COUNTRY DELEGATIONS, NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS ALLEGE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS THROUGHOUT WORLD, AT HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DEBATE19960418
GENEVA, 17 April (UN Information Service) -- Over 40 non-governmental organizations took the floor at this afternoon's meeting of the Commission on Human Rights to denounce human rights violations around the world, while 13 country delegations defended their respective governments' records.
The claims from the non-governmental groups were part of the Commission's debate on human rights violations anywhere in the world, a discussion that typically attracts the most attention at the panel's annual sessions. The allegations concerned mainly developing countries. This evening, the representatives of China, Iraq and Turkey responded to claims made by the representative of the European Union this morning. China's representative said the countries of the West always placed themselves in a superior position, as if developing countries were still their colonies. The European Union had launched a fierce attack on more than 60 developing countries, without mentioning violations in its member States.
The delegations of Chile, Angola, Zaire, Poland, Armenia, Kuwait, Portugal, Greece, South Africa, Norway, Algeria, Japan, Egypt, Papua New Guinea, Mauritania and Sri Lanka participated in the debate. Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also contributed statements: International Association of Democratic Lawyers, Christian Solidarity International, Minority Rights Group, Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, War Resisters International, Christian Democratic International, International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization, and the International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples.
The Commission also heard from: Fédération Internationale de l'Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (FIACAT), World Organization against Torture, International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, International Falcon Movement, Freedom House, Anti-Slavery International, Human Rights Advocates, International Federation of Free Journalists, Indian Council of Education, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, International Federation for the Protection of Religions,
Ethnic, Linguistic and other Minorities, Bahá'í International Community, International Peace Bureau, Muslim World League, Union of Arab Jurists, France Libertés - Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council, Franciscans International, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Asian Buddhists Conference for Peace, International League for Human Rights, and Reporters sans Frontières.
Rights of reply were made by Equatorial Guinea, Germany, Afghanistan, Viet Nam, Turkey, Sudan, Bahrain, Iraq, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, China, Albania and Pakistan.
CARMEN HERTZ (Chile) said country reports were a most essential part of the Commission's work, although there had been a tendency by some countries to politicize the concerns they raised. Many situations of human rights before the Commission were closely linked to well-known conflicts between States. Those conflicts must be overcome in a constructive way for the objectives of the Commission to be achieved. It was essential to analyse situations and adopt decisions so that human rights would be the driving force for the Commission. Duplication of effort with other international bodies must be avoided. There must also be cooperation between them. Most importantly, there must be a genuine will to remedy human rights violations which have been denounced. The role of non-governmental organizations would always be decisive in that regard.
ADRIANO PARREIRA (Angola) said his Government was deeply worried about the situation of human rights in Cyprus. The proposal by the Cypriot authorities for the demilitarization of the island deserved support from the Commission. All restrictions on freedom of movement and on the freedom of settlement in the island should be lifted immediately. As a major step towards the total rehabilitation of human rights in Cyprus, the fate of the missing persons should be ascertained in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.
TUDIESHE K. SALOMON (Zaire) said the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Zaire had based his conclusions on a limited number of events without verifying the context in which they had occurred. He had concentrated his work on a few isolated areas. It was important to point out that Zaire had 11 regions covering more than 2 million kilometres.
The democratic process was irreversible in Zaire, he added. An inter-ministerial commission had been entrusted with drawing up a draft constitution of the third republic that would be submitted to a referendum. He was pleased to note that the report on human rights in the world of the United States Department of State noted that Zaire was one of the few countries to tolerate non-governmental organizations, which operated without
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restriction. Furthermore, the courts in Zaire had, in many cases, sentenced persons who had been involved in human rights violations. Zaire reaffirmed its support for United Nations machinery for the promotion and protection of human rights.
ROMAN KUZNIAR (Poland) said that in numerous countries women and children were subject to inhuman and degrading treatment, including slavery, rape and forced prostitution. And the international community was the helpless witness of serious crimes and gross violations of human rights in situations of armed conflict. In the former Yugoslavia, the situation was still fragile, despite progress made since the conclusion of the Dayton Peace Agreement. The abhorrent practice of ethnic cleansing had not yet been uprooted, and the plight of hundreds of thousands refugees was tragic. In situations of armed conflict, the United Nations continued to be helpless, without the political, organizational or technical capacity to act.
ACHOT MELIK-CHAKHNAZAROV (Armenia) said experience showed that the most heinous violations of human rights occurred where the rights of a whole people were violated. Some States, while advocating the realization of human rights, oppressed small vulnerable nations and, in so doing, they were guilty of a double standard. In that regard, Armenia was deeply concerned with the situation in Cyprus and hoped that all the United Nations resolutions in that regard would be implemented, so as to allow all Cypriots to live in freedom.
DHARAR A.R. RAZZOOQI (Kuwait) said the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation in Iraq, presented this morning, gave a vivid picture of the severe tragedy imposed upon the Iraqi people by its own rulers. Furthermore, Iraq was violating every clause of the 1949 Geneva Conventions by keeping in captivity thousands of innocent civilians five years after the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqi invaders. Kuwait would leave no stone unturned until each and everyone of its prisoners of war in Iraq was released and accounted for.
GONÇALO DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said the deteriorating situation in East Timor justified the gravest concern. During 1995, 17 prisoners of conscience had been brought to trial and sentenced to prison terms for organizing and participating in peaceful demonstrations. At least 35 Timorese prisoners were currently serving sentences of up to life imprisonment for their peaceful opposition to Indonesian rule in East Timor. According to practically all evidence available, the increasing presence of military forces strongly contributed to the tension prevailing in East Timor. The United States Department of State human rights report stated that the use of torture continued in detention facilities run by military intelligence in Indonesia. Military authorities continued the practice of detaining people without warrants, charges or court proceedings. Dialogue was the only route to peace and justice in East Timor.
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JOHN N. BOUCAOURIS (Greece) said the nearly 200,000 Greek Cypriots forcibly expelled from their homes as a result of the Turkish invasion were still being prevented from returning home. They were refugees in their own country. They continued to be deprived arbitrarily of their property in the occupied area. The occupation forces had illegally distributed property to members of the army and to settlers from Turkey. The violation of human rights of the Greek Cypriots enclaved in the occupied area was another issue of deep concern. Out of the 20,000 Greek Cypriots who had chosen to stay in their ancestral homes after the invasion, fewer than 600 still lived there. The Commission could not but remain gravely concerned at the untenable human rights situation in Cyprus.
J.S. SELEBI (South Africa) said that, despite the fact that apartheid was no more, it was no time for South Africans to indulge in self- congratulation. Rather, it was a time for them to make their own contribution to human rights efforts. As a matter of policy and principle, South Africa supported all efforts to establish human rights in any part of the world. There was still an immense task ahead of South Africans, particularly in the field of economic and social rights. That would be the primary target of its efforts for many years to come.
PER HAUGESTAD (Norway) said the implementation of the peace agreement in former Yugoslavia required a determined effort by the parties to the conflict, as well as the support of the international community. Norway would provide economic assistance to a number of human rights organizations in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia. Meanwhile, the gross violations of human rights by the parties in the Chechen Republic, as well as the plight of innocent civilians, had given rise to growing concern.
Turning to the situation in Africa, he said democratic institutions and human rights seemed to be gaining a firm footing in most of the countries of southern Africa, including South Africa. Regarding Nigeria, however, Norway had been horrified by the brutal execution of author Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others by the authorities. In Kenya, harassment and arbitrary detention of opposition politicians continued. In Asia, the human rights situation in East Timor continued to give cause for concern. In Myanmar, although Aung San Suu Kyi had been released, the authorities had been unwilling to enter into a dialogue with her. Norway welcomed the steps taken by the Government of China to strengthen the human rights of the individual. However, there were reports of human rights violations in the country, including in Tibet. In Latin America, the situation in Colombia continued to be a matter of concern. Norway was also concerned over the human rights situations in Iran, Iraq and Guatemala.
ARSEN MELIK-SHAHNAZAROV, of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said the Armenian majority in Nagorny Karabakh had been oppressed during Soviet rule. Gradually, the number of Armenians had been reduced from
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96 per cent of the population to about 76 per cent. In December 1991, a referendum in Nagorny Karabakh had shown that the vast majority of the people wished for independence. The response of Azerbaijan had been armed aggression.
DAVID LITTMAN, of Christian Solidarity International, said the Government of the Sudan was continuing to try to transform the ethnically and religiously diverse country into an Arab, Islamic State against the wishes of the vast majority of its black African population. The devastating effects of that policy, most systematically pursued in the Nuba Mountains, was tantamount to genocide. The mass displacement of the population in the South and the Nuba Mountains -- by means of terror, war, slavery and the manipulation of aid -- was the major feature of that policy.
MARIA LUNDBERG, of the Minority Rights Group, said an estimated 50,000 people had been killed and hundreds of thousands -- mainly Tamils -- displaced in the almost 18 years of violent conflict in Sri Lanka. Substantial international aid was needed as the basis for a long-term solution to the problems there. As for the question of human rights in Palestine, the situation of the Gaza Strip remained as dire as ever. Assassinations and bombings had been carried out by extremists on both sides with the intention of undermining the peacemakers once again. The Palestinians in Lebanon and Jordan -- and in Israel itself -- were in danger of being neglected in the peace process. In Northern Ireland, there were very high levels of unemployment among the Catholic community and schools remained divided by religious affiliation. All of those examples showed the need for a wide range of continuous and painstaking efforts to reconcile communities and to ensure the development of a culture of human rights.
JOSE RAMOS HARTA, of the Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said the Indonesian authorities had subjected him to various kinds of torture during his illegal detention. He had been able to leave the country only with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Embassy of Japan in Jakarta, where he had sought refuge. Many of his countrymen from East Timor continued to suffer from repression by the authorities.
GALINA HOREVA, of War Resisters International, said since the beginning of the conflict in Chechnya, over 6,000 soldiers had left the army, following the dictates of their conscience. It was evident that no records had been kept of soldiers who were missing or had died. For over a year, the State had not provided any official statistics on war casualties. Hence, her organization had sought information directly from the relatives of the soldiers who had been sent to the front. It had established that approximately 10,000 soldiers had been killed and over 700 other military personnel had disappeared, none of whom had been declared officially missing or dead. The speaker called for the temporary exclusion of the Russian Federation from the United Nations until the war in Chechnya was brought to an end.
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MARTA DE CARDENAS, of Christian Democratic International, said the displacement policy of the Government of the Sudan had prompted an inter national outcry. Displaced persons were abducted and forced to move to other regions. In addition, trafficking in children was commonplace. The authorities continued to persecute non-Muslims pursuant to its forced conversion policy. Discrimination of non-Arabs and non-Muslims was government policy.
ATSUKO TANAKA, of the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, said hundreds of thousands of Sri Lankan people had become refugees and faced barbaric violence as a result of the continuing military operations of both the Sinhala and Tamil communities. The Government of Sri Lanka should be required to reject a military solution to the ethnic problem. It should take steps to resolve the conflict through the devolution of power. In Bhutan, meanwhile, a consistent pattern of human rights violations had forced tens of thousands of Bhutanese citizens to flee their homes and seek refuge in Nepal and India. The announcement that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was unable to continue relief aid to those refugees had created restlessness and insecurity among them. Her organization was also deeply concerned over reported police brutality cases experienced by the Jumma people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh, and about the severe human rights situation of Greek Cypriots living in the northern part of Cyprus.
FEDERICO ANDREW, of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, said that since 1988 the Commission had been informed about acts of summary executions and violations of human rights in Colombia, but it had not applied mechanisms corresponding to the gravity of the situation. The Commission was urged to appoint a special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Colombia. Concerning Mexico, a resolution should be adopted on the massacre perpetrated in Aguas Blancas, state of Guerrero, and Atoyac de Alvarez last February. The special rapporteurs on summary executions and on torture should also visit those places. In El Salvador, the fact that the peace accords had not been complied with, that the recommendations of the Truth Commission had been disregarded, and that the conclusions of the joint group that had investigated death squad activity had gone unheeded pointed, to a precarious situation.
MOHAMMED ARIF, of the Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organisation, said the Mohajirs in the urban centres of Sindh faced systematic extermination at the hands of the Government of Pakistan. Since June 1992, 100,000 homes had been affected. At least 1 million people had been rendered destitute because their breadwinners either were under illegal custody or had gone into hiding fearing for their lives. In fact, 20,000 Mohajirs had been extrajudicially or indiscriminately killed over the years. Illegal arrests, torture, extra- judicial killings and rapes, among other abuses, were a daily occurrence in Karachi Hyderabad and other urban centres of Sindh. The Afro-Asian Peoples'
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Solidarity Organization called upon the Commission to appoint a special rapporteur for Pakistan to investigate the genocide of the Mohajir nation in Sindh.
LUIS ONDO AYANG, of the International Movement for Fraternal Union among Races and Peoples, said the President of Equatorial Guinea continued to violate the human rights of the people in order to perpetuate his power. The election he claimed to have won last February had been boycotted by opposition parties because of irregularities in the process. Furthermore, the National Election Board was headed by one of his kin. Before the election, arrangements had been made so that the President would win. The international community should not recognize the outcome of that election.
MARIE-LAURE KIRZIN, of the Fédération Internationale de l'Action des Chrétiens pour l'Abolition de la Torture (FIACAT), said that since China's ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment in 1988, the authorities had not ceased to affirm that Chinese legislation was in conformity with the requirements of the treaty. But, although China had partly revised its penal legislation, the definition of torture therein was much more restrictive than what was contained in the Convention. Moreover, Chinese legislation permitted the use of torture and corporal punishment to extract confessions, and it made no mention of psychological torture. The FIACAT had received information that five detainees had died after suffering torture and ill-treatment. Hu Jian, a political prisoner arrested in 1989, had died after spending two years on a hunger strike to protest the inhuman treatment inflicted upon him during detention. The FIACAT wished to see the Special Rapporteur on torture visit China.
ANNE-LAURENCE LACROIX, of the World Organisation against Torture, said the Rwandan and Burundian refugees of Hutu origin in Zaire and in other countries in the Great Lakes region would not cease to be a threat to the stability of the area until they could return safely to their countries. The threat was all the more serious given there were extremist elements among the refugees who planned to take revenge against the armies of their respective countries. In Bhutan meanwhile, atrocities were being committed against ethnic minorities. Discriminatory laws there deprived the approximately 20 per cent of Bhutanese citizens of Nepalese origin of their right to citizenship.
MAJID TRAMBOO, of the International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said his organization was deeply concerned that acts of intimidation and reprisals against human rights activists and non-governmental organizations continued to occur in a number of countries. Alleged victims of reprisals also included witnesses of human rights violations, their relatives and organizations and individuals who regularly submitted information to the United Nations on human rights matters. Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir
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were responsible for such practices in Jammu and Kashmir. The Commission was urged to direct governments, including that of India, to refrain from all acts of intimidation against those who sought to cooperate, or who had cooperated, with United Nations human rights bodies.
IRAJ MESDAGHI, of the International Falcon Movement. said he was a victim of crimes against humanity in Iran. He said he was in the two-minute kangaroo court and sentenced to 10 years in prison for distributing an opposition newspaper. While in prison, he was tortured for successive days; blind-folded and his arms and legs tied to a wooden bench. He was forced to watch the torture and mutilated bodies of his best friends. In summer 1988, he witnessed 800 executions in a matter of one week. In those months, at least 12,000 political prisoners, most of whom sympathized with the Mujaheddin, were massacred. All human rights organizations which monitored the situation recorded that figure.
SEBASTIAN ARCOS BERGNES, of Freedom House, said in January 1992 he had been arrested in his home by the Cuban political police for the second time in 10 years. He had been subsequently sentenced to a prison term of four years and eight months for the sole crime of reporting to the Commission human rights violations committed by the Government of Cuba. He urged the Commission to request the Cuban Government to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross unlimited access to all Cuban prisons and that international rules concerning prisons and treatment of prisoners be duly observed.
ROSEMARIE GILLESPIE, of Anti-Slavery International, said violations of human rights, including extrajudicial killings and torture, continued in Bougainville despite peace initiatives designed to bring about an end to the seven-year war. In January 1996, 12 people, including five children, had been reportedly killed in a massacre by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) Defence Force in violation of the crease-fire agreement signed in September 1994. More than 500 civilians had been victims of extraudicial executions by the PNG Defence Force during the protracted conflict over the political future of the island. People in the area controlled by the Bougainville Revolutionary Army continued to be subjected to what amounted to a blockade by the PNG Defence Force, depriving them of medicines, vaccines and basic necessities. The spillover effect of the war on Bougainville on the neighbouring Solomon Islands constituted a threat to regional peace and stability.
SERGEI KOVALEV, of Human Rights Advocates, said the State security forces in Russia were beyond control. There was a growing nightmare of inhuman conditions in prisons. Torture was practised by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, discrimination on the basis of national origin was widespread, and many other violations of rights were detailed in the report of the former head of the Russian Commission of Human Rights. The most severe setback for human rights had arisen in the context of the armed conflict in
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Chechnya. That operation could not be considered a police action against terrorists, but a crime against a nation. During the first months of the conflict in the capital of Grozny alone, approximately 27,000 peaceful inhabitants had been killed and hundreds of thousands had been left homeless. There had also been criminal acts committed by the Chechen side. The world community must not ignore the massive violations of human rights in Russia for the sake of short-term pragmatic interests. ALGIS TOMAS GENIUSAS, of the International Federation of Free Journalists, said that in Kosovo, where the population was 90 per cent Albanian, intimidation and imprisonment of ethnic Albanian journalists and the systematic harassment and disruption of the news media in the Albanian language by the Serbs continued. In Kashmir, journalists were abducted, assaulted and constantly faced the threat of assassination. In China, many journalists had been imprisoned for near life terms. Tibetans were tortured. In Belarus, the independent press had been criticized for being irresponsible, and the Government had said that State-run newspapers were obliged to support the Government in their coverage.
V.K. GUPTA, of the Indian Council of Education, said human rights were violated by both government and militants. Governments used coercive machinery to counter any protests against real or perceived injustices which remained unremedied. Sometimes, that resulted in full-fledged militancy. The ranks of militants were then swelled by criminals who terrorized innocent people and provided nations specializing in the trade of weapons and explosives with a convenient market. As conflicts in society increased, there was a corresponding increase in human rights violations. A two-pronged approach was required, consisting of the defence of innocent civilians and the punishment of culprits. Only through public pressure, a free press and the establishment of bodies such as the Commission could violations be curtailed. The Indian Council of Education called for more effective support for the cause of democracy and freedom of the press in all parts of the world.
GOVIND NARAIN SRIVASTAVA, of the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, said there were countries which donned the garb of democracy but unleashed oppression against their own people. One example was Pakistan. Pakistan specialized in oppression. Years of martial law and military dictatorship had been followed by civilian leadership, but not by a departure from persecution of minorities. Guns had been turned against Mohajirs in Sindh, who were an Urdu-speaking minority. Mohajirs were facing extermination, but before that it had been the Sindhis who had been the focus of government abuses. In the north of the country, people of the area illegally occupied by Pakistan through armed aggression in 1947 still dreamed of sending representatives to the national assembly. The people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir had to face brutality and had no forum for voicing their opinions. Elsewhere the persecution of non-Muslim minorities, including the Ahmediyas and the Christians, continued. The world community must call on Pakistan to respect human rights.
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SPYRIDON RIZOPOULOS, of the International Federation for the Protection of the Rights of Ethnic, Religious, Linguistic and Other Minorities, said that in the last 11 years, at least 3,000 villages of the Kurdish population in Turkey had been forcibly evacuated or destroyed. Between 1990 and 1995, more than 2,000 Kurdish intellectuals had been killed. Turkish abuses did not stop at the slaughtering of the Kurds. Turkish abuses had expanded into Cyprus.
In June 1996, he continued, Albania would be facing the greatest of democratic challenges -- elections. However, what the Government of Albania had chosen to do was try to manipulate those elections by forcing upon Parliament the passing of a uniquely fraudulent law which made fair elections impossible. It allowed the Government the right to appoint the three top members of each local election committee, eliminate all possible opponents and give the right to the Government to deliver the election results 10 days after the elections. The Commission should urge the Government of Albania to abide by the international agreements it had ratified and guarantee the rights of its ethnic minorities.
HOCINE MEGHLAOUI (Algeria) said the country had gone through some important stages recently in political, economic, and security matters. The President of Algeria had taken over power peacefully to oversee a transitional period -- something new for Algeria. Pluralist, presidential elections, announced by the President in February 1995, had been held on 16 November 1995. International observers had been present, along with hundreds of journalists from around the world. They had been witnesses to the fairness of the election. The holding of general elections would be next. Preparations were now under way, and reflected the President's desire to hold a national dialogue and consolidate democratic national institutions. Everything would be done to consolidate multi-party democracy -- that was what the Algerian people wanted. Reforms made by the Government were starting to lead to economic recovery, and serious efforts were being made to pursue and end terrorism; help was needed from the international community in that regard.
MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said violations of human rights in Afghanistan were widespread, as reported by the Special Rapporteur on the situation in the country. All States and warring factions must rally behind United Nations efforts to restore peace and stability in the country. In Colombia, the situation unfortunately had not improved in any significant manner, and while Japan appreciated the Colombian Government's efforts to date, the authorities should go further. Japan also called once again upon Cuba to permit the Special Rapporteur to carry out his mandate in full, particularly by allowing him to visit. The situation there remained of matter of concern. A solution to the problems in Cyprus was still necessary, and Japan sincerely hoped that negotiations would be resumed between the two sides under the auspices of the Secretary-General. Japan also remained concerned about human rights problems in Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, East Timor, the former Yugoslavia and Zaire.
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MOUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) said 100 towns in southern Lebanon had been affected by the recent Israeli bombing. That aggression was threatening to compromise the whole peace process in the Middle East. Israel must be urged to cease its aggression and respect the territorial integrity of Lebanon. Thousands of people had been displaced by Israel's bombardment.
Fortunately, he said, the conflict in the Balkans, which had involved ethnic cleansing and attempts to destroy the cultural identity of the area, was now over. The international community must remain vigilant, however, to ensure that human rights were not further violated. The refugees displaced by the conflict should have the right to return to their homes. Assistance should be provided to implement a comprehensive voluntary return programme. With regard to the situation in Chechnya, Egypt was seriously concerned about the fate of people in Chechnya and welcomed the latest initiative taken by President Boris Yeltsin to alleviate the situation there.
PETER EAFEARE (Papua New Guinea) said the country wished to comment on the Special Rapporteur's report in relation to alleged human rights violations in Bougainville. The Special Rapporteur was allowed to travel everywhere except to the central region of Bougainville -- stronghold of the opposition Bougainville Revolutionary Army (BRA) -- because of weather conditions. The report could have said more about the BRA's failure to uphold the agreements and various peace initiatives. It did not adequately reflect the mood of Bougainvilleans and the work of the Bougainville Transitional Government in bringing together people torn by war and hate. The report could have elaborated more on the obstacles being raised by factions in the BRA. It could have mentioned the funds that the Government had established to implement peace agreements. A major problem was that semi-independent units of the BRA functioned as loosely based criminal bands running around with no sense of solidarity, and were absolutely chaotic in their approach to the peace process. The report also did not make any mention of the Government's decision to establish a national commission on human rights.
TECHESTE AHDEROM, of the Baha'i' International Community, said the annihilation of the Bahá'í community in Iran was a clear-cut case of religious discrimination. They had been characterized in official documents as "religiously unclean", "unprotected infidels", "heretics", "enemies of God", "corrupt on earth", belonging to a "wayward sect" and "guilty of the most grievous sin". A new and highly disturbing charge had now been levelled at the Bahá'ís -- that of religious apostasy. Currently, two Bahá'ís were awaiting execution on that charge. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the Government of Iran had consistently denied that the persecution of Baha'i' was religiously motivated. The Government justified the persecution by falsely denouncing the Bahá'ís as "agents of foreign Powers". The Bahá'ís hoped the Commission would again adopt a resolution expressing concern for the plight of the community in Iran.
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SEIN WIN, of the International Peace Bureau, said he had been elected a representative in the 1990 general elections in Myanmar. However, the State Law Parliamentary and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) had not respected the right of the country's people to participate in their Government. It had consistently refused to convene the Parliament despite repeated requests from the National League for Democracy, which had won the elections. The SLORC had initiated a so-called "national convention" to draft a new constitution, in an effort to nullify the existing electoral mandate. But, after three years, the convention had shifted away from its original aims.
He said that elected representatives of the people, for example, now made up only 2.88 per cent of the delegates to the convention, and neither the objectives of the convention nor its working procedure had been drawn up in consultation with delegates. The SLORC was using the convention to gain time in order to suppress independent political activity. The Commission must issue a plain condemnation of the national convention as a totally illegal entity, and must urge the SLORC to convene immediately the Parliament elected in 1990.
ABDUL MAJID BANDAY, of the Muslim World League, said the Government of India had indulged in the worst type of suppression of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir. The State terrorism practised by India in Kashmir had made the day-to-day life of the common Kashmiri horrible. There was abuse of human rights in every form: massacres; custodial deaths; "disappearances"; molestation of women; arbitrary detention of persons without trial; torture and humiliation of the civilians; and desecration of sacred shrines and places of worship at the hands of men in uniform. The Kashmir issue had seriously threatened the safety and stability of South Asia. There had already been three armed conflicts between India and Pakistan, and it appeared that they were on the threshold of yet another conflict, which could turn into nuclear war. The Commission was urged to take appropriate measures to stop human rights violations in Kashmir and rescue the people from India's State terrorism.
ELIAS KHOURI, of the Union of Arab Jurists, said the organization had noticed that in certain Arab countries there had been some attempts to liberate society, get rid of special courts, and establish greater freedom. But those attempts had been weak, and in other countries the situation had deteriorated. Other factors were external interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, such as what was now occurring in Lebanon at the hands of Israeli soldiers -- a gross violation of human rights and a flouting of international law. Economic embargoes such as those imposed against Iraq and parts of Palestine also were beyond the standards of human rights. There should be an international moral charter that would keep the world community from doing such things. In Iraq, the embargo had been in force for more than six years, outlasting the conditions that had led to it. Civilians, especially children, were suffering. It was time to lift the embargo.
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FRANCOISE BRIE, of France Libertés, said the Commission should pursue more effective measures with regard to human rights in Colombia. Impunity must end and humanitarian laws must be applied. A special rapporteur must be appointed straight away to assist the Government with its efforts. Two other issues gave cause for concern -- the 500,000 displaced persons in Iraq and the plight of the Kurdish population in Turkey. In that connection, France Libertés reiterated its demand for an international tribunal to be established to deal with the genocide of the Kurdish people in Turkey.
KYRIAKOS KALATTAS, of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocesan Council, said it was necessary for the Commission to attend to the situation of Greek Cypriots living in the occupied area of Cyprus. After the 1974 Turkish invasion and occupation, 200,000 Greek Cypriots, or 82 per cent of the occupants of the area, had been expelled from their homes and lands, and some 20,000 Greek Cypriots had remained, but restricted to their villages. Persistent harassment, discrimination, and coercion had since forced all but some 485 of those enclaved Greek Cypriots to flee from the Karpass Peninsula. Those remaining were denied access to medical doctors and to education. They had suffered assassinations, murders, robberies, arson, beatings, and threats from Turkish mainlanders imported there as settlers, and had been separated for years from their families. The Commission must exert all possible influence on the Turkish Government to end its occupation and its violations of the human rights of Greek Cypriots.
JEAN FALLON, of Franciscans International, called for the appointment of a special rapporteur for Colombia. She said widely circulated and verifiable reports confirmed the excessive numbers of presumed political assassinations, deaths from warlike situations and deaths that had not been clarified -- one report put the total of those three categories of deaths at 59,909. That did not include those deaths caused by drug trafficking and common delinquency. Franciscans International also knew of many claims of torture and other violations of human rights.
SILVIA MCFADYEN-JONES, of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said there were serious human rights violations of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, both in and outside of camps. More than 340,000 Palestinian refugees were registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and there could be another 6,000 unregistered refugees. Most lived in heavily overcrowded camps, in small dwellings in which conditions were squalid. The refugees were not allowed to enter the local labour market, women had difficulty feeding their families, malnutrition was causing staggering health problems, only the most elementary medical treatment was available, there had been displacements by closures of camps, and conditions were beyond description. The peace process, while welcome, had marginalized the refugees in Lebanon, and Israel had declared all along that there was no question of their being allowed to return to former homes in Galilee and coastal towns and villages now part of Israel.
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The United Nations had an obligation to provide a just and comprehensive solution to the problems of the refugees.
MOHAMMED ARIF AAJAKIA, of the Asian Buddhist Conference for Peace, said the problem of the massive transfer of Chinese into Tibet was extremely urgent. In 1949, there had been virtually no Chinese in what was now called the Tibet Autonomous Region, and very few in the Tibetan prefectures now incorporated into neighbouring provinces. There had been about 6 million Tibetans in the same area. The Tibetan government in exile estimates the number of Chinese now at 7.5 million. In contrast, the Tibetan population had decreased to about 4.6 million. He urged the Commission to stop the eradication of Tibet and adopt a resolution on China at the current session. The Commission should also persuade the Government of Bangladesh to demonstrate its political will in reaching a negotiated settlement to the crisis in the Chittagong Hill Tracts by withdrawing its armed forces, responsible for the almost daily abuse of the rights of the Jumma people.
LIU QING, of the International League for Human Rights, said he had spent over 10 years in prison in China as a prisoner of conscience. There had been a serious deterioration in the treatment of Chinese dissidents since 1994, and especially after 1995, and dissidents now were rarely able to obtain any protection under the law. There was a severe crackdown against those who openly criticized the Government, expressed dissenting ideas or opinions, or even offered suggestions or made requests. Authorities conducted illegal and arbitrary detentions, interrogations, and house searches. Dissidents routinely were deprived of their rights to file lawsuits against abuses or to lodge appeals, and their family members were harassed or persecuted. China continued to persecute Tibetan Buddhists and to impose severe restrictions on citizens' freedom of movement. Prisoners of conscience frequently suffered basic health problems that were ignored, and often such prisoners were forced to do heavy labour while being subject to ill-treatment and beatings. The Commission must pass a resolution on China's human rights situation.
LIESL GRAZ, of Reporters sans Frontières, said that in Bangladesh press freedom was guaranteed by article 39 of the Constitution, but there were in fact 25 restrictions on the exercise of that freedom. The Government put pressure on newspapers by imposing quotas for the sale and distribution of newsprint and through the allocation of official advertising. In Peru, anti-terrorist legislation had been strengthened by President Alberto Fujimori with the aim of combating armed organizations, such as the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Three journalists had been arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison for "collaborating with terrorists". They should be released unconditionally.
In the Turkish press, she continued, freedom of tone and criticism had existed in many fields, including politics. The Government of Turkey and the international community needed to be made aware, as a matter of urgency, of
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the press freedom situation there -- mass arrests, torture in custody and newspapers seized almost every day. During the past year, at least 120 journalists in Turkey had been arrested or imprisoned and at least 29 had been victims of ill-treatment and torture. Such practices were believed to have led to the death of two journalists.
SIDNEY SOKHOMA (Mauritania) said Mauritania was a pluralistic, multi-party democracy. The people ran the Government and pursued economic development, which released human beings from poverty and ignorance, and enabled them to enjoy human rights. Today, development had to be looked at internationally, as well as nationally, as so much business now was conducted internationally. The world community must not lose sight of the duty to foster international economic development, and must recognize the importance of that development for the human rights of residents of developing countries. It must ease the structural-adjustment burdens on such countries, and deal with human rights issues in an equitable and unbiased manner. As for the situation in particular countries, there must be extensive help provided for Rwanda and Burundi. In Bosnia, the need to bring war criminals to justice must be recognized.
BERNARD GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said the Government had shown its determination to convey the message to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) that the present conflict would not be resolved by recourse to arms, violence and terrorism. The Government had no alternative but to respond to the violence and acts of terrorism by the LTTE by military means in order to protect civilians and others targeted by the group. Undeterred by LTTE action, the Government had given priority to pursuing negotiation.
Despite the resumption of hostilities by the LTTE, the Government continued to provide relief and medical supplies to internally displaced persons at considerable cost, he said. It had put in place a comprehensive programme for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the cleared areas of the Jaffna Peninsula, for which the Northern Province Resettlement and Rehabilitation Authority had been established. The task was a difficult one. To accomplish it, Sri Lanka needed the cooperation of the international community.
Right of Reply
RUBEN MAYE NUE (Equatorial Guinea) said all the criticism aimed at the country reflected a certain lack of knowledge about the current situation. There had been references to radicalism and tribalism made by people who had been out of the country for some time. Some of those very people, in fact, had caused some of the original violence. Equatorial Guinea had rejected a dictatorial system. Criticism of the current Head of State was not warranted. He was a decent person and had just been re-elected, and that was testament to the job he had done.
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GERHARD BAUM (Germany) said he felt taken aback by the response of the delegation of China to Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel's address to the Commission yesterday. His statement had been carefully worded and according to the rules. It was true that there had been xenophobic attacks in Germany, and they had overwhelmed the majority of the population. But such acts of violence had decreased. Germany would welcome dialogue with all members of the Commission and was ready to continue that dialogue in the future, in a spirit of cooperation, with China.
HUMAYAN TANDOOR (Afghanistan) said Pakistan had criticized Afghanistan in its right of reply yesterday. It was interesting that no fact Afghanistan had mentioned had been denied by Pakistan, and the Afghan delegation would like to thank Pakistan for accepting the truth. Pakistan had provided a reason for why it had interfered in Afghanistan -- because Afghanistan was being independent and sovereign. However, that was not a legitimate reason for interfering in the affairs of another country.
BUI QUANG MINH (Viet Nam), responding to a statement made by the Canadian delegation yesterday concerning the imprisonment of religious leaders and calling for reforms in Viet Nam, said the head of the Viet Nam delegation had described in detail the situation of religious life in his country. Nobody was imprisoned for his or her religious beliefs or activities in Viet Nam. There were, of course, prisoners, but they had been arrested, tried and imprisoned for violations of the law. Some of them were followers of certain religions, but that had nothing to do with their arrest. The Constitution provided for freedom of religion and freedom before the law.
NECIP EGUZ (Turkey) said the European Union in its statement this morning would have been more convincing in its criticism of some 50 countries, including Turkey, if it had included some self-criticism. It was good that the Union condemned terrorism in the strongest terms, but the Turkish delegation failed to understand the motive of the Union in not mentioning the name of the terrorist organization which was attempting to destroy Turkey's territorial integrity. But, on the other hand, organizations affiliated with the PKK (Kurdish Workers' Party) flourished throughout the Union. Turkey was determined to continue her fight against PKK terrorism, and believed that those who genuinely cared and expressed concern for human rights in Turkey should, first and foremost, condemn PKK terrorism in unequivocal terms.
YASSAR SED AHMED EL HASSAN (Sudan) said the Union of Arab Jurists had made totally false allegations. It had ignored all the positive developments which had taken place in the country. The Sudan had set up 26 administrative units and held general elections in the presence of international observers to the central governing body. Furthermore, the law of the press gave publications all due freedom. More than 20 organizations published over 40 publications on a daily basis. All political prisoners had been released. There were more than 40 humanitarian organizations working in the Sudan,
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including the United Nations, in cooperation with the Sudanese authorities. None had complained of non-cooperation.
AHMAD AL-HADDAD (Bahrain) said there had been false criticism of Bahrain by a number of organizations. That was nothing new. Those groups had done so before, along with taking actions intended to terrorize the civilian population of Bahrain. Those groups had caused explosions in hotels and public gardens and carried out other terrorist actions. Bahrain continued to receive daily support from many States, as those countries knew what damage terrorism could do. He was certain that members of the Commission fully understood the measures Bahrain had taken to protect the lives of its citizens and promote economic and social development.
MOHAMMED ABDULLAH AL-DOURI (Iraq) responding to statements made by the European Union, Canada and Australia in the course of today's discussion, said he did not wish to discuss the oft-repeated allegations emanating from the Special Rapporteur for Iraq and other well-known sources. The European Union was well aware of the real and critical conditions existing in Iraq because of the unprecedented blockade imposed on the country. Iraq was trying to alleviate the suffering of the people. Would human rights not been better protected if the suffering had not been brought about? Was not the safety and security of the citizens one of the priorities for a government? Those countries which were claiming to defend human rights were responsible for the situation. Iraq urged the Commission to pay attention to the suffering of the Iraqi people.
ESTHER MSHAI TOLLE (Kenya) said the statement by Norway about alleged increased human rights abuses supposedly occurring in Kenya was riddled with factual inaccuracies, ambiguities, and vagueness. It was hard, therefore, to refute the charges. Of critical note, though, was the lack of mention by Norway of the great progress made in human rights over the last five years in Kenya. Kenya was a democratic, multi-party country. It was widely acknowledged that the Government was engaged in peaceful dialogue with political parties not in power. Kenya valued its citizens' human rights, valued the rule of law necessary for the protection of human rights, and honoured its international obligations on human rights. The overall picture was positive, although obviously all countries, including Norway, had occasional problems. It was important to look at the whole picture.
PETER EAFEARE (Papua New Guinea) said the Government of Papua New Guinea had taken substantial steps to resolve the situation in Bougainville, but peace was an all-party effort. Some factions of the BRA were aiming to destabilize the process. Their obsessions were fuelled by those who selfishly pursued their own economic and social aims. The Government had embarked on a peace process with respect for equal participation.
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PANG SEN (China) said the essence of human rights was equality. However, this morning's statement by the European Union had shown not the slightest trace of equality. The countries of the West always placed themselves in a superior position, as if developing countries were still their colonies and subjects. The Union had launched fierce, random attacks against more than 60 developing countries, without mentioning the violations of human rights in its member countries. Would there be more next year? The Union also had mentioned the issue of Hong Kong. But during the almost 150 years Hong Kong had spent under colonial Power, there had been no talk about democracy or human rights. Now, suddenly, there was great concern over human rights there. Was that really the case, or was the Union actually concerned with something else? China would pursue its development in spite of such biased criticism.
The representative of Albania, responding to a statement made by a non-governmental organization this afternoon, said it was not the first time that there had been attacks on his country. He had only to refer to the report of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe commissioner and compare his version with the one presented today.
SYRUS QAZI (Pakistan) said the representative of Afghanistan had said nothing unexpected, although his criticism of Pakistan had been rambling and misguided. The true misfortune of the Afghan people had been that for a long time their real voice had not been heard at the United Nations. The Government that spoke here for Afghanistan was a besieged minority regime. Meanwhile, Pakistan was filled with benefactors and well-wishers for the advance of the Afghan people. The close bonds that existed between Pakistan and Afghanistan would not be severed by the acts of a minority Government. There should be cooperation with United Nations-mediated efforts for the establishment of a true, broad-based government for Afghanistan. It was only the Kabul regime that stood in the way of the rehabilitation of the country.
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