his Government’s support for the elimination of racial discrimination, noted that the United Nations had declared this year one of rapprochement between cultures and bolstering the equality of all members of society. He underlined the need for the United Nations to adopt an international covenant calling for respect of religions, preventing prejudice and defamation of religious symbols and spreading tolerance. Kuwait had adopted numerous legal measures to guarantee freedom of human rights and equal rights without discrimination in terms of gender or religion. Kuwait, being one of the countries that hosted refugees of various religions and cultures, respected human rights. The influx of workers into Kuwait who enjoyed stability was proof that Kuwait upheld the rule of law and respected rights and freedoms.
With regard to international cooperation, Kuwait had acceded to conventions regarding the elimination of all forms of discrimination, prevention of torture and other inhumane treatment and promotion of civil and political rights, he said. Additionally, he mentioned the racist practices against Arab citizens in the occupied Palestinian territories and Golan Heights. He called upon the international community to put an end to those racist practices and to launch a campaign to respect holy shrines against Israel’s practices, which were trying to obliterate the Palestinian identity. Regarding racist groups, he called on the international community to act in harmony to put an end to xenophobia and to step up security to make sure that human rights were respected.
INGRID SABJA DAZA ( Bolivia) said the eradication and elimination of racism and discrimination was among the pillars of her country’s domestic policy. She read aloud sections of the Constitution that prohibited discrimination in a variety of forms. During the administration of President Evo Morales, groups that did not accept economic, political and social reforms that favoured the majority had provoked violations of human rights against indigenous peoples in the countryside.
Racial discrimination was still casting a shadow over society, she said. It stoked poverty and violence. In October this year, the President of Bolivia had promulgated a law that established mechanisms and procedures for addressing racism and discrimination, and setting out penalties for such conduct. It was an achievement that the High Commissioner for Human Rights had said should have been adopted 40 years earlier when Bolivia ratified the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination. In the twenty-first century, paradigms of capitalism and globalization have come under question; the alternative — “living well” — allowed for life to be lived with solidarity, cooperation and respect for Mother Earth.
HASSAN ALIHASSAN ALI (Sudan) stated that his country was fully committed to respecting the Durban plan of action and was against all forms of racial discrimination, given that people continued to suffer, particularly in Africa. He called on States that had not yet acceded to the Durban Declaration to do so. Noting widespread attacks against migrants and foreigners, he urged the redoubling of efforts to guarantee that laws were upheld regarding those groups. He also stated that Sudan respected the right of people to self-determination, keeping in line with international covenants.
The Government was giving the people of South Sudan the right to self-determination through a referendum in which they could decide to stay in a unified Sudan or break away, he said. In preparation for the referendum in January, the Government had completed the necessary arrangements, including taking a census of who was allowed to vote in the referendum. Stating that the Government would hold the referendum on the scheduled date, he urged the international community to offer its assistance so that there would not be any setbacks in the peace process. Discussing what would happen after the referendum in terms of drawing frontiers, he affirmed that the Government would respect the result of the referendum, regardless of its outcome, and that the referendum needed to take place in a democratic, healthy environment. He also stated that it was necessary to respect the report of the committee that had conducted a fact-finding mission to Gaza. With respect to the rights of the Palestinian people and avoiding impunity, he expressed profound concern regarding the suffering, particularly of women and children, in the occupied territories, where the population was suffering from the blockade, while the world remained silent and indifferent.
FARHAD MAMDOUHI (Iran), speaking on the right of peoples to self-determination, said the Palestinian people were being deprived of that right, resulting in human rights violations, suffering and regional instability. The Zionist regime had continued to perpetrate massive human rights abuses. Referring to the Goldstone report, he said war crimes and crimes against humanity had been committed in Gaza by the regime, which went on to carry out a well-orchestrated terrorist attack by military forces on civilians in international waters en route to Gaza with humanitarian aid.
The latest report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, rightfully touched upon apartheid and ethnic cleansing in the occupied territories, he said. Such fact-finding should identify the culprits at the highest levels of the Israeli regime, and not buy time for Israeli officials to respond. Had there been action by United Nations bodies and those States that claim to advocate human rights, the regime would have thought twice before attacking nationals of different countries.
His colleague, MOHSEN GHANEI, speaking on the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, said Muslim communities in Western countries had been experiencing a more hostile environment. In Canada, Muslims faced discrimination in such areas as employment and political participation. They felt targeted. The situation of racial minorities in some other Western countries such as the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom and the United States was appalling as well.
It was regrettable that defamation of Islam was being officially encouraged under the guise of freedom of expression, he said. All Member States had to adopt serious measures to combat Islamophobia and all contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance in line with their international obligations. Gross and systematic violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, emanating from the racist activities of the Zionist community, was a concern for all. What had occurred in Gaza was genocide and war crimes intended to eliminate Muslims there. Strong international condemnation of such violations was called for.
CAROLINA POPOVICI (Republic of Moldova) embraced the principles of International Law, which were conceived in order to promote democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights, and human dignity all over the world. Thus, self-determination was one of the core principles and fundamental rights, but could not be separable from other principles such as sovereign equality, territorial integrity, peaceful settlements of disputes, non-intervention in internal affairs, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. That principle became fundamental to the maintenance of friendly relations and peace and a due guarantee for human rights only when seen and implemented accordingly. Moreover, the right to self-determination together with the mentioned principles was indisputable, a norm of international law having the legal status of obligations and rights toward all. It was prominently enshrined in the United Nations Charter and other instruments.
Thus, the Republic of Moldova acted on the international arena on the basis of that very understanding of the principle of self-determination. While complying with it as one of the indispensable conditions for the enjoyment of other human rights and fundamental freedoms, be they civil, political, economic, social or cultural – Moldova noted the principle should not be interpreted as authorizing any action which could dismember the territorial integrity of sovereign States that conducted themselves in compliance with the principle of equal rights. Self-determination should not be exploited as a means of political rhetoric and political misuse. The principle had to regain its nature aimed at satisfying the nations’ needs for human security and welfare, and to respect human rights and freedoms. It must not be used as a pretext for unwanted, illegal and internationally unauthorized activities.
GAREN NAZARIAN ( Armenia) emphasized that the right to self-determination was one of the major principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, relevant General Assembly resolutions and in international law instruments. However, he pointed out, in recent times, there were “blatant attempts” to deny that principle by questioning their essence and applicability. The people of Nagorno-Karabakh had, he stated, exercised their right to self-determination two decades ago and had voted for their own sovereignty through employing fully all available legal mechanisms.
The Minsk Group Co-chairs, he said, were continuing their efforts towards a peaceful settlement on the conflict and had reiterated that he proposed principles and elements for a peaceful solution were conceived as an integrated whole and to select some elements over others would make a balanced solution impossible. His country shared that point of view and would continue to participate in negotiations in search of a peaceful settlement, as the framework of a constructive dialogue had the potential to defuse tensions and contribute to regional and international peace, as well as the promotion and protections of fundamental human rights. Concluding, he said that Armenia valued the Organization’s mandate to guarantee and safeguard the “unconditional enjoyment of the right to self-determination”.
SARAVENAN TANAPAL ( Singapore) said his delegation was committed to – and shared the United Nations commitment to – end racism and racial discrimination. As a melting pot for people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, Singapore was a modern multi-ethnic society comprising Chinese, Malays, Indians and a sizable Eurasian community. That multi-ethnic society necessitated a recognition and respect for diversity; Singapore’s government regularly took proactive steps to promote and enhance racial harmony by emphasizing tolerance, understanding, and respect. In April, the visit by Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Tolerance Githu Muigai was an opportunity to not only share Singapore’s own practices, but to hear other ways to enhance racial harmony.
He said that Singapore’s innovative approaches to countering racism included the housing Ethnic Integration Policy, diverse schools and commemorative days such as the Racial Harmony Day. While such initiatives “might seem like an artificial construct”, he said initiatives such as the housing policy created a common space of interaction, encouraging a bond between neighbours of different backgrounds. Recently introduced additional initiatives included the Community Engagement Programme and National Orange Ribbon Celebrations, showing that Singapore did not “rest on its laurels”. While the country enjoyed a cohesive society, a single crisis could easily jeopardize or strain racial harmony. Thus, he said Singapore would remain nimble in order to tackle changing world contexts and new events that could adversely impact that harmony. Singapore would remain vigilant to the changes happening around it, be they globalization or the influence of new media, in order to maintain a safe, harmonious and prosperous environment for all of Singapore’s people, regardless of race, language or religion.
KAKOLI GHOSH DASTIDAR ( India) said the world today continued to see real and tenacious manifestations of racial discrimination, despite the fact that “none want to be seen as racist themselves”. Further, he wanted to caution against the improbable linking of racial discrimination with other forms of discrimination or intolerance, particularly with regard to religion. The discourse on the so-called “multiple discrimination” must not dilute the determination to combat racial discrimination and related intolerance. At the national level, stringent laws should be enacted and strictly implemented. Most importantly, attitudes needed to be changed through educational and legislative strategies.
He recalled that self-determination was the right to independence and self-government of people living in non-self-governing colonies and territories. He said his country had played a vital role in the struggle for decolonization to ensure that those who lived under the conditions of subjugation, domination and exploitation were afforded the right to freely determine their own political status and development. India stood in solidarity with Palestine towards the achievement of a two-State solution. Also, he wanted to remind Pakistan that the State of Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of the “Union of India”, where free and fair elections had been held time and again. It should also refrain from using the forum of the Committee to detract from the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Concluding, he said “with freedom comes responsibility”. The right to self-determination must not be abused to encourage secession and to undermine pluralistic and democratic States. It should also not be distorted to undermine the territorial integrity of a State. Ethnic or religious segregation could not be legitimized on the grounds that societies needed to be homogeneous before they could be tolerant. That view only aided the forces of extreme nationalism. And finally, racism must be totally eliminated, since lukewarm acceptance of another person was more bewildering than outright rejection.
PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said racism and racial discrimination were crimes against humanity. They had their roots in colonialism, trans-Atlantic slavery and apartheid. World powers had engaged in conquest and slaughter for colonial domination, exploitation, and plunder and slavery in Asia, Africa and Latin America, on the basis that their nations were superior and others inferior. It was against that background that the international community, at the Durban conference in 2001, emphasized that States that had committed systematic acts of racism and racial discrimination in the past should accept their responsibilities, provide due compensation and teach history in a proper way.
That righteous demand faced many challenges, he said. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had suffered during 40-odd years of vicious Japanese colonial rule, when millions of Koreans were conscripted, abducted, massacred and denied their national culture, traditions and language. It was a crime against humanity that has not been settled. In Japan, Korean descendents of that country’s past colonial policy faced oppression and various forms of discrimination. Japan was strongly urged to settle its past history of crimes against humanity as early as possible and to stop oppression and discrimination against the Korean people in Japan, including the General Association of Korean Residents of Japan.
NELI SHIOLASHVILI ( Georgia) noted that the rate of crimes motivated by discrimination or intolerance was nearly non-existent in her country. In accordance with universally recognized principles and norms, ethnic and cultural minorities had been given constitutionally backed opportunities for their development, including the right to receive education in their mother tongue. Georgia’s National Concept and Action Plan for Tolerance and Civil Integration aimed to support the building of democratic and consolidated society through specific activities and programmes within the next five years. However, she noted that more must be done to ensure the adequate representation of ethnic minorities in national executive bodies.
In 2006, in a neighbouring country, over 5,000 of Georgian citizens and ethnic Georgians had been detained or expelled via cargo planes. Such illegal and inhuman policies of ethnic cleansing had been expanded to the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and the Tshinvali region/South Ossetia and it was unfortunate that Georgian citizens residing in occupied regions continued to face oppression and humiliation, she stressed. She then outlined developments in her country’s 2008 case against Russia for the violation of its obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The court had called for provisional measures which had legal binding effects. Georgia had provided clear factual evidence that the Court’s provisional measures had not been fulfilled. From 13 to 17 September, the court held a public hearing of this case, where Georgia presented evidence of ethnic cleansing. At this stage, deliberations on the jurisdiction of consideration of that case by the International Court of Justice were pending.
LUVOYO NDIMENI ( South Africa) stated that human rights challenges, including those faced by migrants, were topical for all delegations. He focused on racism and sports, saying that South Africa had seen the role of sports in unifying people, such as during the recent World Cup. The Government had outlined a plan to prevent the outbreak of violence against anyone, calling on groups such as civil society and political parties to work together. A committee was established to deal with threats of violence against foreign nationals and was comprised of several other ministers, including those responsible for state security, basic education, arts and culture and international relations. Security agencies were put on alert to make sure that violence was effectively addressed. Where there were threats, measures were put in place immediately, proactively capping and preventing them.
He outlined several components of the Government’s security plan, the first of which was societal dialogue that had taken place with groups like the police, churches and non-governmental organizations. Second, there had been an extension of the policing and justice approach that was adopted to respond to attacks and criminality, which was characterized by acting decisively against anyone inciting violence. Third, education within civil society was reinforced and officers were taught to defend the weak and uphold the constitution. Fourth, the Government developed a communications strategy to explain that it took threats seriously and that attacks would not be tolerated.
The role of disaggregated data could not be underestimated, as it helped to address imbalances of the past and measure progress. South Africa supported the Durban programme and saw the merits of implementing its measures. He also said that South Africa was looking forward to the Special Rapporteur’s visit in 2011, which coincided with celebrating the year of the peoples of Africa. Additionally, he reiterated South Africa’s strong stance on the issue of self-determination for the Palestinian people, and said his Government would continue to make strong statements about Palestine until it achieved self-determination and that issue was brought to a close.
MARIÁ RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO ( Nicaragua) reiterated her country’s commitment to the Durban Declaration and Plan of Action, as well as the results of the Durban Review Conference of 2009. Given persistent challenges, redoubled efforts were needed to eliminate all forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and intolerance by addressing their root causes. Nicaragua, a multiethnic and multicultural nation, had ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racism in 1977. New laws had been adopted which addressed human rights and fundamental freedoms without distinction to race, sex, language or religion.
Underlining the global character of migration, she stressed the importance of cooperation and dialogue at all levels, as well as the need to protect the human rights of migrants. The criminalization of migration, as seen by the adoption of such laws as the “ Arizona law”, violated the right to non-discrimination. She went on to express support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and urged that international efforts be stepped up in order to find an overall and just solution to the question of Palestine.
TOFIG MUSAYEV ( Azerbaijan), discussing self-determination, said that there was a flagrant misapplication of the concept with regards to unilateral secession from States. The right could not be interpreted in a way that allowed any group to decide its own status by seceding from currently independent States. International agreements did not deal with that issue of secession from existing Governments, but it had no place in accepted international law. The practical realization of self-determination represented a legitimate process within identified limits. It was ruled out when claims were accompanied by violations of international law, such as the use of external force or external aid. “Might is not right,” he said, noting that force did not render actions legal. “Law is more important than force,” he added. In July 2010, the International Court of Justice reaffirmed the illegality of unilateral secessions connected with the unlawful use of force, in particular those of a peremptory character. Hence, an entity created on a part of a territory through force was illegal and could not be considered a State.
Such features were evidence of the continued aggression of Armenia against Azerbaijan, he said, noting that they had witnessed such an approach in today’s statement by Armenia. A critical factor in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan was that all actions aimed at tearing away part of Azerbaijan did not respect the territorial integrity of the State, according to the norms of international law. That included a breach of the non-discrimination requirement through the construction of an ethnically-subordinated entity with Armenia’s support. Armenia’s revisionist claims were unsustainable in international law, and the faithful observance of international law was of greatest importance for the maintenance of peace and security.
ELSA HAILE ( Eritrea) said it was evident that racism, racial discrimination and the politics of exclusion were no longer mere domestic issues, but ones with regional and international implications for peace, security, stability and good neighbourliness. The remedies and the struggle against racism in all its forms and manifestations must be evenly applied everywhere. Among others, he welcomed guidance toward that end came from the Working Group on implementing the Durban Declaration, the relevant Ad Hoc Committee of the Human Rights Council and the Working Group on people of African descent.
Continuing, he noted that the report on mercenaries was also before the Committee and said that new and sophisticated activities of private military and security companies had been known to negatively impact on human rights. In the global context, the increasing use of such entities in areas of conflict in numerous geographical regions raised serious concerns. Activities were difficult to monitor and accountability was difficult to determine and enforce. Further, when the management of conflict was viewed as a business opportunity by private contractors, the idea of self-regulation could not address the core problem of an absence of accountability and no oversight mechanism in place.
Therefore, she said she viewed with interest the establishment of the intergovernmental working group to elaborate a possible draft convention on the regulation of private military and security companies. Moreover, the possibly binding instrument should, among others, take into account the responsibility of States to investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators, while providing remedies for victims.
MUSTANSAR TARAR ( Pakistan) said grave injustices and intense conflict had occurred as a result of institutionalised racism. While new forms of intolerance had emerged, in some cases there has been a resurgence of old ones. Systematic forms of discrimination had been validated by the politicization of immigration, intolerance and foreign occupation. Resistance to multiculturalism and the rejection of diversity had led to the negation of the rights of foreigners and minorities. In some societies, the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of minorities had gained legitimacy.
Defamation of religion had no basis in constructive criticism and debate, he said. It had been portrayed by some as a clash between freedom of religion and freedom of expression. It was wrong to link the two, or to justify the unhindered application of freedom of expression with regard to defaming Islam. Pakistan remained actively involved in the anti-racism agenda in all forums, working on the principles of peace, equality, justice and universal brotherhood espoused by Islam. It was easy to recognize extreme forms of racism, but vigilance was needed to identify subtle cases. The fabric of civilization was threatened by discrimination in all forms.
MICHELE KLEIN SOLOMON, Permanent Observer of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said intercultural dialogue was critical to recognizing migrants’ contribution to the economy, society and culture. Recent high-profile incidents had shown a failure “on the part of us all” — a failure to inform the public about the contributions migrants make, a failure to educate about the inevitability of migration and a failure to counter harmful stereotypes. “Migrants are the human face of globalization,” and Governments must think about migration beyond cyclical terms. They must continue to give close consideration to labour market and demographic needs, as well as to integration policies and approaches, she said.
States had the responsibility to protect the human rights of migrants under their jurisdiction, including irregular migrants. At the national level, States could adopt legislation and policies to prevent and punish violence in all stages of the migration process. They could, in addition, provide migrants with access to legal mechanisms to seek just and adequate reparations where their rights had been violated, regardless of their migration status. Finally, she suggested that States could promote public awareness about multiculturalism, diversity and migrants’ contributions.
Right of Reply
In exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Pakistan addressed the statement by India, saying that Jammu and Kashmir was not an integral part of India, but an internationally-recognized disputed territory according to several resolutions. Pakistan was committed to finding a solution to that dispute, and the Government’s statement referenced several efforts so far.
The representative of Japan, in response to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, stated that he would refrain from entering into a detailed rebuttal, because his country had explained its position several times, but that the Constitution of Japan provided for equality without discrimination. Japan was promoting the realization of a society without any discrimination, including racial and ethnic, so it could not accept the statement of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of Armenia said that the Government regretted that Azerbaijan continued to distort and misrepresent the right and demand of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination. Azerbaijan presented the consequences of the conflict as its causes. The international community had witnessed pogroms, rape, torture and primitive barbarism that were hard to believe and understand. Mechanisms of human rights were absent and replaced by extrajudicial acts. There should be no hierarchy in principles of international law, and the right to self-determination should not be turned into an issue of territorial integrity when the survival of people was a consideration. People had voted for their own sovereignty and now parties to the conflict were in a negotiation process. It was destructive to have to abide such controversial statements, since the groups in question were willing to participate in a dialogue to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said that Japan had never accepted its wrongdoing with regard to crimes against humanity committed in the past. Mentioning statements by various United Nations treaty bodies about the situation in Japan, including the entrance of Korean students into Japanese schools and truth in curricula, he said that the violations of human rights in Japan were the result of a hostile policy of Japan towards the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
The representative of Azerbaijan said documentary evidence showed that Armenia had started the war, occupied Azerbaijani territory, carried out ethnic cleansing and set up a separatist subordinate administration. Unmentioned by the Armenian delegation was a judgement by the European Court of Human Rights which found that actions carried out by Armenian forces had amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. No State had recognized the separatist entity as independent. Armenia’s stance was an open challenge to efforts to achieve peace.
The representative of the Russian Federation called the statement made by his counterpart from Georgia an attempt to apply pressure on the International Court of Justice, as it studied whether it has jurisdiction in a case relating to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, more information about which could be found on the Court’s website. There were no “occupied territories” in the area, but rather two new independent States: Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia should refrain from politicizing the issue and instead recognize realities.
The representative of Japan said he would refrain from a detailed rebuttal to his counterpart from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, besides noting that the Constitution of Japan guaranteed equality for all. It was regrettable that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had not responded to the concerns expressed by the international community. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was expected to respond to those concerns in a concrete and constructive manner.
In reply to her counterpart from Azerbaijan, the representative of Armenia said her country had never started a war of aggression. Rather, it was Azerbaijan that had started aggression against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, who had a right to self-determination. Azerbaijan’s refusal to engage in direct negotiations with representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, and its hostile stance to anything Armenian, were the main impediments to a solution. Armenia had done what it had been called upon to do by the Security Council and used its good offices with the representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh. It was high time for a solution to be found, so that people in the region could live in peace and prosperity.
Responding to her counterpart from the Russian Federation, the representative of Georgia said military aggression, occupation and ethnic cleansing on Georgian territory had been well-documented. An international fact-finding mission had found that the proclamation of independence by Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two break-away regions, was illegal under international law. So, too, was the Russian Federation’s declaration of the independence of regions of Georgia. Regarding the case before the International Court of Justice, the rules and procedures of the Court were being fully respected by Georgia and a final decision was awaited.
The representative of Azerbaijan apologized for taking the floor once again. The statement by the representative of Armenia was solid evidence of Armenia’s annexationist intentions. Armenia was far from imagining a sober search for peace in the region and its destructive political agenda was fated never to be realized. It had to realize that, in order to achieve peace and stability, there was no alternative but a prompt end to the occupation of Azerbaijani territory.
Statements on Refugees
JOSEPHONE OJIAMBO ( Kenya) said that the majority of Africa’s refugees were from Somalia and the majority of those were fleeing into Kenya at a rate of 6,000 persons per month. Upholding its international obligations to ensure the refugees with resources for a decent living, however, had placed an enormous burden on Kenya’s limited resources needed for its own national development. The scramble for resources had led to conflict between the refugees and the host country. The environmental degradation of the fragile ecosystem underlying the refugee camps had been enormous. Also, there had been an emergence of epidemics such as cholera and tuberculosis arising from unsanitary conditions in the camps, as well as a threat to national security due to the exploitation of the refugees by criminal elements involved in illicit small arms and weapons trafficking, terrorism and piracy. The root of the problem, she pointed out, was the 20-year old conflict in Somalia and she called upon the international community to make all efforts to find a durable solution and render “genuine support” in ending the conflict.
Thanking the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for their work with refugees, she noted that two major camps in northern Kenya would soon be exceeding their capacity, illuminating the urgency in finding solutions to the root of the refugee problem. Turning to the issue of internally displaced persons, she appreciated the acknowledgement of the Secretary-General for Kenya’s work in resettling most of the internally displaced persons during the 2007-2008 post-election violence, as well as the international community’s support in helping develop national laws and policies regarding the issue. Concluding, she supported the recommendations that support be given to the development of returnee areas and the rehabilitation of former hosting areas. However, she stressed that ending conflict was the only sustainable way of reducing refugee populations and allowing them to exercise the right of return.
KAMEL CHIR (Algeria) paid hommage to the humanitarian staff of the United Nations who often worked in very difficult situations. Stronger partnerships between humanitarian institutions and non-governmental organizations was a high priority in order to find durable solutions to problems regarding refugees and internally displaced persons. Given how so many of its people endured the hardship of being refugees during its struggle for national liberation, Algeria could do nothing but respond to appeals for humanitarian assistance. It was due to that tradition that Algeria has been sheltering – at Tindouf – refugees awaiting a resolution of the conflict in Western Sahara.
Commenting on the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, he recalled that his country had responded favourably to a request from UNHCR for Sahraouis families at Tindouf to travel by road to visit relatives in the occupied territories of Western Sahara. For Sahraoui refugees, the future hinged on the implementation of relevant United Nations resolutions directed at reaching a just, durable and mutually accepted political solution that took into account the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
SHRI GOPINATH PANDURANG MUNDE ( India) said that the emergence of non-State actors in situations of armed conflict had changed the nature of conflict and the international community needed to address the issue of accountability, as well as the limited leverage of the international human rights and humanitarian framework and machinery over those non-state actors. Further, he stated, the determination of refugee status needed to conform strictly to Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ mandate to ensure those guilty of terrorist and criminal acts did not abuse national asylum systems and the international protection regime.
Continuing, he said that one single organization could not handle the challenges of internally displaced persons and the primary responsibility lay with national authorities. It was important that UNHCR’s involvement complement – but not substitute for – those national efforts. “UNHCR represents our collective endeavour to address global refugee concerns,” he said, and therefore must continue to remain non-partisan and impartial. He also pointed out that a large number of developing countries with limited resources honoured their humanitarian obligations at the expense of their national economies and that often developing countries constituted countries of origin, as well as asylum, a situation that deserved attention. In that regard, he called for a strengthening of the relationship between UNHCR and Member States to enhance services and in-kind contributions toward hosting refugees. He was aware of a body of opinion that believed acceding to conventions was the measure of commitment to the refugee issue, but he believed, in his view, a “narrow and restrictive way of looking at this global challenge.” India was not a signatory to the 1951 Convention on Refugees, as it did not believe the Convention addressed the problem of massive refugees or mixed migration that often followed such flows. However, he pointed out that his country’s commitment to humanitarian concerns was reflected in the large number of refugees it hosted, and the support programmes addressing their concerns, which were funded from national resources. He affirmed India’s commitment to working in concert with UNHCR and the international community, as the challenge of ending displacement was inseparable from the challenge of establishing and maintaining peace.
MOHAMMED LOULICHKI ( Morocco) said it was imperative for UNHCR and the international community to be vigilant and to effectively preserve an ever-narrowing humanitarian space. Doing so would require all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law, international refugee law and human rights, as well as the principles that inform the action of humanitarian organizations. Internal reform efforts at the refugee agency were welcome by Morocco, which believed that the burden of sheltering refugees should be more equitably shared, given that 80 per cent of refugees were to be found in developing countries. In that regard, Morocco fully supported UNHCR’s proposal of a “new deal” between countries of asylum and developed nations.
Using the latest techniques, UNHCR has been registering and counting refugees throughout the world, with the exception of the camps at Tindouf in Algeria, he said. The refusal of that country to allow a census-taking at Tindouf, which would bring to light the real number of people benefiting from international protection , was a violation of international legality and an affront to the international community that had to come to an end. In his latest report on the Sahara question, the Secretary-General had asked without ambiguity for serious thought to be given to such a census. The hundreds of Saharawis who fled their camps this year, risking their lives in doing so, to return to Morocco was ample evidence of where human rights were being breached.
* *** *