NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS CLAIM NUMEROUS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS AROUND WORLD19970410 (Reproduced as received.)
GENEVA, 9 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights heard this afternoon and evening from a long series of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) charging various Governments with offenses.
Over 100 NGOs had signed up to speak under the Commission's review of the question of human rights abuses anywhere in the world -- annually one of its most contentious agenda items -- and by the time the meeting concluded at midnight, dozens had spoken and had accused numerous countries of violations of fundamental rights and freedoms.
Mentioned repeatedly by NGOs and national delegations were human-rights problems caused by long-running conflicts or stalemates in the Great Lakes region of Africa, in Jammu and Kashmir, and in Sudan, Cyprus, and East Timor. Also cited in several statements were Turkey, China, Iran, Iraq, Colombia, Myanmar, the United States and Nigeria. Speakers repeatedly suggested that the Commission appoint a Special Rapporteur to investigate the situation in Nigeria.
Addressing the extended session were delegates or observers of the following countries: Cyprus, Chile, Sri Lanka, Japan, Iraq, Norway, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal, United States, Algeria and Argentina.
Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations delivered statements: Reporters without Borders; World Peace Council; Arab Lawyers Union; Centre Europe - Tiers Monde; International Commission of Jurists; Asian Cultural Forum on Development; Society for Threatened Peoples; International Educational Development; Pax Romana, International Association for Religious Freedom; Article XIX; International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development; International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty; Baha'i International Community; International Confederation of Free-Trade Unions; North-South XXI; Latin American Federation of Associations
of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; Women's International Democratic Federation; International Association against Torture; Christian Solidarity International; Christian Democrat International; Transnational Radical Party; International Federation Terre des Hommes; Robert F. Kennedy Memorial; Catholic Institute for International Relations; General Arab Women Federation; Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos; Andean Commission of Jurists; Franciscans International; World Christian Life Community; Centro de Estudios Europeos; International Federation of Human Rights; World Society of Victimology; International Indian Treaty Council; International Pen; Indian Council of Education; International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples; International League for Human Rights; Anglican Consultative Council; Freedom House; World Federation of Democratic Youth; International Human Rights Association of American Minorities; Commission of the Churches on World Affairs; International Association of Educators for World Peace; American Association of Jurists; International Human Rights Law Group; International Federation of Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture; Regional Council on Human Rights of Asia; International Federation of Journalists; Survival for Tribal Peoples; African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters; International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements; Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization; World Alliance of Reformed Churches; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; National Council of German Women's Organizations; Federation of Associations for Defense and Promotion of Human Rights; War Resisters' International; World Muslim Congress; Arab Organization for Human Rights; and International Peace Bureau.
And officials of China, Sudan, Mexico and Iraq spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Statements in Debate
LIESL GRAZ, of Reporters Without Borders, said it would point the finger at a number of countries that flouted press freedom with absolute impunity. In Algeria, journalists continued to be targets of violence from both the Government and the Islamic opposition. Press freedom did not exist in Cuba, while Ethiopia had jailed the most journalists in Africa -- between 1992 and 1995 nearly 150 media professionals had found themselves in trouble with the law there. Because of time constraints, she could not elaborate on the situation in China and Turkey.
GENET SHIMOJI, of World Peace Council, said Pakistan's democracy had a somewhat different flavour than other democracies -- it had itself set up a supra-Constitutional body of non-elected individuals to oversee the elected Government, and many of the faces of this Council for National Security and Defense were inheritors of the country's military legacy. Pakistan's Constitutional and legal systems also allowed those in power to rule by decree
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and declare others to be non-citizens or second-class citizens. A democratic State based on theocratic tenets seemed an anachronism, but it existed in Pakistan, and allowed the rights of minorities to be trampled upon, temples destroyed, Hindu women forced to change their religion, Christians killed ostensively for blasphemy. Another site of concern was Okinawa, in Japan, where the presence of American military bases had been detrimental to Okinawans' enjoyment of fundamental human rights; It was crucial that efforts be made to reduce the excessive burden imposed upon the Okinawan people by these bases; unemployment on the island remained a difficult problem, especially for the younger generation; and the U.S. military bases also were a hindrance to sound and healthy development of the Okinawan economy.
FAROUK ABU EISSA, of the Arab Lawyers Union, said Israel's continued forcible settlement and blockade of the West Bank and Gaza was to blame for the deterioration of the situation in the Middle East. The stand taken by the United States in vetoing two resolutions against Israel in the Security Council was dismaying. The Arab Lawyers Union made a distinction between State violence as practised by Israel and legitimate armed struggle to stop aggression and achieve national independence. The Commission should condemn Israel's expansionist policies and its continuous violation of human rights of Arabs in the occupied territories. It should also affirm the rights of Palestinians to resort to armed struggle to liberate their land and obtain independence. The Arab Lawyers Union also differentiated between armed struggle for liberation and terrorism emanating from radical fundamentalism. The latter was a serious threat and a real challenge to human rights, as shown by the situations in Algeria and Upper Egypt. The situation of human rights in Sudan had also gone from bad to worse.
CYNTHIA NEURY, of Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, said the Rwandan genocide had been coldly planned; the killing had been foreseeable. The tasks Rwanda now faced were enormous and aid was needed. Rwanda had a huge debt burden: despite the structural adjustment programme of the International Monetary Fund, the country's external debt now stood at close to $1 billion, around 90 per cent of gross national product. Servicing this debt absorbed $55 million per year, or 46 per cent of the country's export revenues. The Rwandan people was paying the debts of its former executioners as the majority of these loans were contracted between 1990 and 1994, before the beginning of the war. The principle of the continuity of the State meant that the Government in power was obliged to honour the debts of previous Governments. However, there was a need to separate those parts of the external debt which had been legitimately contracted and that which the lending institutions should no longer reclaim.
NATHALIE PROUVEZ, of International Commission of Jurists, said that Turkey had increased violations such as disappearances, extra-judicial killings, and torture in the past year, especially in the southeast of the country; abuses by the police and army were neither investigated nor punished;
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other violations included forcible displacements which affected some 3 million people. In Peru, the taking of hostages by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement at the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima must be condemned; other human-rights problems lay in the hands of the Government, such as the so-called system of "faceless judges", which had been strongly criticized by the relevant Special Rapporteur; even innocent persons set free by the Government had not received adequate compensation. In Nigeria, the military Government continued to violate rights, and the transition to democracy was being conducted amidst a wave of harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary arrests; a country-specific rapporteur should be assigned by the Commission to undertake a thorough study of the situation in Nigeria and propose measures to stop widespread ongoing violations.
XIAO QIANG, of the Asian Cultural Forum for Development, said Chinese people wanted, deserved and demanded human rights. But their voices were not heard because they had been totally suppressed by the Chinese authorities. China's human rights violations were well-documented and widely known. The Chinese Government said there were more than 2,000 "counter-revolutionaries" in prison. This figure grossly under-represented the true number of people imprisoned for the peaceful expression of their political ideas or religious beliefs. Human rights were a necessity for China and without them its future stability was in jeopardy. The transition currently taking place in China would be more difficult and violent unless fundamental political and civil liberties were available to the Chinese people. A China which respected human rights would have a stable and prosperous future and would become a responsible and valuable member of the world community. The Commission needed to continue directing its attention to the persistent, systematic, institutional violations of human rights in China.
LOBSANG NYANDAK, of the World Society for Threatened Peoples, said that, contrary to Chinese claims, it was a well-known fact that Wei Jingsheng, Maksum Abbas, Ngawang Choephel and Gedhun Choekyi Nyima were currently detained in prisons in China, Tibet and Eastern Turkestan. There were other facts demonstrating that the Chinese authorities had been involved in gross and systematic violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Tibet for the past four decades. Tibet had become a Chinese colony where the economic, social and cultural rights of the Tibetan people were violated on a daily basis, and in which the 6 million Tibetans had become a minority in their own land. What was taking place in Tibet encompassed the horror of the holocaust, the racial intolerance of apartheid and the inhumanity of racial cleansing. It was a racial, cultural and religious genocide which demanded the attention of the international community before it was too late.
ROSE PILEGGI, of International Educational Development, speaking on behalf of a number of NGOs, said grave concern was felt over continued armed conflict and human-rights violations in Sri Lanka, and the new military
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offensive in the Tamil homeland; the civilian Tamil population continued to be a target of military operations, disappearances, rape, torture, arbitrary arrest, and detention; there was still an embargo of food and medicine imposed on the northeast of the island; there were more than 825,000 displaced Tamil civilians. The Commission must adopt a resolution calling upon the Sri Lankan Government to cease all military operations against Tamil civilians, to withdraw occupying forces from the Tamil homeland, and lift the blockade on humanitarian aid, and calling on both parties to the conflict to secure a political solution that recognized the right of the Tamils to determine their political future. Great concern also was felt over brutal human-rights abuses in Iran, especially against women; and over the effects of war damage, depleted uranium, and the economic embargo against Iraq. The sanctions applied to Iraq, as they affected humanitarian aid to civilians, violated the Geneva Conventions and should be considered null and void.
SALVADOR MANEU, of Pax Romana, said that in Guatemala, even after the signing of peace accords there in December, the mandate of the independent expert should be extended for another year; to curtail it, as suggested by the Government, would be premature, and would prevent the Commission from having an exhaustive study on the situation of human rights there, and prevent it from exerting firm support for the peace process. Arbitrary detections, and torture carried out by the Army in Peru against the population in general and indigenous peoples in particular were a great concern; the Commission should consider appointing an independent expert for the country. In Colombia, widespread human-rights abuses committed by Government forces and paramilitary groups were growing worse every day, and there was an atmosphere of widening violence and impunity; the Commission should follow the situation there closely. In Equatorial Guinea, conditions had not improved and there were grave and systematic human-rights abuses; the mandate of the Special Rapporteur should for the country should be extended.
MAURICE VERFAILLIE, of the International Association for the Defence of Religious Liberty, said the exercise of fundamental rights -- and in particular the individual or collective rights related to freedom of religion, of belief and worship -- was generally sound in those countries where democracy functioned properly. The Commission and Subcommission on human rights had contributed to this development. However, there were a number of countries where these rights were violated, either because a religious belief did not correspond to the dominant ideology, or because existing laws inadequately protected such rights. Fed by extremism and fanaticism, religious activity had sometimes resulted in incomprehensible dramas. The actions undertaken against sects occasionally resembled crusades. Fear had lead to the adoption of legislation such as the recent amendment to a law submitted to the Knesset which would ban any change of religion. Sufficient international legal instruments existed to combat the new social problems arising from the activities of sects and new religious movements.
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JANET BAUER, of Article XIX, said the system of government-by-decree in Nigeria was inimical to the promotion of human rights; information clearly revealed a pattern of systematic abuses and violations there. The Commission must appoint a Special Rapporteur for the country. Recent statements and actions by China suggested that rights and protections now in place in Hong Kong would be compromised; the Commission must make clear to the Government that existing standards must be maintained, and should incorporate that into a text on the situation of human rights in general in China. In Burma, the continuing deterioration in the human rights situation was of great concern; worry was felt over the well-being of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; the Commission must renew the appointment of the relevant Special Rapporteur for another year, and the military Government must ensure at least one in-country visit for the Rapporteur in the coming year.
MULOMBA MFUAMBA, of the International Centre for Human Rights and Democratic Development, said the group had been following the serious situation of human rights in Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire for five years. The Commission should renew the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Rwanda and give him every assistance. Positive elements in Rwanda were overshadowed by the constant aggression and lack of respect for the status of refugees in camps in eastern Zaire. The trafficking of weapons and weakness in disarming criminals and in the elimination of racial discrimination were also problems. In Burundi, the democratization process had stopped with the assassination of the President in 1993, and armed conflict between two ideologically extreme camps prevented the development of an opening for moderates. The Special Rapporteur on Burundi had correctly analyzed the situation in sounding the alarm in his report. The presence of human-rights monitors there should be strengthened. Regarding Zaire, the group hoped that in the search for peace in a Zaire undergoing transition the criminal responsibility of the different parties would not be ignored and that the country could resume the democratization process that had been blocked for the last seven years.
GIANFRANCO ROSSI, of the International Association for Religious Freedom, said religious extremism was a phenomenon that was connected to all the major religions. However, in recent years, the most dangerous and terrifying manifestations of this phenomenon had been visible in Islamic movements. One only had to look at what was taking place in Algeria, where an estimated 50,000 innocent men, women and children had been killed in the name of God. Principles of equality, non-discrimination and religious liberty, which were compatible with Islamic teachings, were not applied in a good number of Islamic countries. In Iran, Baha'is were systematically persecuted because of their religious beliefs. In Pakistan, Shantinagar, a Christian village of 22,000 people, had been ransacked and burned to the ground because a page of the Koran had been profaned. Islamic extremism was alive in several other countries, notably in Sudan, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
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TECHESTE AHDEROM, of the Baha'i International Community, said the list of violations inflicted against the Baha'i community in Iran had not changed over the past 17 years. That community was still the target of executions, torture and imprisonment; it also suffered from subtler forms of discrimination, such as economic strangulation and denial of access to education. Contrary to the statement by the Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance, to the effect that the right to change one's religion was recognized within the framework of internationally established standards in the field of human rights, four of the 14 Baha'is currently detained in Iranian prisons had been sentenced to death, including two for apostasy. He wished to reiterate the call by the Special Rapporteur to the Iranian Government that it should review and set aside the death sentences; return community properties and pay compensation for the destruction of places of worship; ensure equal treatment of Baha'is by the judiciary, and re-establish Baha'i institutions.
DAN CUNNIAH, of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said an increasing number of States were becoming gross violators of trade union rights. Despite the commitments undertaken at international conferences, many Governments still considered free and independent trade unions as obstacles, and not as partners in development. That retrograde attitude prevailed in countries such as the Republic of Korea, Indonesia, China, Sudan, Nigeria, Swaziland, Colombia, Costa Rica, Belarus, Lithuania and Kazakhstan, to name just a few. Because of the limited time, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions could not describe the situation in other countries where it had recorded strong evidence of gross violations of trade union rights. Iran, Morocco, Niger, Djibouti, Chad, Turkey and Myanmar were among that group of countries. The Commission should take strong measures against those countries violating the principles of freedom of association and the right to organize as embodied in international human rights instruments.
JOAQUIN MBOMIO ONDO BACHENG, of Nord-Sud XXI, said the humanitarian discourse of the great powers and the assistance they provided to African countries could not hide the fact that those same powers sought to distinguish between "interesting" parts -- those rich in mineral resources -- and "uninteresting" ones. The so-called interventions in favour of refugees in the Great Lakes region were but manoeuvres between rival Western powers to gain influence in the area, while the humanitarian activities they sponsored were only of secondary importance. Contrary to the situation in Rwanda, little had been done to absorb and reintegrate refugees in Zaire and Burundi. Meanwhile, in the United States, blacks and Latin-Americans had been the victims of an increase of attacks by police forces. Such aggressions very often remained unpunished. Immigrant populations in America were also subjected to racist and reactionary laws.
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The representatives of the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees said that in Mexico, arbitrary detention and torture affected a large part of the indigenous and peasant population. It was essential that the Special Rapporteurs on torture and on summary executions visited that country. In Colombia there were massive and systematic violations of the rights to life, to physical integrity, to liberty, to privacy and to a fair trial. There should be urgent visits by thematic rapporteurs and by the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. An atmosphere of impunity led to further human rights violations, especially when laws were often enacted which pardoned persons responsible for abuses or postponed investigations indefinitely. The support of the international community was also needed in Guatemala, which had signed a peace agreement recently. The mandate of the independent expert on that country because of concern that despite the signing of the agreement, human rights continued to be violated.
MAYDA ALVAREZ SUAREZ, of the Women's International Democratic Federation, said that for almost 40 years the Cuban people had tried to persist on their own path toward independence, social justice, and sovereignty. But, apparently, the cold war still continued in the case of Cuba; the United States continued to punish Cuba with a genocidal blockade carried out since the 1960s. For Cuban women, the blockade meant constant aggression, violations of human rights and violations against their children and families. It was difficult to meet basic needs for food, personal hygiene, and housing; the most inhuman phase of the blockade was the impossibility of acquiring essential medicines for children. It was hard to see how Cuba could be accused of human-rights violations when the matters involved were part of the essential political process of the country. It was time to end the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Cuba. There were other violations of human rights affecting women throughout the Latin American continent and the world, including violence and sexual aggression against women migrant workers. In China, meanwhile, the country continued to pursue its own path to development and human rights, with the help of such NGOs as the All-China Women's Federation.
ROGER WAREHAM, of the International Association Against Torture, said the past year had seen the steady retreat on human rights which had characterized the South Korean regime in the recent past. A now infamous early morning December session of Parliament had passed several laws without the knowledge of the opposition. In Guinea, the present Government had come to power through a military coup and conducted an election in 1993. This so-called "democratic" poll had been characterized by the killing of some 24 people in Conakry alone during voting. And in the United States, actions of federal, state and local governments constituted a consistent pattern of gross violations of the human rights of the people, especially Blacks and Latinos.
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The group called on the Commission to demand that compensation be paid to the descendants of enslaved Africans by the United States and European countries.
BARONESS COX, of Christian Solidarity International (CSI), said she and a colleague had on seven fact-finding missions visited "no-go" areas in Sudan, where the National Islamic Front regime was carrying out a wide variety of human-rights abuses, including aerial bombardment of villages, arbitrary arrests, torture, chattel slavery -- especially child slavery -- hostage-taking, summary executions, abduction and brainwashing of children, and persecution of Christians, Animists, and Muslims who rejected the NIF's sectarian brand of Islam. She said she must fully endorse the conclusions of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Sudan. There were some rays of hope, to be found in the rapidly expanding areas of northern and southern Sudan under the administration of the democratic opposition. Full details of the fact-finding missions could be found in CSI's published field reports, which were available to members of the Commission. CSI appealed to the Secretary-General to intervene personally with the regime in Khartoum to secure immediate release of all hostages, and to convene a conference of Governmental and non-governmental organizations and relief agencies to establish a mechanism to deliver humanitarian relief to "no-go" areas.
AIRO DEL CASTILLO, of Christian Democrat International, said the group welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur for Zaire, whose reports were worthy and objective. The regime of Zaire had brought the country to chaos. It should not be forgotten that democratic parties in Zaire had fought for long years to defend human rights. In Cuba, meanwhile, 96 foreign journalists had been arrested, harassed and expelled over the past year. The Cuban Government also internally banished dissidents, which went against human rights. The Government was asked to allow its citizens to form associations and to move around freely; and to allow journalists to carry out their work without interference.
MARINO BUSDACHIN, of Transnational Radical Party, said existing rights and freedoms in Hong Kong were threatened by the upcoming Chinese takeover of the territory, as China's policy could be summed up in the word "control" -- press freedom was under siege, and Beijing would control all branches of the Hong Kong Government, including its legislature, which would be an appointed group that would rubber stamp the measures wanted by Chinese leaders; draconian laws restricting assembly and association were expected; the Commission must urge China to keep Hong Kong's current human-rights standards; further, the Commission should pass a strong resolution on China at this session, focusing, among other things, on widespread human-rights abuses in Tibet. Concern also was expressed about the increase in human-rights violations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), including Kosova, Sanjak, and Vojvodina; the Commission must adopt a strong
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resolution demanding that authorities stop violence and repression against non-Serb populations.
FERRAN ESTEVE, of International Federation - Terre des Hommes, said antipersonnel mines were cruel and had devastating effects. There were more than 110 million mines disseminated in more than 64 countries ready to explode under the foot of some unfortunate victim. Every month, more than 2,000 persons were killed or wounded by exploding mines, mostly civilian women and children. The countries that were the most affected by this scourge were Angola, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Bosnia and Iraqi Kurdistan. Fortunately, the international community had not remained inactive: the Canadian Government was to be commended for organizing the Ottawa Conference, the beginning of a process to conclude a global ban on anti-personnel land mines.
BEATRICE LAROCHE, of the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, said the group hoped the Commission would pay serious attention to the people who lived in fear and faced imprisonment and death in Indonesia. These people had increased in number in 1997, with torture and detections going up. The killings and disappearances destroyed not only the life and dignity of the victims but of all Indonesians. In this tragedy of human values, the army was the main actor in violating human rights. Those entrenched in power were most accountable for these incidents.
RUI XIMENES, of the Catholic Institute for International Relations, said the persistent violations of human rights in Colombia and the failure of the authorities to take the steps needed to end such abuses was a source of particular concern. Similar situations could be found in Guatemala and in Burma. In East Timor, the army had intensified its persecution of those suspected of organizing demonstrations. Indonesian military personnel, intelligence operatives and Gada Paksi militia forces had conducted street searches for suspects and had stormed into the homes of relatives and friends of the persons being sought. They lived in constant fear of being arrested or killed by those units. As an East Timorese, he was regarded as a suspect because he had already been arrested by Indonesian army commandos.
JULIETTE SAYEGH, of the General Arab Women Federation, said there were substantial achievements in the process of democratization in Arab countries. However, in some countries, there had been a degradation of the situation of human rights. Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Palestine and Sudan were suffering from this phenomenon. The violation of human rights in the Arab world was not solely a country's own doing: it was also an imposed injustice where the future of each nation was at stake. Oil was one of the basic causes of the persistent conflictual situation. United Nations resolutions containing formulas like "land-for-peace" or "oil-for-food" had no meaning for people on the ground. They did not carry the essence of human rights nor did
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they permit countries to act independently in meeting the basic needs of their population. As long as unjust, inconsistent and violent practices continued, peace in the region would continue to be a dream. The Federation called on the Commission to reject the policy of sanctions as a means for solving conflicts; to promote disarmament in the Middle East region; to stop the expansion of settlements in the occupied territories; to work for the return the occupied territories in Lebanon and Syria, and to keep Jerusalem a sacred and holy city to the three religions.
HORACIO RAVENNA, of the Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, said neo-liberal policies had led to violations of human rights around the world. The transition to a market economy had led to increased social exclusion and poverty. Adjustment policies had contributed to the spread of corruption and impunity. In their efforts to align Argentina's economy with market forces, the country's authorities had violated key aspects of the Constitution and national covenants, including those touching on health and judicial issues.
BORIS CASTILLO BARROSCO, of Movimiento Cubano por la Paz y la Soberania de los Pueblos, said that since Cuba's independence, the United States had maintained a naval base at Guantanamo on Cuban territory. The confrontations and violations caused by the American presence had become a permanent danger to peace and stability in the region. This instability had led to an increase in the number of Cuban migrants to the United States. The report of the Special Rapporteur was biased as it did not address this issue. The closing of the base would go a long way to meeting the rights of Cubans to life and security. The Commission should look into this matter.
MARIE-NOELLE LITTLE, of the Andean Commission of Jurists, said that, despite encouraging advances on human rights in the Andean region, violations still occurred. Certain countries of the region practised policies or adopted measures which were contrary to the fundamental enjoyment of human rights. The prison situation in Venezuela, the anti-terrorism measures of Peru and the failure to bring to justice the perpetrators of violations during the Pinochet regime in Chile were examples of situations not in conformity with the enjoyment of human rights. Also, too many countries used states of emergency to violate human rights, thus going against international standards governing such exceptional measures. The international community was well aware of the situation in Colombia, where some 9 deaths occurred every day as a result of violence. Impunity was a constant given there -- the recent murder of 70 peasants by a notorious para-military group had not lead to any prosecutions. A human-rights office had opened in Colombia recently, but only after many regrettable delays.
PHILIPPE LEBLANC, of Franciscans International, said he violations in Mexico, Colombia and the Great Lakes region of Africa demanded the constant attention and ongoing action of the Commission. There had been a general
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deterioration in Mexico's human rights situation. There was growing concern of a hidden civil war in Mexico, particularly in places such as the north of Chiapas. Impunity was another serious issue. The existence of para-military groups also threatened the population. It was imperative for the Mexican Government to continue to pursue peaceful negotiations in Chiapas and to take steps to reduce the level of military action in the state. In Colombia, the Government had carried out a systematic pattern of human-rights violations for years. Forced disappearances, in the majority of cases accompanied by torture and summary executions, were daily occurrences in many parts of the country. Arbitrary detections were increasing in areas under military control; the situation had deteriorated considerably over the past year due to the offensive unleashed by paramilitary groups. On the Great Lakes region, the Special Rapporteurs on Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire had presented reports on the gravity of the situation in the region. The group urged the Commission to renew the mandates of the three Rapporteurs.
MARIA SOLEDAD REINA, of World Christian Life Community, said that while the Constitution of Colombia promoted human rights, in reality, an average of 10 Colombians died every day for political reasons. The army and paramilitary groups were responsible for 70 per cent of the violence. Impunity was a deliberate policy of various sectors of the Government, which used it to maintain social control. The Government continued to form paramilitary forces which spread terror through the country. In one instance, paramilitary groups had expelled 170 families from their land, an action which had been legalized by the Government. Paramilitary groups had taken over the land, and orders to arrest them had been ignored because they enjoyed police protection. Large areas of Colombia had become militarized, with the Government reduced social expenditures to invest it in the war machine. The murders and disappearances of Colombian human-rights activists, as well as all violations, should be condemned by the Commission.
LAZARO MORA SECADE, of the Centro de Estudios Europeos, said the discussion of human-rights issues was the subject of manipulation, which made it seem as if violations only occurred in developing countries. However, the treatment of migrants and minorities in developed countries, and the resurgence of xenophobia, proved the contrary. The United States had sought to isolate Cuba from the international community by means of an economic blockade, which violated the political and other fundamental rights of the Cuban people. In Cuba, people enjoyed the right to life, and torture and enforced disappearances did not exist. There were many more serious violations taking place in other parts of the world; on some continents, there had been ethnic cleansing and genocide. In Latin America, certain countries experienced acts of torture and enforced disappearances. The existence of a Special Rapporteur for Cuba was a waste of United Nations resources resulting in a loss of credibility for the Organization. The United Nations needed to base its actions on non-discrimination and objectivity.
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GABRIELA GONZALEZ, of International Federation of Human Rights, said concern was felt over the deteriorating situation in Nigeria, where the military Government had shown an uncooperative attitude and the so-called transition programme to democracy was only a well-orchestrated campaign to keep the military dictator in power in civilian guise; the Commission should appoint a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria. In Chad, there was a deterioration of the situation, with the Government holding strong responsibility for massive and systematic human-rights violations; again the Commission was urged to appoint a Special Rapporteur. In Bahrain, there had been several extrajudicial executions in the first three months of 1997; torture and ill-treatment of detainees was systematic, and six persons had recently died under torture; the Commission must condemn such abuses and urge the Government to invite thematic Special Rapporteurs who had asked to visit. In Turkey, lack of respect of basic human rights continued, and the Commission must condemn the situation and appoint a monitoring mechanism to study it; in China, gross violations of human rights affected all aspects of life, whether political or economic; the Commission should adopt a resolution on the country; and in Colombia, for close to 10 years, an average of 10 persons a day had been assassinated for political or ideological reasons, and one person disappeared every two days; the Commission must intensify its inquiry into the crisis there.
SARDAR KHALID IBRAHIM KHAN, of the World Society of Victimology, said India had ceased to be a democracy when it deployed 42 per cent of its military strength in Kashmir against a defenceless people to silence their desire for self-determination. The military action, in addition to constituting violations of United Nations resolutions, had resulted in gross and systematic violations of human rights. India had acknowledged the death of over 20,000 Kashmiris, while local estimate puts the death toll at over 50,000. Torture, disappearances, unlawful imprisonment, gang rape of women of all ages and destruction of property, among other abuses, had become part of the daily life of the region. The cause of this massive abuse of human rights in Kashmir was none else than the fact that the United Nations had frozen its package on Kashmir. As long as the United Nations kept the case of the people of Kashmir on hold, Indian security forces would continue to remain engaged in war with the people of Kashmir.
BILL SIMMONS, of the International Indian Treaty Council, said the Commission was well aware of the suppression of the indigenous peoples of Bougainville, who for almost a decade had been suffering blockades, extra-judicial assassination, disappearances, deaths in detention, and the outright starvation and murder of innocent civilians by the Papua New Guinea Defense Forces and para-military groups associated with them. In Burma, thousands of Karen Peoples had been driven out of their homes by the Burmese army. Hundreds of Karen Peoples had been murdered, raped and enslaved. Recently, the National Indigenous Congress of Mexico had repudiated the
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militarization of Chiapas and the escalating repression and impunity of the Mexican army. These were not isolated incident but police and para-military groups and federal military forces reportedly murdered, imprisoned and tortured indigenous peoples with impunity. The United States, with its military aid to Mexico and other countries in the name of war on drugs and or terrorism, continued to support the encroachment of brutal armed forces on indigenous lands and communities and the violent suppression of justified dissent. Indigenous peoples in Guatemala continued to die and impunity for the perpetrators of both past and ongoing abuses was still the norm.
ISOBEL HARRY, of International PEN - Writers in Prison Committee, said some countries had recently made changes to their legislation which affected writers sentenced to prison terms. Most notable among the countries which had made such cosmetic changes to their laws was Turkey. The majority of those in prison in Turkey were being held solely for having expressed their views about the situation of the Kurdish community. Present PEN records showed that at least 80 writers and journalists were being detained under the legislation in question. China had also recently changed laws on criminal procedures which had drawn international condemnation. At least 39 writers were currently serving long prison sentences in China. Another country subject to scrutiny for its record on freedom of expression was Nigeria. Plans to set up a press court to try journalists for "reporting untruths" were seen as an attempt to further stifle free expression; in Nigeria five dissident journalists were already in prison. Other countries with sizeable numbers of writers in prison in contravention of their right to freedom of expression included Ethiopia, Cuba, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Kuwait and Syria.
SOTOS ZACKHEOS (Cyprus) said that almost 23 years after the Turkish invasion and occupation of 37 per cent of the territory of the Republic of Cyprus, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the people in the occupied part of Cyprus continued to be flagrantly violated in disregard of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations, the Commission and of other international organizations. Some 35,000 heavily armed troops prevented the return in safety of one-third of the population, who had been forcibly expelled from their homes in 1974. The report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Cyprus stated that, "key restrictions on the enslaved Greek Cypriots and Maronites continued to persist". After the invasion, more that 20,000 Greek Cypriots had remained in the occupied part; today, only 500 were left, the rest having left due to a persistent policy of harassment, racial discrimination and intimidation. These people were not allowed to bequeath immovable property to relatives, even to next of kin, so more and more property was being expropriated. Turkey had also applied a policy of "Turkification" of the occupied part of the island. Furthermore, invaluable archaeological treasures had been looted and smuggled out of the country.
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V. K. GUPTA, of the Indian Council of Education, said that, in order to protect human life, it was necessary to stop the production and testing of nuclear bombs as well as of smaller types of armaments and explosives which had become available to many people in many countries of the world. The widespread access to weapons was feeding terrorism and creating opportunities for criminals to use them against opponents. Their availability, use and social consequences were threats to the right to life. The global community had an obligation to safeguard the right to life, and to save people from the danger of being killed, maimed or humiliated. Special measures aimed at preventing not only the spread of weapons of mass destruction but also weapons of a smaller kind should be taken.
VERENA GRAF, of the International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, said the sovereignty and independence of the Republic of Cyprus had to be respected and all foreign troops and settlers had to withdraw. All refugees had to be allowed to return. The basic human rights of the people of Cyprus had to be respected. The rights of the people of Colombia also had to be observed. In that country some 10 persons died daily for political or ideological reasons. In 1996, one person died every two days. Thirty per cent of the murders were blamed on guerilla forces, but the rest were blamed on State troops who enjoyed 100 percent impunity. Furthermore, over 1 million people had been internally displaced because of political violence. The paramilitary groups considered there was an undeclared war between the Government and democratic groups. The armed groups were tolerated by the Government, which had moved to legalize them. Last year, the Commission had recognised the human rights situation in Colombia had worsened. It had become even more serious this year. How, then, could it be considered objective and impartial that there be a Special Rapporteur for Cuba but not for Colombia?
SHIVA HARI DAHAL, of the International League for Human Rights, said the government of Nepal had increasingly failed to respect the fundamental human rights of its citizens, particularly in areas under the influence of the Communist Party of Nepal. The Government had used the threat of violence by the Community Party to take on arbitrary powers, thus violating citizens' rights. The Government had itself become an outlaw, escalating the level of violence in the country. The lack of a human rights culture within the Government and the political parties undermined accountability. There were reports of torture, extra-judicial killings, rape, arbitrary detention, death in police custody and trafficking of human beings. The Government could not ignore fundamental human rights even in a situation of emergency.
JOHNCY ITTY, of the Anglican Consultative Council, said the deteriorating situation in the Great Lakes region was deeply disturbing, especially as there now were obstacles to efforts to provide humanitarian relief; the Government of Zaire must agree to participate in a regional plan which called for immediate cessation of all fighting and a complete
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cease-fire, and calling on all principals to negotiate in good faith; the Commission and other UN agencies must work to preserve the territorial integrity of countries participating in the cease-fire; the Government of Zaire must agree to unhindered transport of food and humanitarian aid; must guarantee peaceful, voluntary repatriation of refugees; the Commission must strongly urge all neighbouring Governments and those with ties to the region to desist from training soldiers and selling or transporting weapons to the parties to the conflict. The pursuit of peace demanded that the courage to broker a political settlement to disputes there be favoured even when military options seemed, in the short-term, to be more readily attainable.
FRANK CALZON, of Freedom House, said the group's report listed 17 countries and six territories with a combined population of 1.5 billion human beings who were denied fundamental human rights. The most repressive regimes in 1996 had been Afghanistan, Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam and the territories of East Timor, Kashmir, Kosovo, Tibet and West Papua. Of the worst violators, Cuba was the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Statements from dissident leaders in Cuba provided a glimpse of life there today. Their courage ought to strengthen the determination of democrats everywhere to help Cuba and to oppose the policies of the current dictatorship.
ABDELBAGI GEBRIEL, of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, said the war between Rwandan-backed rebels in eastern Zaire and the Zairean army threatened to further undermine political stability and security in the Great Lakes region. As a result of the fighting, large numbers of Rwandan refugees and Zairean people in the eastern part of the country had been killed, either directly by the warring factions or as a result of war-induced causes; some 120 Rwandan refugees were dying every day from hunger and disease in the region. The situation called for a disciplined, well-funded and well equipped pan-African military intervention force to help stabilize the region and prevent further acts of opportunistic behaviour on the part of those contesting power. It was characteristic of certain Governments in Africa to blame everyone but themselves for their dramatic failure to meet the legitimate aspirations of their own peoples for democracy and development; Nigeria, Zaire and Sudan were good examples of such countries. He called on those African member countries of the Commission to assume their responsibilities towards their fellow Africans who were victims of Government repression.
CARMEN HERTZ (Chile) said that this was the most sensitive of the Commission's agenda items; inevitably there were charges of selectivity, as some countries criticized others, and as the Commission chose to take action against some countries; it was important to ask if human rights were a pretext to justify action based rather on ideological confrontation. For the most
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part, Chile felt the Commission's actions were well-motivated, but in some cases political objectives could be discerned; those situations diluted the moral force of the Commission, even if the countries cited did, in fact, commit human-rights violations. Other States, also because of ideology, constantly tried to undermine the standards for protecting human rights; an example was the frequent claim that internal legislation took precedence over the Commission's acts; and that acts of the Commission were unlawful because politically motivated. Either approach caused problems and created a negative atmosphere. The Commission's past actions in regard to Chile had played a great role in helping human-rights in the country; it was important that whatever divisive actions States took, they should not diverge the Commission from carrying out its important tasks.
BERNARD GOONETILLEKE (Sri Lanka) said far-reaching changes were to be implemented next year which would introduce constitutional reform and find political solutions to ethnic issues. The constitutional changes proposed the creation of structures based on devolution of power, so that all people in the country would enjoy legislative and executive power. Existing guarantees and safeguards on fundamental freedoms and human rights had been further strengthened in the proposed changes. In addition, a number of national and international mechanisms to promote and protect human rights had been adopted by Sri Lanka, and a Human Rights Commission had been established in March 1997. The transition towards an orderly civil administration in the Jaffna peninsula was now taking place. Local institutions were now functioning once more after years of repression by the LTTE. Over 400,000 internally displaced persons had voluntarily returned to Jaffna defying an LTTE diktat.
MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said it endorsed the view that States, regardless of their political, economic, or cultural systems, had a duty to protect human rights. The country was concerned about situations in Afghanistan, where it urged all parties to agree on an immediate cease-fire and work closely with the UN to achieve a political solution to the conflict; in Burundi, where it called upon all parties to the conflict to initiate a substantive dialogue as soon as possible; in China, which had pushed forward various reforms and greater openness, and where Japan welcomed indications that China was, indeed, prepared for dialogue on human-rights issues; in Colombia, where the human-rights situation had not improved in the last year; and in Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, East Timor, former Yugoslavia, and Zaire. It was the delegations hope that, as it was incumbent on all member States of the United Nations to respect and promote human rights, those countries in which grave violations were reported would make further efforts to bring such practices to an end.
BARZAN AL-TIKRITI (Iraq) said those involved in implementing United Nations mechanisms should tackle human rights issues in a neutral and
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objective manner. Those who bemoaned conditions in Iraq had sought to veil the reasons which prevented the Government taking measures to overcome the harsh conditions Iraqis were suffering from as a result of the embargo. The ban on civilian aviation in Iraq violated the right to life, as old and sick Iraqi were forced to take an arduous road route to Jordan to seek medical treatment. Did human rights conventions allow such violations, which were almost an act of revenge against an entire people. The human rights card was being brandished as a pretext to achieve the objectives of destabilizing the country, fragmenting its people and infringing upon Iraq's sovereignty and territorial integrity. And yet, in Iraq, a number of measures had been introduced in the past few years to reenforce civil society.
PER HAUGESTAD (Norway) said all authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina had responsibility for preventing human-rights violations and for bringing war criminals to trial; in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, there was a disquieting lack of progress in the human-rights situation in Kosovo; in Croatia, authorities must protect the human rights of the local Serb population returning to Eastern Slavonia; serious abuses still took place in Turkey, and authorities there must make every effort to end them; it was regrettable that the conflict in Algeria continued, causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians. Norway also was concerned over human-rights situations in Nigeria, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, East Timor, China, Burma, and Colombia.
RUBEN MAYE NASUE MANGUE (Equatorial Guinea) said the situation in the country had made some progress in terms of human rights; in his professional capacity at the prosecutor's office, as diplomatic advisor on human rights, he was obliged to report that the problem of human rights could not be solved only through political pressure -- or by radio programmes from abroad, or when the situation where they occurred had not been properly understood. He said this with a sense of responsibility to the international community: Governments should be given the international assistance needed to overcome the situations they faced. The Special Rapporteur in his visits to the country had been well-treated by national authorities; the system of administration of justice was inherited from former colonizers; in 1961, when independence was achieved, there had been only one lawyer, and only a few doctors; since, citizens had been fighting to improve the situation in the country; administration of justice had to be improved, but it was a struggle, and resources and manpower were still lacking; when a soldier violated military law, meanwhile, he was tried by military courts. The Government was grateful to the Special Rapporteur for recognizing the reality of the situation in the country; there had been progress, but a great difficulty remained in terms of changing long-entrenched mindsets; the best course to follow now was to give technical assistance to Equatorial Guinea.
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BERAKI JINO (Solomon Islands) said a great number of human rights violations had occurred in Bougainville. Men, women and children had been tortured, maimed, raped and killed for reasons most would never understand, let alone accept. Sanitary conditions had also suffered, with thousands of people dying from otherwise preventable and curable diseases. The ongoing conflict in Bougainville had forced schools to be closed. As neighbouring islands to Bougainville, the Solomon Islanders feared a spread of that conflict into its territory. Providing humanitarian assistance and other services to Bougainvillean refugees had stretched the country's resources to the limit. The recent plan by the Government of Papua New Guinea to engage mercenaries to serve in Bougainville had been a stunning revelation; fortunately this plan had failed. Dialogue was the only way forward, even if negotiations had failed in the past.
MUHAMMAD SHOAIB, of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said that despite the existence of many resolutions, deplorable human-rights abuses, including torture, genocide, rape, and political suppression were prevalent in many countries which were members of the Commission; it was simply outrageous. In India, torture was a daily routine and there was brutal repression of the population in Jammu and Kashmir through murder, torture, arbitrary arrests, and lack of fair trials; clearly India was in direct contravention of many Commission resolutions. At this point Kashmiris did not enjoy any economic, social, or cultural rights, either. It was worth noting that Ghulam Rasool Dar, of Kashmir, who had testified before the Commission last year on enforced and involuntary disappearances, had returned to India in February 1997 and according to Amnesty International had been beaten by Indian security forces and had to recover in a hospital in New Delhi; reportedly the security forces beat his wife and two sons as well. Despite the widespread offenses against human rights, Kashmiris had confidence in the Commission and believed India would not be left free to continue to abuse human rights in Kashmir with impunity.
CLEMENT JOHN, of the World Council of Churches, said arbitrary detections, torture, and extrajudicial killings had become routine in Nigeria, and particularly in Ogoniland. Ever since the present regime came to power, there had been an ongoing disintegration of the rule of law in the country. The regime had consistently persecuted and silenced all dissent; human-rights activists, journalists and trade-union leaders had been held incommunicado with no formal charges being brought against them. A report on the situation in Ogoniland by the World Council of Churches documented the cries and sufferings of the Ogoni people, whose land and environment had been plundered and polluted by transnational oil companies. In Sri Lanka, meanwhile, the continuing civil war had been caused by the unresolved ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka and had resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people from both sides of the ethnic divide. The continued application of the Prevention of Terrorism Act and emergency regulations allowed the Sri Lankan security forces to hold
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people for indefinite periods of time. In the meantime, perpetrators of human rights violations had continued to operate with complete impunity.
ANA ALEJANDRE, of the International Association of Educators for World Peace, said truth was the most important spur for justice; on 24 February 1996, two unarmed civilian aircraft on a humanitarian search-and-rescue mission over the Straits of Florida had been downed by two Cuban Air Force MIGs, resulting in the deaths of Armando Alejandre, Carlos Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales. Mr. Alejandre had been flying to supply Cuban rafters stranded in the Bahamas, Mr. Costa had saved more than 400 rafters on hundreds of missions, Mr. de la Peña had spotted and aided many persons lost at sea, and Mr. Morales had been a rafter rescued in the Straits in 1992. The incident had been verified by the International Civil Aviation Organization, the European Union, the United Nations Security Council, and the Special Rapporteur on Cuba. As Armando Alejandre's sister, representing her family and those of the others killed, she came to the Commission convinced that there was no excuse for this premeditated violation of the right to life and asked for the condemnation that the crime demanded.
CARLOS ANDRES PEREZ BERRIO, of the American Association of Jurists, said the armed forces in Colombia would go to any length to render the new human-rights office in Bogotá inoperative. The Commission should make a strong statement on the subject, or appoint a Special Representative to make it clear to the authorities in Colombia that human rights were important. As for the mandate of the independent expert on Guatemala, it should be extended for a further year even though progress had been achieved in the situation. In Africa, a note available to the Commission referred to the gross violation of the human rights of the President of the National Assembly of Burundi. In neighbouring Zaire, meanwhile, the disappearance from the political scene of Mobutu Sese Seko would herald an era of peaceful cooperation and coexistence in the Great Lakes region.
CHRIS MBURU, of the International Human Rights Law Group, said the Nigerian Government, despite earlier commitments, had refused to cooperate with the Commission. The Government's systematic disregard for human rights was continuing, accompanied by orchestrated attempts aimed at completely exterminating the opposition. The Commission should appoint a Special Rapporteur for Nigeria. The Commission should also endorse the recommendations of the Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan regarding women's human rights. In addition, the Commission should call on all the parties in the armed conflict in Zaire to respect international human rights and to end hostilities.
FRANCOISE NDUWIMANA, of the International Federation of Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture, said the world had been watching for several years now the horrifying developments in the Great Lakes region of
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Africa; despite United Nations efforts, there had been continuing problems of grave concern, especially with women and children refugees, who bore the brunt of human-rights violations. Impunity did not seem to have provoked a real reaction from the international community; if these countries were transformed into wastelands there would be no winners or losers. Theoretical action in the form of resolutions and international discussions was fine, but must be backed up with practical action; arms sales and shipments to the region must be ended; humanitarian personnel must be protected. Inquiries should be carried out by Special Rapporteurs on torture, extrajudicial executions, and violence against women; international observers must be sent to the region to help establish the rule of law and monitor elections; and greater assistance must be provided to help rebuild the countries of the region after the ravages of war.
ROBERTUS ROBET, of Regional Council on Human Rights in Asia, said that as a human-rights defender from the field, she carried and wished to express the great hope that this meeting of civilized nations would pay serious attention to those people living in fear and facing threats of imprisonment and death in Indonesia; the systematic violations committed by the 30-year-old Government had transformed into more sophisticated offenses over time; currently the police and attorney's offices were used to repress political opposition, while the military actually held power and control. The National Commission on Human Rights was used to show the international community that improvement in the human-rights situation was occurring, but in fact the Commission was reluctant to act on matters, such as recommendations of Special Rapporteurs, that would result in genuine progress. Freedom of religion had been consistently violated; the workings of the courts and the system of justice were dedicated solely to shackling those considered to be opponents of the Government; other offenses included violations of civil and political rights, rights to a fair trial, attacks, beatings, and arbitrary imprisonment. The Commission must urge the Indonesian Government to collaborate with the UN mechanisms by inviting Special Rapporteurs on independence of the judiciary and religious intolerance to visit Indonesia.
GING GINANJAR, of the International Federation of Journalists, said he had first experienced suppression of the press in 1994 when the weekly which he worked for, "DeTik", together with two other magazines, "Tempo" and "Editor", had been banned because they had published articles critical of the Government of Indonesia. Five months later, the Government banned "Simponi", another weekly for which he worked. In March 1995, the third magazine on which he worked "Independent" had been banned, and four journalists had been put in jail. During the 30 years of Suharto rule control, restriction, repression and threats had become commonplace for the Indonesian press. The Government had imposed such obstacles in the name of "Pancasila", the State ideology. The Indonesian press had been used by the Government to channel one-sided and manipulated information.
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TREVOR TRUEMAN, of Survival for Tribal Peoples, said the Oromo, who constituted half the population of Ethiopia, had been denied an effective voice in the governing of the country for the last century. The Oromo Liberation Front was recognized as the legitimate voice of the Oromo people. Reports of human-rights violations against Oromos by Ethiopian Government forces -- including extrajudicial killing, disappearance, torture, arbitrary detention and rape -- had started in 1991. The Oromia Support Group had now received reports of 1,683 extrajudicial killings and 527 disappearances of civilians suspected of supporting groups opposing the Government, most of them Oromo people. Diplomatic efforts had failed to improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia; a Special Rapporteur for that country should be appointed to investigate reports of human rights violations.
CHARLES GRAVES, of the African Commission of Health and Human Rights Promoters, said the human rights situation in Bahrain was a source of concern. The Bahraini authorities persisted in not facing the whole range of needs of the people; they had not responded to the desire of the Bahrainis for the restoration of the democratic Constitution abolished in 1975. In order to solve its problems, Bahrain argued that the repression was justified because the regime was under threat from a fictitious foreign-backed organization which sought to overthrow the political establishment by force. Such allegations were pure fantasy used in order to avoid the real problems, which were a result of the lack of democracy. The Commission should request the Government of Bahrain to stop the repression, release the detainees and enter into a dialogue with the people.
PIERRE MIOT, of the International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements, said his group, which brought together 61 movements and organizations of rural peoples, wished to draw the attention of the Commission to grave violations of fundamental rights against peasants. International conventions called for the protection of workers and rural peasants. People in rural areas were increasingly aware of the need to create new peasant associations, although the exodus of young people to the cities was making it harder to keep rural areas alive. Various development programmes imposed from the outside did not conform to the needs of the peasants. Peasants felt their only real chance to survive was to organize peasant associations directed and managed by themselves.
MARIN RAYKOV (Bulgaria) said Special Rapporteur Elisabeth Rehn had mentioned in her report the situation of the Bulgarian national minority in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Bulgaria highly appreciated her commitment in accomplishing her mandate. The establishment of the Special Rapporteur's office in Belgrade was a positive and constructive step by the authorities to enable her to be personally acquainted with information related to human-rights abuses. Complaints brought by representatives of the Bulgarian minority concerning, among other things, violation of educational
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rights and the obliteration of Bulgarian ethnic culture had been reported. The human rights situation of Bulgarians in Serbia was of particular interest to Bulgaria, which would have preferred to see the issue resolved through bilateral efforts. That expectation had failed to materialize, however. Two other issues of concern to Bulgaria were the continuing instability in Albania and the Cypriot question. In the latter, the status quo was unacceptable.
G. HELMIS (Greece) said gross violations of human rights in Cyprus continued and Turkey still occupied 37 per cent of the island; the situation still remained a source of potential destabilization; and in the course of 1996 there had been a flare-up of violence along the buffer zone, caused by the deliberate attempt of the Turkish side to substantiate their claim that coexistence between the two communities of the island was no longer possible. Turkey still refused to allow 200,000 Greek Cypriots forcibly evicted by its troops to return to their homes and properties; in breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, the occupying power had transferred and continued to transfer settlers from mainland Turkey to Cyprus, in an attempt to alter its demographic structure and influence the political process; the few remaining Greek Cypriots and Maronites in the occupied area, the enslaved persons, continued to be subjected to all kinds of harassment, intimidation, and deprivation; the question of Greek-Cypriot missing persons continued to be unresolved; and plundering continued of the centuries-old cultures religious heritage of the occupied part of Cyprus. The international community should cease to passively observe the situation in Cyprus and take concrete action, as, laudably, the European Court of Justice had done recently in issuing a judgment.
GONÇALO DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said serious and systematic abuses of fundamental human rights had continued in East Timor, a territory for which Portugal had special responsibility. Inside East Timor, arbitrary detentions, torture, disappearances and even extrajudicial executions were reported by various reliable sources. East Timorese continued to live in fear and to remain at the mercy of security forces that perpetrated abuses with impunity. The Indonesian Government had failed to implement most of the undertakings contained in the Chairman's statements adopted by the Commission in previous years. Among the root causes of tension in East Timor was the massive migration of Indonesians to East Timor. The Indonesian Government also continued to maintain an excessive military presence on the island. The Commission should encourage the renewed efforts of the Secretary-General and his Representative by taking a firm position on the human-rights situation in East Timor.
KEITH BENNETT, of Afro-Asian People's Solidarity Organization, said there was a ray of hope for the long, sad conflict in Jammu and Kashmir; India and Pakistan had newly elected democratic Governments, and the tenor of statements emanating from the two countries suggested a resolution of the
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issue was possible; however, it was imperative that the process to allowed to follow its natural course and not be derailed by outside influences seeking to impose their own agendas. The mood in Kashmir had changed after seven years of violence -- there was fatigue and disillusionment with militancy, and several Kashmiri leaders had returned disillusioned from Pakistan; India had held elections in Jammu and Kashmir, and voters had flocked to the polls. Violence had not yet disappeared, but it was, hopefully, residual militancy. The encouragement of the Commission for the reconciliation process, without interference or advice, was essential.
CARMELO MOCONG ONGUENE, of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said successive Governments in Equatorial Guinea had not contributed to human rights and fundamental freedoms. As a result of their lack of political will, human rights were not observed. The Governments of Equatorial Guinea had enjoyed 18 years of assistance from the Commission and Special Rapporteurs to end violations, but the situation had actually deteriorated. The impunity of those who committed violations continued, and there was no sign of any desire to limit the scope of military jurisdiction. Meanwhile, members of legal opposition groups were interrogated, harassed and tortured. The Government had to end acting arbitrarily and recognize that negative signs could not be dealt with by force but through dialogue and negotiations. The opposition political parties were willing to seek a peaceful solution. The World Alliance hoped the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Equatorial Guinea would be renewed.
LIVIA CORDERO, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said a delegation of the organization had visited Bogata and Apartado in Colombia, met with Government officials and local authorities, and members of NGOs, and found massive, continuing violations of human rights, including many forced disappearances; chasing of peasants from small pieces of land; death threats, torture, and murder; killing of democratically elected officials; and institution of fake trials by "faceless judges". The situation in the country had deteriorated, and at the moment paramilitary forces were forcibly displacing whole civilian settlements; the Commission must manifest its solidarity with victims of human rights in Colombia; reaffirm the mandate given to the recently opened office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia; and appoint an independent expert to prepare an analytical report for the office; other States must call on Colombia to establish a peace policy to facilitate a negotiated solution for the conflict there.
ELKE KESSLER, of National Council of German Women's Organizations, speaking on behalf of several NGOs, said more attention must be paid to the situation of women in Afghanistan, where women could not go to school; facilities for women's health services were quickly eroding, and where bathhouses had been closed, directly affecting women's ability to achieve hygiene and health. Obtaining medical care and health services was difficult
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for women; the Taliban also severely restricted women's rights to employment outside the home, even as poverty was widespread, and the war had created many female-headed households, where women were the only possible breadwinners. The Commission must adopt a resolution underlining Afghanistan's responsibilities to women under international standards for human rights; and the Special Rapporteur must continue his important work and investigate the situation of women's rights in Afghanistan.
HELENA TORROJA, of the Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, said that in the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara, a poll for the people to decide on self-determination would not be free. Saharawis were not allowed to express their ideas without persecution from the Moroccan Government. A referendum was also not possible after the breakdown in negotiations. An international conference needed to be held with the Spanish State as a main actor to set the rules of the referendum. In Israel, the security forces tortured Palestinians and the Government pursued its settlement policy. The recent closure of borders of the West Bank and Gaza prevented Palestinians from working, which affected their economic and social rights. Such actions were obstacles to fundamental rights in the region, especially the right to peace. In East Timor, the group was concerned with the suffering of both East Timorese and Indonesians. Extrajudicial executions and torture continued there. Indonesia was urged to follow proposals to allow a representative Commission to visit East Timor. And as for Guatemala, the work of the Independent Expert on the country should continue.
DAVID ARNOTT, of War Resisters' International, said there had been confusion recently about Thailand's treatment of Karen refugees from Burma and the Burmese Army; a recent statement by the Royal Thai Government that such asylum-seekers would be accepted and well-treated was a relief to hear. A genuine peace settlement was needed in Burma which addressed the political concerns of the Karen and other groups, since a mere cease-fire did not prevent persecution of them by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) now operating as the country's Government. The Commission should stress in a resolution that the Government must conclude a genuine peace settlement with the Karen National Union and other ethnic nationalities; the international community should provide further assistance to Thailand to help ease the burden of the large-scale influx of Burmese into Thailand; Thailand must continue to extend hospitality and protection to Burmese seeking refuge; and SLORC must recognize that national reconciliation and economic prosperity could not be achieved by force, and therefore honour its commitment to transfer its power to the victors of the 1990 elections.
MUSHTAQ AHMAD WANJ, of World Muslim Congress, said the United Nations must firmly proceed against those countries which committed acts of terror, human-rights violations, and disregarded Security Council resolutions; in
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India, democracy meant ballots for Indians and bullets for Kashmiris; the insensitivity of the civilized world to the outrageous Indian behaviour in Kashmir exposed those powers which seldom tired of claiming to be champions of human rights; as many as 700,000 Indian soldiers deployed in Kashmir made it the most heavily militarized region in the world; custodial killings had reached dangerous proportions; the world silently witnessed the communal cleansing of Kashmir because India was too large an economic market to be ignored. The war crimes committed by state authorities and Indian military forces should be investigated by a neutral body, as war crimes in Bosnia were being investigated; thousands of Indian military forces in Kashmir boasted of their crimes against women in Kashmir. The people of the region were deeply dismayed by the statement made by the European Union on the situation; in fact the elections in Jammu and Kashmir last year were not only rigged but held through coercion and under the direct supervision of Indian troops. The Commission must provide a ray of hope for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
NAZAR ABDELGADIR SALIH, of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, said the human rights situation in the Arab world had seen some improvement, but severe violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms persisted. Some of these were caused by foreign aggression and by armed conflicts between Governments and rebels. Abuses continued in Iraq as a result of the economic embargo. The rights of Palestinians were being violated by Israel; the Palestinian Authority also violated human rights. Lebanon was also a victim of violations caused by repeated Israeli military attacks. Algeria remained the most dangerous conflict situation, while Sudan had witnessed some deterioration following the spread of the civil war to the east of the country. There had also been serious violations of Arabs' rights to personal security and liberty, with journalists and newspapers being particularly targeted.
SEIN WIN, of the International Peace Bureau, said he was disappointed that the Special Rapporteur on Burma had not been allowed to visit the country. At every United Nations session, the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) authorities appeared to be very defensive about resolutions on Burma. SLORC mistakenly claimed that the right of non-interference in internal affairs had primacy over all other articles in the United Nations Charter. National sovereignty must come from the people and should not be used as a veil to hide human rights abuses. The situation of human rights in Burma was going from bad to worse. The rights of the people, especially elected representatives and supporters of the National League for Democracy, to participate in the political process had been severely restricted by unjust laws and orders. SLORC resorted to violence suppression, arbitrary arrests, unfair trials and harsh prison sentences. The Commission should extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur for another year and pass a resolution on Burma that reflected the appalling human rights situation there.
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NANCY RUBIN (United States) said the Government worked hard at gathering reliable information on the extent to which human rights were respected or abused around the world; Cuba remained the hemisphere's only dictatorship, and continued to arrest, detain, threaten, and harass human rights and pro-democracy activists it considered a threat; no political opening apparently would accompany limited economic liberalization there. By contrast, the final peace accord signed in Guatemala closed out a year of significant improvement there; there was preoccupation, however, over human-rights problems in Colombia, where the Government must continue to show political will by arresting and prosecuting human-rights abusers in the security forces, and identifying and penalizing illegal collaboration between the military and paramilitary units. The United States also felt concern over situations in Albania, former Yugoslavia, Belarus, Cyprus, Nigeria, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Iraq, Iran, Sri Lanka, and in China, which had undergone significant reforms but continued to commit widespread and well-documented human rights abuses. Satisfaction was expressed by the United States over significant progress made in human rights by Ghana, Mali, Liberia, and South Africa.
MOHAMED HASSAINE (Algeria) said the country's priority objective was the building of a state of law and democracy with full respect for human rights; a new Constitution had enshrined political pluralism, and freedoms of expression, assembly, and other rights; there had been substantial risks of disruption by obstructionist forces, but the country continued to strengthen respect for human rights and establish a market economy in the face of terrorism in religious guise. An independent National Human Rights Observatory, and a mediator had been appointed; freedom of the press and expression had been augmented, and political pluralism promoted; pluralistic, internationally monitored democratic elections had been held in 1995; and a platform of national understanding had been approved in 1996 to strengthen support for democratic principles. Moreover, the Constitution had been modified to improve democracy. The use of violence in exercise of political activities had been prohibited; proportionality for elections had been established; local elections would soon be held in an atmosphere of transparency. In its battle against terrorism, Algeria appealed for international cooperation and mobilization, and regretted the refusal of some countries to condemn groups which carried out acts all the world deplored.
HERNAN PLORUTTI (Argentina) said the recommendations in the Secretary-General's report on human rights in Cyprus, calling for a return of human rights to the people of the island and for the return of refugees, were the best way to achieve a solution to the problem there. The report hoped the leaders of the conflict would hold direct negotiations to achieve a solution. The human-rights situation should find a just solution without further delay based on international law and international human rights instruments. This solution must imply that the Cypriot State's sovereignty was unitary; that its
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territorial integrity should not be jeopardized, and that the two communities lived equally in a federation made up of two zones. A settlement had to be reached based on the guidelines set by the Security Council.
Right of Reply
Representative of China said the statement of the European Union yesterday, and those of certain NGOs, had failed to mention the substantial progress in the human rights situation in China. These accusations were no more than cliches and not worth refuting. The issue should be judged by the Chinese people itself. As for comments on Hong Kong, the basic rights of the residents of the territory would be safeguarded; China would be implementing a policy of "one country, two systems" according to which Hong Kong's way of life would remain unchanged for 50 years. The Basic Law of Hong Kong guaranteed the rights and privileges of Hong Kong residents. The British authorities had created obstacles: the territory had never had a bill of rights in 100 years of British rule, yet on the eve of their departure the British had introduced a bill of rights. That constituted a gross violation of the Basic Law agreement.
ALI A. GLNASRI (Sudan) said the allegations made against Sudan by the Union of Arab Lawyers this morning were all lies. The representative of that group was in fact a member of the Sudanese rebel movement and an opponent of the Government. The international community had done nothing to stop the foreign aggression against Sudan and this had had bad effects on the people of Sudan. The Union, which made false allegations against the Government, was trying to use the Commission to advance allegations against all Arab countries.
ANTONIO DE ICAZA (Mexico) said the allegations made by four non-governmental organizations regarding an alleged massacre in a rural area of the north of the state of Chiapas were inaccurate. The so-called "massacre" had actually involved a personal conflict resulting in the deaths of five people. The killings had been common crimes and not gross violations of human rights. Mexico had issued invitations to visit the country to the Special Rapporteurs on torture and on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions. The Government fully cooperated with international mechanisms for the promotion and protection of human rights.
BARZAN AL-TIKRITI (Iraq) said it deeply regretted what Japan had said about Iraq. Japan sought to become a permanent member of the Security Council, a position of great responsibility calling for objectivity. The delegation of Iraq had yet to see that Japan was in fact objective; asking Iraq to abide by the Security Council resolution on oil-for-food was irresponsible; the United States was responsible for that resolution and for its failures. The Japanese representative should have addressed his statement
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to those who were stopping the release of medicine to people in Iraq who needed it greatly; why, furthermore, had Japan not raised the issue of the cruel economic embargo imposed upon Iraq, or was that of no importance? Was Japan behaving this way to pay favours in order to gain access to a permanent post on the Security Council? It continued to adopt the attitudes and information of those who were opposed to Iraq.
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