15 November 2001


Press Release

Fifty-sixth General Assembly

Third Committee

41st Meeting (AM)



As the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) neared the end of its comprehensive debate on human rights issues around the globe, several delegations reaffirmed their belief that respect of these fundamental freedoms needed to continually evolve, prompting them to describe efforts they were undertaking in their individual countries.

Since new obstacles to the realization of human rights were always appearing, it was imperative for individual Governments, as well as the international community, to develop and implement new policies to ensure an atmosphere existed in which they were universally enjoyed.

The representative of Iran, for example, said the new process of globalization, which had increased poverty, underdevelopment and marginalization for the poorest countries in the world, should be redirected so its benefits could be enjoyed by the entire human family.  Only through broad and sustained efforts by the international community to create a shared future based upon common humanity could globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable.

Speaking about refugees, which, although not a new problem, became more acute with each passing day, the representative of Angola said human rights policies in that area fell short.  Most countries that had citizens living as refugees in other countries, as well as countries that had to accommodate such refugees, had been slow to bridge the gap between human rights and refugee rights.

He said his Government addressed the problem by taking a regional approach, working closely with the governments of Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to accommodate more than 400,000 refugees in the area.  The coordination between the States would ensure that the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the refugees were better enjoyed.

The delegate of Turkey said the international community had to pay closer attention to human rights in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September.  World security and stability was now, more than ever, dependent on the serious efforts to advance equality, tolerance, respect for human dignity and the rule of law to every corner of the globe.  This was not an easy task to achieve.  Turkey, he said, was working from within its own Government, where it had made remarkable progress in the field of human rights.  Those who had provided assistance, shelter and financial resources to terrorist organizations had failed to undermine Turkey's commitment to democracy and human rights.

Just last month, he said, a series of comprehensive constitutional amendments bringing further improvements in the field of human rights had been approved by Parliament.  These amendments, among others, strengthened the existing safeguards on the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of thought, expression and association, and substantially reduced the scope of the imposition of the death penalty.

Earlier in the meeting, the representatives of Cuba, Sweden and Mexico introduced resolutions on items related to the rights of peoples to self-determination and the implementation of human rights instruments, including texts on, respectively, the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination; equitable geographical distribution of the membership of the human rights treaty bodies; international covenants on human rights and the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Their Families.

Participating in the debate this morning were the representatives of Viet Nam, Liechtenstein, Australia, United States, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Belarus and Angola.

Exercising the right of reply were the representatives of Iraq, China, Greece, Cyprus and Turkey.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m. to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental questions.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) met this morning to continue its debate of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental questions.

The Committee is also expected to hear the introduction of four draft resolutions on items related to right of peoples to self-determination and human rights questions related to implementation of human rights instruments.

The representative of Cuba is expected to introduce a draft resolution on Use of Mercenaries as a Means of Violating Human Rights and Impeding the Exercise of the Right of Peoples to Self-Determination (document A/C.3/56/L.31), by which the Assembly urges all States to take the necessary steps and to exercise the utmost vigilance against the activities of mercenaries.  The Assembly would also urge States to take legislative measures to ensure that their territories and other territories under their control, as well as their nationals, are not used for the recruitment, assembly, financing, training and transit of mercenaries for the planning of activities designed to impede the right of peoples to self-determination, to destabilize or overthrow the Government of any State or to dismember or impair, totally or in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States conducting themselves in compliance with the right of peoples to self-determination.

The representative of Sweden is expected to introduce a draft resolution on International Covenants on Human Rights (document A/C.3/56/L.36), by which the Assembly would urge States parties to take duly into account, in implementing the provisions of the International Covenants on Human Rights, the recommendations and observations made during the consideration of their reports by the Human Rights Committee and by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, as well as the views adopted by the Human Rights Committee under the first Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

A draft resolution on the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (document A/C.3/56/L.37), is expected to be introduced by the representative of Mexico.  By that draft the Assembly would express its deep concern at the growing manifestations of racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination and inhuman and degrading treatment directed against migrant workers in different parts of the world.

The final draft resolution under consideration today is scheduled to be introduced by the representative of Cuba.  By that text, on Equitable Geographical Distribution on the Membership of the Human Rights Treaty Bodies (document A/C.3/56/L.38), the Assembly would decide to encourage States parties to the United Nations human rights instruments to establish quota distribution systems by geographical region for the election of the members of the treaty body.

LE HOAI TRUNG (Viet Nam) said the last century had witnessed Viet Nam's emergence from a colony into a sovereign and independent country.  That change enabled the Vietnamese people to exercise their right to self-determination and other fundamental and basic rights, such as the right to write their own Constitution, or the right to vote.  As the Vietnamese people now recalled the difficulties they had gone through, including the sufferings from the repeated wars imposed upon Viet Nam from the outside, to uphold their fundamental human rights and freedoms, they were profoundly encouraged by the consolidation of and the new favourable conditions for the promotion of those rights after more than

15 years of undertaking a comprehensive review.

He said Viet Nam had acceded to all the major international human rights instruments, and had recently signed and ratified the two Optional Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Ensuring the conformity with those international instruments was a requirement in his country’s law-making.  Over the last year, his Government had submitted and presented the combined second, third and fourth periodic reports on the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the second report to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).  Viet Nam also seriously participated in international cooperation in the area of human rights.  In that context, his Government already had, or was planning to have, bilateral dialogues with a number of Governments, including Switzerland, the United States, Australia, the European Union and Norway, to exchange views and resolve differences.  But the Government concurred with the prevailing view that, for international cooperation to be effective, the principle of non-interference in each other's internal affairs, objectivity and mutual trust and understanding must be observed.  As a victim of repeated wars which grossly trampled upon human rights in Viet Nam, the Vietnamese people yearned for friendship and cherished human rights.  However, this made them all the more resentful of attitudes of prejudice, selectivity, double standard and patronization.

He said there were numerous facts to cite to point to the Vietnamese people's better enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms.  One such fact was related to the freedom of belief and religion.  The Constitution guaranteed the right to religion.  Of the 80 million people in Viet Nam, 20 million were followers of different religions.  Over the past 20 years, the number of Christian followers had almost doubled, and their clergy was now the second largest in Southeast Asia, after the Philippines.  There were now in Vietnam approximately 14,000 pagodas, 6,000 Catholic churches, 500 Protestant churches, 1,000 Cao Dai oratories, and 90 Muslim mosques, among other places of worship.  The number of religious training institutions had also been on the increase. 

All Vietnamese citizens were equal and had to be accountable before the law for their violations of the law or public order, not because of their sex, race, religious belief or social class and position, he said.  Trials were public and governed by the Law on Organization of the People's Courts and the Criminal or Civil Procedures Laws that were applied to all Vietnamese citizens.

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said, in light of the 11 September terrorist attacks on the host country, he would address the delegations on the relationship between terrorism and human rights.  For several years, he continued, the Committee had forwarded a draft resolution on that subject to the Assembly for its consideration and adoption.  That practice should most certainly be considered this year, especially since the current negotiations on a comprehensive convention against terrorism were deadlocked.  It was critically important that the Assembly make its contribution to that ongoing debate.

While consensus on that issue was necessary, it might also be time for the international community to reconsider its approach, he said.  In the past, energy and debates had been focused somewhat disproportionately on a particular aspect of that resolution:  some placed high importance on the assertion that terrorists violated human rights, while others contested the legal validity of that view. Liechtenstein belonged to the latter group.  While it agreed that terrorist attacks had a strong negative impact on human rights, it also believed that the international community had the obligation to look at the context in which discussions were taking place -- the international framework for protecting and promoting human rights was based on the principle that States were responsible for implementing those rights and were consequently to be held accountable for violations.

By stating that terrorists groups committed violations of human rights, global actors implicitly bestowed on them a status under international law to which they were not entitled, he said.  While he was certain that that had never been the intention of proponents of such a resolution, it was clear that such a text would have that impact.  While Liechtenstein did not agree with the notion that terrorists violated human rights, it certainly shared the view that the current system did not cover all situations in a legally sound manner.  Serious consideration of the relationship between human rights and terrorism should entail an in-depth examination of the role of non-State actors in the promotion and protection of human rights.

He said the ever-increasing role of non-State actors had been obvious, and indeed there was a growing number of situations around the world where entities or organizations exercised control over territories and the people living in them.  It was now necessary to examine the role of non-State actors.  An important step in that regard had been identified in the elaboration of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  Several crimes against humanity that were covered in the Statute were identified as human rights violations.  For the purposes of the Court, it was irrelevant whether those crimes were committed by State or non-State actors.  He said it was time for the Third Committee to bring a genuine human rights perspective to international discussions on terrorism.  It should be clearly understood that the common fight against terrorism must be guided by existing international human rights standards.

JOHN DAUTH (Australia) said human rights were founded on the unambiguous premise that the recognition of the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of all members of the human family was the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.  Yet in many parts of the world today, there was still the continued disregard of this basic tenet of civilization.  Indonesia was engaged in the arduous process of building a civil society and democratic institutions, and Australia welcomed the progress made there so far.  Particularly encouraging was President Megawati's statement that Indonesia would benefit from the promotion of civil, social, cultural, economic and political rights as part of a concerted respect for human rights.

Mr. Dauth said China's continuing effort to build greater transparency and accountability into its legal and administrative systems, and also its progress in guaranteeing social and cultural rights, including its ratification of the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights earlier this year deserved credit.  Australia was pleased at the development of its bilateral human rights dialogue with China, and the positive approach China was taking to it.  At the same time, there was concern over the harsh measures sometimes taken in China's anti-crime campaign and the use of its judicial system to take action against individuals and groups that appeared to have done no more than exercise their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.  China was urged to ensure the cultural rights and religious freedoms of its ethnic minorities.

He said Australia acknowledged Burma's continuing cooperation with the international community.  To show its good faith, Australia urged the Burmese authorities to expedite the release of the remaining political prisoners, and also urged the Government to end its discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities.  In Cambodia, Australia welcomed the progress towards the establishment of the Khmer Rouge tribunal, but was disturbed by the continuing culture of impunity, particularly the increase in political intimidation, violence and extrajudicial killings association with next year's commune elections. 

Australia condemned the ongoing abuse of human rights resulting from terrorist activity in Sri Lanka, and called upon all parties to commit to the Norwegian-sponsored peace initiative, he said.  Australia recognized there had been positive developments in some areas in Iran; however, there was concern about the ongoing suppression of press freedoms and continuing violations of due process, particularly during pre-trial detention.  Australia was deeply disturbed by the loss of life and injury resulting from the violent confrontations in the West Bank, Gaza and parts of Israel.  Further, there was continued concern at the humanitarian and human rights situation in Sudan.  The Sudanese Government and all parties to the conflict were urged to cooperate with international agencies to address the needs of the Sudanese people suffering from the prolonged conflict there.  Lastly, Australia was encouraged by commitments made by Zimbabwe to halt illegal land occupation, restore the rule of law to the land acquisition process and to respect human rights and democratic principles.  Zimbabwe was urged to invite international observers, well in advance of the 2002 presidential elections; to pursue a speedy return to democratic governance, and to respect the rule of law.

MAHMOUD KHANI JOOYABAD (Iran) said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action recognized that the international community should devise ways and means to remove the current obstacles and meet challenges to ensure the full realization of all human rights, and to prevent the continuation of human rights violations throughout the world.  The promotion and protection of human rights had faced multiple obstacles throughout the history of the world.  Some of those problems always existed, but there were some new challenges to human rights as well.  They were typical of contemporary times, though not necessarily exclusive of the present decade.  As stipulated by the Vienna documents, achievement of the identified goals required effective policies at the national level, as well as a favourable political, economic and social environment at the international level.

Mr. Jooyabad said the process of globalization constituted a powerful and dynamic force, which offered great opportunities.  Globalization contributed considerably to bringing people together to materialize the notion of a human family.  It was a must for the international community to harness that trend for the benefit, development and prosperity of all countries, without exclusion.  Unfortunately, the benefits of globalization were very lopsidedly shared.  Developing countries faced special difficulties in responding to that central challenge.  The negative effects of globalization should be prevented and mitigated.  Those effects could aggravate poverty, underdevelopment, marginalization, social exclusion, cultural homogenization and economic disparities between States.  Today's indications of globalization were well known.  The powerful movement towards efficiency continually increased the number of people marginalized by it, not only in the Third world, but also in developed countries.  Present efforts at production rationalization pushed the poor into the margins of economy and society.  With the computerization of industry and services, non-specialized labour became superfluous and unemployment became structural.

He said in the post-modern globalized societies, the poor were stigmatized and held responsible for their own poverty.  Unfairly, they were associated with everything evil -- overpopulation, epidemics, environmental destruction, drug trafficking, fanaticism, exploitation of child labour and crime.  The rich isolated themselves in private systems of security and left the poor people, claiming they were responsible for their own destiny.  It was important to maximize the benefits of globalization through the strengthening and enhancement of international cooperation to increase equality of opportunities for trade, economic growth and sustainable development.  Only through broad and sustained efforts to create a shared future based upon common humanity could globalization be made fully inclusive and equitable.

JOHN DAVIDSON (United States) said over the past year, a number of governments had undertaken measures to improve their citizen’s human rights situations.  While the international community did not always take note of such steps, the United States believed it was important to highlight positive development whenever they occurred.  Last December, an opposition political leader had taken office in Mexico for the first time in 70 years.  The smoothness of the transition should not obscure that event’s significance; the Mexican people were clearly committed to the values of democracy and human rights.

He said the election of Yugoslav President Kostunica was a positive step to that country’s integration into a Europe that was fully committed to implementing universal human rights and fundamental freedoms.  Though the United States continued to be concerned about religious freedom and human rights of detainees in China, it did note that there had been important developments in terms of the rule of law, basic elections at the village level and some journalistic independence. In the Persian Gulf, Oman was experimenting with an increasingly independent legislature, and a parliamentary election to be held in Qatar in 2003 would include the participation of women.  He added that earlier in October, groundbreaking human rights reforms had been passed by the Turkish Parliament.

While the United States had been heartened by those and other improvements over the past year, it was still seriously concerned about the many countries where universal human rights and fundamental freedoms were neither enjoyed nor respected.  In Iraq, the Government remained one of the most repressive in the world, and security forces repeatedly beat, raped or otherwise tortured detainees. Indeed there was increasing evidence that rape was a “policy” for the treatment of detainees.  He said the Government of Cuba remained hostile to all who questioned its human rights practices.  Journalists and human rights defenders were subjected to severe harassment.  In Zimbabwe, he continued, State-sponsored violence, torture and harassment directed at opposition officials or followers had been increasingly common as presidential elections neared.  He was concerned about systematic human rights abuses in Iran, Sudan and Central Asia, where reports of torture and the ill-treatment of detainees persisted throughout the region.

The United States reiterated its call for credible investigations and accountability for a series of disappearances, including opposition figures and journalists tied to the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, he said.  In Burma, forced labour, forced resettlement and denial of basic freedoms of expression, assembly association and movement continued.  North Korea remained one of the world’s most serious human rights abusers, as restrictions on freedom of expression and individual liberties persisted.  There had also been reports of public executions of political prisoners and others.

While he welcomed China’s increasing prosperity and its atmosphere of greater personal freedom, he remained concerned about human rights situations throughout the country, particularly the imprisonment of persons for the peaceful expression of the political or religious views.  Concerned about the situation in Sierra Leone, he urged the Government to sign the current draft agreement with the United Nations to establish the Special Court to bring to justice those bearing the greatest responsibility for violations of human rights.

A.K. BHATTACHARJEE (India) said his Government appreciated the work of the Special Rapporteur on the question of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.  Though India did not agree with every issue raised in his report, his hard work and belief in his mandate were commendable.  India was certain that in his new capacity on the Human Rights Committee he would be equally effective.  His report mainly stressed the question of impunity.  While impunity and its eradication were important, India would have been interested in an update of his report last year in which he explored the crucial inter-relationship between poverty and torture.

Mr. Bhattacharjee said in the report of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons, the crusade to have guiding principles on internally displaced persons accepted as a normative framework was welcomed.  However, the fact remained that these guiding principles were not inter-governmentally negotiated and therefore, had no inter-governmental legitimacy.  Having said this, India appreciated the fact that the Special Representative of the Secretary-General had met with a number of governments and intended to broaden and intensify his consultations with States on the issue of the guiding principles.  The report of previous years, and this one, as well, treated the problem of internal displacement as one caused only by conflicts.  The fact, however, was that a huge volume of displacement within countries took place due to natural disasters, poverty and economic insecurity.  The stress on conflicts in relation to internal displacement had prompted an unhealthy trend to see the application of the

1951 Convention on Refugees to the internally displaced.

He said promotion was the best protection of human rights.  Education was a vital tool to achieve this.  Human rights education was, in particular, crucial.  Therefore, the Note by the Secretary-General transmitting the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education 1995-2004 was read with interest.  The mid-term evaluation of the Decade, which was presented in the last General Assembly, clearly brought out the importance of systematizing and implementing human rights education under the auspices of the Decade.  One of the obstacles which developing countries faced in promoting education, particularly human rights education, was the lack of resources.  The importance of international cooperation in enabling countries to achieve human rights for their peoples should be stressed.

MUN JONG CHOL (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said while progress had been made on the adoption of international standards and establishing international mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights, there were several contentious and confrontational issues which clouded international discussions of humanitarian issues, namely lack of impartiality, unilateral coercive measures and inequitable relations.  Infringement upon State sovereignty posed the gravest challenge to the protection and promotion of human rights today.  While in the past, infringement had been disguised as colonialism or racist practices, now, attempts to undermine State sovereignty included unilateral sanctions or inequitable trade policies.

Selectivity and double standards had become another challenge to efforts to protect and promote human rights, he continued.  Some countries with differing philosophies, religions or cultural practices were frequently labeled “violators of human rights”.  That label was also applied to countries that advocated State sovereignty or efforts to develop their own socio-political systems.  Maneuvers to politicize human rights, arbitrary and high-handed interference in internal affairs, and imposing a single model of human rights standards should not be tolerated.

To that end, he said all allegations made earlier by the representative of the United States were a product of a premeditated plot to disparage his country.  The provocative statement proved that the United States continued is hostile stand toward the Democratic Republic of Korea while clamoring for dialogue at the same time.  The United States should examine its own human rights policies before making judgement of others.  For the true protection and promotion of human rights, equal relations between States should be established, and international cooperation should be enhanced.  Deeds like those of the United States to instruct other countries on their human rights efforts were arrogant and ignored basic principles of mutual respect and fairness.

HASMY AGAM (Malaysia), chairman of the Fourth Committee, said it was almost trite to say that the highlight of the human rights calendar this year was the convening of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.  While the outcome documents were significant milestones in the never-ending efforts of the international community to combat racism, Malaysia believed the results of the World Conference were generally mixed.  The Conference was witness to significant breakthroughs and did find common ground on many contentious issues, the most significant of which was the recognition that slavery and the slave trade were crimes against humanity, unmatched in human history for their barbarity.  In the same vein, the Conference also recognized the victims of historical injustices continued to suffer the consequences, manifested in poverty, underdevelopment and social exclusion.  As the High Commissioner said, Malaysia also believed that only by squarely confronting the past, could the process of healing within and between peoples, societies and nations take place and relations be placed on more sound footing.

Mr. Agam said Malaysia was, however, disappointed that the plight of the Palestinian people did not find adequate reflection in the outcome documents of the Conference.  While the documents did reiterate the plight of Palestinian people under foreign occupation and their right to self-determination, and the establishment of an independent State, no mention had been made of the fact that the sufferings of the Palestinian people were the result of policies based on discrimination and exclusion perpetrated by the occupying power.  It should be noted in this regard that references to the Palestinian issue in the documents of the two previous racism conferences were more categorical in its condemnation of the occupying power.  It seemed as if the situation affecting the Palestinian people had improved since then -- which, obviously, was far from the truth.

He said Malaysia would also be remiss were it not to express its concern at the frequency of racist acts perpetrated against Muslims following the events of 11 September.  The High Commissioner was urged to use the moral weight of her Office to help prevent anti-Islam sentiments from gaining currency and to facilitate a continued dialogue on the importance of tolerance and respect for diversity, which was needed now more than ever.  It was disheartening to note that such calls were heard only in the wake of tragedy and grief.

HAKAN TEKIN (Turkey) said the aftermath of the 11 September also confirmed the need to adhere to the principles of objectivity and non-selectivity in dealing with terrorism, as well as human rights issues.  Double standards should be avoided.  World security and stability was now, more than ever, dependent on the serious efforts to advance equality, tolerance, respect for human dignity and the rule of law to every corner of the globe.  This was not an easy task to achieve.  However, despite the long and painful experience with one of the most vicious terrorist campaigns, Turkey had always placed issues related to human rights high on its national agenda.  Turkey, while successfully combating terrorism, had made remarkable progress in the field of human rights.  Those who had provided assistance, shelter and financial resources to terrorist organizations failed to undermine Turkey's commitment to democracy and human rights.

Mr. Tekin said there was no perfection in the field of human rights.  There was room for improvement for every country, and no country could claim immunity from criticism in this area.  Wide-ranging reforms in the area of human rights were continuously being developed and implemented in Turkey.  Most recently, a series of comprehensive constitutional amendments bringing further improvements in the field of human rights had been approved by Parliament in October.  These amendments, among others, strengthened the existing safeguards on the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of thought, expression and association, and had substantially reduced the scope of the imposition of the death penalty.  All relevant laws would be amended in line with the constitutional changes.  Those reforms manifest Turkey's determination in the field of human rights.

Regarding Cyprus, he said the Greek Cypriots had ripped up the Constitution only two years after its establishment.  Turkish Cypriot members in all State organs had been forcibly ejected from their positions.  The Turkish Cypriots, which comprised 20 per cent of those living in Cyprus between 1964 and 1974, were forced to live in enclaves which made up only 3 per cent of the island.  They lived under inhuman isolation and constant threat of ethnic cleansing.  They were constantly subjected to attacks, murders and had virtually no freedom of movement.  A military coup staged by Greece in 1974 was a culmination of these orchestrated efforts aimed at uniting Cyprus with Greece and ultimately getting rid of the Turkish community.  Only after this act did Turkey intervene militarily, in exercise of its rights emanating from the Treaty of Guarantee.

The sole aim of the 1974 intervention had been to stop the annihilation of the Turkish Cypriot community, as foreseen in the notorious Akritas Plan, and to prevent annexation of the island by Greece, he said.  Attempts aimed at presenting the Cyprus issue as a result of the occupation of an independent country constituted a mockery of the international community's memory.  One should not forget the United Nations Peacekeeping Force had to be stationed on the island in early 1964, not after 1974.  Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the Cyprus problem did not do justice to the search for enduring peace.  Rather, they complicated it by increasing the intransigence of the Greek Cypriot side.  Those Judgments ignored the historical realities, and in fact, had damaged the credibility of the Court.

ANZHELA KORNELIOUK (Belarus) said human rights issues had become one of the most important and delicate topics discussed throughout the bodies and agencies of the United Nations.  The terrorist acts of 11 September had changed the international order.  It was time to review efforts to combat that scourge and to consider unresolved inter-ethnic or religious issues and poverty that might exacerbate attitudes that bred such terrorist acts.  Belarus was convinced that Governments must undertake well-thought out steps to hinder such activities.

Belarus condemned human rights violations wherever they occurred, she continued.  It was particularly concerned about the situation in Afghanistan, where massive violations had been reported.  The international community must examine the humanitarian situation in the country, particularly that concerning to civilians.  Belarus was party to the major international human rights instruments.  Her Government had actively sought to bring its laws and policies in line with international norms.  It had also been seeking to raise the population’s awareness of legal and judicial issues.  The country’s penal code had also been reformed, particularly regarding such issues as the death penalty.

She said Belarus wanted to continue to build relationships with other States.  It also sought to continue to choose its own path toward development. Attempts to cast doubts on recent elections in Belarus were unfounded.  Indeed, the expression of free will of the people was the main criteria for legitimacy of governments.  She said that 75 per cent of voters had voted for President Lukashenko.  The election had included the participation of many observers, including civil society and inter-governmental bodies.  Belarus had always considered that the process of democratic development of institutions and civil society must be based on constructive participation.

She went on to say that Belarus concurred with those that had called for impartiality, non-selectivity and non-interference when it came to implementation of human rights standards.  States that had signed the United Nations Charter should certainly respect the sovereign rights of fellow Member States.

ANTONIO LEAL CORDEIRO (Angola) said the Angolan Government maintained there was a relationship between human rights and socio-economic issues.  As such, the Government was committed to those issues.  As the international community witnessed the globalization of economies and financial systems, it became apparent that there was a need for the visible promotion of homogeneous development in the world.  Globalization must be pursued hand-in-hand with the establishment of guarantees to work toward the eradication of poverty, and to ensure a viable economic interaction between developed and less developed countries.

Mr. Cordeiro said Angola was committed to protect civilians.  However, the prevalence of armed conflicts was usually associated with violations of human rights.  Therefore, it was important to end the impunity of those who violated fundamental human rights.  The National Union for the Total Liberation of Angola (UNITA) systematically and incessantly committed terrorist crimes and violated the most vulnerable members of the population.  The UNITA had to be held accountable. 

Angola's human rights policy had been open to the various mechanisms for the protection and promotion of human rights, he said.  For instance, Angola was one of the few countries in the world that welcomed the United Nations human rights presence in his country and had established a national human rights framework since the adoption of Lusaka Accord.  This project envisaged an extensive range of activities, such as training in civil rights protection in close cooperation with the Ministry of Justice, the Office of the Prosecutor, the police and the military.

He said the limited actions of human rights policies in the defense of refugee rights were evident in many areas.  Most countries that had citizens living as refugees in other countries, as well as countries that had to accommodate such refugees, had been slow to bridge the gap between human rights and refugee rights.  Angola had been working closely with the governments of Namibia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia to accommodate more than 400,000 refugees and to facilitate the enjoyment of human rights. 

Angola gave considerable importance to human rights education in order to successfully end human rights abuses by elevating public awareness about human rights issues.  For instance, human rights issues were now part of the curriculum in elementary and middle education, he said.  That affirmed the conviction that an educated population was crucial to the success of efforts to prevent, investigate and punish human rights violations.

Rights of Reply

Exercising his right of reply, the representative of Iraq to the United Nations in Geneva, said the statement made earlier in the debate by the United States was a prime example of what other nations had identified as the use of double standards in relation to human rights issues.  It had been obvious that the countries that were severely criticized were those that did not concur politically with the United States.  Exceptions had been made in identifying the flagrant violations of human rights in countries that were friendly to America.  For instance, persistent and well-documented violations of the human rights of the civilians living in the Palestinian occupied territories had been ignored as well as violations in friendly Asian countries.  The statements of the United States were an example of using two-yard sticks.

In fact, he continued, he did not believe that the United States was capable of putting forward its own human rights record, particularly as it regarded the country’s policies toward Iraq.  Lies had been stated with arrogance.  Allegations of rape were unfounded, as such practices were uncharacteristic of Muslim societies.  He drew attention to the fact that the United States had not obtained a seat on the Commission of Human Rights this year.  He would have hoped that America would have learned a lesson from that:  that countries around the world did not trust its human rights record or its custodial attitude toward the human rights of others.

The representative of China, exercising the right of reply, said in the past few days several delegations, in their statements, had made unwarranted accusations concerning the human rights situation in China.  China had always attached importance to protecting and promoting human rights.  In today's China, there was social stability and economic development, and people lived in peace.  Religious belief was fully guaranteed.  No person would be punished so long as he did not commit a crime.  Falun Gong was not a religion -- it was a cult.  As in other parts of China, the human rights situation in Tibet was better than at any other point in history.  People who wanted to split Tibet from China had made false allegations and accusations, and it was hoped that the international community would not believe them.

She said there were groups that were trained by Bin Laden who had carried out terrorist acts.  It was hoped the international community would learn the true facts.  No country in the world was perfect in respecting human rights.  The countries that pointed fingers should first remedy their own ills.

Exercising the right of reply the representative of Greece said today, after 27 years of occupation, the Cyprus question remained unresolved.  The island remained divided.  That was unacceptable and required the immediate attention of the international community.  He recalled the statement his delegation had made earlier in the Assembly and reiterated that there must be a way to find a peaceful solution to the issue.  Greece stood ready to participate in any such efforts.

The representative of Cyprus, exercising his right of reply, said he was surprised at the accusations hurled at his country in the statement made by Turkey earlier.  If those accusations had been true, he would have been embarrassed.  His country would have been taken before every human rights body in the world.  In reality, Turkey should be very careful when using such terms as ethnic cleansing and genocide.  It was well known that Turkey’s policy in the region had been to eradicate any sign that people other than Turks had lived in northern Cyprus. Turkey had also persecuted Turkish-Cypriots that had raised their voices against such actions.

He said it was all the more ironic to have Turkey, in a futile attempt to deflect attention from the truth, refer to the inter-communal problems of 1963.  To equate the unfortunate loss of life of Greek and Turkish Cypriots during that time was an affront to all the people that had tasted the bitter reality of ethnic cleansing.  He reminded the representative that it was Turkey that had been accused of countless violations of human rights.  Indeed, Turkey’s dismal human rights record had caused it to be brought before the European Court of Human Rights in order to respond to some 5,000 applications alleging myriad violations.

The representative of Turkey, exercising the right of reply, said the Greek delegation should be reminded that Cyprus emerged as a problem when one of the two populations on the island, the Greek Cypriots, backed by its motherland, started seeing the other group as an obstacle to its political obsessions.  This led to hostile feelings and actions.  Turkey had not forgotten those facts.  Greece should assume the responsibilities of its action which had led to the present situation.

He said the Turkish Cypriot population had a constructive attitude.  It had proposed a face-to-face meeting last week with the Greek Cypriots without an agenda, but the Greek Cypriot leadership had yet to respond.  It was hoped that a solution would be found soon.

The representative of Cyprus, regarding Mr. Denktash’s proposal, reminded Turkey that it had been an attempt to circumvent the proximity talks.  That attempt had been rejected.  The Government of Cyprus stood ready to continue the process of negotiations as long as it did not attempt to circumvent the processes already under way within the United Nations.

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For information media. Not an official record.