REPORTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION IN CUBA, RWANDA, SUDAN PRESENTED IN THIRD COMMITTEE19951127
"Cuba considered itself surrounded by forces "which are hostile to the Government and the system", the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cuba, Carl Johan Groth, told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning, as it continued its consideration of human rights questions. He added that when a country felt threatened, it was less likely to change.
In Cuba, the main violation being committed was in the field of individual and political rights, since the Government did not allow views different from the public one, he continued. Even though changes had taken place, they seemed to be taking place more because of their tactical value.
The representative of Cuba said the report on his country presented by the Special Rapporteur was a biased one that questioned the legitimacy of the Cuban Government. The information contained in the report was provided by organizations which operated in and were financed by the United States which sought to strengthen the blockade imposed against Cuba by the United States.
Also this morning, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, Gaspar Biro, said the conditions for children and women belonging to certain ethnic and religious groups had not changed, and violations had continued to take place. Abduction of women and children in the south also continued and some of the victims lived as slaves of their captors, while others were subjected to the slave trade or slavery-like institutions in northern Sudan. Persons belonging to the Sudanese Army and groups of paramilitary units created by the Government in 1989 were reported to have been regularly involved in those practices in the past three years.
The representative of Sudan said his country had decided to deny access to the Special Rapporteur only because in his February 1994 report, he called for the abolition of Shariah legislation, and had made blasphemous references. The Special Rapporteur's reference to Islamic punishments as cruel, inhuman
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and degrading was an unwarranted interpretation of the international human rights instruments since they excluded from such category all punishments provided for in national legislation.
"Special efforts must be deployed to help in the reconstruction and national reconciliation of Rwanda", the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Rwanda, Rene Degni-Segui, said. The failure of "Operation Return", led by the United Nations, had resulted in the closing of displacement camps and towards forced repatriation. He called attention to the successful repatriation of over 20,000 persons who returned from Zaire, but cautioned that their security and the recovery of their property were in jeopardy.
Also this morning, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Cambodia and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar made statements.
The representatives of the United States, Spain (speaking on behalf of the European Union and of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Slovak Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Malta), Norway and France also made statements.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today, to continue its consideration of human rights questions and to hear the introduction of draft resolutions relating to the advancement of women.
Committee Work Programme
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including the implementation of human rights instruments and alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Committee will also examine human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives. In addition, it will have a report of the Secretary-General on the comprehensive implementation of and follow-up to the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action (still not available).
Under its sub-item on the implementation of human rights instruments, the Committee has before it the report on the Human Right Committee (document A/50/40); the report of the Committee against Torture (document A/50/44); the report on the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (document A/50/512); the Secretary-General's report on the status of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/50/469); and the report on the status of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Optional Protocols to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (document A/50/472). (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3331 of 24 November.)
Under its sub-item on human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the Committee has before it the report on respect for the principles of national sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of States in their electoral processes (document A/50/495); on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/50/514); on human rights and mass exoduses (document A/50/566); on human rights and terrorism (document A/50/685); on assistance to States in strengthening the rule of law (document A/50/653); on the strengthening of the Centre for Human Rights (document A/50/678); on the geographical composition and function of the Centre's staff (document A/50/682); and on the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the plan of action for the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education (document A/50/698); (For background, see Press Release GA/SHC/3331 of 24 November.)
Under its sub-item on human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, the Committee has before it a note by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report prepared by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/50/568). On 8 March, at its fifty-first session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted, without a vote, resolution 1995/72 entitled "Situation of human rights in Myanmar". Under the resolution, the Commission decided to extend for one year the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to establish or continue
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direct contacts with the Government and people of Myanmar, including political leaders deprived of their liberty, their families and their lawyers. And it requested the Special Rapporteur to report to the General Assembly at its fiftieth session and to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session. The present report, which constitutes a preliminary report by the Special Rapporteur, is being presented in accordance with that request. A final report will be submitted to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty- second session, scheduled to be held from 18 March to 26 April 1996.
In the Human Rights commission's resolution, the Commission noted with particular concern, often noting the Special Rapporteur's report, that the electoral process initiated in Myanmar by the general elections of 27 May 1990 had not yet reached their conclusion; deplored the fact that political leaders remained deprived of their liberty, in particular elected representatives and Nobel Laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; expressed its grave concern at the violations of human rights, which remained extremely serious, in particular, the practice of torture, summary and arbitrary executions and forced labour; and expressed its concern about the problems created in neighbouring countries by the continuous flows of refugees from Myanmar. The Commission also expressed its grave concern over the offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU), Burmese student activists and other groups of the political opposition.
The Commission took note of the fact, as stated in the report, that the Government of Myanmar had acceded to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949; had withdrawn several reservations it had entered concerning the Convention on the Rights of the Child; had observed cease-fire agreements with ethnic groups; had freed a certain number of political prisoners; and had received the Special Rapporteur for a visit to Myanmar. As the Special Rapporteur intends to visit Myanmar and Thailand in October, the Commission stated it is not feasible to reach conclusions for the present report on the many allegations on violations of human rights that have been reported to him. It is hoped that information gathered during the Special Rapporteur's visit will facilitate conclusions to be included in his comprehensive report to the Commission on Human Rights at its fifty-second session.
According to the report, the Special Rapporteur transmitted to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Myanmar a memorandum of allegations received by him of human rights violations reported to have occurred in Myanmar. Even though the Special Rapporteur welcomed the fact that all death sentences had been commuted to life imprisonment, he regretted that there continued to be credible reports of instances of brutality sometimes resulting in the killing of civilians by Myanmar military forces under a variety of circumstances. The Government of Myanmar continued to release political prisoners in 1995, although the exact numbers could not be verified. According to information provided by the Government, 31 detainees were released from various jails on 15 March 1995 as a gesture honouring the Golden Jubilee Armed Forces Day.
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The Special Rapporteur welcomed with great satisfaction the announcement, made on 10 July, that restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been lifted by the Myanmar Government, and that she had been released, the report continues. The report went on to state that the Special Rapporteur has received numerous allegations of civilians being subjected to torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment by forces of the Myanmar military. The allegations include kickings and beatings with rifle butts or canes on the head and other parts of the body, causing head injuries, loss of teeth and broken bones. Other disturbing reported methods include submerging victims into water for long periods of time and pouring hot water over their bodies or into their noses. In some cases, persons alleged that they had suffered burns and the cutting off of parts of their bodies (for example, ears and tongue).
The Myanmar Government reportedly made extensive use of various forms of forced, unpaid labour for a variety of development projects aimed at building the infrastructure of the country, the report continues. Various sources have reported an especially extensive use of forced labour in relation to several completed or ongoing railway construction projects. The report continues with the Special Rapporteur's statement that "with regard to human rights violations, it appears that women are generally treated less harshly than men. Some of the allegations received indicate, however, that women are not spared from torture, ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, summary execution, portering or other forced labour." In addition, the Special Rapporteur has continued to receive information from various sources describing sexual or sex-related violations committed by representatives of the authorities against women. These include the undressing of women in public, touching breasts or sucking nipples, raping and gang-raping women individually or in groups. The rape of women serving in forced labour camps or as porters is said to be common.
According to the report, by a note verbale dated 4 October, the Permanent Mission of Myanmar to the United Nations in Geneva transmitted the responses of his Government to the summary of allegations received by the Special Rapporteur. It included statements that no instances of summary or arbitrary execution could be permitted in Myanmar, and no provision is made in the law for such; torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment were also illegal in Myanmar. In addition, torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment are prohibited by the laws in Myanmar.
The Government also stated that "in Myanmar, a person cannot be arrested and detained if it is not in accordance with the law", the report goes on. With regard to visits by the ICRC to places of detention in Myanmar, negotiations have taken place with a view to signing, at an appropriate time, a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Myanmar and the ICRC. The Myanmar side has already intimated to ICRC its readiness to continue ongoing dialogue in that regard. The ICRC maintains its regular contacts and cooperation with the Government and the Myanmar Red Cross Society through its regional office at New Delhi. Also, the use of labourers in Myanmar has been
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practiced since the time of colonial rule, when the relevant laws were promulgated by the colonial rulers. Following independence, successive Governments have continued this practice according to the law.
Concerning recent events in some KNU refugee camps in Thailand and in certain border areas of Kayin state in Myanmar, the Government has not yet held any official peace talks with the Democratic Kayin Buddhist Organization (DKBO). And as DKBO has yet to return to the legal fold, the Myanmar authorities have no control over it and are not responsible for its activities, the report states. The presence of Government security forces along some sections of the eastern border are for the prevention of spillover effects, and to provide security for local inhabitants who have requested such assurances, as various factions of the Kayin armed groups continue to be in conflict with each other. According to the Government of Myanmar, it continued to extend its peace offer to the remaining few to return to the legal fold and to work together with the people and the Government in building a peaceful and modern State. On the treatment of women, the Government stated that under its customs and traditional culture, as well as State constitutions adopted during consecutive eras, Myanmar women have always had equal rights with men. Existing laws guarantee that all citizens, irrespective of race, religion, status, culture, place of birth or gender, are equal before the law.
On the situation of human rights in the Sudan, a note by the Secretary- General, transmitting the interim report of the Human Rights Commission's Special Rapporteur, is also before the Committee (document A/50/569). It was prepared in accordance with Commission resolution 1995/77 of 8 March. As of 16 October, he states, he had received no response to his request for permission to undertake a mission to the Sudan. He held consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights concerning the placement of monitors to improve the information flow on human rights violations in the Sudan.
The report contains information on reported human rights violations by the Government of the Sudan, and abuses by parties to the conflict in southern Sudan other than the Government. It concludes that "grave and widespread violations of human rights by Government agents, as well as abuses by members of parties to the conflict in southern Sudan other than the Government, continue to take place in the zones controlled by them including extra- judicial killings, enforced or involuntary disappearances, abductions, slavery, systematic torture and widespread arbitrary arrests of suspected political opponents".
With regard to violations committed in conflict zones by parties other than the Government, the report states that most of the reported gross violations and atrocities, especially killings and abductions of civilians, looting and hostage taking of relief workers, "were committed during 1995 by dissident commanders, mainly those who had split from the South Sudan
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Independence Army (SSIA) in previous years". The Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) bore responsibility for the violations and atrocities by local commanders from its own ranks, although it had not been proved that they committed those actions on orders from the senior leadership.
The report notes that the leaders of the SSIA and SPLA signed an agreement in July and August, respectively on ground rules with Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS) in which they expressed their support of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Geneva Conventions and Protocols.
The report concludes that the abduction of persons, mainly women and children belonging to racial, ethnic and religious minorities from southern Sudan, the Nuba mountains and the Ingassema Hills area, their subjection to the slave trade, including traffic in and sale of children and women, slavery, servitude, forced labour and similar practices were taking place with the knowledge of the Government. Over the past year, the Special Rapporteur states, atrocities against the indigenous population of the Nuba Mountains had intensified, as revealed by recent reports on the abduction of hundreds of Nubans, on the desecration of mosques, the continuing destruction of churches and the harassment of local imams and clergymen.
While no aerial bombardments took place in southern Sudan between the end of May and mid-August, the report states, bombs were dropped in the Nuba Mountains in June and again in September. Positive developments included a guineaworm vaccination programme, a family reunification process, and a series of training courses and seminars held with the assistance of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the OLS.
The Special Rapporteur recommends that the Government of the Sudan abide by its human rights obligations under international law, cease immediately the deliberate and indiscriminate aerial bombardments of civilian targets, and release all political detainees and prisoners. The Special Rapporteur also recommends that the Government cease all acts of torture, close down all secret detention centres and ensure that accused persons are granted due process of law and lawyers and are allowed visits of family members. Other recommendations include the proper training of security forces, army and police forces and other paramilitary or civil defense groups in compliance with international standards.
The Special Rapporteur calls for a thorough investigation of all reported cases of violations, in particular those in which women and children are victims, and the investigation by an independent judicial commission of inquiry of the killings of Sudanese employees of foreign organizations, bringing to justice those responsible for the killings and providing just compensation to the victims' families. He also recommends that the Government
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stop rounding up children from the streets in major towns under its control, release all children from special camps, make all efforts to reunite them with their families and ensure proper and decent living conditions for orphans.
The report further recommends that the Government of the Sudan provide free access to all areas of the country, carry out immediate investigations into previously reported human rights violations in the Nuba Mountains and other government-controlled areas in southern Sudan, and address the problem of displacement and create the appropriate conditions for displaced persons and refugees to return home. It states that the Government and other parties involved in the armed conflict in central and southern Sudan should agree as soon as possible on a cease-fire and intensify their efforts to come to a peaceful solution.
In conclusion, the Special Rapporteur states that the situation of human rights in the Sudan should be kept under continuous and intensified monitoring and consideration by the United Nations, and that monitors should be placed at the earliest possible date in such locations as would facilitate improved information flow and assessment to help in the independent verification of reports on the human rights situation in the Sudan.
A note by the Secretary-General transmitting the interim report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cuba is also before the Committee (document A/50/663). At its fifty-first session, the Commission on Human Rights adopted resolution 1995/66, entitled "Situation of human rights in Cuba". In that resolution, the Commission decided to extend for another year the mandate conferred on the Special Rapporteur under resolution 1992/261 of 3 March 1992, whereby Mr. Carl-Johan Groth had been appointed Special Rapporteur. In resolution 1995/66, approved by the Economic and Social Council in its decision 1995/277 of 25 July, the Special Rapporteur was requested to report to the Commission at its fifty-second session in 1996 and to submit an interim report to the General Assembly at its current fiftieth session. The present report is in response to that request. In the same resolution, the Commission expressed its concern at information in the previous report of the Special Rapporteur to the effect that violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights were continuing in Cuba, and noted with regret the continued failure of the Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur and its refusal to permit him to visit Cuba in order to fulfil his mandate.
According to the report, the situation of human rights in Cuba continues to be characterized by severe restrictions of the rights to freedom of expression and association, the right to form and join trade unions and the right to strike, and strong official control over the individual activities of citizens, including the need for a permit from the Ministry of the Interior
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for citizens to be able to travel freely abroad, strong repression by the security forces which the maintenance of such control involves, and a system of administration of justice in criminal matters which to a large extent is in the service of the prevailing political regime.
All those factors, combined with the serious economic crisis of recent years and external factors, has led to a situation in which approximately 10 per cent of the population (the population of Cuba numbers some 11 million inhabitants) resides outside the country, and a large number of people, regardless of their occupation, see emigration as the only hope for a better future and are prepared to abandon the country by any means.
Many persons with whom the Special Rapporteur has had the opportunity to speak emphasized that the current human rights situation in Cuba is in fact not characterized by a systematic violation of the right to life, undoubtedly the most basic right of all those embodied in international instruments, but neither must the obvious importance of incidents of that type which do occur be underestimated, the report states. Criticism is not completely prohibited. There exist governmental channels which citizens can use -- and they are even urged to do so -- in order to air their grievances about the lack of public services or any other shortcomings, but always provided those criticisms neither attack the foundations of the system nor come from independent, organized groups.
In November 1994, the Special Rapporteur received from non-governmental sources a list containing 1,195 names of persons serving sentences for crimes with political connotations, the report continues. Also, the Special Rapporteur continued to receive information about cases of journalists who suffered reprisals ranging from dismissal from their jobs to prosecution for having expressed opinions critical of the current system in the exercise of their profession. In addition, he received information from jurists within Cuba conveying their concerns about deficiencies in the administration of justice, and specifically about the lack of independence of the judiciary from the political authorities, which is particularly clear when persons prosecuted for crimes with political connotations are sentenced.
The complaints received by the Special Rapporteur also include cases of persons who have died or have been injured as a result of an excessive use of force by Government agents, the report says. The most serious case in recent years is certainly the sinking of the tugboat in the waters of the Straits of Florida on 13 July 1994, referred to by the Special Rapporteur in his previous report. Although the Government maintains that the authorities bore no responsibility for what was considered to have been an accident, the Special Rapporteur received testimony from some of the survivors indicating that Government launches from the port of Havana tried to stop the 13 de Marzo with pressurized water jets and then deliberately rammed it, causing it to sink.
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Also, the Special Rapporteur has received information on cases of persons allegedly shot dead by police when surprised stealing food on farms and in the fields. That appears to have been the case of Wilfredo Almiral de Armas, who died on 12 November 1994 on the Marilín farm in the municipality of Consolación del Sur, Pinar del Río, which he had entered intending to steal chickens, the report states. Reinerio Velásquez Avila was shot dead on 14 May 1994 by a guard when he was surprised with other individuals on a State banana plantation called "La Guanábana", located on Vía San Andrès highway, near the town of Holguín.
The report goes on to state that the maximum time allowed for temporary stays abroad is 11 months, and confiscatory measures are taken in cases of definitive exit. Cuban citizens living abroad must obtain a permit each time they wish to enter the country; these permits entail the payment of fees that are very high by Cuban standards. Moreover, the permits are usually granted for very short stays (two weeks or a month), and are required regardless of the country where the Cuban citizen has taken up residence.
The report also contains information on prison conditions. Non- governmental sources have informed the Special Rapporteur that they have recorded the existence of 294 prisons and correctional labour camps throughout the country; it is estimated that there are between 100,000 and 200,000 prisoners in all categories; this figure represents a very high proportion of the country's population. It is also a matter of concern, bearing in mind the fact that the Special Rapporteur is still receiving reports on the precarious living conditions in the prisons.
One of the aims of the building of socialism in Cuba is to achieve an egalitarian society, the report goes on; for that purpose, mechanisms such as rationing, price subsidies and restrictions on wage levels have been established, the report continues. At the same time, the Government's efforts in the field of human rights have been reflected in high levels of employment and the expansion of social security and educational coverage. However, as stated in the previous report of the Special Rapporteur, the economic tools chosen to promote high levels of protection for the whole population in these areas do not seem to have been highly effective. In fact, the economy has shown a poor rate of real growth for several years, leading to the serious economic crisis that has prevailed in Cuba since the early 1990s and the consequent impact on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
The report states that throughout 1995, the Government of Cuba took certain measures in the human rights field with which the Special Rapporteur expresses his satisfaction. The first measure was the decision to ratify the United Nations Convention against Torture. The second was the decision to permit a visit to Cuba by some non-governmental human rights organizations,
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after the Government had listened to their requests and claims and acceded to them partially by agreeing to release, without the condition of leaving the country, some persons imprisoned for offenses with political connotations.
These measures, the report says, were preceded by the decision to invite the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit the country, which he did in November 1994. The decision to hold another conference in Cuba in 1995 on "the nation and emigration" is also positive as a continuation of the experience of the previous year, thus creating the possibility for a dialogue between Cubans living in the country and those residing abroad, albeit one still limited to very specific questions.
The economic situation in Cuba also differs from that of recent years in that there is a new readiness to evaluate critically previous policies and solutions that had proved to be unfeasible in today's world, the report continues. There seems to be a new, more pragmatic phase. The profound restructuring of the system is, nevertheless, exacting a considerable political and social price, particularly regarding the inevitable unemployment and the appearance of new social actors. Cuba is not immune to the ideological effect of institutions such as self-employment, the agricultural and livestock market and, on another scale, foreign enterprises, with the concomitant national and foreign businessmen connected with the mixed import and export economy. The emerging social sector linked to the black market is also another factor with a strong social impact.
In spite of the steps being taken in the United States Congress to reinforce the embargo, United States policy towards Cuba, which is a pallid remnant of the cold war, is another area where resistance to change would seem to be waning, the report continues. The policy based on the trade and financial embargo against Cuba has increasingly lost support at the international level as well as in broad and significant sectors of the United States. It is essential for the Cuban economy to be transformed in an orderly and peaceful manner, without social upheaval. That is clearly also in the interest of the international community. The internal decisions taken by the Cuban Government are decisive. But without a positive international climate, such measures would be much more difficult to adopt and implement.
The report concludes that serious violations of the civil and political rights of Cuban citizens continue to occur. It could not be otherwise as political pluralism and freedom of association have still not been officially recognized and, therefore, the freedom of expression, information, movement and assembly and the freedom to demonstrate peacefully continue to be infringed. Those who defy those prohibitions are subject to persecution, discrimination and even imprisonment. Under the Cuban Penal Code, enemy propaganda, unlawful association, "dangerousness" to society, illegal entry into or departure from the country and so forth continue to be wrongfully defined as offenses.
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The continuation of human rights violations during 1995 obliges the Special Rapporteur to reiterate to the Government of Cuba essentially the same recommendations as those of the previous year, the report states. Those recommendations include: an end to persecution and punishment of citizens for reasons relating to the exercise of the freedom of peaceful expression and association; immediate steps to release unconditionally all those persons serving sentences for offenses against State security and other related offenses and for trying to leave the country unlawfully; and to permit legalization of independent groups, especially those seeking to carry out activities in the political, trade union, professional or human rights field, and allow them to act within the law, but without undue interference on the part of the authorities.
Report on Human Rights Situation in Cambodia
MICHAEL KIRBY, the Special Representative for Human Rights in Cambodia, said he was presenting his second report to the General Assembly. For the first time, the Government of Cambodia had presented a response. It appeared as an annex to his report. He had already conducted six missions to Cambodia. "Cambodia must join the economic lift-off in its region, whilst avoiding short-term economic activities, of benefit only to a few", he said.
The Government persisted with its vital efforts to clear land-mines, he continued. It was disappointing, however, that the international Conference in Vienna last October had broken up without a new, stronger international treaty. "Those who oppose a strong international law on land-mines should visit Cambodia and see the evil consequences of these anti-people weapons", he said. Outstanding work continued by United Nations agencies such as by United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Constitution Council had not been formed, apparently for political reasons, he said. There was no final, authoritative voice to resolve basic constitutional questions, which frequently arose. One of those questions was the expulsion of a Member of the National Assembly. That action had been unconstitutional. There was an urgent need to build independent courts. In addition, "a major problem is the difficulty of bringing the rule of law to bear on the military who are often accused of breaching citizens' human rights". Also, prisons needed attention since many times prisoners were locked in their cells for 23 hours a day. In addition, in a country of returnees, serious defects in land law continued to create occasions for strife and violence.
He called attention to the recent events that occurred, such as the arrest of Prince Sirivuddh, "apparently charged with conspiracy in a threat to the life of the Second Prime Minister and under Terrorism law"; and the
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alleged impediment to the registration of an opposition party despite the commitment to political pluralism. He said that the media should be more even-handed in reporting successes as well as problems.
SISOWATH SIRIRATH (Cambodia) said his Government had already replied to the Special Representative through its letter of 13 October. He encouraged States to read his Government's reply on Annex III of the report. He wished that the Centre for Human Rights would continue with its efforts.
Human Rights Situation in Myanmar
YOZO YOKOTA, the Human Rights Commissioner's Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, regretted that a visit to that country and Thailand had not been possible before the deadline for the submission of the interim report. He undertook a visit to the Union of Myanmar from 8 to 17 October, and to Thailand from 17 to 20 October. He went to ascertain the situation of human rights within Myanmar for the following minority groups: Karenni, Shan and Karen.
In summarizing his observations on the human rights situation in Myanmar he said the Government of that country had continued to release political prisoners in 1995. Among them were two prominent political party leaders from the National League for Democracy (NLD), U Kyi Maung and U Tin Oo. He welcomed the announcement that restriction of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been lifted by the Government of Myanmar and that she had been released. However, on 18 November, among the crowd which gathered to listen to Daw Aung San Suyu Kyi's speech, three NLD members had been arrested for having intervened with the police, who were erecting barricades in front of her house. Those three persons were charged with assaulting a police officer and sentenced to two years imprisonment. He went on to say that more than 190,000 Myanmar refugees out of an estimated total of about 250,000 had so far been repatriated from neighbouring Bangladesh.
In spite of the progress made, there were still many restrictions on fundamental freedoms and serious violations of human rights in Myanmar, he continued. For example, there were still more than several hundred persons imprisoned or detained for political reasons. Furthermore, the Government had powers of arbitrary arrest and detention. Severe court sentences for some political leaders had been reported and confirmed. There were still cases of torture, arbitrary killings, rapes and confiscation of private property.
Among the Special Rapporteur's recommendations were: urging the Government of Myanmar to sign and ratify the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and bringing the law in that country into line with accepted international standards regarding protection of physical integrity rights. He encouraged the Government of Myanmar to
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reinvite the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) so that it could carry out its humanitarian tasks. Also, the Government should publicize the "secret directive", which discouraged the practice of forced labour. In addition, he hoped the Government would resume its dialogue with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
U PE THEIN TIN (Myanmar) said the recommendations did not reflect the true situation in his country. Those allegations emanated from dubious sources. It was not the policy of his Government to condone human rights abuses. Rather, it was committed to promoting human rights protection. At this time when Myanmar was on the road to establishing a genuine democracy, the international community should provide its support by taking a more objective view of the situation in the country.
Human Rights in Sudan
GASPAR BIRO, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan, said grave and widespread violations of human rights were taking place in that country, such as extra-judicial killings, torture and arbitrary arrests, slavery and similar practices, including abduction and sale of as well as trafficking in children and women. Listing all documented violations and atrocities during the past three years in the Sudan would mean enumerating all possible violations of the whole range of universal human rights and freedoms recognized by the United Nations. In the northern part of the country, agents acting in the name of the Government were considered responsible for those violations while in the south, all parties to the armed conflict had committed grave violations against life, liberty and security of Sudanese citizens.
He said that neither he nor other concerned United Nations bodies and agencies had received any communication from the Government on measures undertaken to realize the recommendations contained in the resolutions of the Commission on Human Rights or in similar previous resolutions.
Although the Sudan was among the first countries to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the situation of children and women belonging to certain ethnic and religious groups had not changed and violations had continued to take place. Inequality in the legal status of women in certain domains, as compared with that of men, continued. Abduction of women and children in the south also continued. Some of the victims lived as slaves of their captors while others were subjected to the slave trade or slavery-like institutions in northern Sudan. Persons belonging to the Sudanese Army and groups of paramilitary units created by the Government in 1989 were reported to have been regularly involved in those practices in the past three years. The passivity of the Government in that situation was completely unacceptable.
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He said that in the south, following the intervention of respected personalities, including former United States President Jimmy Carter, and of United Nations bodies such as the Nairobi office of UNICEF, some positive developments had taken place this year. Those included the guineaworm vaccination campaign, the UNICEF-supported family reunification process and the unilateral undertakings by leaders of the main rebel factions in the south to respect humanitarian law and the rights of the child incorporated in the agreement of ground rules signed with Operation Lifeline Sudan.
AHMED M.O. ELMUFTI (Sudan) said that the denial of access to the Sudan complained of by the Special Rapporteur was a half truth. He had previously been admitted to the Sudan three times during 1992-1993, and his visits were a complete success. His country had decided to deny access to the Special Rapporteur only because in his February 1994 report he called for the abolition of Shariah legislation, and he had made blasphemous references. The Special Rapporteur's reference to Islamic punishments as cruel, inhuman and degrading was an unwarranted interpretation of the international human rights instruments since they excluded from such category all punishments provided for in national legislation. The Sudan had only requested the Special Rapporteur to withdraw the unwarranted references calling for the abolition of the Shariah legislation, but he rejected that moderate request, leaving the Government with no other option than to deny him access.
He said there was no justification for the deployment of monitors in the Sudan since information concerning human rights had been flowing regularly from the Sudan to all parts of the world through credible sources whose concern for human rights was unquestionable. The Special Rapporteur never mentioned that such information was flowing and as such owed an explanation for that omission in his interim report.
The General Assembly should discontinue its consideration of the human rights situation in the Sudan. Alternatively, it should recognize that the recommendation for deployment of monitors was most unwarranted, as there was a regular flow of information through credible sources. Such deployment was counterproductive to the benevolent cause of human rights and should not be supported.
Human Rights Situation in Rwanda
RENE DEGNI-SEGUI, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Rwanda, in presenting his report (document A/50/709), said three missions had been carried out in that country. The first had taken place from 27 March to 3 April; the second took place from 25 to 28 May, and the third, from 24 to 28 August. The inquiry concerning genocide had been dealt with through the deployment of observers, whose number had increased from four
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to 116. They had been effectively deployed throughout Rwanda, and included a monitoring unit as well as technical assistance. Also, he had not been able to ascertain the details in the death of Rwanda's former President.
Although some progress had been made in the human rights situation, there were attacks on property, such as its illegal occupation. He went on to note that the financial support of the international community had not been sufficient to provide returning refugees with dwellings. Arbitrary detention of people, presumed responsible of genocidal actions, continued. On 3 November, there had been 53,245 detainees. Diseases and death due to the conditions of the prisons had occurred. Attacks on the rights to life and to physical integrity had increased as forced disappearances and massacres went on. Many people of the Hutu nation had disappeared during the hostilities, he said.
The return of refugees and displaced persons was difficult. "Operation return", led by the United Nations, had pushed the closing of displacement camps and led to forced repatriation. The situation of Rwandan refugees in Zaire was also worrisome. But there had been the successful repatriation of over 20,000 persons who returned from Zaire. Their security and the recovery of their property were, however, still problematic. "Special efforts must be deployed to help in the reconstruction and national reconciliation of Rwanda", he said. The United Nations needed to accelerate the work of the International Tribunal for Rwanda in order to help that Government.
Human Rights Situation in Cuba
CARL JOHAN GROTH, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cuba, said the violations committed in that country were different from that of other countries. There were no missing people or tortured people. The main violation was in the field of individual and political rights. The Government did not allow views different from the public one. People seemed controlled or threatened in a more sophisticated manner than before.
However, there were clear improvements on human rights, he continued. For example, Cuba had signed the Convention against Torture. He said changes seemed to be taking place more because of their tactical value. In spite of that, "one should not discuss the motives but the results", he emphasized. When it came to the economic side, day-to-day life had improved. "Cuba considers itself being surrounded by forces which are hostile to the Government and the system", he said. When a country felt threats, it was less likely to change. He was encouraged by the European Community's will to collaborate with Cuba. That would have positive effects in the economic as well as in the human rights fields. He said his recommendations in this year's report were very similar to those of last year.
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JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ (Cuba) said the report presented by the Special Rapporteur had nothing to do with human rights in Cuba. It questioned the legitimacy of the Cuban Government and was a biased analysis which was made out of context. The information it contained was provided by organizations which operated in and were financed by the United States. Those organizations sought to strengthen the blockade imposed against Cuba by the United States.
The report said nothing about the process of transformation and openness going on in Cuba, he continued. It was not reasonable to discuss human rights in Cuba while ignoring the blockade against that country by the United States or the 36 years of terrorism against it.
He said the designation of a special procedure for Cuba had never been justified nor was taking up the situation of human rights in Cuba. The attempts to institutionalize those procedures were regrettable. The Special Rapporteur's analysis lacked objectivity, and he only played into the hands of the United States. Cuba would never accept diktats.
GERALDINE FERRARO (United States) said that the agreement signed in Dayton, Ohio, by the warring parties in the former Yugoslavia represented the best hope for ending the worst atrocities Europe had seen since the end of the Second World War. It was also the best opportunity to prevent a wider and more terrible war in that volatile region of Europe.
Her country was committed to working with the international community to build a world based on agreed human rights standards. Concerning reservations to treaties, however, she went on to note her Government's comments that there was no basis in international law to allow a treaty body to decide that a reservation was not acceptable. The United States would note that its reservations did not run contrary to the objects and purposes of the treaties themselves, and that the use of limited reservations had enhanced broad participation in treaties.
The United States remained committed to the principles of equal protection and non-discrimination which underlie the racial, ethnic and religious diversity of its democratic society and gave powerful meaning to the inalienable rights of its citizens.
ARTURO LACLAUSTRA (Spain) speaking on behalf of the European Union and of Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Cyprus and Malta, expressed his deep satisfaction at the successful conclusion of the peace talks in Dayton. "We are confident that the Agreements for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, entered into by the
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Republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will pave the way for a peaceful and stable future for all the countries in the former Yugoslavia", he said.
He expressed the hoped for the complete respect of humanitarian law in the region. He regretted, however, the reports of grave violations of human rights during and after the Croatian offensive in Krajina. He condemned the reported cases of continuing killing and ill-treatment of Croatian Serbs and the systematic burning and looting of Serb properties. "The European Union has suspended its trade and cooperation agreement and its technical assistance programme with Croatia", he announced.
He regretted the human rights violations by the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro) against members of the Albanian majority population in Kosovo as well as against minorities in Sandjak and Vojvodina and other parts of the country. "We caution against any attempts designed to use Serb refugees to alter the population balance in Kosovo, Vojvodina and any other part of the country", he emphasized. Also, he called on Albania to continue the process of political reform and respect for human rights, including those of persons belonging to the Greek and other minorities, and also expressed his concern over the continuing serious human rights violations in the south-eastern provinces of Turkey. "We call on the Turkish Government to release all remaining political prisoners", he said. The fight against terrorism needed to be conducted with full respect for international human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He hoped for a viable solution to the Cyprus question and reiterated the European Union's support for the restoration of the unity, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country. With regard to Chechnya, the Union welcomed the military accord of 30 July. But it was concerned by its suspension and urged the resumption of negotiations on implementation of the full agreement as soon as possible. It was important that all parties abide by the cease-fire. Also, the Union called on the Sudanese Government to respect human rights in all its territory, including the Nuba Mountains. "We urge the Government of Sudan to stop rounding up children from the street in major towns under its control and release all children from special camps or any other places of detention", he said.
He also expressed the European Union's concern at the human rights situation in Algeria and hoped that the recent elections would be followed by rapid and effective progress towards the organization of legislative and local elections. He deplored the persistence of violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Zaire. Concerning Nigeria, he said the European Union strongly condemned the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants. He called for the prosecution of the perpetrators of the massive violations of
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human rights in Rwanda. The situation in Burundi continued to be worrisome. There was a great need to increase preventive action there, in particular through the presence of human rights experts and observers.
In addition, he called attention to the human rights situations in Kenya, Iran, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Kashmir, East Timor and Iraq. With regard to Saudi Arabia, he expressed his concern over reports of torture of detainees and other cruel, inhumane or degrading punishment. He denounced the indiscriminate terrorist acts perpetrated in Sri Lanka. And expressed regret at the extensive use of the death penalty in China.
He urged the Cuban Government to permit freedom of expression and to respect the guarantees of due process. He also supported the efforts by the Government of Colombia to curb violations and abuses committed by the security forces and violence by the guerrilla groups. Finally, the question of impunity in Peru was still of great concern, he stated.
PER HAUGESTAD (Norway) said that the protection of minorities was an essential element of stability and security. Respect for the rights of minorities had a major role to play in peace-building and peacemaking efforts, ranging from early warning to restoration of peace and stability in post- conflict stages. The tragic conflicts in the former Yugoslavia had witnessed gross violations of basic human rights, and it was imperative that those violations be brought to an end. Norway pledged its full support in the implementation of the recent agreement reached in Dayton, Ohio.
He said that individuals and groups that advocated protection of human rights by peaceful means should be considered important partners for governments in the quest of nations for protecting and strengthening democracy and the rule of law. There was a need for a speedy completion and adoption of the declaration on the rights and responsibilities of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms.
Freedom of expression was a fundamental individual human right and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other civil and political rights, he said. The "Fatwa" proclaimed against the writer Salman Rushdie and those associated with his book was an intolerable infringement of the human rights of citizens both in Norway and elsewhere and must be brought to an end.
Recently in Nigeria, some of the most prominent human rights activists, including distinguished author Ken Saro-Wiwa, were executed, he stated. Norway strongly condemned those blatant violations of all basic standards of legal processes and of respect for human rights. The international community had a duty to react against such atrocities committed by the Nigerian authorities. In view of the seriousness of the situation further measures, including economic sanctions, should be considered by the international
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community, unless steps were taken to put an end to the practices which the world community had had to witness in the past few weeks. Those working for democracy, freedom of expression and human rights in Nigeria should get the support of the international community.
HERVE LADSOUS (France) said his country was determined to support the international criminal tribunals set up on the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Other States should do likewise. On the question of gender equality, he said it had been an enshrined right for 50 years and could not be called to question. France was concerned at the scope of certain reservations made by many delegations at the Fourth World Conference on Women held recently in Beijing. His country supported the withdrawal of those reservations that were incompatible with international laws and treaties.
France also supported the proposal for an optional protocol to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Convention, he stated. It stressed that violence against women was a flagrant violation of their rights, and a practice universally condemned.
He said many children in many parts of the world were not enjoying their most elementary rights because of conflict situations and other problems. Struggle against that situation must be waged first at the national level, with the cooperation of non-governmental organizations and other groups. The actions to be taken should also be applied by international actors. The Convention on the Rights of the Child was the cornerstone for the protection of children's rights. However, the Convention was too vague on certain points and, therefore, needed to be augmented. France supported the two protocols aimed at barring the recruitment of children under the age of 18 into armed forces and at preventing the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
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