14 November 2003


Press Release

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Committee

45th &46th Meetings (AM & PM)



Importance of Development in Relation to Human Rights also Stressed

Respect for human rights must be integrated in counter-terrorism strategies, representatives today told the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) as it continued its consideration of alternative approaches to the promotion of human rights and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Representatives highlighted the need to strike a balance between the legitimate security concerns of States and the protection of human rights in accordance with international laws, as they voiced their concerns that human rights were being compromised in the fight against terrorism.

Respect for the rule of law and respect for all human rights -– civil and political, economic, social and cultural –- were necessary elements in the fight against terrorism on national and international levels, said the representative of Switzerland.  In this context, it could be useful to promote cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and the Security Council and for the General Assembly to encourage the Commission to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the respect for human rights within anti-terrorism measures.

Terrorism was itself a violation of human rights, said the representative of the Russian Federation, stressing the need to condemn and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  Given the global nature of terrorism, he added, it must be tackled by the entire international community through a uniform approach.

The tragic attacks of September 2001 and subsequent events represented major reversals in the promotion and protection of human rights, said the representative of Pakistan.  Terrorism violated human rights, and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be condemned, pre-empted and fought.  However, he stressed, respect for human rights must remain an essential part of any counter-terrorism strategy.

The representative of Sudan said his delegation was particularly concerned about the profound impact of the September 11 events on human rights related to religious freedoms.  Actions taken by some States to combat terrorism had threatened the civil liberties of individuals because of their religious beliefs.  The impact on the rights of migrants to asylum was also of concern.  His delegation called for continued dialogue and negotiations based on human rights considerations to reverse that trend.

The representative of Qatar, condemning terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, highlighted the need to distinguish between terrorism and the legitimate struggle for self-determination.  Violating human rights when fighting terrorism was tantamount to helping terrorists win a battle they could not win on their own.

Speakers also stressed the intrinsic link between development and the enjoyment of human rights.  Dignity and human well-being could not be protected in the face of grinding poverty, said the representative of India.  He said his Government had consistently argued that national capacity building should be at the centre of the international community’s efforts to promote human rights.

Fighting poverty was also about promoting human rights, said the representative of Norway.  There was no dichotomy between development and human rights.  An individual’s quality of life depended on both political liberty and economic opportunity.  Time and time again it had been seen that oppressive regimes did not foster sustainable development.

The representative of the Republic of Korea said she was encouraged by the growing interaction between human rights and development activities in the United Nations system.  The interdependence of human rights, democracy and development was a lesson her country had learned through its own experience in socio-economic growth and democratization.  Development devoid of advances for human rights and democracy could not be sustained. 

Also addressing the Committee today were the representatives of Algeria, China, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand, Mali, Tunisia, Israel, Cuba, Jamaica, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Serbia and Montenegro, Thailand, Mongolia and Eritrea.

The Observers of Palestine and the Holy See also spoke, as did the representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Organization for Migration.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea spoke in exercise of his right of reply.

The Committee will reconvene Monday, 17 November at 10 a.m., to continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches to the promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms and the report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.


The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian, and Cultural) will continue its consideration of human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights, and human rights situations.

Before the Committee is a report of the Secretary-General on the effective promotion of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities (document A/58/255), which states that the international community has focused increasing attention on the protection of minority rights.  Problems faced by minorities, including the non-recognition of identities, social and economic inequality and exclusion from decision-making processes, are recognized as root causes of minority-related problems or conflicts.  The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Working Group on Minorities have been pursuing regional approaches on minority issues, strengthening international cooperation for the better protection of minority rights and enhancing international, regional and national systems of minority protection so as to reduce tensions and prevent conflict.  The focus identified as central for that purpose, is the effective participation of minorities in public life and in social and economic development.  The Office of the High Commissioner plans to continue building the capacity of civil society to work on minority issues at the national, subregional and regional levels, and to use the United Nations Guide for Minorities, as a basic training tool.

A report of the Secretary-General on the right to development (document A/58/276), responding to a General Assembly resolution 57/223 with the same name, which requested the Secretary-General to bring the resolution to the attention of Member States, United Nations and other international organs and bodies and non-governmental organizations.  The report contains the replies received from Germany, Japan, Cuba, Guatemala, and Syria, as well as replies received from specialized agencies, United Nations departments, programmes and funds, and other international organizations.  An addendum to the report (document A/58/276/Add.1) contains the replies received from Azerbaijan and Venezuela.

A report of the Secretary-General on human rights and unilateral coercive measures (A/59/279) responds to a General Assembly request to continue to collect the views of Member States and information on the implications and negative effects of unilateral coercive measures on their populations, and to submit an analytical report on the topic.  The Secretary-General sent a note verbale to all permanent missions on 25 June 2003, however, to date no replies have been received.

A report of the Secretary-General on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, (A/58/266), contains an overview of comments received from governments and international and non-governmental organizations, in response to a letter of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking views and information on the protection of human rights, while countering terrorism.  It also provides a review of rights that have come under significant pressure worldwide as a result of counter-terrorism measures, including the rights to life and to freedom from torture, due process rights and the right to seek asylum.

The report concludes that while there is no doubt as to the legitimacy and urgency of the need for States to take resolute action against terrorism, human rights have come under significant pressures as a result of counter-terrorism measures.  Respect for human rights should be seen as an essential part of an effective counter-terrorism strategy, not an impediment to it.  States must consider availing themselves of the technical assistance available to help them in fully integrating human rights protections into measures taken against terrorism.  Both the Office of the High Commissioner and regional organizations have notified the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council of their willingness to provide this kind of assistance.

The Committee also has before it a report of the Secretary-General on human rights and mass exoduses, (document A/58/186), which acknowledges the links between human rights and mass exoduses related to situations of displacement, facilitation of return and prevention.  The report reviews the efforts of the various United Nations mechanisms and institutions, on behalf of persons affected by mass exoduses.  It surveys the work of such humanitarian development organizations as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Food Programme, the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund, among others.

The specific case of internally displaced persons is also addressed, particularly regarding the work of the Representative of the Secretary-General on internally displaced persons and the newly established internally displaced persons unit in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  The report concludes that the second reform programme of the Secretary-General emphasizes human rights and, in particular, the need to build strong national mechanisms, capacities and institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights.  The challenge for the United Nations today is to implement, effectively and efficiently, action plans that will assist States in making those proposals a reality.

A report of the Secretary-General on the progress of efforts to ensure the full recognition and enjoyment of the human rights of persons with disabilities (document A/58/181) focuses on the issue of procedural safeguards for persons with mental disabilities.  It analyses briefly the key international human rights instruments relating to persons with mental disabilities, with a view to identifying the main substantive standards and procedural guarantees applicable regarding persons with intellectual and psychiatric disabilities.  In particular, the report considers such issues as legal capacity, involuntary institutionalization and involuntary or forced treatment, and reviews the way in which these international standards are transposed into domestic legislation.

An addendum to the report (document A/58/181/Add.1) contains responses by Chile, El Salvador and India to a questionnaire by the Secretary-General on the human rights of persons with disabilities.

The Committee also has before it a report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the United Nations action in the field of human rights through the promotion of international cooperation and the importance of non-selectivity, impartiality and objectivity (document A/58/185).  The report states that the Secretary-General has invited Member States to present practical proposals and ideas that would contribute to the strengthening of relevant United Nations action, and it contains the reply of Libya on the matter.  Two addendums to the report, containing the replies of the Governments of the Russian Federation and Cuba (documents A/58/185/Adds.1 and 2).

A report of the Secretary-General on strengthening the role of the United Nations in enhancing the effectiveness of the principle of periodic and genuine elections and the promotion of democratization (document A/58/212) describes the work of the United Nations over the previous biennium in providing electoral assistance.  It presents an analytical framework that describes the role that elections play in furthering a number of goals of the Organization, including conflict prevention, peace-building and development.  Stressing the role of the focal point for electoral assistance activities, it describes how the various parts of the United Nations system work in close coordination to provide electoral assistance that is effective, prompt and consistent with the body of experience that has been built up over the previous decade.

The report also describes how electoral assistance is increasingly incorporated into major United Nations peacekeeping and peace-building missions, and notes the value of including electoral experts at political negotiations aimed at ending or preventing conflicts.  Finally, the report signals that the United Nations electoral assistance mechanisms will need to be enhanced if they are to continue to provide effective and quality support in the face of steadily increasing demands for such support.

Also, there is a report of the Secretary-General on globalization and its impact on the full enjoyment of all human rights (document A/58/257).  The report follows a request to the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States and relevant United Nations agencies on globalization and its impact on human rights and to submit a substantive report on this subject to the General Assembly at its fifty-eighth session.  It contains the response of the Government of Lebanon on the issue.

The Committee will review a report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on human rights education and public information activities undertaken by various actors between December 2002 and July 2003 (document A/58/318).  The report highlights advancements in the strengthening of national, regional and international programmes for human rights education.  Included, is a summary of activities undertaken by governments, United Nations agencies and nongovernmental organizations in the field of human rights education.

The report calls on regional and international organizations and institutions to continue supporting national initiatives by facilitating the sharing of information by creating networks, training trainers and related activities.  It urges governments to fulfil commitments made at the international level to develop national strategies for human rights education that are comprehensive and participatory.

There is also a note by the Secretary-General on the human rights situation of the Lebanese detainees in Israel, (A/58/218), which states that no reply has been received from Israel to the Secretary-General concerning the Economic and Social Council’s endorsement of a decision of the Commission on Human Rights on this issue.

A report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Sierra Leone (document A/58/379), which contains information on events through the beginning of August 2003.  It says the human rights situation in Sierra Leone has improved significantly since the last report of the High Commissioner submitted to the General Assembly in February 2003.

The report notes that Government authority has been re-established nationwide; the judicial system and courts are being restored; and magistrate courts and police formations have almost reached the pre-war levels of deployment.  All of those developments have contributed to a climate of increased respect for human rights.  However, structural deficiencies linked to the recent history of abuses and violations have obstructed the emergence of a society based on the rule of law.  This is most evident in the judicial system and must be urgently addressed.

Current human rights challenges in Sierra Leone include addressing impunity relating to past abuses and preventing ongoing violations, while building local capacities to protect and promote human rights, especially of vulnerable groups, such as children, refugees, women and migrants.

Progress in the overall peace process has led to arrangements for the gradual withdrawal of the United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL), currently scheduled for December 2004.  Discussions are currently ongoing on the nature of the post-UNAMSIL residual United Nations presence in Sierra Leone.  The report stresses the importance of retaining a core human rights component capable of monitoring the human rights situation, providing technical cooperation and assisting the building of national capacity in the area of human rights.

Statements on Human Rights

ABDALLAH BAALI (Algeria) said his Government adhered to the principle of universality of human rights.  However, that recognition of universality did not mean that there was only one social or political model for the respect for human rights.  Universality in human rights only meant something if, as stated in the Vienna Declaration, it was based on the recognition of cultural, historical and geographic diversity.  Such universality must also be based on international norms and principles of international law, such as that of equality between sovereign States, non-interference in the internal affairs of another States, and the respect for other States’ political, economic and social systems.

The report of the High Commissioner stated that terrorism was one of the major challenges before the international community, he said.  Algeria agreed that terrorism had caused many deaths and had injured others, but it would have liked to see the report focus further attention on the link between human rights law and terrorism.  Terrorism was a grave violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and Algeria had paid a heavy price concerning terrorism.  The democratic transition process had now seen the establishment of elected pluralist institutions.  Several political parties were now active, and many of these parties were represented within the National Assembly. 

ZHANG YISHAN (China) said that in the past 10 years, guided by the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the international community had made considerable progress and striking accomplishments, in promoting and protecting human rights.  However, many problems still existed in the field of human rights, as conflicts, turmoil, and even armed conflict and bloodshed, still plagued the international community.  Only when the international community established a new security concept with mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and coordination at the core, would it be possible to ultimately prevent massive violations of human rights and meet mankind’s aspirations for lasting peace and prosperity for all.  He stressed that the legitimate concerns of the developing countries must be addressed.

Economic, social and cultural development was the key to the realization of human rights, as poverty and disease were the major obstacles to the enjoyment of those rights, he said.  The international community, and the developed countries in particular, must, through effective international cooperation, help the developing countries overcome their real difficulties in the process of development so as to create conditions for the full realization of various human rights and fundamental freedoms.  The correct approach to the issue of human rights was to strengthen exchanges of views and cooperation.  The world was diversified, and it was quite natural that there were divergent views and differences on the issue on human rights.  Only by way of dialogue and cooperation could human rights be promoted.

Over the last 20 years of China’s reform and opening up to the outside world, the percentage of the Chinese living in poverty had fallen, and its 1.3 billion people, by and large, enjoyed a relatively decent living standard.  China was actively improving its political democracy and legal system to ensure democratic elections, a democratic decision-making process, and democratic management.  However, as was the case with other countries, there was still room for improvement in the promotion and protection of human rights in China.  The Government would continue to do its utmost to further improve the human rights situation in China.

YVE KNOWLES (Australia) said her country was committed to working cooperatively with governments around the world to promote democracy, good governance and the rule of law, which were the necessary preconditions for the enjoyment of human rights.  She urged all governments to strive to find ways to advance the human rights of their people.  Australia was committed to assisting the Iraqi people to deal with the legacy of human rights abuses by Saddam Hussein’s regime, and strongly encouraged the international community to actively support rehabilitation efforts in the interests of a secure, stable and prosperous Iraq.

She expressed Australia’s concerns about the human rights situation in Myanmar, calling on the Myanmar Government to release Aung San Suu Kyi from house detention immediately, and to release all political prisoners.  The uses of forced labour and child soldiers in Myanmar were of particular concern.  She said Australia was also gravely concerned about the sustained human rights abuses occurring in Zimbabwe, and called on the Mugabe Government to begin genuine political dialogue with the opposition and to establish a framework for political reconciliation and economic recovery.  The human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was also of concern.

She added that Australia supported efforts of Iran to promote the rule of law and to protect human rights in there.  It also welcomed China’s increasing willingness to acknowledge shortcomings in its human rights practices and its frank approach to their bilateral human rights dialogue.  However, it was still greatly concerned about China’s detentions and executions over the past year for political crimes or for the expression of dissenting views.

Australia welcomed the formation of the Transitional Government in the Democratic Republic of Congo and applauded the key role played by West African countries in negotiating the recent ceasefire in Liberia.  She also welcomed a Nigerian state court decision in September to acquit Amina Lawal, who had been sentenced to death by stoning for adultery.  Australia continued to be very concerned about the deplorable treatment of children by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in northern Uganda and urged the LRA to immediately cease its child abductions.  Her Government also urged the Ugandan Government to continue efforts to end the conflict.

P.M. TRIPATHI (India) said that as a signatory to both the principal Covenants on Human Rights and all other major human rights instruments, his country had consistently sought to promote human rights.  India’s constitution guaranteed all its citizens the full enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms, and an independent judiciary, a free press and a pluralistic society lay at the core of its democratic institutions.  As the largest democracy, India reiterated its firm commitment to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

He said the direct relationship between development and the enjoyment of human rights was undeniable, as was the relationship between freedom and human rights.  But dignity and human well-being could not be protected in the face of grinding poverty.  India had consistently argued that national capacity-building should be at the centre of the international community’s efforts in the promotion of human rights.

India considered the growing intrusiveness in the functioning of the United Nations mechanisms in areas that fell within the purview of States, a matter of great concern.  That trend could not be justified on the logic of national capacity-building.  The threat to human rights structures came, as much from such intrusiveness, as it came from unchecked proliferation and duplication of mandates.  His Government, therefore, welcomed the Secretary-General’s reform agenda.

Turning to the fight against terrorism, he said terrorism violated the most fundamental of all human rights, namely the right to life, of the victims.  Ensuring the security of their people was the first responsibility of all Governments.  The challenge lay in striking the right balance between ending terrorism and adhering to international law and human rights standards.

PATRICIA OLAMENDI (Mexico) said that President Fox had taken a number of key steps to develop a national human rights policy based on the following pillars –- accession to international instruments for the protection of human rights, openness to scrutiny and international cooperation, and a willingness to respect the recommendations of the competent human rights bodies.  Among concrete actions taken were the establishment of the Governmental Commission on Human Rights Policy and human rights units in the vast majority of federal Government offices; the entering into force of a federal law to prevent and eliminate discrimination; and the establishment of a Special Prosecutor Office for the investigation of crimes of the past.

Another area in which significant progress had been made was in the implementation of various cooperation programmes, she said.  The Programme of Technical Cooperation between Mexico and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was in the second phase of its implementation, and a survey of the human rights situation in Mexico, prepared by the Office of the High Commissioner, would be presented in the near future.  In addition, negotiations on a cooperation agreement with the European Commission had concluded, and this would help to strengthen the mechanisms for negotiation and dialogue between the Government and civil society organizations.

In recent years, Mexico had launched major initiatives that had gained the consensus and support of States committed to human rights, in all regions of the world, she said.  Issues such as human rights, in the fight against terrorism, the human rights of migrants, the rights of women, or the status of persons with disabilities and of indigenous peoples, were of particular importance and required the full attention of the international community.

She reiterated her Government’s concern at the continuation of policies and practices that affected the human rights of migrants in various parts of the world.  The universal force of human rights did not allow for double standards.  The international community could not turn its back on the more than 150 million people living outside of their countries of origin.

DON MACKAY (New Zealand) saluted the courage of all defenders of human rights -– especially those in countries that chose to ignore international standards.  The freedom of expression, included unfettered media freedom, was indeed a fundamental human right.  He raised concern about the human rights situation in Zimbabwe and attempts of the Government to exert influence over the distribution of humanitarian aid by international relief organizations.  New Zealand also urged the Government of Nigeria to strengthen its judicial institutions at all levels and to abolish capital punishment.  Within Sudan’s transition to democracy, New Zealand called on the Government to comply with its obligations under international human rights instruments.

He expressed concern at the innocent people dying on both sides of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict and urged both sides to refrain from violence, to identify those responsible for human rights violations and bring them to justice, and to observe fully international human rights standards.  The Palestinian Authority must reject violence, and Israel needed to desist from imposing obstacles to reconciliation, notably the security wall around the West Bank.  The Government of Iran was urged to ensure fair administration of justice, freedom of expression and association, and the safety of minorities.  The Afghan Transitional Authority and the Afghan Human Rights Commission were encouraged to continue to address the intimidation and violence against political and civil society activists, and the issue of women’s rights.

New Zealand urged the Government of Myanmar to heed the voice of the international community, and the Government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to respect its international obligations and to allow access to independent human rights observers.  He welcomed the continued improvement in the socio-economic conditions in China, but regretted that the visit of the Special Rapporteur for Torture had again been delayed.  New Zealand also continued to urge China to expand dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to bring about a greater participation by the Tibetan people in decisions regarding their development.

He said New Zealand had been disappointed with the outcome of the East Timor Ad Hoc Human Rights Tribunals in Indonesia and hoped that the appeals process would be consistent with international legal standards.  Finally, he continued to be disturbed by reports of human rights abuses in Chechnya and Ingushetia committed by both parties to the conflict.

ISSA KONFOUROU (Mali) said one of his Government’s primary concerns was to preserve the dignity and equality of citizens before the law, with no distinctions as to race, religion, or gender.  To back the establishment of democracy, it had strengthened its mechanisms and created institutions charged especially with promoting and protecting human rights.

Mali recognized and guaranteed fundamental public freedoms, especially the freedom of opinion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, religious freedom and the right to vote.  His country had more than 30 private newspapers and more than 150 independent radio channels.

He stressed that the effective implementation of international human rights instruments hinged on stronger regional and international cooperation in the efforts to combat human rights violations.  Mali was committed and ready to make its contributions to that end.

ALI HACHANI (Tunisia) said the continued violations of human rights of people under foreign occupation were a concern for the Government of Tunisia.  The magnitude and the systematic nature of the imposed suffering of the Palestinian people required the concerted action of the international community.  Similarly, the suffering of those living in abject poverty was a concern to his Government.  Concerted and coordinated action was needed by the international community to eradicate poverty and ensure the promotion and respect of human rights.  When working towards the realization of human rights, it was important to remember that no right took precedence over others and that civil and political, and economic, social and cultural were equally important.

Concerning human rights education, he said that such initiatives played a significant role in bringing forward a culture of human rights promotion.  In this connection, he paid tribute to the mechanisms and special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights, particularly the important work of the Special Rapporteur on the freedom of religion.  Within Tunisia, reforms had been undertaken that strengthened the freedom of expression.  Activities had also been undertaken in the fields of education, health, habitat and in combating poverty and exclusion.

ELFATIH MOHAMED AHMED ERWA (Sudan) said his country had a profound interest in the universality of human rights, and the international community was duty-bound to follow the situation of human rights everywhere.  His delegation had sought to avoid politicizing human rights and applying double standards in discussions about human rights.  His Government hoped a just way of settling problems within his country would be found, as war had produced the most serious violations of human rights -- a logical outgrowth of armed conflict.  There had been major progress in peace negotiations between his Government and the liberation movement in the South, and his Government hoped steps would be taken in the right direction toward peace and the advancement of human rights.

He stressed that human rights were the pillar for attaining United Nations objectives around the world and in the fight against terror and poverty.  Sudan reaffirmed the importance of restoring a proper balance between the enjoyment of human rights for all individuals and legitimate security concerns, while respecting principles of international law.

Addressing his delegation’s concerns about freedom of religion and creed, he said the events of September 11 had a profound impact on human rights, particularly in connection with religious beliefs.  Actions had been taken to combat terrorism that had also threatened civil liberties, such as the right of migrants to asylum and the protection of human rights.  He stressed the need for dialogue and negotiations based on human rights considerations and concerns for fundamental freedoms.

Protecting the right to development required a recognition that food must not be used as a political weapon, he said, that as the right to food was indeed a fundamental right.  Too many people were suffering from hunger and malnutrition, and the numbers had risen dramatically in recent years.  He noted that more than 33 per cent of African children suffered from malnutrition.  Hunger should not be inevitable in a world where more than enough food was being produced.

KJERSTI RODSMOEN (Norway) said it was of great concern that in the name of the fight against terrorism, many countries were adopting policies, laws and practices that were having negative effects on the enjoyment of human rights.  Countries had the right and duty to protect themselves from terrorist acts, but the fight against terrorism must take place within the boundaries of international human rights and humanitarian law. 

She stressed that fighting poverty was also about promoting human rights and there was no dichotomy between development and human rights. Quality of life depended on both political liberty and economic opportunity.  Access to health care and education was essential in realizing the right to physical integrity and freedom of expression.  Empowered individuals were powerful agents of development.  Time and time again it had been seen that oppressive regimes did not foster sustainable development.

She noted the reports of Special Rapporteurs, in which it was demonstrated that it was in times of conflict and disturbance that human rights violations were most likely to occur.  Addressing human rights issues must therefore be an essential part of all conflict resolutions and peace-building efforts.  The necessity for confidence-building measures, for human rights education and support in the process of building societies based on human rights and the rule of law could not be emphasized enough.

Mr. RODUIT (Switzerland) expressed concern about the polarization and politicization present within the Commission on Human Rights and said that such attitudes threatened its credibility and authority.  Switzerland was therefore actively involved in the reform of the Commission’s working methods in order to ensure its objectivity and transparency in addressing to human rights issues.  He suggested that focus be put on geographical and thematic resolutions, in order to strengthen their impact and make them more constructive.  It would also be useful to focus more on the work of national human rights institutions during the meetings of the Commission.  These national institutions, much like non-governmental organizations, played a significant role in the promotion of human rights.

Concerning the fight against terrorism, he said that the respect of all human rights -– civil and political, economic, social and cultural –- and respect for the rule of law were necessary elements to combat and eradicate terrorism on the national and international levels.  In this context, it could be useful to promote cooperation between the Commission on Human Rights and the Security Council.  He added that the General Assembly could encourage the Commission to address this topic by the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on the respect for human rights within anti-terrorism measures and by giving more visibility to the Subcommission Special Rapporteur on terrorism and human rights by inviting her to present her report before the Third Committee.  In conclusion, he stressed the importance of involving women in human rights promotion, taking into account their particular vulnerabilities, as well as the importance of involving the private sector in the protection and promotion of human rights.

ZE’EV LURIA (Israel) said his Government recognized the growing importance of teaching the younger generation about human rights, a subject emphasized in the Secretary-General’s report on human rights education, and was deeply committed to the promotion of such education.  Israel believed that continuous development of that subject –- which included formulation and implementation of curricula appropriate for every student in the school system -– was crucial for Israeli society.  That became clear when one considered the heterogeneous nature of Israeli society, comprised of Arabs and Jews, religious and secular, persons, veteran Israelis and new immigrants from many countries.   It was particularly important in light of the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians.

In contrast to the former view that Israeli society should be a “melting pot” for the various groups of which it was composed, today the prevailing concept was multiculturalism, he said.  As part of the efforts to foster understanding between Jews and Arabs, schoolbooks were including for the first time “Palestinian Narrative”, presenting the story of the Palestinians next to the story of Zionism and the return of the Jews to their homeland.

In addition to the regular curriculum, he said the Israeli authorities ran various informal frameworks that contributed to human rights education.  One of these was the Youth and Society Administration of the Ministry of Education, which was responsible for the operation and guidance of Israel’s informal and extracurricular system.  Among its goals were education towards an era of peace in the Middle East, coexistence among the different ethnic and cultural groups who lived in Israel, fostering a democracy way of life, and narrowing socio-economic gaps.

LUIS ALBERTO AMOROS NUNEZ (Cuba) said neoliberal globalization had brought about inequality and an unjust international order, in which 20 per cent of the world’s poorest people consumed one per cent of its resources, while the 20 per cent living in developed countries used 80 per cent of global resources.  The enormous gap between the rich and the poor was not just widening between developed and developing countries, but also within the first world itself.  The right to development would be unattainable if the international community did not act firmly.  To promote and protect the rights of individuals it was necessary to overcome conditions wherein a minority of the global population had full access to the wealth of humankind.

He noted that in the various parts of the United Nations human rights machinery there was an increasing amount of political manipulation and selectivity, with some countries seeking to impose on the rest of the world their pattern and model of democracy and human rights, in order to impose their interests and domination.  They were politicizing human rights work and promoting double standards.  This unbalanced approach favoured civil and political rights to the detriment of economic, cultural and social rights and the right to development.  This politically motivated approach of rich countries in the North that were promoting their notions of democracy was slanderous towards the countries of the South.  The world could not be standardized in the image and likeness of a few countries in the North. 

MUSHTAQ VICTOR (Pakistan) said the denial of human rights bred hatred and disillusionment –- with ignorance and poverty adding fuel to the fire.  The tragic attacks of September 2001 and subsequent events represented major reversals in the promotion and protection of human rights.  Terrorism violated human rights, and State terrorism against occupied peoples was the worst form of terrorism.  Terrorism in all its forms and manifestations must be condemned, pre-empted and combated.  However, respect for human rights must remain an essential part of counter-terrorism strategy, he said.  Some States had exploited the international campaign against terrorism to justify their repression of people in areas such as Palestine and Kashmir. 

He stressed that the struggle of peoples, including armed struggle against foreign occupation, aggression and colonialism, and for self-determination, did not constitute terrorism.  The people of Jammu and Kashmir continued to be deprived of their right to self-determination and still awaiting the implementation of pledges made to them by India and the international community more than fifty-five years ago.  Over 80,000 Kashmiri men, women and children had been killed in the past 15 years; thousands had disappeared and been maimed; and many thousands remained incarcerated in jails and torture cells.  The international community must impress upon India to end its campaign of repression and seek a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute. 

He concluded that poverty was the single most significant cause of the violations of human rights.  Human rights could not be guaranteed in an environment of abject poverty and denial of the inalienable right to development.  Developing countries continued to contend with acute problems of unsustainable debt burden, reverse financial flows, unequal terms of trade and lack of market access.  The poorest countries required sustained and comprehensive assistance to achieve their goals of social advancement and economic growth as the best means of protecting human rights in these countries. 

FLORENCE A. CHENOWETH, Director, New York Liaison Office of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said Heads of State and Government at the World Food Summit: Five Years Later, held in Rome in 2002, had reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food.  In addition, they had invited the FAO Council to establish an Intergovernmental Working Group to elaborate, in a period of two years, a set of voluntary guidelines to support Member States’ efforts to achieve the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security.  Accordingly, the FAO Council had formally established the Intergovernmental Working Group, and FAO remained optimistic that the negotiations would be concluded within the allotted time frame.

However, she said there were still a number of challenges that must be overcome.  Those related in the first instance to the legal status of the right to food, which not all FAO and United Nations members recognized as a legally binding norm.  A second difficulty arose from the wording of the mandate of the Intergovernmental Working Group, to focus on “the context of national food security”.  As the FAO Assistant Director-General had stressed, in the modern, globalized world, no country was an island, and policies in one country could affect the enjoyment of the right to adequate food in another.  It was therefore difficult not to address the international dimensions of the right to adequate food in the guidelines.

She said the International Alliance Against Hunger -- a partnership among governments, food producers and consumers, community organizations, scientists, academics, religious groups, NGOs and all of society -- represented a new resolve to work together at all levels to reduce poverty and to guarantee the world’s citizens a basic human right -– freedom from hunger.

LUCA DALL’OGLIO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said that, in the context of globalization, migration and development, the role of migrants as relevant development agents had been rightly underlined.  Among other issues, it had been pointed out that the channelling of migrant’s remittances to source countries far surpassed official development assistance flows from developed countries to developing countries, and had exceeded an estimated US $80 billion in 2002.  That fact implied, perhaps paradoxically, that the most substantive contribution to the poor and low-income countries came from the most vulnerable and weaker population of the wealthiest countries –- the emigrants.  Empowering migrants represented therefore not only a moral obligation, but also an important investment for both countries of origin and destination. 

The IOM welcomed the entry into force of the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrants Workers and Members of Their Families and the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime in July and September this year respectively, he said.  Awareness raising, technical cooperation, advisory services and capacity-building would be crucial to broaden the ratification on these legal instruments and, above all, support State parties in their effective implementation.  IOM worked with governments to ensure that migration legislation and control mechanisms were compatible with international legal norms and that migrants were treated in accordance with human rights principles.  More broadly, the IOM was closely engaged in efforts to portray a more realistic picture of the contribution migrants made to host societies.  The IOM was working with media, migrants associations and civil society at large to improve the perception of migrants in recipient communities, enhance their presence and to foster their social integration and labour insertion. 

Statement in Exercise of Right of Reply

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), exercising his right of reply, said the representative of Japan continued to attempt to degrade his country by calling its name incorrectly.  He advised the representative of Japan to call his country by its official name as registered at the United Nations. 

He said his Government categorically rejected Japan’s allegations regarding the “abduction” issue.  The fundamental responsibility for the “missing” issue touted by Japan rested with Japan itself.  Referring to atrocities committed by Japan during its occupation of Korea for more than 40 years in the first half of the 20th century, he asked how one could compare such huge human casualties with only a few missing persons.  If the root cause of the “missing” issue was to be eliminated, it was logical that Japan liquidate its past crimes. 

Japan had implemented none of its commitments under the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2002, inter alia, the liquidation of its past crimes, he said.  It had unilaterally abrogated its obligations under the bilateral agreements.  For more than one year, it had detained five survivors of the “missing” persons, who had gone to Japan for a home visit for a period of 10-15 days and were supposed to come back to Pyongyang to consult with family members about their future.  If the solution of the “missing” persons issue was a top priority related to the security of the people as Japan insisted, it should send the survivors back home to Pyongyang where their family members were waiting. 

The Committee resumed its debate on human rights issues in the afternoon.

STAFFORD NEIL (Jamaica) said the effective promotion and protection of human rights must be based on balanced approaches that took into account the entire dimensions of the human person and human needs.  It was therefore essential that economic, social and cultural rights were adequately promoted alongside the fundamental civil and political rights.  Respect for cultural diversity was an integral part of ensuring balanced approaches to human rights questions.  While respect for cultural diversity must always be upheld, it must not provide a pretext for human rights violations.

As human rights activities were central to the achievement of the purpose of the United Nations, it was also imperative that the actions of the international community were guided by the principles of objectivity, non-selectivity and impartiality, he said.  To that end, every effort must be made to reject the politicization of human rights and the use of human rights questions to advance politically motivated agendas in the conduct of international relations.

He added that it was essential that the shared principles and common values articulated within the framework of international norms in the field of human rights were translated into concrete results for the benefit of the individual.  It was therefore essential to strengthen existing treaty bodies and human rights mechanisms and procedures in order to monitor the implementation of the commitments made under relevant human rights instruments.  It was also vital that reporting procedures were simplified to make them less burdensome for Member States.  Improved coordination and the standardization of reporting requirements to reduce the growing complexity of the current human rights machinery must be at the forefront of initiatives to ensure that countries with limited resources could fulfil their reporting obligations in this regard.

ANTOINE CHEDID (Lebanon) said Lebanon had throughout its history exerted great efforts to preserve and promote human rights.  It had participated actively in drawing up international legislation for human rights and believed that freedom, democracy and religious tolerance were basic human rights without which no human society could grow and prosper.  Lebanon had people who followed different religions and creeds and who practiced their beliefs with dignity and tolerance.  Mosques and churches coexisted with acceptance of each other. 

He said the right to development focused on the link between political, economic, cultural and social rights.  The right of people to live in their homeland was a basic right underscored by human rights laws.  Since 1948, Palestinian refugees had been living in refugee camps in Lebanon.  It was their basic right to return to the homeland from which they were evicted by the occupying force. Lebanon strongly rejected the nationalization of Palestinians as a violation of their human rights.  The United Nations had always recognized the right of Palestinians to return home. Lebanon condemned Israel’s continual rejection and refusal to implement Security Council resolutions, thus preventing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. 

He added that it was regrettable and shameful that the Special Rapporteur was prevented from visiting Israeli prisons to investigate the status of Lebanese detainees captured on Lebanese territory and detained in Israeli prisons in violation of their human rights. 

CHRISTIAN WENAWESER (Liechtenstein) said the reporting system under the human rights treaties was one of the core elements of United Nations human rights work, and its effectiveness should therefore be one of the principal goals of work in this area.  There was a very clear need to take practical measures to maximize the effectiveness of the system.  Practical measures could go a long way in addressing the problems that treaty bodies and States parties to conventions encountered in their work on reporting on obligations arising from human rights treaties.  An informal dialogue between treaty bodies and States parties, as well as among treaty bodies, was conducive to further progress.

He added that the treaty body system was part of the bigger picture of the human rights machinery, and the issue of resources remained a major concern in that respect.  The budget of the Office of High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) remained very seriously underfunded and it was unacceptable that one of the core activities of the Organization was to a large extent funded by voluntary contributions.  His delegation therefore hoped the General Assembly would come to the conclusion that allocating more resources to OHCHR, as well as to the Division for the Advancement of Women, would be a worthwhile investment.

GRIGORY F. LUKYANTSEV (Russian Federation) said the loss of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was a loss to the entire international community.  Defending human rights was of extreme importance to attaining the goals of the United Nations, as was technical cooperation.  Unfortunately, the work of the Third Committee and the Commission on Human Rights had been characterized by politicization and double standards.  That was not conducive to developments within human rights and played into the hands of those aiming to bring rivalry and suspicion into international relations. 

He said one of the global challenges facing the international community was terrorism.  The international community must condemn and combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.  The Russian Federation agreed that terrorism was a violation of human rights.  Given the global nature of terrorism, it must be tackled by the entire international community through a uniform approach.  One must not allow for any double standards, since terrorism could not be justified under any circumstances.  Each individual had the right to be free from fear and be protected against terrorism. 

The Russian Federation had put forward a set of measures aiming to protect human rights from terrorism, he said.  The Commission on Human Rights had welcomed that initiative, and it was hoped that the Third Committee would respond in the same manner.  In that connection, he regretted the reduced effectiveness of the Commission’s work, a development closely related to the politicization among States.

Briefly reacting to a statement made by the representative of New Zealand, he said that inaccurate information had been used when commenting on the situation of internally displaced persons in the Northern Caucasus.  The representative of New Zealand was encouraged to read the report of the Special Representative who had just completed a visit in the region.

FIDELIS E. IDOKO (Nigeria) said the Nigerian delegation recognized that terrorism posed a serious threat to international peace and security and appreciated the need to combat it in all its forms and manifestations.  However, he believed that caution must be exercised at all times to ensure that measures aimed at eliminating terrorism did not become the excuse for human rights abuses, especially in dealing with matters concerning legitimate asylum seekers, immigrant workers and visitors.  The human being, if deprived of freedom and related rights, would be stripped of humanity.  The need to guarantee human rights could therefore not be overemphasized, and a regime for that purpose was indeed imperative.

Nigeria was a federation with immense cultural, linguistic and religious diversity, he said.  This implied that the constituent states that made up the federation enjoyed considerable measures of autonomy.  That autonomy or power to make laws was enshrined in the Nigerian constitution, which could only be repealed through appropriate constitutional amendment.  That explained why some states in the country had introduced the Sharia law.  The Sharia law adopted by those states did not necessarily contradict the Nigerian constitution.  It was pertinent to mention that the accused, if found guilty, had the right to appeal to a higher court.  Amina Lawal or Rakiya Mohammed could not be stoned to death predictably because the Sharia Court of Appeal quashed the verdict of the lower court.  It was important to note that, since the introduction of Sharia in some states, no one had ever been stoned to death in Nigeria.

ALAIN EDOUARD TRAORE (Burkina Faso) said his country called for international solidarity to support young and emerging democracies and to provide them with the means to achieve their economic, social and cultural rights.  For this reason, Burkina Faso was against trade policies in the North that gave subsidies to farmers, which resulted in crushing farmers in the South. 

He stressed that the countries of Africa needed solidarity to defend their rights and interests that were constantly threatened.  Burkina Faso had proposed the holding of a special meeting of heads of States in 2004 to discuss strategies to fight poverty.  There could be no development without stability.  In this regard, his Government welcomed the relative calm that had come about.  However, there were still pockets of conflict that continued to be harmful to human rights. Burkina Faso was especially concerned about civilians, many of them women and children, who continued to suffer in Côte d’Ivoire as a result of armed conflict.  His country called on all protagonists to engage in dialogue to resolve their differences. 

He said Burkina Faso saluted the efforts of the United Nations, African Union and all organizations working toward a lasting peace and the defence and promotion of human rights.  For more than a decade his country had been dedicated to enshrining the rule of law and guaranteeing equality for women and men before the law.  Democracy required the protection of the enjoyment of all human rights.  However, Burkina Faso would not tolerate any actions that endangered its national unity and territorial integrity. 

KYUNG-WHA KANG (Republic of Korea) said she was encouraged by the growing interaction between human rights and development activities in the United Nations system.  That human rights, democracy and development were interdependent and mutually reinforcing was a lesson that her country had learned, not without trial and error and sometimes with pain, through its own experience in socio-economic growth and democratization.  Development devoid of advances for human rights and democracy could not be sustained.  Human rights, in turn, could not thrive where the dignity of the human person was not guaranteed in the face of poverty, starvation, underdevelopment and disease.

She said that the interplay between human rights and development was made clear by the problem of human trafficking.  Fighting trafficking in persons, especially women and children, was high on the human rights agenda of the Republic of Korea.  The Government continued to strengthen measures to provide protection and assistance to the victims of domestic as well as cross-border trafficking, and to toughen the penalties against the perpetrators.  She also stressed that human rights continued to suffer in many corners of the world, and that Governments had the primary responsibility in promoting and protecting the human rights of their citizens.

To promote and protect human rights, the Commission on Human Rights and its special procedures must continue to actively carry out the work of revealing patterns of human rights violation and working with governments to redress those situations, she said.  The Republic of Korea continued to enhance the standards by which human rights were upheld in various sectors of society.  The current focus was on strengthening protection for vulnerable groups and weeding out discriminatory elements in the laws.

MARIJA ANTONIJEVIC (Serbia and Montenegro) said that most of the present day challenges faced by the international community, such as violent conflicts and terrorism were inextricably linked with the enjoyment of human rights.  That was why the promotion and protection of human rights should constitute a major element in conflict prevention activities.  The sharp increase in terrorist attacks in recent years had brought about a new dilemma –- how to effectively combat that evil while fully respecting the internationally recognized human rights standards.  The fight against terrorism should not result in a departure from established international norms and principles, she said.

The main responsibility for ensuring and protecting human rights rested with States, she continued, and a clear political commitment in that respect was essential.  Today, the Government of Serbia and Montenegro was seeking to strengthen the human and minority rights situation within the country and to establish democracy and the rule of law.  It had ratified all fundamental international human rights instruments and had undertaken legislative measures aimed at their implementation.

Nevertheless, the progress achieved in her country had been overshadowed by the dire situation of human rights in the Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija where non-Albanian communities in the province still faced persecution, lack of freedom of movement and discrimination in the enjoyment of economic and social rights.  Without the substantial improvement in the situation of the non-Albanian communities in Kosovo and Metohija, the prospects of long-term stability in the province remained slim, she said.  The responsibility in that regard rested clearly on the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) and Provisional Institutions of Self-Government.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer of Palestine said any assessment of human rights violations against Palestinians must be made in the context of foreign occupation. Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands was a brutal and cruel form of colonization.  Palestinian refugees had endured great injustices and hardships for more than 50 years and continued to be deprived of basic human and national rights.  Since September 2000, Israel’s war crimes, State terrorism and systematic human rights violations against Palestinians had continued unabated.  More than 2,600 Palestinians had been killed and another 40,000 seriously injured.  Israeli occupying forces continued to destroy homes, property, road infrastructure, and water and electricity networks in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.

The separation wall under construction further restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement and access to health and education, and resulted in the illegal seize of Palestinian property, she continued.  Only by ending the occupation and the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land would Palestinians be granted their basic and fundamental human rights, including the creation of a Palestinian State, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Israel could not be allowed to continue committing serious violations and grave breaches with impunity.

PRAVIT CHAIMONGKOL (Thailand) stressed the interdependence of all types of rights.  Specifically, he said people could not truly enjoy civil and political rights if their rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health services, were not respected.  Similarly, people who were living in societies characterized by discrimination and torture could not really benefit from the fruits of development.  Therefore, the promotion and protection of human rights should be extended to all sectors of society, especially those experiencing marginalization.  And development efforts must benefit all people, including disabled persons.

Noting that the State should be held responsible for both development and human rights promotion, he said that, for its part, his Government was implementing programmes dealing with universal access to health care, increased job opportunities, and broader access to the Internet.  It was also promoting human rights education through its national plan of action.  The international community could contribute by helping countries strengthen their national capacities to enhance awareness of human rights and democracy.  It could also open markets in order to facilitate trade and investment and thereby encourage international economic development.

Regarding the United Nations, he pledged his country’s support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  However, he also called for a streamlining of the Organization’s work in that area.  His delegation had co-sponsored resolutions on human rights defenders, and had invited the Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders to visit Thailand.  During the Special Representative’s trip, she had met with the heads of independent human rights institutions, as well as with the Prime Minister and high-ranking Government officials, and his country had thus demonstrated its determination to uphold its reputation as an open and tolerant society.

PUREVJAV GANSUKH (Mongolia) said that over the past years, efforts had been made by the international community to promote human rights.  However, in a number of cases there had been no notable progress.  The international community must therefore continue and intensify efforts to protect human rights to strengthen the rule of law and promote democracy at both national and international levels. 

He said the Ulaanbaatar Declaration and Plan of Action on Democracy, Good Governance and Civil Society adopted last September at the Fifth International Conference of New or Restored Democracies provided for a number of measures towards protecting and promoting human rights that would greatly contribute to strengthening and consolidating democratic processes and protecting and promoting human rights around the world.  One of the important provisions of the Declaration was related to setting up and strengthening national institutions and mechanisms to ensure that basic democratic principles and human rights were fully respected and guaranteed. 

An important issue was also the harmonization of national legislation with international human rights instruments and their effective implementation.  Continued efforts had been made by Member States to give full effect to the human rights treaties within their respective jurisdiction, he said.  In Mongolia, an intensive process of legislative change had taken place to ensure the consistency of national law with international standards.  Next year, the fifth parliamentary elections would be held in Mongolia.  The previous four elections had been recognized as free and fair, serving as testimony of further consolidation of democratic norms and institutions in his country. 

AMARE TEKLE (Eritrea) said his country’s constitution had clear provisions on political and civil rights, as well as economic, social and cultural rights.  Since independence, Eritrean development policy had been informed by the conviction that an informed and productive population was a sine-qua-non for the creation of a national social order that would protect and promote the realization of the rights and freedoms enunciated in its constitution. 

He said it was encouraging that the international community had recognized the inextricable link between human rights, peace and development as well as the need for a holistic approach that ensured that development issues were broadly defined.  His delegation believed there was a dialectical relationship between human rights, peace and development.  Peace was a precondition for rehabilitation, reconstruction and prosperity. 

He called on the Committee to consider the human rights consequences of Ethiopia’s rejection of the decision of the Boundary Commission, which was threatening to derail the peace process.  The Security Council had declared that Ethiopia must obey the decisions of the Boundary Commission.  The people of Ethiopia had as much right as the Eritrean people to peace and development.  The international community must not sit idle as both peoples were denied these rights, because of Ethiopia’s rejection of the Boundary Commission’s decision and its violation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Algiers Agreements. 

CELESTINO MIGLIORE, Observer of the Holy See, said that among the fundamental freedoms of every human being was the freedom of religion.  This freedom lay at the foundation of the edifice of human rights because it affected the primordial relationship of the human being with the Creator.  A right social order required that all, as individuals and as communities, should be able to profess their religious faith and conviction with full respect for others.  Religious freedom contributed decisively to develop citizens, who were genuinely free and helped them fulfil their duties with greater responsibility. 

In some countries, manifestations of religious intolerance still existed in serious prohibitions to religious instruction of children and young people, restrictions in the concession of visas to religious personnel, lack of freedom in the use of mass media, denial of permits to build new places of worship, hate propaganda and violence against religious minorities.  He stressed that every violation of religious freedom, whether overt or concealed, did fundamental damage to the cause of peace.  The Holy See hoped that the international community would continue to safeguard the freedom of individuals and of communities to profess and practice their religion as an essential tool to foster peaceful human coexistence. 

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For information media. Not an official record.