Fifty-eighth General Assembly
25th Meeting (AM)*
BROADER LEGAL DEFINITION OF ‘MERCENARY’ NEEDED, SAYS SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR,
AS THIRD COMMITTEE CONTINUES DISCUSSION OF SELF-DETERMINATION, RACISM
Delegates Stress Importance of Education,
Tolerance, Dialogue in Countering Racism, Discrimination
In order to effectively combat the use of mercenaries in armed conflict, illicit trafficking and other crimes, the legal definition of mercenary must be modified to include States complicit in mercenary activities, and to include mercenary involvement in a wide range of criminal activities, the Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries, Enrique Bernales Ballesteros, today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it continued its consideration of the right of peoples to self-determination and the elimination of racism and racial discrimination.
The use of mercenaries as criminal agents affected not only the rights of people to self-determination, but was a means to violate fundamental human rights, he continued. Because of the lack of laws to combat mercenary activities, mercenaries were often not prosecuted, and many people were denounced as mercenaries participating in armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, who continued to operate with impunity.
What was needed, he stressed, was a broader legal definition of mercenarism to combat mercenary involvement in both international and domestic armed conflicts, and to expand the definition to include mercenary participation in illicit activities such as trafficking in persons, arms and drugs, actions to destabilize legitimate governments, and actions to forcibly control valuable natural resources. He noted that his report on mercenaries currently before the Committee contained proposed amendments of articles 1, 2 and 3 of the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, to address the critical need to redefine mercenaries and mercenary acts.
In the subsequent general discussion, delegates highlighted their concerns related to the right of peoples to self-determination, the persistence of racism and racial discrimination, the emergence of new manifestations of racism and racial discrimination in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and the dissemination of racist hate propaganda through the Internet.
Several delegations, including Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Sudan, voiced concerns about the situation of the Palestinian occupied territories and their support for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
The international community must continue to address discrimination based on religion or belief, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, said the representative of Norway, stressing that racism could only be countered through increased knowledge, tolerance and intercultural dialogue. He said the international community must also strengthen cooperation to combat the dissemination of racist propaganda through the Internet.
The representative of Japan said stressed the importance of education in preventing racism, since racists were not born but created from ignorance and prejudice. Youth exchanges were particularly useful in nurturing mutual understanding among different races and ethnic groups, as the youth of today was the driving force in building the society of tomorrow.
The representative of Antigua and Barbuda, speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the issue of racism and racial discrimination evoked a deep resonance among the people of CARICOM member States. Having survived centuries of slavery and colonialism, the people of the Caribbean were acutely aware of the ills associated with racism and racial discrimination and their lingering adverse effects on the development process. He said present inequitable social and economic conditions had been caused in large part by slavery and indentureship, and CARICOM endorsed all initiatives to address these persistent inequities.
Also speaking today were representatives of Algeria, Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, and San Marino. The representatives of Morocco and Algeria spoke in exercise of the right of reply.
Representatives of the International Labour Organization and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow, at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of racism and racial discrimination and the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, Cultural) will continue its consideration of the elimination of racism and racial discrimination, the implementation and follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, as well as the right of peoples to self-determination.
For further background information please see press release GA/SHC/3751 of 24 October.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries
ENRIQUE BERNALES BALLESTEROS, Special Rapporteur on Mercenaries, said the use of mercenaries as criminal agents affected not only the rights of people to self-determination, but was a means to violate fundamental human rights. Noting the use of mercenaries in past armed conflicts in Africa and Latin America, he said the presence of mercenaries was still being felt in most of the countries currently affected by armed confrontations. In these new conflicts, the presence of young Africans with minimum pay becoming involved as mercenaries was of concern. Also deserving of special attention were mercenary activities in countries in Latin America, including Cuba, Colombia, Peru, Panama and El Salvador.
Because of the lack of laws to combat mercenary activities, mercenaries were often not prosecuted, he said, there were many people denounced as mercenaries participating in armed conflicts, particularly in Africa, but they had neither been judged nor punished. The lack of a good definition for mercenary acts prevented rapid action in prosecuting mercenaries who were committing crimes.
Mercenary activities had to be considered as autonomous crimes that should be internationally regulated because they violated human rights, he continued. Those who planned or allowed for activities of mercenaries should also be held accountable for those activities. In cases where States planned or allowed for such activities, the State too must be punished.
He said the presence of mercenaries in illicit trafficking activities and in other acts of organized crimes was criminal. The legal definition of mercenaries had to be sufficiently broad to take into account the different criminal methods that were part of mercenary activities. There was a need to improve the international convention against mercenary activities and to redefine the status of mercenaries in a legal framework. Such a definition had to be all encompassing and had to consider mercenaries in both international and domestic armed conflicts. It should address mercenary acts of individual agents as well as the States involved in the planning of mercenary acts. His report contained proposed amendments of articles 1, 2 and 3 of the current convention to address the critical need to redefine mercenaries and mercenary acts.
In a subsequent question-and-answer session, the representative of Cuba said it was important to recognize the legal definition of mercenaries as proposed by the Special Rapporteur. Concerning the many aspects of the criminal acts of mercenaries, he asked about the link between mercenary acts and other criminal acts, saying that those acts were connected. Finally, he stressed that nationals could also be involved in mercenary and terrorist activities.
Mr. Ballesteros responded that when his mandate had been created in 1987, he had mostly focused on the difficult situation in Africa. As his mandate continued, he had begun to receive complaints from many Central American States relating to mercenary acts unrelated to self-determination, but that aimed to achieve special interests. It would be a serious error to only view mercenary activities in the light of self-determination, he said. As nationals, too, could be involved in mercenary activities, he suggested an amendment to article 1 of the convention, which would remove the question of nationality.
TORMOD C. ENDRESEN (Norway) said he regretted that the international community had not yet been able to establish a common understanding of the work of the five eminent experts for the Durban follow-up. It was Norway’s hope that discussions aimed at consensus would be intensified. In this connection, he commended the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for its follow-up efforts, including the establishment of the Anti-Discrimination Unit.
The international community must continue to address discrimination based on religion or belief, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, he said. History held too many examples of mistrust and conflict resulting from religious discrimination based on ignorance and fear of the unknown. Racism could only be countered through increased knowledge, tolerance and inter-cultural dialogue.
The Internet and modern communications technologies represented significant advances that might be important vehicles for democracy and development. However, these technologies could also be misused, he said. Norway was concerned about the use of such technologies to promote racial hatred and discrimination. The international community at large must strengthen its cooperation to combat racist propaganda, including through identifying appropriate measures to curb the use of the Internet for racist purposes.
He said his Government had adopted an Action Plan to Combat Racism with measures focusing on eight target areas -– working life, public services, schools and education, the judicial system, monitoring the Internet, the local community, and strengthening the legal protection against discrimination and harassment.
AMR MOHAMED ROSHDY (Egypt) said the right of people to self-determination was an inalienable right enshrined in the United Nations Charter and other international instruments. The right to resist foreign occupation to regain freedom was a natural right of all peoples. His delegation could not discuss self-determination without discussing the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories, where men, women and children were all targets of the Israeli military. What must the people of Palestine do given that the international community was doing nothing to protect them?
The General Assembly had reaffirmed the legitimacy of the right to people under forced occupation to request and receive assistance in order to continue their legitimate struggle, he said. Terrorism was not resistance; terrorism was the occupation itself and the repression of a legitimate resistance in the quest for self-determination. As long as occupation persisted, so would suffering, and as long as suffering persisted, the Palestinian resistance would remain a legitimate right.
Palestine would free itself, whether or not the occupying Power wanted it to. He said the Palestinian people would reach their goals no matter how stubborn the occupation was. The resolve of the Palestinian people to take their lives in their own hands would be stronger. There was nothing stronger than an idea whose time had come, the idea of self-determination.
AHMED Y. Y. GZLLAL (Libya) said racist policies based on discrimination were an offence to equality among people. Among the worst crimes committed were those that had been perpetrated against South Africans during the apartheid regime. Today, the worst crimes committed were those committed against the Palestinian people and their inalienable right to self-determination. Regarding racist regimes that discriminated against people based on ethnic or religious grounds, he said there was particular concern about the situation of migrants in host countries, particularly those of Arab or Muslim backgrounds. It was unfortunate that, as had been pointed out by the Special Rapporteur on racism, some States qualified Islam as a religion of fanaticism and extremism.
It was also regrettable that there was a proliferation of ideas that favoured some cultures over others, inciting hatred and racial discrimination, he said. Libya therefore supported the establishment of an international instrument to deter people from undertaking racist campaigns. Libya opposed hegemony and intellectual slavery and believed that unilateral sanctions were an expression of racism, he said. The right of peoples to self-determination was one of the oldest rights within the international community, and it must be respected. In this context, he expressed concern about the use of mercenaries, which weakened regional stability and the political integrity of nation States.
BENCHERIF LAMINE (Algeria) said all States had the moral responsibility to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. Racism and racial discrimination continued to wreak havoc in many areas of the world. The intolerance suffered by migrant workers, refugees, asylum seekers and minorities was rooted in racist, xenophobic attitudes.
He said the world must do away with the trivialization of racist discourse and maintain the impetus of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. The inalienable right of peoples to self-determination was embraced by his country and was enshrined in a number of international instruments. Algeria reiterated its full support for the peace plan for self-determination for the people of Western Sahara.
Mr. AKASHA (Sudan) said his country shared the concern of the international community about racism and racial discrimination. His delegation believed there was a need to strengthen cooperation mechanisms to promote social harmony, understanding and tolerance. Sudan, as a party to instruments on racism, believed that one must not discriminate against any people based on race, religion or national origin.
Sudan supported the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, he said. It was a crucial instrument for the constructive and successful eradication of racism. There must be an improvement in international legislation for the prevention of racism and racial discrimination, as well as further work to understand the root causes of racism.
Concerning self-determination, he said that all people of the world must be allowed to enjoy the right to self-determination. In this connection, he said the international community must address the difficult situation of the Palestinian people and provide assistance to ensure their inalienable right to self-determination.
ABDULLATIF SALLAM (Saudi Arabia) said the world was now facing dangerous threats that required cooperation to strengthen the role of the United Nations, in order to find ways to attain international peace and security and eliminate racism. His country had reiterated in its laws the principle of non–discrimination in all of its aspects. The legal system protected human rights and prohibited all practices of torture.
He said the legal system in his country allowed non-Muslims to practice their religion and did not discriminate against non-Muslims who wanted to come to his country for work or other reasons. The legal system prohibited the harassment of people for practicing their religion. His Government had upheld all efforts to strengthen human rights and had hailed the world conference held in September in South Africa to combat racism, racial discrimination and intolerance.
MARIO A. AGUZZI DURAN (Venezuela) said his country was taking steps in recognizing the competence given to international instruments by States concerning the eradication of racism. At the national and international level, Venezuela had always supported efforts to combat all forms of racism and discrimination. All people were equal before the law, and he informed the Committee about fundamental Venezuelan laws preventing racism or discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, or religion within the country’s judicial system. Activities had been undertaken to ensure implementation of anti-discrimination legislation by special defenders, who had also been used to ensure the rights of indigenous peoples, including their right to land, heritage and property.
Concerning mercenaries, he said his Government had no knowledge of activities of such groups in the country. However, in recent years, concern had been raised about increased incidents of kidnappings. It was suspected that these kidnappings were linked to underground groups that had links to drug trafficking.
MARGARITA VALLE CAMINO (Cuba) said the main challenge was to ensure the implementation of the Durban Declaration. The Cuban delegation was ready to go from commitment to action. It was concerned about the emergence and strengthening of new and more sophisticated forms of racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. It was alarming that in developed countries, ultra rightists and neo-fascists with racist platforms had gained ground.
She said her country was also concerned about the adoption of laws in various industrialized countries that had a negative impact on migrants and asylum seekers. In sports, discrimination against women was of concern. The proliferation of Internet sites for racist propaganda and incitement of racial hatred was alarming. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the adoption by States of measures to combat terrorism should not generate new forms of terrorism and the creation of stereotypes that exacerbated terrorism and xenophobia. It was of concern that in the United States hundreds of Muslims had been imprisoned, while others had been expelled from the country.
The coordinated action of United Nations organs, agencies and programmes was required to implement the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, she said.
The political will of industrialized countries was necessary to advance those actions.
MAI KHALIL (Egypt) said the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action was a step towards eradicating the scourge of racism. It was regrettable that the goals of the Third Decade against Racism had not been met, but it was hoped that, with the provisions contained in the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, things would improve. She highlighted the situation of Muslims and Arabs across the world since the events of 11 September, and welcomed the ongoing study undertaken by the Special Rapporteur on Racism on this topic. He had drawn the attention of the Committee to the fact that States were using discriminatory policies in their anti-terrorism measures.
Referring to other issues raised by the Special Rapporteur on Friday, she said Egypt was also concerned about the increase in racism, and called attention to new forms of racism affecting refugees, migrants and ex-patriate communities. Also, sports were a means of cultural continuity, and Egypt was concerned about increased racism in that field. She also referred to the situation of the Palestinian people, who were suffering from the ultimate form of racism –- occupation. Their right of self-determination was legitimate and must be supported by the international community.
KAY FUSANO (Japan) said that building from its deep remorse over its past colonial rule and aggression, the Government of Japan was determined to eliminate self-righteous nationalism, promote international cooperation, and thereby advance the principles of peace and democracy through the world. She stressed the importance of education in preventing racism, since racists were not born but created from ignorance and prejudice. Youth exchanges were particularly useful in nurturing mutual understanding among different races and ethnic groups, as the youth of today was the driving force in building the society of tomorrow.
One of the most cruel forms of human rights violations and discrimination had been experienced by people during and after conflicts instigated by racial and ethnic animosities, she said. In the face of enormous devastation and violence, reconciliation was easier to say than achieve. Coexistence and tolerance, realized through respect for difference and diversity, was the path toward global peace and prosperity.
She said self-determination was an inalienable right of all peoples, and that the vicious circle seen in the Middle East was extremely alarming. Japan strongly hoped that, in order to resume the implementation of the “Road Map” -– the only path toward peace -– both the Israeli and Palestinian sides must exercise the maximum of self-restraints and refrain from taking measures that would worsen the situation.
NIZAR AL-QAISI (Jordan) said his country fully supported the right of peoples to self-determination, and the right to independence or the right of every people to establish their own State. Guaranteeing those rights would provide international peace and stability. The absence of such rights under the yoke of colonialism was an attack on basic human rights. His delegation reiterated the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and their right to have a State with East Jerusalem as its capital.
DIEGO SIMANCAS GUTIERREZ (Mexico) said his Government gave the greatest priority to those who were socially excluded and discriminated against on the ground of race, religion, or national origin. A federal law to prevent and eliminate racial discrimination clearly defined both crimes, as well as the groups that were most likely to suffer from discrimination. The law concentrated on fundamental international commitments made by the Government of Mexico, including the establishment of a national council to prevent discrimination and to contribute to cultural development. A consultative assembly, including members of civil society and academia, would support the council in its work.
In March, Mexico had organized an international forum on non-discrimination that had dealt with root causes and legal implications and protection mechanisms. The struggle against discrimination and racism was a long struggle that needed to be fought on many fronts. He therefore urged all countries of the international community to ensure the implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, and discussed a draft resolution, sponsored by Mexico, on discrimination against people with disabilities.
PATRICK A. LEWIS (Antigua and Barbuda), speaking on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said the issue of racism and racial discrimination evoked a deep resonance among the people of CARICOM member States. Having survived centuries of slavery and colonialism, the people of the Caribbean were acutely aware of the ills associated with racism and racial discrimination and their lingering adverse effects on the development process.
He said current manifestations of racism and racial discrimination were a social, cultural and political phenomena born of wars, military conquests, slavery and indentureship. CARICOM recognized the present inequitable social and economic conditions caused in large part by these historical wrongs, and endorsed initiatives to address these persistent inequities.
He noted the classic manifestation of what racism had done to the development of a small State as witnessed in Haiti, one of the first independent republics of people of African descent in the Western Hemisphere, whose progress had been retarded by global institutional racism. It was with such understanding of the role of global racism in retarding the development process of a nation that CARICOM States placed great weight on the expeditious implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.
ELENA MOLARONI (San Marino) said that in practice, the use of the Internet had not always had positive implications on human rights. The current debate on regulation of new technologies needed to be considered with a very attentive eye. Recently, the international community had witnessed the birth of a new phenomenon on the Net -- hate-speech, or the advocacy of racial and religious hatred. The very same features that made the Internet an asset to democracy and to the dissemination of information on human rights and their realization, also made it a powerful tool for the broadcasting of hateful messages and negative or anti-social theories to those who would never before had come into contact with them. It acted as a “force multiplier”, enhancing power and enabling racists to cross national boundaries and bypass laws banning discrimination and hate material by moving sites abroad.
Regulations could raise dangers, he said. In the past, many laws against hate speech had been used against those they were intended to protect. Any intervention undertaken by Governments must be based on the creation and application of pertinent national laws and existing international standards, consistent with freedom of opinion and expression. On the other hand, Internet service providers must have the obligation to prevent the posting of racist or discriminatory material, for example, through a “complaint drive regime”. Governments could also encourage the Internet industry to provide improved filtering tools and rating systems, which would allow users to select material and avoid harmful and undesired content.
BRYNJULF MUGAAS, a representative of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said the IFRC was very worried about the growth of extremism, and with it the reduction in levels of action to combat exclusion, social inequality, economic differences, xenophobia and discrimination. The work done since the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the International Covenants on Human Rights had been insufficient.
He said the work of his organization, with its fundamental principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and universality, would provide a counterbalance to the prevalence of racism and discrimination. The IFRC could make a valuable contribution to the work of Governments against discrimination. There was a need to take a more proactive stance on this issue. The Federation hoped that the 28th IFRC conference in December would lead to a common understanding with Governments that would initiate dialogue with all civil society institutions on the elimination of racism and discrimination.
ANA MARIA HERMOSO, of the International Labour Organization (ILO), said that in the world of work, “racial discrimination” was used to refer to arbitrary employment barriers to the advancement of members of linguistic communities or minorities, whose identity was based on religious or cultural characteristic or even national origin. In response to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, the ILO had tried to identify areas and certain vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples and migrants, where the elimination of discrimination in employment and occupation needed particular attention. The ILO was also working with governments, and workers’ and employers’ associations to help draft legislation in relation to equality standards, and provide training, technical advisory services, capacity-building assistance and awareness-raising activities.
In Latin America, consideration was being given to a major regional project on forced labour, discrimination and indigenous peoples in seasonal labour markets, she said. In Africa, the ILO had been working with indigenous communities, the Maasai, Pygmies, and pastoralist and hunter-gatherers, to ensure that they had job opportunities through their traditional livelihoods, to reduce emigration and eliminate discrimination. In Asia, the ILO encouraged the development of new national frameworks to prevent discrimination against migrant workers abroad. Finally, in Europe, most of ILO’s work had focused on the Roma people in Eastern and Central Europe, recognizing that this group’s poor access to education and employment was not just an economic, cultural or social problem, but that it must be approached from a human rights perspective, too.
Statementsin Exerciseofthe Rightof Reply
A representative of Morocco, exercising his right of reply in response to what had been said about Western Sahara by the delegate of Algeria, said it was a regional and geopolitical dispute between the two countries. He added that in the resolution adopted by the Fourth Committee, parties had been urged to find a solution politically acceptable to both sides. Political negotiations had not yet taken place.
The representative of Algeria said the issue of Western Sahara was an issue of decolonization for which the United Nations had set up a peace plan. He said he wanted to clarify that he had not discussed resolution 1514.
A representative of Morocco, said that Algeria had reiterated its full support for the peace plan. This was an erroneous statement, since political negotiations had not yet taken place.
The representative of Algeria said he refuted the accusation made by the delegation of Morocco that seemed to make the question of Western Sahara an Algerian-Morocco issue. This was an issue of decolonization, and the United Nations had clearly defined the parties to this issue.
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* Pages 2-9 of this release should have been the 25th Meeting (AM) only.