Fifty-ninth General Assembly
28th & 29th Meetings (AM & PM)
IN THIRD COMMITTEE, HUMAN RIGHTS EXPERTS URGE STRONGER ACTION
BY INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY TO COUNTER VIOLATIONS
Draft Resolution Approved on UN Literary Decade,
Honour Crimes, UN African Institute for Crime Prevention
Top United Nations experts on human rights today urged stronger action by the international community to counter human rights violations in Afghanistan, the occupied Palestinian territories, Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and on human rights abuses suffered by migrants, as the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continued its second day of dialogue with Special Rapporteurs and independent experts on human rights.
Also today, the Third Committee adopted three resolutions without votes. The first, concerning the United Nations Literacy Decade would have the General Assembly appeal to all governments to develop reliable literacy data and information and to reinforce political will and mobilize national resources to achieve the goals of the Decade.
The second text, adopted as amended, on the elimination of crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour, would have the Assembly call upon States to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour and to investigate, prosecute and documents cases of such crimes and to punish the perpetrators.
The third text, also adopted as amended, on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, would have the Assembly call upon Member States and non-governmental organizations to adopt concrete practical measures to support the Institute and request the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to mobilize all relevant entities of the United Nations system to provide necessary financial and technical support to the Institute.
Cherif Bassiouni, Independent Expert of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, emphasized the critical need to improve the security situation in that country, which he said continued to be dominated by a military power of warlords and local commanders who were linked to drug producers and traffickers. He said the situation continued to have a grave impact on human rights and on the stability of the country and required the urgent attention and assistance of the international community.
He also called on the international community to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan to consider the most effective ways for international forces to improve the security situation throughout Afghanistan. He noted the situation of detainees in military bases under the control of the Coalition Forces who were being held in prison facilities, where there had been allegations of mistreatment. The Coalition Forces had denied him access into these facilities and he called on the Third Committee and the Commission on Human Rights to send a strong message to the Coalition Forces to allow independent experts and Special Rapporteurs to visit and investigate conditions in those prisons.
John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said Israel’s conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories posed the same kind of threat to the credibility of international human rights that apartheid in South Africa had posed in the 1970s and 1980s. Systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law had occurred in the territories, and they had been committed, not by uncontrolled militias, but by one of the most disciplined and sophisticated armies in the modern world, directed by a stable and disciplined Government.
He stressed that in the absence of Security Council action, it was incumbent upon regional organizations, especially the European Union, to apply pressure to Israel to ensure respect for human rights in compliance with the international law. He recalled the economic sanctions imposed by individual States on South Africa during the apartheid years, when Britain, the United States and France had exercised vetoes to prevent economic sanctions from being imposed on South Africa. He said civil society could also bring pressure to bear on companies to cease doing business with Israel.
Gabriela Rodriguez Pizarro, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said there was a need for effective cooperation between States to better manage migratory flows. She stressed that the phenomenon of migration involved structural problems that could not be solved through short-term or unilateral measures. She called for the development of migratory policies in accordance with international law and human rights.
Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said he had not been granted access to Myanmar since November 2003, but the information he had received during the reporting period indicated that the situation regarding the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Myanmar had not substantially changed, and might have even worsened.
In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there had been various discrepancies and transgressions in the implementation of human rights, said Vitit Muntarbhorn, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country. Related to the right to food, there were continued debates as to how much of the food aid from abroad was actually reaching the target population and to what extent it was being diverted for other clandestine uses. Random checks by foreign humanitarian organizations were still not permitted by the national authorities. There were also many reports from a variety of sources about prisons and detention centres that were below international standards, aggravated by poor law enforcement and malpractices, including detention without access to credible courts. He urged the international community to influence the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to abide by the four human rights treaties to which it was party, to reform the administration of justice, and to ensure that humanitarian assistance, including food aid, reached target groups.
Titinga Frederic Pacere, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, emphasized the ongoing crimes and human rights violations which were being committed with impunity in that country. There was no means to properly investigate and punish crimes, and there was an urgent need for international jurisdiction. He stressed that unless impunity was dealt with, there would never be peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He recommended the creation of an international criminal tribunal to deal with the series of crimes and massacres that had taken place during the last 10 years, and which would go unpunished if it were left up to the International Criminal Court.
Also today the Committee continued its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler.
Following each of today’s presentations, delegations had the opportunity to engage in question-and-answer sessions with the Special Rapporteur or Independent Expert. Participating in those dialogues were the representatives of Afghanistan, Canada, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), China, Costa Rica, United States, Peru, Senegal, Indonesia, Israel, Switzerland, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Togo, India, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Cambodia, Republic of Korea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Observer for Palestine also participated in the dialogues.
Also this afternoon, the representative of Egypt introduced a resolution concerning the rights of Palestinian children entitled “The situation of and assistance to Palestinian children”.
The Third Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 29 October, to continue its dialogues with Special Rapporteurs on human rights.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its consideration of questions of human rights. It was expected to hear presentations by, and hold dialogues with, the following special procedures of the Commission on Human Rights: the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants (presenting her report contained in document A/59/377); the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 (presenting his report contained in document A/59/256); the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (presenting his report contained in document A/59/370); the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (presenting his report contained in document A/59/269); the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (presenting his report contained in document A/59/316); and the Independent Expert on the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (presenting his report contained in document A/59/367).
The Committee was also expected to continue its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. For additional information on his presentation, please see Press Release GA/SHC/3793 of 27 October.
The Committee was also expected to take action on draft resolutions related to the United Nations Literary Decade: education for all (A/C.3/59/L.15/Rev.1); Crime prevention and criminal justice (A/C.3/59/L.21); and Advancement of women (A/C.3/59/L.25).
Statement by Expert on Human Rights in Afghanistan
M.CHERIF BASSIOUNI, Independent Expert of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, presented his first interim report since his appointment by the Commission in April 2004. He said the report was based on research undertaken since his appointment and on consultations held during a mission to Afghanistan in August 2004.
He said that while President Karzai was firmly committed to the advancement of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Afghanistan, it was important to keep in mind that the country had come out of 23 years of war, which was posing serious difficulties and many challenges to overcome. One of the most significant problems was the security situation, characterized by the domination of a military power of warlords and local commanders and their links to drug producers and traffickers, whose economic power was increasing. This situation continued to have a grave impact on human rights and on the stability of the country.
He called on the international community to work closely with the Government of Afghanistan to consider the most effective ways for international forces to improve the security situation throughout Afghanistan. He noted the situation detainees who had been detained illegally for almost 30 months and said the conditions of prisons in the hands of the Afghan Government were very troublesome and required international assistance. He stressed that the Government did not have adequate resources to address this problem, and without international support the problems would not be resolved.
Also problematic was the situation of detainees under the control of the Coalition Forces in Bagram, Kandahar, and other military bases, which the Coalition Forces did not grant him permission to visit. He called on the Third Committee and the Commission on Human Rights to send a strong message to the Coalition Forces to allow independent experts and special rapporteurs access into those prison facilities, where there had been allegations of mistreatment.
He said there was a critical need to address the problems of women and children being held in detention. International support was also needed to help resolve land disputes and housing shortages faced by the millions of returning refugees and internally displaced people.
He said his report emphasized the need for Afghanistan to proceed along the lines of transitional or post-conflict justice, with the participation of a strengthened civil society and the support of the international community. The people of Afghanistan were weary of the conflict of the past 23 years and were eager to advance towards a democracy governed by the rule of law and the observance of human rights. He stressed the need for greater engagement and assistance of the international community to advance the transition process and stabilize the security situation.
Dialogue with Independent Expert on Afghanistan
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with the Independent Expert were the representatives of Afghanistan, Canada, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), China, Costa Rica, and the United States.
First to address comments and questions towards the Independent Expert, the representative of Afghanistan said his country continued to progress towards democracy and the rule of law, and welcomed the work of the Independent Expert on behalf of the country. However, he wished to note that the Independent Expert’s report seemed to be more politically- than legally-oriented. It labelled, as a pattern of systemic human rights abuse throughout the country, a number of crimes that occurred in all societies, as well as tribal crimes not prevalent throughout the territory. The report also failed to adequately differentiate between internal and external conflict; neither the Soviet Army invasion nor that of the Taliban/Al-Qaida should be characterized as internal conflicts.
The Independent Expert, he added, had used the pejorative term “warlord” to reference signatories of the Bonn Agreement, and had accused the international community of legitimizing such individuals by inviting them to participate in the new Government. The United Nations brokered peace in Afghanistan had been one of the great successes of the Organization in the new millennium. His country remained fully aware of the magnitude of the challenges it confronted and would continue to make steady progress in disarming, demobilizing, reintegrating and stabilizing society.
In response to those comments and others, Mr. BASSIOUNI said that, in examining the situation of a country like Afghanistan –- which had emerged from 23 years of war, both internal conflict and external aggression –- it was essential to look at the entire picture. It was unrealistic to expect such a country to resolve, in a relatively short time, all of its economic, social, cultural and political problems. Instead, progress would be a process of gradual accretion.
It would be essential to prioritize areas of concern, he acknowledged, but there were no mutually exclusive strategies to be adopted. All progress would be self-reinforcing. Yet, some areas must immediately be redressed. Thus, it had been promising to see President Karzai release the detainees that had been transferred from prison facilities in the north of the country. He had not had the time to investigate the situation fully, but as he understood it, the detainees had been taken by the Northern Alliance between September and October 2001. The extent to which the Coalition might have worked with the Alliance was unclear, but there had been allegations of individuals dying from suffocation in container trucks or as part of an uprising. He had acted, immediately upon hearing about the situation, to request the Government to affect their release, which had occurred in August.
He had also visited the facilities, in which the detainees had been held, he said. He did not wish his comments to be taken as accusation or indictment of the Government, but when he did see inadequate prison conditions, he must conclude that human rights were being at least minimally violated. The problem had arisen from a lack of resources, but a critique must balance between a recognition of that lack and the need to raise awareness.
Regarding human rights violations against women and children, he said those were solvable problems. The Government, through President Karzai, had promised to pass a law prohibiting the gifting of young girls as payment of blood money. That should serve as the first step in eliminating the problem. The second must be for the Government to work to change such traditional practices, an area in which more significant efforts must be expended by both the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to combat such practices.
On trafficking in children, he noted that the Government had already prohibited the practice. It must now undertake a nation-wide campaign to sensitize the public on this issue. The decision to prioritize the issue of child abductions as a priority must be taken by the Ministries of the Interior and Justice. Given the limitation on their resources, the national police and prosecution could only focus on priorities, while other, less serious, issues fell off the radar screen. Those issues had not yet been sufficiently prioritized.
There must be a comprehensive plan to improve the law enforcement and judicial system in the country. He said the training of judges and police could not be accomplished in isolation from other issues, such as reconstruction of the judicial system’s infrastructure.
Placing the violation of human rights in Afghanistan in context, he said, it meant realizing that, as a result of wars, a large number of persons had been displaced. Some had become refugees in Pakistan and Iran, and some had been internally displaced within Afghanistan. As these individuals returned, they returned to villages where they were no longer welcome; they returned to find others living in their homes and on their lands; they returned home to a different power reality. Whatever one called them, individuals controlling large numbers of armed men ruled more effectively than the Government in many parts of Afghanistan. Returnees unable to resume their old lives often found themselves obliged to work for these local commanders and armed groups, often in the labour-intensive cultivation of the opium poppy.
The reality of the situation, he continued, was that the individuals controlling opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan controlled some 100,000 men armed with sophisticated weapons, while the Government army numbered only 10,000. The resultant military-economic imbalance had immediately led to violations of human rights, as the Government was simply unable to deal with them. Thus, many of the serious violations of human rights being perpetrated against refugees and returnees derived from this military-economic imbalance. The only means of redressing the situation was for the international community to engage further with the Government to support its efforts.
Another example of the negative impact of the military-economic imbalance would arise from the lack of a central banking system in Afghanistan, he added. Given the prevalence of the drug trade, control over the economy would devolve into the hands of those with drug income.
In conclusion, he noted that the appointment of an Independent Expert had been delayed for more than a year. If the international community and United Nations had viewed Afghanistan as a priority, their hesitation was unconscionable. He also wished to draw attention to the lack of resources provided to him for his work; only his own means had enabled him to compile the report. He would do his best to compile a comprehensive report based on his limited resources, he assured the Committee. His focus would be to highlight problems on which the international community and donor community must become more engaged.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Migrants
GABRIELA RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO, Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, said that a central part of her work had focused on “fracture zones”. She had visited the United States, Mexico, Canada, Ecuador, Spain, Morocco, Italy, Peru, the Philippines and Iran. During those visits she had examined the phenomenon of mixed migration, the living conditions of refugees and an increase in migratory pressures and problems linked to migrants and human trafficking. Greater efficiency in the control and deportation of undocumented immigrants required the collaboration of authorities in the countries of origin.
She said she had received information regarding human rights violations against migrants, including arbitrary arrests, torture and abuse during detention, and deaths due to excessive use of force during detention. She was particularly concerned by cases involving women and unaccompanied minors. Also of great concern was the vulnerability of migrant workers who were subjected to abusive working conditions, sometimes tantamount to slavery. Many women migrants faced unacceptable living and working conditions and children of those women often suffered abuse by their guardians. Such conditions prevailed as a result of a lack of regulation pertaining to migrant workers.
Regarding good practices, she said there were many regional procedures dealing with migratory management and there was a need for effective cooperation between States to better manage migratory flows. She noted regional initiatives in Africa, South America, Europe and Asia, and commended programmes providing assistance to migrant workers. She stressed that the phenomenon of migration involved structural problems that could not be solved through short-term or unilateral measures. She called for the development of migratory policies in accordance with international law and human rights.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Migrants
Participating in the subsequent question-and-answer session with the Special Rapporteur were the representatives of Peru, Senegal, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Costa Rica, and Indonesia.
In response to their questions, Ms. RODRIGUEZ PIZARRO said she remained greatly concerned about the situation of migrants. Approximately 180 to 200 million individuals were migrants, globally, and the phenomenon continued to grow. Furthermore, in a number of regions, individuals not granted refugee status had been treated as irregular and illegal migrants.
On future directions for her mandate, she recalled the entry into force of the Convention on Migrants, and said there was a clear link between her mandate and the Convention. Other areas for focus included helping States to harmonize their national legislation with international obligations, so as to enable Member States to fulfil their commitments, not just under the Convention on Migrants, but also under the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols.
Harnessing synergies between the many initiatives currently being undertaken in the area of migrants’ rights required seeing the issue holistically, she stressed. The approach adopted by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) or the World Bank regarding migrant remittances should not be separate. It would also be important to make synergies transnational and regional in nature.
Regarding migrants working in the informal sector, she said her mandate was to request information from governments once allegations of abuse of the human rights of such migrants had been received. Typically, such migrants were women working as domestic help in wealthy households.
Other important issues to be addressed included the need to ensure adequate training of law enforcement and border officers in countries of destination, especially concerning returning illegal migrants. There must also be greater attention to the issue of trafficking as an aspect of transnational organized crime.
Countries of destination must share responsibility for returned illegal migrants with countries of origin, she concluded. Many such migrants lacked documentation, which made it difficult for receiving countries to document their return. The consular services of both countries must work together.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on the Occupied PalestinianTerritories
JOHN DUGARD, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, said Israel’s conduct in the occupied Palestinian territories posed the same kind of threat to the credibility of international human rights that apartheid had posed in the 1970s and 1980s. Gross, egregious and systematic violations of human rights and international humanitarian law had occurred in the territories. They had been committed, not by undisciplined and uncontrolled militias, but by one of the most disciplined and sophisticated armies in the modern world, directed by a stable and disciplined Government.
Israel’s construction of the separation wall, he recalled, had been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. However, Israel had made no move to respond to the Court’s direction to dismantle the wall, nor had construction halted. Unfortunately, Israel’s assaults on Gaza had drawn attention away from its refusal to comply with the Court’s advisory opinion.
The wall construction had had serious consequences, he said. It had consolidated and encouraged illegal Israeli settlements by including them within the “closed zone” –- the area between the wall and the “Green Line” boundary between Palestine and Israel. Settlements had grown rapidly; inevitably, the approval of settlements had given rise to settler violence against Palestinians -– violence for which the State of Israel retained responsibility.
The wall had resulted in seizures of Palestinian land, he added, including in East Jerusalem. The wall’s construction around Greater Jerusalem had led to the enclosure of settlements and Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem, and would lead to some 60,000 Palestinians being denied access to schools, hospitals and employment. The wall greatly impeded freedom of movement, as Palestinians living on the West Bank side of the wall had been denied access to their lands in the “closed zone”, unless in possession of a permit. Such permits were frequently withheld and the gates granting access to the “closed zone” were arbitrarily administered and frequently remained unopened at scheduled times. The permit system could be likened to the “pass laws” of apartheid, he concluded. Yet, unlike the apartheid system, which had been administered in a brutal but uniform manner, the wall regime had been characterized by arbitrariness and inconsistency.
The wall had not been designed to achieve security alone, he stated. That would have been accomplished by building it along the “Green Line” or within Israeli territory. Rather, its construction aimed to seize land for present and future settlers for the State of Israel. It also appeared to have been designed to cause an exodus of Palestinians from areas adjacent to the wall. The migration into what remained of Palestine had already begun.
As for Gaza, he stressed that Israel had pursued a scorched earth policy during the past year, with Rafah, Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya all experiencing the might of the Israeli army, and its large-scale wanton and purposeless destruction. Over the past four years, 10 per cent of the population of Gaza had been rendered homeless by the actions of the Israeli Defence Forces. Bulldozers had dug up roads, electricity, sewage and water lines. Force had been used disproportionately and excessively, with a total lack of concern for those affected. Most of those killed and injured had been civilians.
Gaza was a prison, he concluded, and its inhabitants prisoners of Israel. Even if Israel withdrew its settlements from Gaza, it would remain subject to Israeli control. Therefore, it was important for the international community to make clear Israel’s responsibility to uphold its obligations concerning Gaza under the Fourth Geneva Convention in respect of Gaza clear.
Israel had genuine and legitimate security concerns, he acknowledged. However, the State had taken advantage of the paranoia about non-State terrorism to unleash a reign of State terrorism in the occupied Palestinian territory. In the process, it had brought into contempt the entire United Nations Charter-system, which had been premised on prohibition of the use of force, self-determination, human rights and respect for the rule of law.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Occupied Palestinian
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 heard comments and questions from Israel, Switzerland, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Egypt, Libya, Syria, United States, Lebanon, and Jordan. The Observer for Palestine also spoke.
The representative of Israel said it had emphasized for more than a decade the problematic nature of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, which examined only one side of the conflict and prejudged key issues. The most recent report, like previous reports, lacked context and balance and distorted the facts. By misrepresenting a complex conflict, the report ran counter to the stated goals of the Untied Nations. It was impossible for a reasonable observer to fairly assess the current situation without fully viewing the context of violence and terror that had killed not only Palestinians, but more than 1,000 Israelis, and had wounded more than 6,000.
The challenge faced by Israel was how best to protect its citizens, he said. How could one fight terrorist organizations that had no respect for life or the law? The Road Map had imposed obligations on both sides, focusing in its first clauses on the Palestinian duty to end terrorism and violence. Yet, the Special Rapporteur has refused to consider these factors in his reports. Without such a background and context, it was impossible to fairly judge whether any defensive measures taken by Israel were proportional or met the requirements of international humanitarian law.
Israel’s security fence was a temporary, non-violent defensive measure taken to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities and population centres, he said. By ignoring the dangers faced by Israel, the only cause that was supported was the myth that only one side had responsibilities, and only one side had rights. Such a myth was incompatible with the Road Map and with the true spirit of international law and diplomacy.
Responding to the comments and questions posed by representatives, Mr. DUGARD said the Israeli Supreme Court had played an important role in advancing human rights in the occupied territories. He noted that in one case it had handed down a monumental decision finding that the wall caused disproportionate suffering to the Palestinian people. There was a great correlation between that opinion and that held by the International Court of Justice. He added that he was encouraged by reports that the Israeli Government was reconsidering its position regarding the applicability and Forth Geneva convention. He noted with concern the situation of 6,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons, many of whom were children and women. He called on the international community to provide support to Palestinian prisoners.
Regarding the construction of the wall, the International Court of Justice had said the wall was unlawful, and in the absence of Security Council action, States should do their best to pressure Israel to acknowledge the illegality of the wall. He noted that many Israeli products exported to Europe came from its settlements and was a matter that required further attention. The wall had contributed to the economic decline of the Palestinian population. It had seriously aggravated the economic situation and had a grave impact on the social life of Palestinians. In certain areas shops had closed, and people had moved out because of a lack of access to essential services on the other side of wall. There had already been serious restrictions on the freedom of movement as a result of checkpoints. The added restrictions on movement resulting from the wall required the urgent attention of the international community.
He stressed that in the absence of Security Council pressure, it was incumbent upon regional organizations, especially the European Union, to apply pressure to Israel to ensure respect for human rights in compliance with international law. He recalled the economic sanctions imposed by individual States on South Africa during the apartheid years, when Britain, the United States and France had exercised vetoes to prevent economic sanctions from being imposed on South Africa. He said civil society could also bring pressure to bear on companies to cease doing business with Israel.
Responding to the comments of the representative of Israel, he said it was the customary strategy of Israel to attack the Special Rapporteur for drawing attention to the situation in the Palestinian occupied territories. He was aware of Israel’s security needs, but Israel had responded in a disproportionate and excessive manner to terrorist bombings. What was significant about the Israeli representative’s comments was that he had made no mention of the decision of the International Court of Justice about the illegality of the wall, and no mention of occupation. Those were the two principal issues that must be addressed by Israel.
He clarified that he was not drawing comparisons between apartheid in South Africa and the State of Israel. He was calling attention to the similarities between apartheid in South Africa and the occupation of Palestine. It was the occupation that was responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The Israeli representative had made no reference to the ruling of the International Court of Justice that the wall is unlawful and that Israel was obliged by law to dismantle it.
As for the Road Map, the Road Map was dead, and it was dead largely as a result of Israel’s failure to take action against settlements. It was a positive step that Israel was withdrawing settlements in Gaza, but settlements in the West Bank were expanding rapidly. He objected to the violence that seemed to accompany the withdrawal from Gaza and to the Israeli Government’s intention to maintain control over the Gaza Strip even after withdrawal of the settlements.
The Special Rapporteur emphasized his recommendation that all States must do their utmost to ensure that the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion was respected, and bring pressure to bear upon Israel to end the occupation. Pressure should also be brought to bear upon both parties to resume negotiations.
Although the Israeli Government did not recognize his mandate, he said, there had been no difficulty in implementing it.
Commenting directly upon the questions asked by the United States and to that country’s position on the Middle East, in response to the United States representative’s allegation that he had been unbalanced in his reporting, he said he had never claimed his report to be perfect. It had been based upon visits to the region, and discussions with its inhabitants. Unfortunately, he had been unable to meet with members of the Israeli Government, as it had refused to recognize his mandate. Such meetings might have helped to “balance” his report.
He agreed with the United Nations that there must be a negotiated settlement to the conflict, but felt it was deplorable that Israel claimed not to have a negotiating partner. Even more deplorable was the United States’ failure to bring power to bear upon Israel to resume the negotiations. For the last year, the United States administration had had its eye on the national elections and had failed in its responsibility in regarding of bringing peace to the Middle East.
As for the applicability of the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, he noted that the judges had ruled 14 to one, and that even the United States judge had made findings on the unlawfulness of the wall’s construction. As the highest legal body of the United Nations system, the Court must be shown more respect.
The United States should be part of the solution in the Middle East, he concluded, yet at present it remained part of the problem. The failure of the United States to exercise any leadership role in the Middle East was one of the reasons for the deplorable situation there. Both sides looked to the United States for leadership –- as did the entire world –- and no one was fulfilling that leadership burden. He hoped the United States delegation would convey those sentiments to the State Department.
Following Mr. Dugard’s comments, the representative of Israel said it was not true that his Government did not support the United Nations Special Rapporteurs. It did not support biased Rapporteurs nor their reports, he clarified. Mr. Bassiouni had today instructed the Committee as to the complexity of such conflict situations and the need to progress gradually. His had been an unbiased report. To hear Mr. Dugard speak of a 10 per cent destruction in Gaza was baseless. To hear him claim that, while there had been a significant reduction in barriers and roadblocks in the West Bank, those remaining were aimed at humiliating the Palestinian population was biased. He would have expected the Special Rapporteur to have the courage to acknowledge that the reduction in roadblocks was the direct result of the security fence’s construction.
Israel had not wanted to build the fence, he concluded. If there had been no terror, there would have been no fence. The State would comply fully with the ruling of its Supreme Court, he stressed. Finally, to hear the Special Rapporteur refer to the Road Map as dead was inappropriate to the present forum.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
At the top of its afternoon session, the representative of Egypt introduced a draft resolution on the situation of and assistance to Palestinian children (A/C.3/59/L.28), recalling that the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories had continued to deteriorate in the past year. This had especially impacted the children of the territories, who remained among the most vulnerable segments of society. Overall, the text emphasized the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of all children in the region and called upon the international community to ameliorate the dire humanitarian crisis faced by Palestinian children. A consensus adoption of the text would do much to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian children.
Action on Literacy, Crime Prevention and Advancement of Women
Also this afternoon, the Third Committee took action on three draft resolutions related to the United Nations Literacy Decade, the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders and the elimination of crimes committed in the name of honour.
The text on the United Nations Literacy Decade (document A/C.3/59/L.15/Rev.1), adopted without a vote, would have the General Assembly appeal to all Governments to develop reliable literacy data and information and to reinforce political will, mobilize national resources, develop more inclusive policy-making and devise innovative strategies to achieve the goals of the Decade. Governments would be urged to take the lead in coordinating the activities of the Decade at the national level.
The text would further appeal to all governments and to economic and financial organizations and institutions, both national and international, to lend greater financial and material support to efforts to increase literacy, and invite Member States, the specialized agencies and other organizations of the United Nations system, as well as relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, to intensify their efforts effectively to implement the International Plan of Action for the Decade.
Making a statement on the draft on crimes committed in the name of honour, before its adoption, the representative of the United Kingdom said the text had first been introduced at the United Nations to raise awareness on a form of violence, which was underreported and about which little had been known. Given the occurrence of such crimes in their countries, the United Kingdom and Turkey had felt it incumbent upon them to take on sponsorship of the text in order to raise awareness and set out actions to be taken to combat the phenomenon.
The text on Working towards elimination of crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour (document A/C.3/59/L.25), was approved without a vote, and as orally amended, would have the General Assembly express its concern that women continue to be victims of crimes committed in the name of honour, and at the continuing occurrence in all regions of the world of such violence. States would be called upon to continue to intensify efforts to prevent and eliminate crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour and to investigate, prosecute and document cases of such crimes and to punish the perpetrators, and to intensify efforts to raise awareness of the need to prevent and eliminate them. The international community would be invited to support the efforts of all countries to strengthen the institutional capacity for preventing crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour.
In a statement after the resolution’s adoption, the representative of Costa Rica endorsed the statement made by the United Kingdom, but cautioned that the text’s reference to sexual reproductive health could in no way be interpreted as including the issue of abortion. Costa Rica maintained that human life was inviolable.
Also speaking after the text’s adoption, the representative of the United States said her delegation remained firmly committed to eradicating honour crimes. Provisions had been put in place in the United States to assist potential victims of honour crimes; in some circumstances, they could qualify for asylum or refugee status. However, in joining the consensus, she wished to reiterate that the paragraph calling upon States to provide health care services, including reproductive health, should not be interpreted to refer to abortion in any way.
The text on the United Nations African Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (document A/C.3/59/L.21), approved without a vote and as orally amended, would have the General Assembly urge the States members of the Institute to make every possible effort to meet their obligations under the Institute. It would also call upon MemberStates and non-governmental organizations to adopt concrete practical measures to support the Institute and request the Secretary-General to intensify efforts to mobilize all relevant entities of the United Nations system to provide the necessary financial and technical support to the Institute. It would also call upon the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme and the United Nations International Drug Control Programme to work closely with the Institute.
Resumed Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
Participating in a question-and-answer session with the Jean Ziegler, Special Rapporteur on the right to food, resumed from yesterday afternoon, were the representatives of Togo, China, and India.
In response to their questions and comments, Mr. ZIEGLER agreed that it was the allocation of food resources in the world, not their production, which posed a problem. Enough food was produced annually to nourish 12 billion people –- humanity comprised only 6.2 billion individuals. The market alone could not provide for a just distribution of food; the right to food must be realized in order to resolve problems related to undernourishment.
On sanctions, he said he understood that Togo had suffered due to sanctions, imposed primarily by the European Union. He had not referenced those sanctions in his report due to limitations of space. However, he had opposed the embargo against Iraq, and he remained opposed to the blockade on Cuba. Overall, he categorically opposed unilateral coercive measures.
To the representative of China, who had pointed out that the international definition of “refugee” did not include any reference to refuge from hunger, he said it was correct that the international convention mentioned only political or religious motivations for seeking asylum. Yes, the thousands of Koreans who succeeded in entering China were not strictly covered by the Convention. However, the horrible humanitarian tragedy occurring must be addressed.
He had been prevented from entering into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he added, and so had been forced to rely on secondary information sources. A recent Amnesty International report recounted that 6.2 million individuals remained undernourished and immediately threatened by hunger in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
It was normal for people to flee to the closest possible refuge, he stressed, but it was not for the receiving country to chase them back across the border. Heads of family among those sent back to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had been executed; most often, entire families disappeared into forced labour camps. China should work with the international community to seek a solution to the problem. If it was impossible for China to keep the refugees, they should at least not be sent back to their country of origin. They could be sent to a third country; a number of countries in the region had declared their willingness to accept refugees from hunger.
To India, he stressed that while it was true that economic, social and cultural rights required progressive realization, as one could not expect a developing country to guarantee rights such as food, health and education overnight, the question at hand in India did not concern the progressive realization of the right to food, but the immediate return of lands taken from peasants.
Responding to Mr. Ziegler’s comments, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said he wished to set the record straight. The Special Rapporteur had politicized this human rights issue. He had also alleged abuse of those returned to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was true that some people came back, but none had been executed for illegally crossing the border, nor sent to labour camps. Numerous Koreans, even before the food crisis, had crossed into China on a regular basis due to familial links and economic concerns. Even since the advent of the food crisis, many of those going to China returned after a few weeks. They were not executed upon their return.
At the Human Rights Committee in 2001, his country had provided all information requested by the Committee members, he recalled. It was thus surprising to hear such prejudiced viewpoints as those espoused by the Special Rapporteur. He urged Mr. Ziegler to be fair and objective; if he listened to those hostile to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he must listen to the Government as well.
Taking the floor to make a personal statement, Mr. ZIEGLER said the fundamental problem was that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had refused him access. Thus, the situation could not be observed firsthand. Yet, the crisis did exist and it was terrible. The World Food Programme had done what it could. Yet, one quarter of the population remained in danger, and yet, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had refused him entry five times.
Moreover, having spent half his life in academia, he said he was well able to value properly the credibility of sources. The ones he had used were credible. They said that most of the people repatriated had disappeared into labour camps, including whole families. This situation had nothing to do with the Korean diaspora.
On the accusation of having politicized the right to food, he said that a Special Rapporteur was a modest individual, who based his mandate on human rights law and international humanitarian law. He had nothing to do with politics. There were two Special Rapporteurs of the Commission on Human Rights tasked to deal with civil and political rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; he had been mandated to deal with the right to food. If the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea would invite him to his country, he would be accepting the invitation.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
PAULO SERGIO PINHEIRO, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said he had not been granted access to Myanmar since November 2003, but the information he had received during the reporting period indicated that the situation regarding the exercise of fundamental human rights and freedoms there had not substantially changed, and may have even worsened. The effects of the events of 30 May 2003 in Depayin had yet to be fully reversed, and those responsible for the attacks, injuries and deaths continued to enjoy impunity. There continued to be reports of people being arrested, tried and sentenced to prison for peaceful political activity under unjust security laws.
He reiterated his view that a credible process of national reconciliation and political transition was not possible without two fundamental conditions: the early release of all political prisoners, and the relaxation of restrictions, which continued to hamper the ability of political parties and ceasefire partners to operate. He said the number of political prisoners had remained roughly the same for several years, with more than 1,300 political prisoners still in prison. In view of the current National Convention process, it would be particularly fitting if large numbers of political prisoners were to be released. Restoring the freedom of the General Secretary of the National League for Democracy, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and of all other politicians, so that they could play a constructive role in the transition, would contribute significantly to the success of a transition process.
The revival of the National Convention, which had been convened from 17 May to 9 July 2004 after having been adjourned since 1996, marked the beginning of the seven-point road map for national reconciliation and democratic transition, he said. While he had serious concerns about the extent of its inclusiveness and the procedures governing its proceedings, he hoped the final outcome of the National Convention would bring concrete solutions that would benefit the entire population of Myanmar. He stressed that no real process of development and democratization could be successful without the participation of all the people of Myanmar.
Turning to the broader picture of the human rights situation throughout the country, he said there had been no improvement, and he remained disturbed by continuing allegations of human rights violations, particularly in ethnic minority areas affected by counter-insurgency operations or the presence of large contingents of the armed forces not involved in counter-insurgency activity. These areas had reportedly witnessed widespread violations of economic, social and cultural rights, such as deprivation of means of livelihood through land and crop confiscation, destruction of houses, excessive taxation, and extortion. He had also received a report containing numerous allegations of continuing sexual violence against ethnic women by the armed forces throughout Myanmar since 2003.
He said human rights reforms should start immediately by revoking security legislation, restricting the full exercise of basic human rights and freedoms. It was time to stop the arrest, trial and sentencing of people for peaceful political activities and to reopen offices of political parties and to revise the administration of justice to restore respect for due process rights.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Myanmar
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with the Special Rapporteur were the representatives of Myanmar, the United States, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, Japan, Canada, Cambodia and the Republic of Korea.
The representative of Myanmar said his Government had repeatedly maintained that cooperation with the United Nations was a cornerstone of its foreign policy, and it was out of good will towards the United Nations that it had previously accepted visits by Special Envoys and Special Rapporteurs. It was due to its high regard for the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and for Special Rapporteur Pinheiro that it had accommodated his visits six times in the past. His current request to visit was under consideration.
He said there were points contained in Mr. Pinheiro’s report that his delegation regarded as misperceptions. It was his Government’s hope that consolidation of peace among the nationalities of Myanmar would get stronger as the country proceeded along the road map. It had regretted that the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its political allies had declined the invitation to participate in the reconvening of the National Convention.
He said he would not respond to the “reports” and “allegations” referred to by the Special Rapporteur, which mentioned no credible references or sources of information. The rumours surrounding the unfortunate Depayin incident in May 2003 could have been prevented if only the NLD had realized that it was not yet election time and that government security was not yet in place for prominent politicians to be roaming freely about. Premature conclusions related to fatalities, and hunger strikes were made based on the same dubious sources that had later been proven wrong.
Myanmar would continue its cooperation with the United Nations, so long as its vital interests were not infringed upon. Any move to undermine Myanmar’s sovereignty by manipulating the United Nations mechanism would be strongly resisted.
In response to a question on whether the change in leadership in the Myanmar Government indicated that hardliners had taken control, Mr. PINHEIRO said that as a political scientist, he would have been tempted to interpret the change in leadership in the Myanmar Government, but as a Special Rapporteur, he could only wait to see how they acted.
The National Convention should serve as an opportunity to further the political transition envisaged by the road map and seven-step programme set out by the Government, he said. The Government should allow all to exercise their right to such basic freedoms as the right to convene, organize meetings and circulate documents. He was not refusing to acknowledge what had already been accomplished, but maintained that additional progress remained necessary.
Regarding respect for the freedoms of expression and movement in Myanmar, he said that, in an environment of political transition, it was not conducive to national reconciliation and political transformation for people exercising their right to freedom of expression or opinion to be sentenced as harshly as had occurred in Myanmar. Members of alternative political currents should not be held under house arrest, but allowed to work for the political transition.
On the allegations of widespread sexual violence committed by the Myanmar military, he said he continued to await the opportunity to investigate the situation firsthand. On child soldiers, he noted that a plan of action had been established to deal with the issue, and a special representative appointed. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) had worked positively in cooperation with the Government of Myanmar on the issue, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child had accepted an invitation to visit the country.
Regarding the elimination of forced labour, he stressed that all elements to redress the problem had been well-defined, including a plan of action and serious discussions and commitments undertaken by the Myanmar Government. Now, it remained a question of implementing existing agreements.
Concerning the indefinite postponement of his forthcoming visit to the country, he noted that most countries, that had been assigned Special Rapporteurs, remained convinced that it was better to allow them to visit. He had approached other countries in the region to gain their assistance in carrying out the desired visit.
On the presence of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Myanmar, he said it had been extremely helpful to the overall situation. He would oppose its withdrawal.
The representative of Cambodia commented that Myanmar had made progress in a number of areas, in particular on democratization. Moreover, the Office of State for Peace and Development had issued a letter to prevent the recruitment of soldiers of less than 18 years of age, and legislative measures had been taken on the issue of forced labour, in conjunction with the ILO. Finally, it should be observed that there was no racial discrimination in the country. Thus, he wished to express support for the Government of Myanmar. The contents of the draft resolution on Myanmar should reflect the reality on the ground.
Statement by Special Rapporteur on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
VITIT MUNTARBHORN, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, noted that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was a party to four key human rights treaties and had submitted a number of reports to the relevant monitoring committees. The country had some legal and operational infrastructures, which could help promote and protect human rights, including the adoption of amendments and other national laws that provided some guarantees for human rights. However, there were key challenges concerning implementation.
Related to the right to food, there were continued debates as to how much of the food aid from abroad was actually reaching the target population and to what extent it was being diverted for other clandestine uses, he said. Random checks by foreign humanitarian organizations were still not permitted by the national authorities. There were many reports from a variety of sources about prisons and detention centres that were below international standards, aggravated by poor law enforcement and malpractices, including detention without access to credible courts.
Another disconcerting practice documented by various sources was the practice of collective punishment based on “guilt by association”, which punished the family members of a person punished for a political or ideological crime, he continued. Testimonies by those who had left the country in search of refuge implied the persistence of the practice of dividing the population into various groups, ranging from those favoured by authorities to those considered as enemies.
There were also reports that there was no independent judiciary to provide access to justice. Such reports seemed to raise a pattern of malpractices that called for immediate redress.
Also restricted by the country’s authorities was the right to freedom of movement, he said. There were strict controls over the movement of people. A prospective migrant required a traveller’s certificate from the authorities in order to move from one area of the country to another. An exit visa was required to travel across national boundaries into other countries and there were punishments for failing to obey this requirement. Those who had left without exit visas in order to escape food shortages feared persecution upon their return.
While there had been some constructive developments, there had been various discrepancies and transgressions in the implementation of human rights in the country, which called for immediate action to prevent abuses and provide redress. He called on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea: to abide by the four human rights treaties to which it was party; to reform laws and practices, which were inconsistent with those standards; to respect the rule of law, particularly the promotion of an independent and transparent judiciary; to reform the administration of justice, particularly the prison system, and to end capital punishment and forced labour; to prevent persecution and victimization of those who were displaced; and to ensure that humanitarian assistance, including food aid, reached target groups.
He urged the international community to influence the country to follow recommendations proposed above; to uphold the protection of refugees and other persons displaced from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; to promote safe channels of migration; and to ensure aid and assistance reached vulnerable groups with transparent monitoring and accountability.
Dialogue with Special Rapporteur on Democratic People’s Republic of Korea
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with the Special Rapporteur were the representatives of Japan, the Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union), Switzerland, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and China.
In response to questions, Mr. MUNTARBHORN said the next steps to be taken in pursuit of his mandate included using the international human rights framework as an entry point for working with the Government of the country. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea belonged to four international human rights treaty bodies and had already reported to three of them. Those bodies had then made recommendations back to the Government. National follow-up to those recommendations would be greatly appreciated and could serve as a jumping-off point for cooperation. The rule of law could also provide a good entry point to discussions with the Government.
In terms of his request for access to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, he affirmed that he had received no response as yet, but hoped that the request would be considered with favour. He had met with counterparts from that country, although as an academic, rather than Special Rapporteur, at which time he had expressed once more his desire to gain access to the country. Yet, even without access, he welcomed information from the country concerned so as to be fair in terms of access to information.
He had received information from a variety of non-governmental organizations, he said, including those cited by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food. They were very credible organizations. He had also invited the United Nations system to provide information.
Regarding the situation of women and children, he noted that much progress had been made on many fronts before the mid-1990s. However, the situation had dramatically declined since the advent of the current crisis. Moreover, the totality of rights –- not just economic, social and cultural, but also civil and political –- must be promoted.
Responding to the Special Rapporteur’s presentation, the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said the report constituted the ultimate manifestation of interference in the affairs of his country. It did nothing but repeat the slanderous accusations of those hostile to his country. The Special Rapporteur had placed absolute trust in information provided by the country’s enemies and had already passed judgment on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The Special Rapporteur had already shown himself to be biased; there was nothing more to expect from him. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea remained prepared to stand up to any and all daring to infringe upon its sovereignty.
The report constituted an attempt to isolate one country on the pretext of its human rights situation, he affirmed. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea did not accept the United Nations resolution adopted against his country. Furthermore, it reprimanded the European Union for having unilaterally destroyed the bilateral talks in process and attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of another country. That the European Union stood on some point of honour could not be accepted; it had not questioned the United States’ armed invasion of Iraq. Instead, it had ignored that travesty and passed a resolution against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
No such violations of human rights, as had been alleged in the report or by the European Union, had occurred in his country, he said. How many countries existed in which none were unemployed or homeless, in which all had access to medical care? Which country was perfect in terms of human rights? The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea took pride in its situation; no pressure could make it do what it did not want. So long as the European Union and the United States continued their attempts to isolate his country, it would not accept the decisions of the United Nations. The country would live in its own way and pursue further development of its people-centred social system, regardless of what others said.
Responding, Mr. MUNTARBHORN reaffirmed that he looked forward to working with his colleagues in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to promote and protect human rights in that country. He had never lobbied for his present post and remained totally independent. He had been invited by the United Nations to help on the basis of his balance and credibility. He wished to convey his goodwill to help the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and said that he recognized that, in certain forums there might be a need for strong messages. Outside those forums, he hoped there was a chance for informal dialogue.
To China, which had again raised the issue of the illegality of those crossing the border without permission, he said that there were two outflows of refugees from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The first group had traditional fears of oppression under the political system, while the second fled for economic reasons, whether or not one wanted to call it hunger. They might technically be illegal immigrants, but upon their return they faced punishment, as individuals needed permission to quit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Even though such individuals had not left because of a well-founded fear of persecution, they faced such persecution on return, he continued. They could be considered “refugees sur place”. Those seeking such asylum must be granted access to the main international bodies dealing with refugees, in particular the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Countries affected by such refuge seekers must not practice refoulement. If they were truly unable or unwilling to bear the burden of the asylum seekers, then the solution should be to share the burden with the international community, including through transferring the refugees to a third country.
Statements by Expert on Democratic Republic of Congo
TITINGA FREDERIC PACERE, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, emphasized the ongoing crimes and human rights violations, which were being committed with impunity. Recent visits confirmed that human rights violations were being committed throughout the Democratic Republic of the Congo, especially in the eastern part of the country. He had received reports and information on crimes and sexual violence, including massacres, rapes, and the murder of two United Nations peacekeepers. The Truth and Reconciliation Committee had noted cases of rape and hospitalization of the victims. United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) had noted in a recent report; murders, rapes, pillages, and summary executions.
The Ministry of Justice had declared that justice in the country had been bled dry, he said. There were only 375 judges working for a population of 55,200,000 people. Magistrates continued to convict and imprison citizens according to laws that had been abolished. There was no means to properly investigate and punish crimes. There was an urgent need for international jurisdiction. Unless impunity was dealt with, he stressed, there would never be peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The series of crimes and massacres that had taken place during the last 10 years would go unpunished, if it were left up to the International Criminal Court, he said. Since 1994 crimes had been committed repeatedly with impunity. He recommended the creation of an international criminal tribunal.
Dialogue with the Independent Expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Participating in a subsequent question-and-answer session with the Independent Expert were the representatives of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Netherlands (on behalf of the European Union) and Canada.
The representative of the Democratic Republic of the Congo said the Independent Expert had worked to assist his country in fulfilling its obligations regarding to human rights and in most instances, he agreed with the conclusions of the Independent Expert. While the peace process in the country had made progress since the conclusion of the Pretoria Agreement, there was a continued tendency towards violence and lack of discipline in the country, particularly in the east, where women and girls continued to be raped. Violence against women constituted a source of great concern, particularly regarding the many women and girls that had been drawn into sexual slavery throughout the years of conflict. The culture of impunity for such crimes must be redressed, or the Congolese people would be unable to establish true peace. Light must be shed on crimes committed; justice must be served.
The prosecution of crimes committed would contribute to national reconciliation, and the consolidation of the peace process through ending impunity, he said. Thus strengthening the rule of law remained a major component in breaking the cycle of violence. To address the root causes of the conflict that had devastated his country, an international criminal tribunal must be established. However, this was to be done without renouncing reform of the existing national criminal justice system. The fact that the crimes in the Ituri province had coincided with the entry into functioning of the International Criminal Court –- which had been given jurisdiction over crimes committed in the country since 1 July 2002 –- had not been a coincidence, nor had it passed the International Criminal Court by. That body had already begun an inquiry into crimes committed.
Yet, he stressed, as crimes committed prior to 1 July 2002, must not go unpunished, a special tribunal should be set up for the Democratic Republic of the Congo to bring perpetrators to justice. Traditional administration of justice would remain the rule, not the exception, but at the present time it was not in a state fit to fight impunity. The Democratic Republic of the Congo remained committed to the establishment and maintenance of a fair, reliable and effective justice system, in keeping with the principles of the United Nations Charter. However, it must be born in mind that challenges confronted the country, as was the case in all countries in transition.
Responding to a question on the rise in inter-ethnic tension in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mr. PACERE observed that, in traditional societies, migratory movements had not truly existed as a phenomenon. In the modern system, there were circumstances, which could make the official borders of countries porous, which could also have unforeseeable consequences. The Democratic Republic of the Congo was a vast country, and he had been unable to visit all areas. In his next visit he would be meeting with tribal leaders.
On the International Criminal Court’s involvement in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he noted that he had been working in the Great Lakes region for eight years now, either as a lawyer for the International Court or in Burundi. He could provide support to the Government’s efforts to reform the judicial system. Since his appointment, he had contacted processes such as the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and other bodies to see what information could be obtained that was of interest and relevance to the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Committee was then informed that as time had run out for the dialogue with the Special Rapporteur, he would return tomorrow to conclude the discussion.
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