25 March 1999


25 March 1999

Press Release


19990325 Commission Hears Statements from Dignitaries From Mozambique, Republic of Korea, Mauritius and Tunisia

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 25 March (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning continued its debate on the right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation as well as its methods of work.

The Commission also heard statements from dignitaries from Mozambique, Republic of Korea, Mauritius and Tunisia.

Frances Rodrigues, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique, spoke of the importance of strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law, as well as Mozambique's commitment to the global application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Hong Soon-Young, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said his country was committed to democracy and explained its efforts to uphold human rights and the dignity of human beings. He deplored the continuing existence of racism in the world, and the continuing state of vulnerability of some groups.

Abdool Razack Peeroo, Attorney-General, Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Corporate Affairs and Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations of Mauritius, spoke of the fight against intolerance waged in every country, and of the efforts in his country to preserve and defend the civil and political rights of its citizens through legislation. He then called for a multilateral and global approach to human rights.

Abderrahim Zouari, Minister of Education of Tunisia, declared support for the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, and explained his country's efforts to educate its people on the importance of human rights.

The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, introduced his annual report and its addendum. He spoke of those States who had invited him to help them improve the state of race relations in their countries, and commended their efforts. He expressed his preoccupations with the rise of xenophobia and his hope for a global solution.

During the discussion on the right to self-determination, several speakers expressed their support for the self-determination of the Palestinian people. The situation concerning East Timorese was also referred to.

Speaking at this morning's meeting were representatives of Qatar, Syria, Mauritania, Jordan, Egypt, Portugal, Israel, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Ecuador, Austria, Uruguay, Guatemala, Italy and Pakistan.

Representatives of the Transnational Radical Party, Christian Solidarity International and Pax Romana also spoke.

Sudan and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea also spoke in right of reply.

The next plenary of the Commission will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, 26 March, when it is expected to conclude its debate on the right to self-determination and start its examination of the question of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and all forms of discrimination.

The Commission's Working Group in charge of formulating proposals for the World Conference against Racism will meet this afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. and from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, All Forms of Discrimination

Before the Commission under this agenda item is the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/1999/12) on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination which presents the objectives of the World Conference against Racism and, among others, a review of progress made in this matter. The report also outlines recommendations on improving the effectiveness of United Nations programmes and national, regional and international measures to ensure the availability of financial resources for combating racial discrimination and xenophobia.

The report concludes that despite progress achieved, racism and racial discrimination have not disappeared and are assuming new forms. Efforts need to be intensified in combatting these abuses, including emphasizing education and awareness-arousing as well as promoting universal and unconditional accession to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

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Also before the Commission under this item is a report (E/CN.4/1999/15) by Maurice Glele-Ahanhanzo, Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which includes information on the activities of his field visits; replies from Governments of Cyprus, Croatia, Cuba, Finland, Lebanon, Mexico, Portugal, Turkey, Federal Republic of Yugoslavia; and contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. The Special Rapporteur welcomes the effective measures taken by the Governments which replied to his requests.

Also before the Commission was an addendum (E/CN.4/1999/15/Add.1) by Mr. Glele-Ahanhanzo on his mission to South Africa which includes information on the socio-economic and political situation in South Africa and implementation of post-apartheid reforms, the rise in xenophobia, and measures taken by the South African Government. Among other things, the report recommends that the country maintain the reconciliation process; adopt new immigration laws which break away from the legacy of apartheid; pursue integration in the armed forces through more balanced representation of the different ethnic and racial groups; and strengthen the civic education initiated in the armed forces.

The Commission is also considering document (E/CN.4/1999/17) which contains the comments of the International Labour Office concerning Commission resolution 1998/26. Among other things, the document says the ILO has continued during the last year its work for the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation on a number of grounds, including those of race and colour. The ILO is also giving special attention to migrant workers, with a considerable programme of activities provided for them. It says anticipation for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is high.


FRANCES RODRIGUES, Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Mozambique, said the universality of human rights had not been fully accepted and respected by all. Mozambique, however, remained firm and determined to undertake bold steps aimed at ensuring and further strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law, by such means as the strengthening of national and local human rights institutions, education, and the revision of the Constitution and judicial systems. The objectives and purposes of the Declaration on the Right to Development, adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 41/128 of 4 December 1986, were fully subscribed to. The international trafficking of women and girls was of concern to the Government of Mozambique which appealed to the Commission on Human Rights to assist it in the search for measures to control and combat this phenomenon. Mozambique continued to be confronted with the ever increasing threat of anti-personnel landmines and it attached high importance to finding durable solutions to this issue.

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HONG SOON-YOUNG, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade of the Republic of Korea, said throughout the half-century since the establishment of the Government in 1948, the Korean people had steadfastly believed in democracy and endeavoured to uphold human rights and the dignity of human beings. It was also the year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the noble ideals and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration had served as the guiding light for humanity in the struggle for freedom and democracy. The achievements, small and large, had all been inspiring, the greatest being recognition of the unshakable legitimacy that had come to guard the principle of universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights.

The Minister regretted that in many corners of the world, race, ethnicity, nationality and religion continued to serve as grounds for blatant violations of human rights in the form of large-scale, organized acts of discrimination, torture, abductions and extrajudicial executions. Women, children, refugees and other vulnerable groups continued to be targets of violence and exploitation. There were still totalitarian regimes where basic rights and freedoms were suppressed, where information was controlled, movement and residence restricted, and rights to fair trials denied.

The Republic of Korea today, led by President Kim Dae-jung, was pressing ahead with bold economic restructuring and reforms in key sectors of national life based on the principle of nurturing democracy and market economy in parallel. The Minister said the work of the Commission had been vital in translating the spirit and words of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He commended non-governmental organizations and individuals who stood up and fought for human rights and fundamental freedoms. He also wished to draw attention to the unresolved issue of the Korean peninsula for the past half century whereby 10 million Koreans remained separated from their families, and called on the international community to help in resolving this issue as well as the authorities of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

ABDOOL RAZACK PEEROO, Attorney-General, Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Corporate Affairs and Minister of Labour and Industrial Relations of Mauritius, said that every nation in the world has had to face intolerance. Mauritius was a multi-cultural and multi-racial nation but it had been identified as a model of unity in diversity. Despite this, Mauritius had taken steps to strengthen the civil and political rights of its citizens through legislation, cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the creation of a National Human Rights Commission along with a number of other judicial and legislative institutions empowered to promote and protect human rights in the country. Mauritius had also organized the first Ministerial Meeting of the Organization of African Unity which was devoted to human rights.

Mr. Peeroo called on a multilateral approach to human rights. Mauritius was prepared to participate in the United Nations and other international fora

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aimed at strengthening the international legal system and insuring its implementation at a universal level and without discrimination.

ABDERRAHIM ZOUARI, Minister for Education of Tunisia, recalled the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and highlighted the events that took place in Tunisia to celebrate it. He noted the need for on-going action to protect people who suffered from the deprivation of their most basic rights, due to such events as civil war and foreign occupation. Tunisia supported the Palestinian struggle, and deplored the freezing of the peace process in the Middle East. The negative role of the Israeli Government was condemned. The importance accorded to human rights in Tunisia was elaborated on all levels, from the legal to the social.

Mr. Zouari highlighted the improvement of the status of women and reiterated that no right was more important than another. The Tunisian State was attempting to reinforce this amongst its population by relentless education. Full enjoyment of human rights was a corollary to social improvement, and Tunisia was exerting itself to ensure that social improvement reached all parts of society to the point of political and constitutional reform. Human rights should not be politicized nor manipulated to serve ideological ends or interests that might harm disadvantaged peoples. The proposed revisions of the mechanisms of the Commission on Human Rights were viewed with interest, but a certain amount of reflection and study was called for, as well as the taking into account of the opinions of all people and countries.

MAURICE GLELE-AHANHANZO, Special Rapporteur on the contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, introduced his annual report (E/CN.4/1999/15), along with its addendum (E/CN.4/1999/15/Add.1) on his mission to South Africa last year. The report considered measures taken by Governments to prevent racism and racial discrimination. He thanked various Member States for their cooperation, and noted that some of them had already implemented some of his recommendations, whereas some had committed themselves to implementation once their legislation or Constitutions could permit them to. The initiative of United States President Bill Clinton on race was commended. The policy of affirmative action was a necessary mechanism for surmounting the effects of racial discrimination. The efforts of the Brazilian, British, and Colombian Governments were also commended, as were those of France and Germany. The positive changes made in South Africa were presented in the addendum to the report. However, the Rapporteur was preoccupied by the rise of xenophobia in that country.

The Special Rapporteur expressed a hope that by attacking the problem of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia from various angles in a context of globalization, society could enter the third millennium without worrying about cultural, ethnic and racial conflicts.

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ABDULLA ALMANA (Qatar) said the right of peoples to self-determination would always be a current theme despite world changes since it was fundamental for the human rights of all. Concern was expressed about the continued violation of human rights in all occupied territories, including Palestine. The apparent lack of concern by the Israeli Government for the peace process, as well as for human rights, was brought to the attention of the Commission. Qatar supported the establishment of a separate Palestinian State.

GHASSAN NSEIR (Syria) said Israel had denied the Palestinian people of their right to self-determination and had oppressed them. The Israeli authorities had used violence and genocide to destroy the homes of the Palestinian people without any consideration to women or children. Israeli policy was based on expansionist ideas and it was about time the Palestinian people were given their right to self-determination. Syria supported the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination.

MOHAMED SALEK OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said the issue of the Israeli occupation of Palestine had not been resolved despite resolution 181 of the General Assembly which divided Palestine in two States and created an independent juridical administration for the holy city of Jerusalem. The international community and the Commission had not ceased to denounce the Israeli occupation and had reiterated the national rights of the Palestinian people, including their right to self-determination. They had also called for a just and lasting solution. The peace process launched in Oslo had given birth to a hope for peace and a lasting solution. However, this process was stalled and Israel carried the responsibility for this impasse. The international community must redouble its efforts to insure the adherence to international law in this region and forge the process toward a peaceful, global and just solution.

ABDULLAH MADADHA (Jordan) said the right of peoples to self-determination was vital to the human rights of all people. The plight of the people of Palestine contravened the Vienna Convention, among others. The dream of an elusive peace, based on the right of the Palestine people to self-determination, was highlighted as was the reluctance of the Israeli Government to advance the peace process. There should be mutual respect and unwavering commitment to the peace accords and the Israeli Government should halt its building plans within disputed territory, most especially within the holy city of Jerusalem. The world community was called upon to recognize the Palestinian State when it was declared.

MUNIR ZAHRAN (Egypt) demanded that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories. The peace process was in danger due to the current Israeli policy of a continued state of siege in these areas. Israel had refused to comply with United Nations resolutions, thereby denying the Palestinian people their right to self-determination. Israel must respect the Palestinian people and cooperate with the Commission•s Special Rapporteur.

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SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) called attention to the systematic violation of the fundamental rights, including the right to self-determination, of the people of East Timor by Indonesia. While Indonesia recognized the need for consultation with the people of East Timor, it was imperative to carry out these consultation through a direct and democratic ballot which was open to all East Timorese, both inside and outside of East Timor.

The representative of Portugal called on the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to play an active role in the efforts to decrease tension and violence and promote dialogue and reconciliation in East Timor. This would contribute significantly to the successful completion of the process of self-determination.

DAVID PELEG (Israel) supported the right to self-determination, but not as an absolute right. It was a right to be cautiously weighed against other rights, since it did not render other rights automatically invalid, and did not justify acts of terrorism. It was a right that could be expressed in many different ways. Israel recognized the right of self-determination for all people, including Palestinians, stipulating that all issues relating to the permanent status would be settled in bilateral negotiations between the two sides. Any attempt to prejudge or pre-empt the permanent status issues by unilateral acts, whether in the name of self-determination or otherwise, would be a fundamental violation of the very basis of the peace process, and would endanger everything achieved to date, forcing Israel to take measures on its own to restore the situation. Israel called upon Palestine to return to the negotiating table so that mutual solutions could be found.

TOFIK MOUSSAEV (Azerbaijan) said it was committed to the right of peoples to self-determination. Self-determination in United Nations documents had been treated as a principle that did not afford grounds for encroaching upon another fundamental principles - the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of States. The contradiction in this interpretation was used for justification of territorial expansionism under pretext of care for relative ethnic groups in other States, especially in multi-ethnic ones. In such cases, the use of force to realize the right to self-determination by one ethnic group led to depriving the majority of the population of fundamental rights, including the right to freely determine their political status and freely purse their economic, social and cultural development. Minority rights could not serve as a basis for claims of secession or dismemberment of a State.

MARINO BUSDACHIN, of the Transnational Radical Party, stated that the latest massacres in Kosovo illustrated the violations of the most fundamental rights, including the denial of freedom of press, political freedom and the denial of the most fundamental rules of democracy. They proved to the entire world the full responsibility of the Belgrade regime. The extensive

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international efforts by the United Nations and non-governmental organizations had been unsuccessful in curbing President Slobodan Milosevic's humanitarian abuses and had led to increased bloodshed. The Transnational Radical Party called on the international community to do its utmost, without delay, to employ all the necessary means, including the action of both air and ground military force, to put an end to the ethnic cleansing policy of the Belgrade regime. It called for the immediate indictment of President Milosevic for crimes against humanity.

ABDON NHIAL, of Christian Solidarity International (CSI), said that over the past 20 years, the organization had been involved in human rights advocacy and had documented all forms of abuse inflicted on many nations and peoples by regimes that purported to represent them. The human rights abuses had ranged from arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, and execution, to the denial of whole communities their freedom of movement and residence, and their deportation, as well as ethnic cleansing. Such regimes had therefore forfeited any legitimacy or right to be considered as Governments with a right to exercise sovereignty over their people.

JOSEPH GARCIA, of Pax Romana, cited the international conference of experts on the implementation of the right to self-determination, which was organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's (UNESCO) Division of Human Rights, Democracy and Peace and the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia in Barcelona, from 21 to 27 November 1998, and was a contribution to conflict prevention. At this time of globalization, traditional notions related to the sovereignty of States and the right to self-determination were in constant flux. There was a need to empower the United Nations system to address the prevention of conflicts related to the exercise of self-determination. The Commission on Human Rights should invite the United Nations Secretary-General to elaborate a working paper on the right to self-determination to be submitted to the fifty-sixth session of the Commission.

MAHON HAYES (Ireland) associated his country with the proposals to enhance the mechanisms of the Commission, so as to enhance the work produced. The time, as stated by Germany, was right to move forward with the support of regional groups. The report upon the improvement of the mechanisms was commended, and it was hoped that its proposals could be speedily implemented.

LUIS GALLEGOS CHIRIBOGA (Ecuador) expressed its support for the Chair and the Bureau and recommended a continued review of the Commission's mechanisms and an open consultation process.

HARALD KREID (Austria) recommended a continued review of the Commission's mechanisms and expressed its appreciation for the open consultation process conducted over the last year with Governments, members of

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the Subcommission, other experts, and non-governmental organizations in order to ensure necessary input for the report.

SILVIA IZQUIERDO (Uruguay) said that before analysing issues in the plenary under item 20, there was a need for an exchange of views, not parallel with official meetings but prior to them. Non-management was not the way to go about these matters.

LUIS PADILLA MENENDEZ (Guatemala) called for the need to take decisions and adopt some of the recommendations which figured in document ( E/CN.4/1999/104). The Guatemalan delegation took note of statements being made and agreed with the assessments of the views expressed. Therefore, it agreed to set up consultations on Wednesday evening. It also agreed to set up a Group of Friends of the Chair as proposed by the South African delegation. Guatemala agreed to discuss the review of mechanisms in a spirit of consensus and cooperation as opposed to a spirit of confrontation. Guatemala did not want to paralyse the progress by too many rules.

CLAUDIO MORENO (Italy) said the proposals presented by the bureau had already been discussed and it was now time to examine them in the plenary so as to search for a consensus. Italy did not accept the idea of sending these issues to a Working Group. Everyone wanted to make the Commission more effective.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) noted that there were many differences amongst the delegates and endorsed the German view that there was a need to build mutual confidence first. There was no desire to push forward motions that displeased the majority amongst the Commission. A consensus did not mean unanimity, but it had always been the operating modality of the Commission. The need for an inter-sessional procedure was spoken of, and a non-restricted mechanism, such as an open-ended working group, was called for.

Rights of Reply

CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), exercising its right of reply, said the food problems facing the country were a result of natural catastrophes in conjunction with economic difficulties. Prisoners from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea were released after nearly 40 years in captivity. As for the reunion of separated families, the Government had put forth measures to resolve this but had been met with challenges which the Republic of Korea was responsible for because it did not favour such reunions.

IBRAHIM MIRGHANI IBRAHIM (Sudan), exercising its right of reply, said Christian Solidarity International had called for the right of self-determination for the southern Sudanese people. South Sudan had the right of self-determination according to an agreement signed in April 1997

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between the Government and seven of the eight rebel groups in the south. CSI should help the peace process and not hinder it. The people of Sudan were being urged to vote for unity. Southern Sudan had never been under Islamic laws which were implemented in the north, and it never would be. If the people of south Sudan voted for secession, the Sudanese Government would respect this decision.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba), at the end of the meeting, expressed concern that speakers were not being given enough time to finish their speeches, and that, although the time requirement was supposed to help the Commission to reach its goals, it was actually hindering it since speakers could not express themselves fully.


In press release HR/CN/880 of 24 March 1999, the speech of the representative of Latvia on page 9 should read as follows:

ROMANS BAUMANIS (Latvia), speaking on behalf of his country as well as Poland, Bulgaria, Armenia, Lithuania, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia and Georgia, said these States supported the idea of establishing an open informal forum for the discussion of the report of the Bureau during the fifty-fifth session, that could take place not in parallel with the plenary. A chapter by chapter approach could be adopted, given the interrelated nature of the reform proposals. The results of this informal dialogue should be taken into account during the discussion of item 20.

Mr. Baumanis said the above mentioned countries believed that an inter- sessional Working Group would de facto reduce the participation of a number of interested delegations because they simply might not be able to travel to Geneva for that purpose, though the widest possible agreement for the reform was essential with the view of its implementation.

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For information media. Not an official record.