6 November 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

31st Meeting (AM)       



Afghanistan, Middle East, Racism Conference Among Matters Discussed

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson this morning told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) that if the new global anti-discrimination agenda was important on 8 September -- the day it was adopted -- imagine how much more crucial it became only three days later, when terrorists attacked the United States.

Speaking to Committee members as the panel opened its comprehensive debate on issues relating to human rights, Mrs. Robinson said racism and intolerance could be both a cause and a consequence of violence.  Major factors in combating racism, she said, were the documents adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.  That was a part of the effective action against all forms of discrimination that was needed to combat the forces of intolerance and hatred in the world.

In her statement, which was followed by a wide-reaching interactive dialogue with Member States, Mrs. Robinson addressed the difficulties during and after the Conference, which resulted in the delay of the report of the Conference, and by extension, the delay of the Committee's debate on racial discrimination.  The disagreement, she said, stemmed from the placement -- not content -- of three paragraphs in the report.  An agreement would no doubt be reached.  But until the matter was settled, there were limitations on her Office's ability to promote the anti-discrimination agenda.

In the interactive dialogue that followed, several delegations expressed concern about the status of the Durban documents.  Mrs. Robinson said she would do everything possible to facilitate the completion of the negotiations.  The Durban Declaration was very important, and there was a worldwide audience for whom the Conference had been a ray of hope.

The other comments and questions of the Committee covered a wide range of issues.  Matters of concern ranged from short-term projects on the agenda of the High Commissioner’s Office to the question of responding to the needs of victims of genocide and the participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in broader human rights efforts.  Many speakers were concerned about the humanitarian aspects of the so-called international coalition against terrorism that had emerged in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States.

Mrs. Robinson said that she welcomed the fact that there was unanimity within the Security Council and the General Assembly, as well as the wider international community on the importance of combating terrorism.  At the same time, she was concerned about respect for human rights.  The global community must work to ensure that the Charter and international humanitarian law were respected at all times and that any violations were reported and investigated.

Answering a question about the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Mrs. Robinson noted that the dates of the Forum's first meeting were changed.  The General Assembly Special Session on Children was scheduled to meet from 6 to     10 May 2002, meaning the Forum's inaugural meeting was rescheduled for 13 to      24 May 2002.

Earlier in her statement to the Committee, Mrs. Robinson addressed specifically the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, East Timor, the Middle East, and the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation.  In East Timor and Chechnya, she pointed out, there had been some considerable progress in improving the situation of the respect of human rights by cracking down on the impunity of human rights violators.  But work remained to be done, she stressed.  The climate of impunity in Afghanistan, she said, had helped lead to the current human rights situation there.  It was essential that Afghanistan be assisted in ensuring accountability for the series of massacres and other human rights and humanitarian law abuses perpetrated in recent years.  Concerning the Middle East, she implored Israelis and Palestinians to cease fighting and return immediately to the negotiating table.

The head of the New York Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Bacre Ndiaye, updated the Committee on the status of various international human rights funds, covenants and conventions.

Representatives from the Russian Federation, Belgium (on behalf of the European Union), Croatia, Libya, Egypt, Cuba, Morocco, Suriname, Sudan, Mexico, India and Rwanda participated in the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner.

Leandro Despouy (Argentina), Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, and the representative of China took the floor to speak when the general debate of human rights opened.

The Committee will reconvene Wednesday at 10 a.m. to continue with its discussion on human rights.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue its 2001 substantive session, taking up human rights questions and matters related to the implementation of human rights instruments.  To set the stage for nearly two weeks of deliberations, the Committee was scheduled to hear an introductory statement and hold a dialogue with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The guiding document before the Committee this morning was the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (document A/56/36), which provides an overview of the activities of the Office since November 2000.  The  24-page document details the efforts to protect and promote human rights in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Haiti, Indonesia and the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation.  The report also lists challenges that lie ahead, including the follow-up to the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the establishment of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children.

In the report, the High Commissioner writes that the human rights situation in Afghanistan preoccupied her before the current crisis.  The past 12 months had demonstrated widespread and systematic abuses of human rights and international humanitarian law by all warring Afghan parties.  In the DRC, the High Commissioner wrote that she was working with the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation there.  The Office has had a presence in the country since December 1996, and its mandate covers monitoring violations of human rights and strengthening national capacities to redress them.  Regarding the situation of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, she said the Office had received disturbing reports on violations of human rights and humanitarian law by both the Macedonian armed forces and the ethnic Albania armed opposition groups, including the National Liberation Army.

Regarding the situation of Haiti, the High Commissioner reports that the former independent expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti highlighted the deterioration of the administration of justice system.  He also expressed concern regarding the politicization of the police, arbitrary arrests, prolonged detention without trial, the climate of violence in the prisons, and the deplorable health conditions in those institutions.

In Indonesia, she said, in response to a request from the Government addressed to the Secretary-General, the Office developed a programme of technical cooperation to enhance the capacity to prosecute human rights violations.  During the first phase of its implementation, the Office provided technical advice to the office of the Attorney General regarding the draft law on Human Rights Courts.

Concerning Chechnya, the Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution this year calling upon all parties to the conflict to take immediate steps to halt the ongoing fighting, and for the High Commissioner to report back to the Commission on the implementation of the resolution.

The report also details the achievements of the World Conference against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa in August and September.  The High Commissioner wrote that after nine days of negotiations that were frequently intensive and often difficult, the Conference achieved a breakthrough and found common ground on the key issues before it.  There were strong feelings and significantly different points of view on a number of important issues, but throughout the process there was an equally strong commitment to confronting those differences and arriving at a successful conclusion to the meeting. 

The report goes on to state that the Declaration and Programme of Action provide an important new framework for combating racism, and the documents also elaborated a wide range of concrete and action-oriented measures to be taken at the national, regional and international levels.  The report stresses, however, that words would not be enough.  The true measure of success of the Conference will be whether the documents adopted after such laborious negotiations make a real difference in the lives of the victims of racism.  That would be the principle task before the international community in the years to come.

The Committee also had before it a Report of the Human Rights Committee (document A/56/40), which details the work of the Committee’s substantive sessions during the last year.

The document also provides an overview of its examinations and discussions of the reports submitted by various States Parties to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.  The Reports of States that were considered by the Committee were from Trinidad and Tobago, Denmark, Argentina, Gabon, Peru, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Uzbekistan, Croatia, Syria, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Monaco, Guatemala and Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

There were also several reports before the Committee on the status of various international human rights funds, covenants and conventions.

The report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (document A/56/177*) contains an annex listing the States that have signed, ratified, acceded or succeeded to the Convention and the dates on which such actions occurred.

The report of the Secretary-General on the Status of the International Convention on the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/56/179) states that as of 1 June 2001, the Convention had been ratified or acceded to by 16 States.  In addition, 10 States had signed the Convention, which will enter into force after it has been ratified or acceded to by 20 States.  The report notes that promotion of international human rights treaties is an ongoing priority of the Secretary-General and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. 

The report also states that, encouraged by the support shown by Member States to sign multilateral treaties during last year’s Millennium Summit and Assembly, the Secretary-General has decided to organize an annual treaty event to enable States to undertake treaty actions in a solemn and high-profile setting.  Furthermore, the International Steering Committee for global ratification of the Convention continued its activities throughout the year, intensifying its appeals for adherence of the last four States necessary for its entry into force.  The UNHCR also held a round table during the fifty-sixth session of the Commission on Human Rights.

Also before the Committee was the Secretary-General's Status report of the International Covenants on Human Rights (document A/56/178).  That report details the status of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocols.

According to the report, as of 1 August 2001, the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights had been ratified or acceded to by 145 States.  The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has been ratified or acceded to by       148 States, and 98 had ratified its optional protocol.  Complete lists of States having signed the Covenants are included in Annexes to the report.

The Committee will also consider the Secretary-General’s report on the Status of the United nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery (document A/56/205),which details, in an annex, the financial status and activities of the Fund and also includes information on the participation of beneficiaries of grants from the Fund.

Introductory Statement by High Commissioner for Human Rights

UNITED NATIONS HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS MARY ROBINSON said the annual report to the General Assembly this year was completed shortly after the events of 11 September.  The horror and the sense of insecurity that struck the world in the aftermath of those events were redefining priorities and affecting human interaction in serious ways.  A visit to New York immediately after the attacks showed the shocking scale of these senseless crimes against humanity.  The huge loss of human life and the incredible destruction was stunning.  In many countries, there was anxiety or human insecurity arising from the biochemical scare.  All governments had the responsibility to take appropriate measures to restore human security.

She said all States had demonstrated through the action of the Security Council and the General Assembly a remarkable commitment to eradicate terrorism.  This was a source of reassurance and comfort.  But efforts had to be made to avoid having innocent people become the victims of counter-terrorism measures.  The measures taken must be appropriate and the least intrusive to achieve the objective.  There was concern that some governments were now introducing measures that could erode core human rights safeguards.  In some countries, non-violent activities had been considered as terrorism, and excessive measures had been taken to suppress or restrict individual rights, including the rights to privacy, fair trial, to seek asylum, political participation, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.  There was a worrying rise in a number of countries of incidents of xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Arab and anti-Asian sentiments in the wake of the United States attacks.  They served as a reminder of how crucial the struggle against racism was.  This was an issue where real leadership was very much needed and, fortunately, it had been assumed by a number of world leaders, notably President Bush.

Turning to specific situations in some countries, Mrs. Robinson said, it was appropriate to begin with Afghanistan.  There was concern about the plight of the civilian population, especially the millions of women, children and older persons.  All parties to the conflict were urged to respect the principles of human rights and humanitarian law.  That the current human rights situation gave such cause for concern was to an extent a result of the climate of impunity which had prevailed for so long in Afghanistan.  It was essential that Afghanistan be assisted in ensuring accountability for the series of massacres and other grave human rights and humanitarian law abuses perpetrated in recent years.

Turning to East Timor, she said the election of the Constituent Assembly held last August had been largely free of intimidation and voting irregularities.  Last July, the first trial for crimes against humanity had commenced.  There was also encouragement in that the return of East Timorese refugees had been accelerated.  Notwithstanding the many achievements, however, much remained to be done.  There was the question of the likely return to East Timor of senior militia leaders.  Close attention needed to be paid to how the justice system dealt with those suspected of crimes.

She said that since her last visit to the Middle East, there was increasing concern over the grave developments in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The policy of targeted assassinations, as well as the recent assassination of an Israeli Cabinet Minister, and the subsequent incursion of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) into areas under control of the Palestinian Authority, had led to a deteriorating situation on the ground with a terrible cost in terms of human lives.  The failure to resolve the fundamental problem of occupation, as well as human security for both parties, combined with the increased recourse to violence, had exacerbated the frustrations of both communities and had further eroded the sense of security of Israelis and Palestinians.  The call for the establishment of an international monitoring presence in the territories should be reiterated, and Israelis and Palestinians should be urged to work towards ending the cycle of violence and return to negotiations.

She said in the Republic of Chechnya of the Russian Federation, the Government recently had informed the Office of the High Commissioner about cases of excesses in Chechnya that had been brought either before the military courts, some law enforcement bodies for further investigations, or the office of the military prosecutor.  In several cases, the perpetrators had been sentenced to imprisonment, while others were discontinued or were the subject of an amnesty.  Presently, there were 22 cases being investigated by the office of the military prosecutor.  However, there was still a need for an adequate response to the call of the Commission on Human Rights for an effective tackling of impunity for widespread allegations of violations of human rights and breaches of international humanitarian law committed in Chechnya.  Moving to Africa, she said, the Office of the High Commissioner launched the Sub-Regional Human Rights Center in Central Africa, based in Yaounde.

Regarding the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Mrs. Robinson said whatever views existed on the Conference itself, there was no doubt that some things of great value had emerged from it -- complex issues of the past and the present had been confronted and resolved through negotiations.  If the agenda adopted was important on        8 September, when the Conference concluded, how much more significant did it become three days later with the horrific events of 11 September?  It was known that racism and intolerance could be both a cause and consequence of violence.  Effective action against all forms of discrimination was an essential part of the task of combating the forces of intolerance and hatred in the world.

The Office of the High Commissioner was moving forward with that anti-discrimination agenda, she said.  Some of the current steps included the establishment of an anti-discrimination unit to strengthen the Office's capacity to promote equality and non-discrimination, focusing on technical cooperation activities aimed at combating racism.  A number of activities mandated by the Conference could start now.  But others would require the decision of the General Assembly, particularly on the provision of necessary resources.  The draft resolution before the Committee was therefore of great importance.

There was awareness, Mrs. Robinson said, of the problem with the documentation of the Conference.  The report, and therefore the debate, had been delayed due to a lack of agreement among States on the placement of three paragraphs.  That disagreement was not related to their substance, but rather only to where they should be placed.  But until the matter was settled, there were limitations in the ability to promote the anti-discrimination agenda.  An agreement would no doubt be reached.  But this delay was putting at risk the momentum of the anti-discrimination agenda.

Dialogue with the Committee

Following the opening statement of the High Commission for Human Rights, members of the Committee made comments on the reports before them and asked a series of questions.

The representative of the Russian Federation said that terrorist activity had been one of the main hindrances to his country’s efforts to maintain peace.  It was important that terrorists understand that they cannot continue to trample human rights.  Wherever terrorist actors were, they would be brought to justice. How did Mrs. Robinson see her cause in the fights against terrorism? 

The representative of Belgium asked what short and medium term projects should be given priority by prospective donors?  She asked what was the relationship of the High Commissioner's Office with officials in Rwanda and Sierra Leone in light of the ongoing peace and truth-seeking processes going on in those regions?  She also wondered what was the status of the work of the High Commissioner’s Office on human rights and bio-diversity?

In response, Mrs. Robinson said that she welcomed the fact that there was unanimity within the Security Council and the General Assembly in the fight against terrorism.  But at the same time, she was concerned because all must work to ensure that when violations of the Charter or international humanitarian law were reported, such violations should be investigated.  As for her role in the fight against terrorism, she said it was important to consider the will of the Organization’s 189 Member States, particularly regarding the relevant Security Council resolutions or the recommendations of the committee to combat terrorism headed by Jeremy Greenstock (United Kingdom).  She also hoped that there would be widespread information-sharing on ways and means to implement those resolutions, bearing in mind human rights elements.

On financing, she said that as far as it related to the outcome of Durban, she was keen for the Assembly to ensure necessary funding for an anti-discrimination unit, as well as a five-member panel of eminent persons that would address broader anti- discrimination matters.  She added that later this month in Geneva, her Office would launch its appeal for the year.

On Rwanda, she said her Office supported the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission there and in Sierra Leone.  She felt the working relationship with the Government and the people of Rwanda was strong and foresaw increasing capacity-building efforts there.  As for human rights and bio-ethics, she said her Office would hold consultations in January on women and bio-ethics. She was also advising the Secretary-General, together with experts from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), on that matter.  The issue of human rights and bio-ethics was becoming more and more important and needed urgent attention.

During the second round of questions, the representative of Ukraine highlighted the outcome and recommendations of a regional conference on cooperation held in Dubrovnic this year.  She asked if there were any follow-up activities planned within the High Commissioner’s Office or throughout the wider United Nations system?

Regarding reports before the Committee, the representative of Libya said her delegation supported the establishment of a panel of five eminent persons to follow-up the outcome of the Durban Racism Conference.  She hoped that the panel’s make-up would be based on equitable geographic distribution.  She also commented on the importance of integrating a human rights perspective into the ongoing dialogue among civilizations.

In response, Mrs. Robinson paid tribute to Ukraine for hosting the important regional Conference in Dubrovnick to enable regional organizations as well as her Office to discuss a strategy for increased cooperation.  She said that thus far, there had been several follow-up activities and discussions with the Council of Europe.  She had appointed an honorary Regional Advisor who would focus on Central Asia and the Caucasus as areas where the human rights agencies of the United Nations system would be particularly vigilant.  She said that a mission from her Office would be visiting five countries in the region during the coming months.  Mrs. Robinson believed that such a regional approach would be catalytic for the role her office wanted to play.

She shared the view that there should be clear geographical and gender balance on the group of eminent persons set to follow-up the outcome of the World Conference on Racism.  She also supported dialogue among civilizations as well as developing further opportunities to promote discussions and dialogue.

During the third round of questions, the representative of Egypt said that Mrs. Robinson had not recommended the outcome of the NGO Forum -- which had run concurrently with the Durban Racism Conference -- as it was highly anti-Semitic. It was his view that such a selective view put in danger the United Nations' efforts to increase its cooperation with civil society actors.  What impact would her decision have on future participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the work of the Organization?  He hoped Mrs. Robinson would support his right to raise that question. 

On the documents before the Committee, his delegation had noted what had been referred to as “international guidelines on HIV/AIDS” in the report of the High Commissioner.  He wondered how those guidelines could be “international”, as he could recall no negotiations on their elaboration.  His delegation also had concerns that some of the recommendations, particularly, those on men having sex with men, would have no effect on broad efforts to combat the disease. It was his view that the scourge of AIDS could only be combated by addressing its root causes and by giving developing countries the resources to combat it.

The representative of Cuba said her country, which had been victimized by terrorists for over forty years, believed that the fight against terrorism must be based on international cooperation and the principles and aims of the Charter.  That fight must promote justice and not vengeance.  It was disturbing to note that reports before the Committee continued to highlight only developing countries or countries in transition as the main violators of human rights laws. 

It was well known, she continued, that all countries in all regions violated international laws.  Therefore, she believed that the criteria continued to be selective and discriminatory.  Her delegation would like to see a treatment that reflected today’s reality.  She asked about the report’s emphasis on prevention as a way to address many humanitarian issues.  She added that matters related to the Global Compact had not been endorsed inter-governmentally, and she had been struck by the fact the High Commissioner’s Office had been carrying out efforts in that regard.

In response to those comments, Mrs. Robinson said that, indeed, she supported Egypt’s right to pose what might seem difficult questions.  It was important to recognize that the NGO Declaration was not an official document.  She had read the document carefully, particularly on issues that sought to expressly re-open the issue of Zionism as racism.  She had made it clear that the issue was not being raised by delegates at Durban.  The second reference of concern to her was the allegation of genocide.  She felt that both those references were contrary to the very spirit of the Conference, which was to promote tolerance. 

She went on to say that she did not refuse the document, but for the first time she had been unable to commend the document to government representatives. She did make it clear that she wanted to invite representatives to look at some of the very positive elements of the document.  She had had many discussions since the Conference with the International Standing Committee of NGOs on a variety of issues, and perhaps an individual evaluation was needed to see what lessons could be learned in the future.  She was satisfied that she had the trust and understanding of the vast majority of the civil society representatives that had played such an important role in Durban.

On the guidelines for HIV/AIDS, she said that it was her view that the lack of respect for human rights was at the very heart of the issues that hampered advances on the front to combat the disease.  She said that the guidelines had been dubbed “international” because they had been drawn up with Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and other international experts.  They were not an edict.  She encouraged governments to use them to suit the priorities of AIDS victims in their own countries.  She reiterated that they were guidelines.  She added that she indeed supported the representative of Egypt’s right to ask difficult questions.

To the comments of the representative of Cuba, she said that the emphasis placed on prevention was a way of looking at all human right work, particularly that of the treaty bodies and special rapporteurs.  In that context, she believed that the Organization’s proposed anti-discrimination efforts would be a preventive agenda in that it would combat negative attitudes that led to, among other things, terrorist activity.  She would also work to ensure that vulnerable segments of society were not victims of the international efforts to fight terror.  On the Global Compact, she said her Office had been focusing on, among other things, ensuring that corporations were not complicit in human rights violations.  There had been great interest in this work from the business community.

The representative of Morocco asked what role would the High Commissioner’s Office play in efforts to overcome the difficulties surrounding the outcome of the Durban Racism Conference?  What efforts would be made to ensure that the important Action Plan was not compromised?

Mrs. Robinson said that, having served as the Conference’s Secretary-General, it was difficult to play a role in a situation that was quite political  -- indeed her role had been as a bridge, although lately she felt as though it were something of a “suspension bridge”.  She would do anything it took to facilitate the completion of negotiations on the outcome document.  She expected there would be higher-level participants continuing discussions during the Assembly’s General Debate, set to open this Saturday.  She recognized that all the points of view should be heard and discussed.  She said the Durban Declaration was very important and that there was an audience worldwide for whom the Conference had been such a ray of hope.  So it was important to use the Organization’s enormous capacity to implement that agenda.

LEANDRO DESPOUY (Argentina), Chairman of the Commission on Human Rights, said the Commission on Human Rights had appointed four special rapporteurs -- on Bosnia, the sale of children, human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and on indigenous peoples.  Further, there were two experts, one on forced disappearances and one on the eventual Optional Protocol to the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.  The Commission worked closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in finding adequate solutions to conflicts around the world.  There was also close contact with non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which were essential to the work of the Commission.  An important meeting had been held recently with all United Nations system agencies to help them work better with the Commission.

Mr. Despouy said that at the past session, there had been more heads of States, high-ranking officials, speakers and rights of reply, than ever before.  There was more of everything.  And in the Bureau, there were more women than ever before.  It was hoped that the Commission could be an example for other bodies of the United Nations.

The defense of human rights was one of the main challenges facing the international community today, he said.  Armed conflicts had not decreased, nor had there been a decrease in the number of civilian victims or in the number of those who were suffering.  The situation in the Middle East had worsened, and the parties were urged to go back to the negotiating table immediately.  Poverty, marginalization and exclusion were the main reasons behind the violation of human rights. 

XIE BOHUA (China) said China had always attached great importance to the role of the international human rights instruments in promoting and protecting human rights.  China was now a party to 18 international human rights instruments, and had signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  The Chinese Government took a serious and responsible attitude towards its obligations under the relevant international human rights instruments.  It acted in an earnest and sincere spirit in preparing and submitting its periodic reports for consideration by the relevant treaty bodies.

He said the reporting and consideration procedures provided in international human rights instruments were conducive to the effective implementation of those instruments, as well as helpful for the international community to better understand the implementation by the States parties.  However, the actual situation of the submission of reports by States parties and the relevant work of the treaty bodies needed some improvement.  Due attention should be paid to fully utilizing the existing human rights monitoring mechanisms, and reform such mechanisms as necessary.  Presently there was a lack of coordination in the work of the various treaty monitoring mechanisms and much duplication of work, which resulted in large amounts of duplication in the content of reports submitted by States parties.  That situation imposed heavy burdens on States parties, especially developing countries, and had greatly affected the timely submission and the quality of their reports.

Further, Mr. Xie said, there needed to be enhanced cooperation between human rights treaty bodies and States parties to effectively implement human rights instruments.  Human rights treaties should be implemented mainly through administrative and legal measures adopted by the States parties, and at the same time, cooperation between human rights treaty bodies and States parties was also very important.  Such cooperation was conducive to promoting mutual exchanges and understanding, as well as the effective implementation of those instruments.  Therefore, China believed that, in terms of the implementation of human rights instruments, as well as the consideration of implementation reports, both States parties and the relevant human rights treaty bodies should strictly abide by the provisions of the instruments, fulfil their respective responsibilities and obligations, and enhance exchanges and dialogues.

Resumption of Dialogue

The representative of Suriname said that during last July's Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) session, the High Commissioner said human rights education was the key to development.  Could the international community be satisfied so far with the results of the United Nations Human Rights Education Decade?

The representative of the Sudan asked if the postponement of the Durban Declaration would hinder its implementation.  The Member States were looking forward to getting the Declaration so that the momentum from Durban could be carried forward.  What was happening with the documents?  The Committee last week decided to postpone the debate on combating racism.  It was important that it be addressed.

The representative of Mexico said the Government assigned tremendous importance to the outcomes of the Durban Conference.  The Permanent Forum for Indigenous Affairs was also an issue to which the Government gave much importance.  The High Commissioner was encouraged to continue with the international campaign for the International Convention for Migrant Workers and their Families.

Mrs. Robinson, addressing the question of the delegate of Suriname, said that human rights education was a key for the development of countries.  Was there satisfaction with the steps of the United Nations Human Rights Decade?  No.     

An evaluation of the Decade was done, and it was quite disappointing.  There were few countries that had the Human Rights Action Plan that the Vienna Conference emphasized.  The Office was committed to the Decade, and to human rights education.  Tonight, she was leaving for China, where the Government would announce that it would include human rights education throughout its schooling.

Answering the questions of Sudan, she said human rights was important in addressing poverty.  The specific question was similar to the question asked by Morocco.  On the three paragraphs in question from the Programme of Action, it was important to get advice from the legal office.  The advice was that the text of  24 September, which moved four paragraphs into the Programme of Action, was considered a document from the Conference.  Subsequently, there had been a request to move three more paragraphs.  That would be difficult.  The legal advice clearly showed that the 24 September text was the appropriate text.  It was very important to find a resolution to that matter.

Concerning the question from the representative of Mexico, it was important to move forward on the anti-discrimination issues coming out of Durban.  The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues was important, and the Office would be the lead agency.  Yesterday, there had been a meeting concerning the nominations for the eight indigenous members.  There also had been a change of the date of the Permanent Forum meeting.  Since priority was being given to the General Assembly special session on children, the dates for that would be 6 to 10 May, and the Permanent Forum would be held the 13 to 24 of May.  Lastly, it was important to reinvigorate the campaign to bring into force the International Convention on Migrant Workers and Their Families.

The representative of India asked about the principles of necessity and proportionality in the fight against terrorism.

The representative of Rwanda asked what the High Commissioner would do with the victims of the genocide of Rwanda?

Mrs. Robinson said the principles of necessity and proportionality were clear.  Only measures that were necessary should be taken.  The Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg had been looking at a case in recent weeks about the bombings in Kosovo and Serbia.  The Security Council had adopted resolution 1373 requiring States to take measures to combat terrorism.  Her Office would provide any necessary information to the Security Council.

In relation to the question from Rwanda, Mrs. Robinson said the question of responding to victims of genocide was a difficult one.  The situation was very much on the minds of the people in Durban, and the right to reparations and compensation had been addressed.  Rwanda was dealing with a huge burden -- the burden of a large number of widows and orphaned children and a large prison population.  The Office was very engaged in efforts in Rwanda.

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For information media. Not an official record.