Fifty-seventh General Assembly
41st & 42nd Meetings (AM & PM)
REPORTS ON RIGHT TO HEALTH, HUMAN RIGHTS IN MYANMAR, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC
OF CONGO, BURUNDI, IRAQ DISCUSSED IN SOCIAL COMMITTEE
Draft Resolutions Introduced on Refugee Issues,
Torture, Migrants, Human Rights Conventions, Israeli Children
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) focused on the human rights situations in Myanmar, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, and Iraq and in the Palestinian territories. It also considered the right to health, as Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights presented their reports today.
Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro said his November visit to Myanmar had revealed significant setbacks in the human rights situation there. Interviews with victims and eyewitnesses showed that the incident in Depayin, in May 2003, could not have happened without the connivance of State agents. Calling for the immediate release of all those detained or in house arrest, he said discussion with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had made clear that she would not accept freedom for herself until all those arrested had been released.
In response, the representative of Myanmar said people that had clashed with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s motorcade in the incident underpinning much of Mr. Pinheiro’s report were not government supporters. Had she travelled with proper security arrangements, the incident would have been avoided, he said. In order to prevent further skirmishes, the Government had placed her group in protective custody and had taken legal action against those involved in the incident.
Julia Motoc, Special Rapporteur on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said there had been progress in the country, as there was a new spirit of cooperation within the Government and a genuine desire for reconstruction. However, violent confrontations persisted, including cannibalism and brutal killings. She urged all parties to the conflict to end military activities and respect the rights of women and children. The Government was also urged to reform its judicial system and to do away with the death penalty and irregular prisons.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he appreciated the balanced report. Regarding recommendations for the Government to take measures to put an end to impunity by reforming the judiciary, he pointed out that the Special Rapporteur had only visited remote areas where human tragedies and human rights violations were taking place.
John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, stressed the illegality of Israeli settlements and the wall presently being constructed by Israel, and said they had serious consequences for human rights. He noted that about half a million Palestinians in 136 communities would be affected by the wall and that already
40 per cent of the West Bank was effectively under the control of settlements.
By placing the entire blame for the hardships facing Palestinians on Israel, the Special Rapporteur had absolved the Palestinian terrorists’ corrupt leadership, and those Arab States that deliberately sought to fund and enflame terrorism in the region, said the representative of Israel. The report was clearly part of the problem and not the solution.
Introducing her report on Burundi, Marie-Therese Aissata Keita-Bocoum, Special Rapporteur, said that despite progress –- the change of power in May, legislative reforms, the approval and consideration of provisions under the Arusha agreement –- much remained to be done. Unfortunately, arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, killings and sexual violence persisted and presented obstacles to peace, as well as to the respect for human rights. She urged all parties to the conflict to respect the right to life and international humanitarian law.
The representative of Burundi said his country was still in a situation of war and suffered from abject poverty and that the respect for human rights was precarious. However, progress had been made over the last few months in negotiations with the rebel groups, leading to two complementary accords on power sharing.
The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Paul Hunt, said he had addressed the right to health indicators needed to monitor the progressive realization of the right to health. He noted that neglected diseases –- those suffered by the poorest people in the poorest countries -- attracted very little research and development. Only 10 per cent of health research and development was directed to the health burden of 90 per cent of the world’s population. He intended to address that situation within his mandate.
Having been unable to visit Iraq due to the security situation, Andreas Mavrommatis, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, explained his examination of new evidence of past human rights violations had not been possible. When able to visit the country, he would address human rights violations, including the fate of the missing, summary executions and mass graves, torture, prison conditions, religious freedom, “Arabization” and the gender perspective.
Drafts were also introduced on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/58/L.37/Rev.1); assistance to unaccompanied minors (document A/C.3/58/L.38); and follow-up to the regional Conference to Address the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and Returnees in the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (document A/C.3/58/L.43) by the representatives of the Sudan and the Russian Federation, respectively.
The representative of Denmark, Sweden, Mexico and Israel introduced drafts on torture (document A/C.3/58/L.42), international covenants on human rights (document A/C.3/58/L.44), the International Convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers (document A/C.3/58/L.45), and the situation of and assistance to Israeli children (document A/C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1).
The Committee will reconvene tomorrow at 10 a.m. to take action on several draft resolutions, continue its considerations of human rights and hear from more Special Rapporteurs.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) expects to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights, human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives, as well as the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report of the Special Rapporteur, Paul Hunt, on the rights of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health (document A/58/427) reflects on the activities of, and issues of particular interest to, the Special Rapporteur. Section II of the report states that health indicators can help States recognize when policy adjustments may be required. The Special Rapporteur argues that some right to health indicators may help a State monitor the progressive realization of the right to health in its jurisdiction, while others may help to monitor the exercise of international responsibilities that extend beyond a State’s borders and impact on health in other jurisdictions.
As requested by the Commission on Human Rights, section III provides an introductory overview of some of the conceptual and other issues arising from right to health good practices. Section IV expressed the concern of the Special Rapporteur about the continuing obstacles to ensuring access to prevention and treatment for HIV/AIDS. He suggests that one of the most distinctive contributions that human rights bring to the struggle against the HIV/AIDS pandemic is enhanced accountability.
Section V of the report briefly highlights the need to address the right to health implications of neglected diseases and suggests that it might be timely to devise a right to health approach to the elimination of leprosy. Finally, as requested by the Commission, the Special Rapporteur comments on the proposal for an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
There is also the report on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (document A/58/219) prepared by Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. The report states that although there have been some positive steps in the area of confidence-building with the international community, there has been a serious setback, instead of progress, on substantial human rights issues. The report is based on his brief visit to the country from 19 to 24 March -- curtailed when he discovered a listening device hidden under the table in a room where he was conducting interviews with political detainees at Insein prison -- and on information received up to 28 July.
The report states that, sadly, a "dark shadow" has been cast on the political and human rights developments in the country since the grave events of 30 May, when Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and several other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were taken into "protective custody" after deadly clashes reportedly broke out between her supporters and pro-government protesters in northern Myanmar. The Special Rapporteur joins his voice with the wide international condemnation of the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), repeatedly calling for the release of the prisoners and a full investigation into the events. The present stalemate is a serious obstacle to the improvement of human rights of all people in Myanmar.
There is also a report of the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Myanmar (document A/58/325) based on the good offices efforts undertaken by the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy, Razali Ismail, in attempting to facilitate national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar. The discussions that the Secretary-General and his Special Envoy have had separately with the Myanmar authorities during this reporting period continued to focus on the issue of how the United Nations can be of assistance in facilitating the national reconciliation process in Myanmar.
During this period, the optimism that followed the lifting of the remaining restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi on 11 May 2002 dissipated, as she and other NLD leaders remain detained and incommunicado. The Secretary-General remains gravely concerned about the safety and well-being of these NLD leaders and others detained after 30 May and reiterates his call for the Myanmar authorities to remove, without delay, all the restrictions imposed on their freedom of movement and political activities. He reiterates his determination to do his utmost to revive the national reconciliation process if all parties are willing. He particularly appeals to the leaders of the State Peace and Development Council to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and commence substantive political dialogue with her immediately, so that national reconciliation and democratization in Myanmar can be achieved.
There is also the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi (document A/58/448). The report follows her seventh mission to Burundi, which took place from 11 to 19 May 2003, several days after the inauguration of President Domitien Ndayizeye, and covers the period from March to August 2003. President Ndayizeye succeeded President Buyoya, who headed the first 18 months of the transition period.
Since the return of the Special Rapporteur, Burundi has once again seen a number of very violent clashes in and around Bujumbura between rebel troops -- particularly those of the Parti pour la libération du peuple hutu-Forces nationales de libération (PALIPEHUTU-FNL) under Agathon Rwasa -- and the regular army. There was also fighting between troops of the Conseil national pour la défense de la démocratie-Forces pour la défense de la démocratie (CNDD-FDD) under Pierre Nkurunziza and government troops. There were more or less continual clashes between the principal combatants until the end of August, when fighting even broke out among FNL troops.
Recommendations are made to the parties to the conflict. The Rapporteur urges all the belligerents to discontinue all hostilities, lay down their arms and sit down at the negotiating table, for war has never been an effective and durable means of settling disputes among human beings, and is even less effective in the case of disputes between nationals of the same country. She recommends that the Burundian authorities take all appropriate steps to combat impunity effectively and put an end to arbitrary detention and torture. She requests the Burundian authorities to adopt all measures necessary to establish responsibility for grave and massive violations of human rights committed against the civilian population.
The Special Rapporteur hopes that the international community as a whole will encourage the countries of the subregion to sign bilateral security agreements among themselves so as to increase the chances of a durable peace and reduce the causes of conflict and massive violations of human rights.
There is also the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (document A/58/534). The report is based on the information regularly transmitted to her by the human rights field office in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, representatives of institutions, churches, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), political parties and various associations and on the information compiled during her recent visit.
The report states that considerable progress has been made at the political level in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in recent months. The Special Rapporteur appreciated the new Government’s mode of operation and the collegial and cooperative spirit found among its members, two months after the establishment of the country’s institutions. The situation, however, continues to be characterized by massive violations of human rights. All the violations committed reflect the constituent elements, as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), of the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Such violations create a frightening picture of one of the most serious human rights situations in the world
The Special Rapporteur believes that lasting reconciliation and peace can be brought about only through an end to impunity and that a judicial mechanism must be established to inquire into all human rights violations committed before July 2002. The report adds that displaced persons are estimated at more than 2.7 million, and the situation continues to deteriorate owing to population movements caused by the recent events in Ituri and Kivu.
The Special Rapporteur asks all the parties to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to end their support for the armed groups, respect the rights of women and children and take steps to allow refugees and displaced persons to return.
Related to these reports is the note of the Secretary-General on the report of the mission of the Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of Congo and on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and of a member of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances of the Commission (document A/58/127). The note explains that a joint mission to investigate all massacres carried out on the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, requested by the General Assembly, could not be undertaken due to the lack of security in certain parts of the country, notably the east.
There is also the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq (document A/58/338). The Commission on Human Rights had requested the Rapporteur to report on the situation of human rights in Iraq, focusing on newly available information about violations of human rights and international law by the Government of Iraq over many years.
The Special Rapporteur has taken due note of the particular emphasis laid on the examination of new evidence of past human rights violations, but wishes to state that he has always followed with utmost concern and attention the general human rights situation in Iraq.
It was in the light of these considerations that on 13 May 2003, the Special Rapporteur addressed a letter to the Permanent Mission of the United States of America, informing it of his intention to carry out, as soon as possible, preferably in July 2003, an exploratory three-day visit to Iraq.
In a second letter to the Permanent Mission of the United States of America, dated 7 July 2003, the Special Rapporteur indicated that during his stay in Iraq, he would be meeting with the Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority, representatives at the highest level of the Iraqi Governing Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations agencies and international and national non-governmental organizations, as well as with representatives of religious communities.
Should security conditions permit, the Special Rapporteur would also make a field visit outside Baghdad to one location in the northern or southern part of Iraq. The report states that during his visit to Iraq, he would focus also on issues raised in his previous reports, such as the right to life, the missing, mass graves, the judiciary system, torture and prison conditions.
In its response, dated 31 July 2003, the Permanent Mission of the United States of America informed the Special Rapporteur that the Coalition Provisional Authority would welcome his visit during the month of September to focus on past, gross and systematic human rights violations. In a further letter, of 19 August 2003, to the Permanent Mission of the United States of America, the Special Rapporteur welcomed its response on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority and proposed the period from 22 to 27 September 2003 for his visit to Iraq.
A few short hours after the sending of that letter, the Special Rapporteur was utterly shocked and deeply saddened to hear about the bomb attack against the headquarters of the United Nations mission in Baghdad, in which the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as 22 other United Nations officials, lost their lives in the ruins of the building, and about 100 other people were injured, many of them severely injured or traumatized.
The Special Rapporteur is planning to visit Iraq, provided that the results of the survey carried out by a team from the Office of the United Nations Security Coordinator to assess the security situation in Iraq permit the realization of that visit.
Should conditions be such as to severely restrict the freedom of movement of the Special Rapporteur in connection with his contacts, appointments, or visit to the location outside Baghdad, the Special Rapporteur might then envisage, most reluctantly, the postponement of his mission to Iraq. In such a case, the Special Rapporteur would consider, as in the past, alternative methods of obtaining new evidence and doing whatever else was necessary to discharge his mandate and to report thereon, as requested, by submitting an addendum to the present report.
In case the Special Rapporteur is able to carry out his visit to Iraq, the addendum to the present report will focus on the observations, findings and recommendations drawn from that mission.
Also today, the Committee is expected to hear the oral introduction of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.
Right to Health
PAUL HUNT, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, said that he had been appointed last year. His approach to the mandate included a determination to consult and cooperate as widely as possible; a conviction that international human rights law, including the right to health, must be consistently and coherently applied across all relevant and international policy-making processes; and a recognition that numerous cases at the national and international levels confirmed the justiciable nature of the right to health. His approach also recognized that the right to health included the right to health care, and also the underlying determinants of health, such as access to safe and potable water and adequate sanitation, and access to health-related education and information, including that on sexual and reproductive health.
He would focus on three particular objectives: the promotion of the human right to health, the clarification of the legal scope of the right to health, and the identification of good practices for the operationalization of the right to heath at all levels. In addition, he would focus on two particular interrelated themes – poverty, and discrimination and stigma. These twin themes enabled him to examine crucial issues such as gender, children, racism, HIV/AIDS and mental health. Resources permitting, he would also like to address, as Special Rapporteur, the health component of poverty reduction strategies, neglected diseases, impact assessments, the World Trade Organization and the right to health, and mental health.
He said the report tried to address, in a balanced and practical manner, the difficult issue of right to health indicators. The international right to health was subject to progressive realization and he saw no way of monitoring progressive realization without using right to health indicators and benchmarks. Right to health indicators could help States, and others, recognize when national and international policy adjustments were required. While they were important, it must also be recognized that right to health indicators would never provide the full picture of the enjoyment of the right to health.
Raising one more issue from his report, he highlighted neglected diseases and the 10/90 gap. Neglected diseased were those diseases mainly suffered by the poorest people in the poorest countries. These diseases attracted very little research and development. Only 10 per cent of health research and development was directed to the health burden of 90 per cent of the world’s population -– the 10/90 gap. That was unconscionable -– and a major human rights problem he intended to address as Special Rapporteur.
In a subsequent question-and-answer session, the representative of Switzerland asked for more information about the responsibility of States, nationally and internationally, to ensure the right to health with the help of good practices and health indicators. In addition, he asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on neglected diseases, particularly leprosy.
The representative of Brazil asked about the 10/90 equilibrium and the highly distorted drug agenda, with regard to the right to health. With concern to stigma and discrimination in HIV/AIDS, he asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on whether there was a link between this and sexual orientation. The Special Rapporteur was also asked to elaborate on the right to health as it related to the Millennium Development Goals, as well as World Trade Organization.
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, the representative of Italy asked about the further exploration of right to health indicators. She also asked about enhanced accountability regarding HIV/AIDS, as had been mentioned in the report of the Special Rapporteur.
Responding, Mr. Hunt said that he understood that right to health indicators and benchmarks were a controversial issue. He emphasized that the starting point had to be the progressive realization of the right to health. This concept could not be approached without using appropriate indicators. They were helpful tools for States in recognizing when policy adjustments needed to be made. Indicators could also be used to grasp progress of the State within its national jurisdiction. Right to health indicators were therefore needed both on international and national levels. Structural indicators could also be used and could be carried out by the use of questionnaires.
Concerning the questions posed by Brazil, he said the starting point must be that access to medicines was part of the right to health. He had therefore been cautiously pleased by the decision taken by the World Trade Organization. The test that would judge the decision was whether people actually gained access to health.
Concerning the 10/90 gap, he said that that more health money went to problems like hair loss, than to river blindness or sleeping sickness and other neglected diseases. He was trying to raise this issue as often as possible, since he believed that it was not only wrong, but also absurd. Those who suffered from these neglected diseases were often the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized. In international human rights law, there was a recognition that everyone should benefit from scientific research and progress. This was clearly not the case regarding neglected diseases.
He stressed that at least four of the Millennium Development Goals related to the right to health. The role of the right to health was to reinforce elements of the Millennium Development Goals that were there already, such as non-discrimination and equality. The right to health also emphasized the need for the development of health systems. Generally speaking, human rights and the right to health must be integrated into the Millennium Goals.
Regarding discrimination and stigma, he said they violated human rights and inhibited health interventions. For those reasons he supported initiatives to combat discrimination, whether it was based on gender or sexual orientation.
Turning to the questions posed on leprosy, he said that significant progress had been made. There was actually a cure for leprosy. The issue was not the lack of treatment, but it was discrimination and stigma. He therefore suggested that when campaigning to eliminate leprosy, the issues of access to treatment and stigma and discrimination needed to be addressed.
On accountability and HIV/AIDS, he explained that he assessed how countries were dealing with the disease. International responsibilities came from the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and from the Millennium Declaration, as well as the outcomes of several world summits and conferences. States had accepted responsibilities at national and international levels. When talking about the international level, he was not only talking about the transfer of drugs, but the creation of an enabling environment that would allow developing countries to eradicate poverty and ensure the fulfilment of the right to health.
PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, presenting his report on recent developments in Myanmar, said he had observed, during his last visit from 3 to 8 November 2003, significant setbacks in the country’s human rights situation since his last mission in March 2003.
He said interviews with victims and eyewitnesses, as well as discussions with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and with authorities, provided prima facie evidence that the incident in Depayin in May 2003 could not have happened without the connivance of State agents. What had happened at Depayin had deep political implications and constituted a regression in the area of human rights. Effective measures to bring the perpetrators to justice were still lacking.
He called for the immediate and unconditional release of all those who were detained or who had remained under house arrest since May, as well as compensation for surviving victims and the families of those who died. He urged a thorough investigation, in accordance with international standards, including public announcement of the results and accountability of those responsible.
In his discussions with Myanmar authorities, he reiterated that, to be successful, any credible political transition should be guided by human rights principles. Any Constitution must have a full-fledged bill of rights, which would require the lifting of all remaining restrictions on the freedoms of expression, movement, information, assembly and association, as well as the repealing of related “security” legislation. Moreover, the opening and reopening of all political parties must be considered as an immediate priority. He said the authorities at all levels had expressed their agreement, in principle, to his proposals for incorporating human rights and freedoms from the early stages of political transition.
Regarding the circumstances surrounding the situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, he said she was no longer being detained under “security” legislation provisions, but her phone line remained cut off, and security arrangements remained in place. In effect, her circumstances were those of one under house arrest. She had made it clear in her discussions with him that she would not accept freedom for herself until all those arrested since may had been released. According to official figures, 109 of the 153 people arrested with the Depayin incident had so far been released. He had also received reports that there had been approximately 250 new arrests since 30 May.
He said he did not see any other solution than through dialogue and harmony at the negotiation table. At this delicate juncture in Myanmar’s history, the political parties and ethnic nationalities must decide what direction to take for their country. Any unilateral move by any one group that excluded the others would not bring Myanmar closer to its optimal destination.
The representative of Myanmar, responding to Mr. Pinheiro’s statement, said the people who clashed with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s motorcade in the incident underpinning much of Mr. Pinheiro’s report, were neither limited to government supporters nor those with affiliations to any political party. It occurred in a remote area where there was no police or military presence. If Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her group had travelled under proper security arrangements, the unfortunate incident would have been avoided.
In order to prevent further skirmishes, the Government had placed the political leaders involved in the incident under protective custody and had taken legal action against those involved in the violent clashes. The eyewitness accounts needed to be seen objectively, he said, noting the misrepresentation of facts provided by accounts of so-called eyewitnesses. The Government of Myanmar was perplexed that the Special Rapporteur seemed to be joining the chorus of detractors who were promoting the impression that the incident was stage-managed by the Government. The fact was that the Government was completely taken by surprise and was baffled by the wisdom of politicians who behaved as though they were invincible. The United Nations should remain objective and refrain from taking sides based simply on the so-called evidence provided by the opposition.
He said his Government had requested the Special Rapporteur to be aware that sources who misled him in the recent past were also unlikely to provide him with correct and objective data in the future. Research, in order to yield credible data, must be carried out on populations without bias or political affiliation. So long as such research was conducted exclusively on one side of the border, the conclusions would remain biased and questionable.
He stressed that it was Myanmar’s resolve to continue the political transition process, and it was not going to be deterred by the Depayin incident from carrying on this process with all political parties and ethnic nationalities that were willing to join the process.
The representative of the United States asked the Special Rapporteur what he thought the potential was for getting a credible independent investigation of the Depayin incident. Her delegation also wanted to know whether he had any information on how many people had been killed and how those arrested had been treated and interrogated.
Mr. PINHEIRO responded that he had proposed to the Government of Myanmar to conduct such an investigation but had not yet received a formal answer to his request. He had seen some irregularities in the pre-trial detention of people arrested, adding that 109 of the 153 people arrested in connection with the incident had so far been released. Regarding the numbers of deaths, both sides had recognized four deaths. That did not mean that not more than four deaths could be determined, but for the time being, he had not been able to find information about more than four deaths.
The representative of China asked the Special Rapporteur how he had found the atmosphere between the Myanmar Government and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi during his visit in March and during his last visit in November.
Mr. PINHEIRO, addressing the statement made by the Myanmar representative, said he had only had access to eyewitnesses who lived outside the Myanmar border. He clarified that he never used information from other sources and that all the information he used in his report was information he had gotten himself. He also said he had never used the adjective “so-called” in referring to the road map for political transition proposed by the Myanmar Government, and accepted the proposed road map as a process.
He said it was very difficult to have a cordial atmosphere when someone was living under de facto house arrest. He had found Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in a very positive mood and ready to engage in dialogue. She had said she did not consider the incident of 30 May as a reason to block dialogue and expressed no interest in seeking revenge.
The representative of the Republic of Korea said his delegation had noted with interest Myanmar’s seven-step road map and asked the Special Rapporteur what merits and demerits he saw in the road map initiative. What conditions must be met for the initiative to be successful? He also asked the Special Rapporteur to address his delegation’s concerns about gender equality and the empowerment of women as critical to development strategies and the promotion of human rights.
Mr. PINHEIRO said he was not an adviser of governments regarding political process. He only proposed that the seven-step transition include the basic requirements of freedoms of expression and political association if there were to be a genuine political transition. It would be difficult to go on with such a transition without implementing those basic freedoms.
Turning to the issue of gender equality, he said he agreed entirely that the empowerment of women was critical, though he could not devote time to this issue in his present report.
The representative of Syria asked the Special Rapporteur to share his impressions regarding the perspective of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Myanmar.
Mr. PINHEIRO said it was not in his mandate to make proposals concerning political process but recognized that ASEAN countries were very much concerned about the normalization of political life in Myanmar. He was counting on ASEAN to express to Myanmar that, in order for the road map to be successful, it was essential that political parties have some basic freedoms. He reiterated that he was not an expert on political process in Myanmar, and his concern, as dictated by his mandate, was on human rights issues related to the political process.
The representative of the United Republic of Tanzania asked the Special Rapporteur to discuss his opinion regarding the connection of his work with the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy, Razali Ismail.
He said he worked in close cooperation with other United Nations agencies involved in Myanmar, and it was important to continue dialogue and cooperation with other agencies, but he was not interested in linking his work with humanitarian assistance.
The representative of Pakistan said he had heard that more than four people had died in connection with the Depayin incident, though the Myanmar Government had insisted there had been only four deaths. Did he have any information from Daw Aung San Suu Kyi or any other independent source on that matter?
Mr. PINHEIRO responded that from all the sources he had contacted thus far, he was not in a position to acknowledge more than four deaths.
The representative of Viet Nam asked the Special Rapporteur to comment on the national reconciliation process.
Mr. PINHEIRO said that when Myanmar spoke about national reconciliation, it was speaking about unity and ceasefire and the pacification of groups that were fighting. The Depayin incident had interrupted the confidence-building process because opposition members had been arrested and detained. Since then, just one party has been able to operate. This had profoundly affected the political process.
MARIE-THERESE AISSATA KEITA-BOCOUM, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burundi, said she had noted the close relationship between the political, social and human rights situation in the country. The change of power in May 2003 had taken place, as well as the reform of legislation. The base for the formation of the Government had now been widened. Laws envisaged under the Arusha agreement had been approved or were being considered. There had been some developments since she had returned from Burundi, such as the agreement on the allocation of Government posts. The only matter unresolved was the question of participation in the Senate.
Arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, killings and sexual violence persisted, she said. There were also still clashes that presented an obstacle to the peace process. Efforts made had not led to peace and had, therefore, had a limited impact. There were still violations of social and political rights carried out with impunity. Armed robbing and killings continued, as well as the mass displacement of persons. Some progress had been made concerning freedom of opinion, but setbacks remained.
Women’s rights still suffered because of the war and there had been a significant increase in the number of widows, she said. Children had also been negatively impacted by the ongoing violence, both at the hands of regular troops and rebel groups. HIV/AIDS was prevalent and was propagated by ignorance, rape and violence against women. Prisons were overcrowded, and it was necessary to speed up the judicial process and the administration of justice.
She urged all parties to conflict to put down their weapons and to respect the right to life and international humanitarian law, and to refrain from recruiting child soldiers. She urged the Government to refrain from arbitrary detention and from using torture. She further called upon the Government to protect women and children, and the international community was urged to support the transition to peace. The international community should also provide greater humanitarian and financial resources to ensure the smooth and effective transition to peace in Burundi.
The representative of Burundi thanked the Special Rapporteur for her seventh report on the situation of human rights in his country. Burundi was still in a situation of war, which meant that the respect for human rights was precarious. However, great progress had been made over the last few months in negotiations with the rebel groups that had led to two complementary accords on power sharing. The fighting had ceased throughout most of Burundi. There were, however, some exceptions where rebels had refused to join the peace process. He paid tribute to the President and Vice-President of South Africa for their commitment to the negotiations.
Responding to specific sections of the report, he said there was a need to condemn attacks against civilians by the FNL rebel force. The report had also talked about the situation of children in Burundi and had condemned the regular army. He said the country was in a state of war, and sometimes fighting was undertaken at night. In such situations, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish between men and children. He deplored the use of rape as a weapon of war in the conflict in Burundi.
On women’s rights, he said that mention had been made concerning women’s freedom and inheritance. A text would be produced on women’s rights, and the Government was hopeful that it would address the needs of women in Burundi.
Concerning children’s rights, the report had stated that the demobilization of children was being delayed. According to the Ministry for the Rights of Human Beings, much had been done in this field. The Government had already organized training facilities and a national management structure to deal with this issue within various ministries.
Regarding technical agreements recently signed, he said the militias would be disarmed and demobilized. Issues related to provisional immunity for rebels and the regular army had been discussed in relation to the massacre referred to in the report. Human rights in Burundi were suffering as a result from the lack of a ceasefire. Even if the Government were doing its utmost to protect its citizens in every way possible, the situation would not improve unless there was a ceasefire. The Government of Burundi and the international community must work together to ensure peace in the country.
The representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked about the situation of minors and street children. She also expressed concern about the disturbing increase in reports of sexual violence against women and children and asked what judicial steps had been taken.
The Special Rapporteur thanked the representative of Burundi for his input on new developments within the country. She stressed that the report had clearly specified the role of both the regular army and the rebel groups. She had taken due note of the information provided by the representative of Burundi.
Responding to the question posed by the representative of Italy, she said the situation of children was a matter of concern. Much had been planned by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, including a proposal that the criminal code of Burundi determine an appropriate age of consent and responsibility for children. She was now waiting for the effective demobilization of children.
Concerning sexual violence against women, she said that much remained to be done, and the assistance of the United Nations and the international community would be required. During her last visit, she had, for the first time, observed that women in Burundi were beginning to take action themselves to eradicate sexual violence against them. This was a promising step; however, legislation also needed to be strengthened.
Democratic Republic of Congo
JULIA MOTOC, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said there had been significant progress made at the political level in the country. Agreements had been approved for restoring the situation, and there was a new spirit of cooperation within the Government and a genuine desire for reconstruction. However, the human rights situation was still very serious and was one of the most terrifying in the world. She pointed out that, although it was an ethnic conflict, the underlying causes were economic and involved the illegal exploitation of resources by foreign governments.
She said violent confrontations were continuing in the Ituri region. Several armed groups were killing people, raping and plundering. Cannibalism took place in front of family members, people were chopped up, houses burned. The conflict had resulted in half a million displaced people. About half of 400 health centres had been closed. Moreover, it was difficult to access people who were suffering from the conflict.
She stressed that there could be no lasting peace unless there was an end to impunity. The prosecutor of the International Criminal Court had visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the first State to be investigated. It was the worst international conflict since the second World War. She called on the Government to establish an effective system of justice to deal with human rights violations.
Despite the horrible things that had happened during the conflict, she said she had faith in the reconciliation process. There were people in the country who were resolved to do something. There had been a gradual establishment of new courts, and new military institutions were being established. There had been some progress in legal terms for children, a ban on recruiting children under 18 for the army, and labour regulations adopted to protect them. However, there were children left to fend for themselves on the street, including refugees, orphans and demobilized youth who were marginalized and left with no assistance or support, leading them to crime and prostitution.
She said she had made recommendations to all parties to the conflict to end all military activities and support for armed groups, to respect the rights of women, and to protect women and children victims of violence. She had called for an end to the recruitment of children in armed groups, improved access for humanitarian agencies and compliance with human rights standards. She urged the Democratic Republic of the Congo also to do away with the death sentence and to close irregular prisons. She reiterated that the Government must put an end to the climate of impunity and continue to reform the justice system and make it more effective.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said he appreciated the Special Rapporteur’s balanced report. Regarding her recommendations for the Government to take all measures necessary to put an end to impunity by reforming the judiciary to make it function more effectively, his delegation wished to point out that, during her visit, she had only gone to remote areas where human tragedies and serious human rights violations were taking place.
He said his Government’s commitment to put an end to impunity was well known. It had made the establishment of justice a priority, and relevant action had been taken, with reforms of judicial institutions under way. His delegation wanted to know why the Special Rapporteur’s recommendation stopped halfway in addressing only his Government. His Government would have liked the recommendation to come in the form of a request to the international community. The need to fight impunity had been a concern of his Government for some time. It had ratified the statute of the International Criminal Court, and it would be recommended to the Parliament for a final decision
Regarding serious crimes, he said the report asked the Democratic Republic of the Congo to make greater efforts to ensure that individuals who had committed most serious crimes would be brought before the court so cases could be heard as soon as possible. However, it excluded foreigners who had been involved in the major massacres.
He asked the Special Rapporteur to address her proposal for creating a joint mission of Special Rapporteurs to examine questions related to impunity and to review what had happened throughout all the years of war.
The representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur to elaborate on sections in the report saying that most crimes came before military tribunals in the country, even though they could have been dealt with in criminal courts. She also asked whether the Special Rapporteur believed that the recruitment of children in armed conflict would stop.
A representative of Uganda expressed concern about a reference to the Ugandan People’s Defence Forces in the report and asked for clarification.
Responding, Ms. MOTOC addressed the issue of impunity. She said that there must be no impunity, whether the crimes committed were mass violations against human rights or petty crime. In this connection, she welcomed the establishment of the International Criminal Court. She had suggested further cooperation between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the United Nations, in order to address questions related to impunity. A joint mission of three Special Rapporteurs had also been suggested to address such issues. It had been concluded that this mission was not possible, as the budget for the mission had been very restricted. The first stage would have been the setting up of an effective judicial system to deal with human rights violations prior to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. In general, those types of solutions would be the most efficient.
Regarding foreigners guilty of massive violations of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, she stressed the importance of bringing those cases to trial.
Concerning child recruitment, she said children were still being recruited in some parts of Kivu. There had, therefore, not been much progress in the demobilization process. Many non-governmental organizations and the United Nations were working on this issue.
On the question raised by Uganda, she stressed that she was not the first person within the United Nations system who had suggested that Uganda was supporting militias within the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
Opening its afternoon meeting, the Committee heard the introduction of seven draft resolutions.
The representative of the Sudan, introducing a draft resolution on assistance to refugees, returnees and displaced persons in Africa (document A/C.3/58/L.37/Rev.1), said that Africa was the host of the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons worldwide. The draft outlined many of the complex challenges facing the international community on the issue and sought to ensure that African refugees received the resources and assistance they deserved.
Another representative of the Sudan introduced a draft resolution on assistance to unaccompanied refugee minors (document A/C.3/58/L.38), saying the text sought to draw the attention of the international community to the most vulnerable refugees. It called on States to adopt measures to prevent situations resulting in unaccompanied refugee minors and to provide assistance and resources to that vulnerable group.
The representative of the Russian Federation introduced a draft resolution on the follow-up to the regional Conference to Address the Problems of Refugees, Displaced Persons, Other Forms of Involuntary Displacement and Returnees in the Countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Relevant States (document A/C.3/58/L.43). He said the draft resolution was aimed at providing additional political impetus in the General Assembly to implement follow-up actions to the Conference.
The representative of Denmark introduced a draft resolution on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (document A/C.3/58/L.42), saying the draft resolution condemned all forms of torture and called upon all governments to take action in the fight against torture and to become parties to the Convention against Torture and Other Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment as a matter of priority.
The representative of Sweden introduced a draft resolution on international covenants on human rights (document A/C.3/58/L.44), saying the draft emphasized the importance of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and reaffirmed that all human rights and fundamental freedoms were universal and interrelated.
The representative of Mexico introduced 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.3/58/L.45), saying the draft resolution aimed to strengthen efforts on attaining universality of this instrument.
The representative of Israel introduced a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children (document A.C.3/58/L.30/Rev.1), said the resolution, made necessary by a resolution addressing only the situation of Palestinian children previously approved by the Committee, sought to protect Israeli children from the effects of Palestinian terrorism.
The representative of Syria said she was opposed to the draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children, as the resolution was presented under an incorrect agenda item, the debate on the situation of children. The debate and essence of this agenda item was not incumbent upon the Third Committee. She asked the Committee’s bureau to inform members if the procedure was correct concerning putting the draft under a different agenda item.
The observer for Palestine said the resolution introduced by Israel copied the text and format of the resolution on Palestinian children, thereby trivializing the suffering of Palestinian children. Furthermore, the Israeli draft ran contrary to all the arguments Israel had made for rejecting the Palestinian resolution. The draft reflected the distorted and unacceptable Israeli positions, she continued. The resolution was unacceptable and was more anti-Palestinian children than it was pro-Israeli children.
The representative of Lebanon asked the Committee to reject the introduction of the resolution on the situation of and assistance to Israeli children for the reasons presented by the observer for Palestine.
ANDREAS MAVROMMATIS, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, said he had been requested by the Commission on Human Rights to examine new evidence of past human rights violations, but had felt duty-bound to follow, with the greatest attention, the overall situation of human rights in Iraq. He had intended to visit Iraq as soon as possible, however, in the aftermath of the bomb attack that killed 21 United Nations staff members and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq and High Commissioner for Human Rights, he had been obliged to postpone his mission.
He had therefore decided to hold a series of preparatory consultation in Geneva, which had given him the opportunity to resume more regular contacts with the Charge d’Affaires of the Permanent Mission of Iraq. The Special Rapporteur intended to organize a meeting in December with concerned Ministries of the Iraq Interim Governing Council, representatives of the Coalition Provisional Authority, and of the civil society. He had indicated that he wished to discuss violations to the right to life, including the missing, summary executions and mass graves, torture, detention conditions in prisons, religious freedom, “Arabization” and the gender perspective.
While in Geneva, he had met with representatives of Kuwait, United Kingdom and the United States, as well as a delegate from the Kurdish Regional Government. He had also met members of international non-governmental organizations. During a meeting held with the Iraqi Minister for Human Rights and brief exchanges of views with the United States Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, he had reiterated his intention to visit Iraq as soon as security conditions would permit. He concluded by saying that, as there was no substitute for a visit to Iraq, he would do everything possible in order to visit the country at the earliest opportunity.
Occupied Palestinian Territories
JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, stressed the illegality of Israeli settlements and the wall presently being constructed by Israel. He highlighted the serious consequences the wall and settlements had for the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.
He said Israel had the right, in response to very real security concerns, to build a wall along the 1949 Armistice Line, but it had no right to build the wall in Palestinian territory. The building of such a structure in Palestinian territory could only be seen as de facto annexation, and annexation of occupied territory was prohibited both by the United Nations Charter and by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Furthermore, he continued, Israel had aggravated matters by designating the area between the wall and the 1949 Armistice Line a “closed zone” in which Israelis may travel freely but Palestinians who lived and worked there would require permits. This would require the more than 13,500 Palestinians residing and working in the “closed zone” to obtain permits to live and work in their own homeland. Palestinians on the Israeli side of the wall would be cut off from their lands, homes, clinics and schools. An estimated half a million Palestinians in 136 communities would be affected.
He noted that the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibited the occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupied. Today, there were some 200 illegal settlements in the West Bank and Gaza with some 400,000 settlers, and Israel had, in October 2003, approved the building of 600 new housing units in the West Bank. An estimated 40 per cent of the total land area of the West Bank was effectively under the control of settlements.
The wall and the settlements were both designed to establish facts on the ground that, together, would inevitably redraw the map of Palestine. This was apparent from the course of the wall, which incorporated illegal settlements into the “closed zone”, a zone effectively annexed to Israel, by Israel.
He stressed that the wall and the settlements had wide, negative implications for human rights. They would render Palestinian self-determination meaningless, as the Palestinian people would soon have too little land of their own on which to build a State. Checkpoints established by Israel humiliated the Palestinian people and resulted in the destruction of the fabric of Palestinian social life, the deterioration of health care and education and the economic collapse, which had inflicted poverty on 60 per cent of the population.
The representative of Israel said he was responding with regret to the report written by Mr. Dugard. The statement made today by the Special Rapporteur was, unfortunately, no different from statements and reports he had issued in the past. He continued to use the Rapporteur’s mission and unprecedented mandate as a platform for advancing a political agenda. Many of the allegations raised by the Rapporteur repeated misleading charges made in his earlier reports.
Although recognizing Israel’s “legitimate security concerns” or its entitlement to take “strong action” against terrorists, Mr. Dugard made no allowance at all for such actions when they were indeed taken, he said. Mr. Dugard did not seem to give any consideration to the threat faced by Palestinian terrorism, which had cost hundreds of lives and threatened thousands more. He did not consider the blowing up of Israeli buses or restaurants by Palestinian terrorists worthy of mention.
A determination of proportionality could not be made instantaneously or from afar, merely by tabulating reports of alleged damages and casualties, he said. It was necessary to take account of the specific context of the security situation that Israelis were faced with due to the ongoing Palestinian terrorist campaign. It had become apparent that the current Rapporteur viewed his position and mandate as little more than a platform for broadcasting his personal political views.
There was clearly a place for serious analysis and debate about humanitarian issues in the territories, he said. But Mr. Dugard’s statement and recent report showed no interest in such a debate. By placing the entire blame for the hardships facing Palestinians on Israel, he absolved terrorists that had taken Palestinian society hostage, the corrupt leadership that had incited and abused the Palestinian people, and those Arab States that had deliberately sought to fund and enflame terrorism in the region. In so doing, his statement and his most recent report were clearly part of the problem and not the solution.
The representative of Syria said the report was yet another evidence of Israel’s brutal practices in the occupied Arab territories. His delegation agreed with the Special Rapporteur that the purpose of the wall was to annex Palestinian territory. This proved that Israel was only inclined towards terminating and abolishing the idea of establishing an independent Palestinian State.
He said the policies pursued by Israel in destroying homes and killing Palestinian civilians proved that Israel’s claim to combating terrorism was mendacious because Israel was itself part of international terrorism. Its actions carried out in so-called self-defence were a defence for occupation and aggression.
The representative of Switzerland asked about the Israeli Government authorizing an independent investigation on allegations of torture and what institutions could carry out that function.
Responding, Mr. DUGARD said he would continue to try to assess aspects of proportionality within the conflict. Regarding an international ad hoc commission of inquiry, he said that if the Government of Israel did not accept this, the Government could appoint an independent Israeli commission. He recognized that Israel had real security concerns and stressed that he did not absolve those who had committed terrorist acts against Israel. His report had aimed to stress that the settlements and the building of the wall had serious consequences on human rights and were illegal.
The representative of Turkey, responding to the presentation of the report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq, expressed his hope that the Rapporteur’s future reports would address attempts aimed at changing the demographic structures in some parts of the country and the difficulties faced by some ethnic populations, including the Turkmen population, after the war.
The representative of the United States thanked the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iraq and said he looked forward to the Special Rapporteurs’ visit to Iraq at the earliest opportunity.
Turning to the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, he said he would have more to say on the matter at the Commission of Human Rights, where it could be more appropriately examined. He said that, in his delegation’s view, the report was grossly one-sided and did not contribute to the cause for human rights and peace in the Middle East. The observations made in the report were one-sided and objectionable and paid no more than lip service to the context in which decisions being criticized were made.
The representative of Kuwait said he regretted the Special Rapporteur could not visit Iraq because of the situation there. Regarding the 45 victims whose bodies had not been identified, he wanted to know if they were victims of war crimes, since the previous regime had always denied the existence of the 45 unidentified bodies.
He noted that, since the creation of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, none of the rapporteurs had been able to visit Iraq, and all reports had been based on information from States. What was the relationship between the lack of reports from States and non-submission of a draft resolution?
The representative of Italy, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked the Special Rapporteur what resources he had identified as documentary evidence of the human rights violations under Saddam Hussein. What were his views on key standards to investigate past violations?
The representative of Iraq said the work of the Special Rapporteur was very important and that it would be important for him to visit Iraq. The mission in New York would try and assist him in all ways possible
The Observer for Palestine thanked the Special Rapporteur for bringing to light the myriad of human rights violations committed in the occupied territories. She asked about the new Israeli order and how Palestinians were to deal with the application for permits within the areas of the wall. Yet again, the Israeli delegate had accused, threatened and aimed to silence the Special Rapporteur. The truth spoke louder than words, she said, and thanked the Special Rapporteur for speaking up for the suffering of the Palestinian people.
The representative of Egypt stressed the importance of the Special Rapporteur continuing his work on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories. The building of the wall was merely a new reflection of the illegality of Israeli actions. The Egyptian delegation requested that the report of the Special Rapporteur be submitted to the Committee.
Responding, Mr. MAVROMMATIS thanked delegations for their questions about the situation in Iraq. He reassured the representative of Turkey that the situation of ethnic and religious minorities would play a significant part in his report. Regarding the questions raised by the representative of Kuwait, he said one of his top priorities had been the missing persons from Kuwait. There appeared to be evidence of serious violations of human rights, as well as concealment about their fate.
There was documentation regarding past violation of human rights, he said, responding to the representative of Italy. However, some of this documentation had been either removed or destroyed. There appeared to be sufficient documentations to establish a case for the disappearances of thousands of people, and several non-governmental organizations were active in this field.
Concerning trials for past violations, he said he understood that the Provisional Governing Council had drafted some legislation on this matter. It had not yet been finalized and would require the cooperation of international legal experts. He stressed that there was no impunity for serious violators of human rights.
Regarding the statement by Iraq, he said it would be a pleasure to cooperate with the Mission of Iraq. He hoped that Iraq would soon recover from the past crimes and violations of human rights.
Mr. DUGARD, responding to allegations that he had a political agenda, stressed that he had no political agenda -- that his concern was for human rights.
Regarding accusations by representatives of Israel and the United States that he had been one-sided in his report, he said it was difficult to weigh the actions of Israel on the one hand, and of Palestinians on the other hand, to ascertain whether he had exceeded the bounds of proportionality. One deplored the attacks of suicide bombers, but Israel’s response was to detain civilians, destroy homes, impose curfews on innocent people and create checkpoints that had resulted in a humanitarian crisis, including poverty among 60 per cent of the population and the deterioration of health care and education services.
The wall encroaching on Palestinian territory would cause half a million Palestinians to experience encroachment upon their basic freedoms. He asked the United States representative to weigh these factors against each other and to seriously consider whether he has overstated the case against Israel. He was convinced he had not done so. Israel had behaved in an excessive manner, and the construction of the wall was the most serious example of this.
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