NGOS ALLEGE WIDESPREAD HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES
Commission Continues Debate on Question of Violations Anywhere in World
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 25 March (UN Information Service) -- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) speaking before the Commission on Human Rights this afternoon charged that violations were occurring in numerous countries and regions.
Almost 60 NGOs have registered to speak under the Commission’s agenda item 9 on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, annually the Commission’s most contentious topic of discussion. Eleven had the chance to deliver statements this afternoon.
In addition to levelling charges at specific countries, the organizations sounded themes in the human rights debate. The Association of World Citizens, in a joint statement with Association for World Education, said the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should play the central role in reconstructing the rule of law when States had had a long period of disorder. Human rights should provide the framework around which new democracies were structured, the organizations contended.
And World Federation of Democratic Youth, in a joint statement with Organization for the Solidarity of the People of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, said the rights to education, food and health were elementary rights that should be enjoyed by everyone and not just some. Millions of young people were illiterate and hungry, in both developed and developing countries, yet nothing was being done to help them, the NGOs claimed; instead money was being spent on war -- and it was the hungry, the illiterate, the poor and the ill who died in such conflicts.
A series of national delegations spoke earlier in the afternoon, with several charging that item 9 was improperly used by Western countries to politicize the human rights debate and to embarrass developing countries.
And as in previous years, a long list of countries responded to allegations by exercising the right of reply.
Representatives of Congo (on behalf of the African Group), Pakistan, Lebanon, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, Nicaragua, the Central African Republic,Azerbaijan, Malaysia, the SyrianArabRepublic, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Belarus, Cyprus and Israel addressed the meeting.
The following NGOS delivered statements : Dominicans for Justice and Peace, speaking on behalf of several NGOs*; Association of World Citizens on behalf of World Education; International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights; World Federation of Democratic Youth on behalf of Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America; ; World Organization against Torture; Baha’i International Community; Franciscans International; International Commission of Jurists; International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; Human Rights Watch; and Amnesty International.
Uzbekistan, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, Viet Nam, Turkey, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the SyrianArabRepublic, Lebanon, Cuba, Togo, India, Nepal, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Cuba spoke in right of reply.
The Commission will meet in closed session at 10 a.m. Friday, 26 March, to discuss charges of human rights violations submitted under its confidential “1503 procedure”. It will reconvene in public at 3 p.m. to continue with its general debate on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms anywhere in the world.
JEAN MARTIN MBEMBA (Congo), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that by examining agenda item 9 every year, the Commission tried to assess the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms around the world. However, there was an attitude of prejudice by some against those they considered bad students, those who refused to apply the democratic recipe. That approach divided the world and implied that some countries were civilized and some barbaric. Each year repeated that tendency. The false catalogue of criticism of the human rights performance of the South posed a question and at the same time remained a source of inspiration. Since accession to independence, developing countries could not pretend that they had reached the standard of human rights their citizens wished to enjoy. However, the human rights standards of developing countries had been achieved after independence and not during colonization. Item 9 was a relic of the past. It was time for the Commission to move on to the 21st Century and to a policy of partnership based on a common understanding of the value of human rights, and on a commitment to dialogue and not confrontation and rejection.
Terrorism had always been a source of concern for the African and Arab Groups. These regional organizations had been precursors; they had adopted two conventions relating to the issue. However, their calls for international solidarity had not been heard before the events of 11 September. The groups believed that the fight against terrorism should not be transformed into restrictions on freedom in developing countries. The imperative fight against terrorism should not be a pretext to put in place discriminatory and arbitrary legislation.
SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan) said the developed world’s flawed perception of developing countries as perpetrators of human rights violations and its policy of subjecting them to stringent criticism, questioning their political systems, and defaming their religions, values, cultures and practices had caused the polarization of the Commission along North-South and ideological lines. The deliberate misuse of this agenda item reflected this mindset and explained the widespread discontent with the item. Given developing countries’ chronic paucity of human and material resources, expectations that they could achieve parity with the West were misplaced. The inequitable treatment of economic, social and cultural rights within the Commission, with the few initiatives on these rights being invariably subjected to vote, added to the disillusionment of developing countries.
The Commission’s inability to reflect on and resolve contemporary challenges such as terrorism, uneven and unfair globalization, and the impact of conflict and occupation on human security and human rights were diminishing its importance and relevance. The Office of the High Commissioner should focus more clearly on its mandate, i.e. helping developing countries overcome their human resource deficits in an apolitical manner and guarding against the negative implications of power politics on international human rights regimes.
GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon) said that for years a draft resolution had been submitted to the Commission in regard of the Lebanese detainees in Israel. Lebanon wished to redress the wrongs committed against its citizens. Israel had occupied parts of Lebanese territory for more than 20 years; its occupation had even reached the capital.
The most recent release of detainees had not been comprehensive. Israel continued to remain silent on the fate of dozens of Lebanese detained during the occupation. There was a list with names of detainees and missing persons available. Whoever respected the law knew that refusing to provide information about detainees’ fates, or keeping them under improper detention, constituted flagrant violations of international law and international conventions. Moreover, the Israeli occupation had resulted in about 400,000 landmines being left in southern Lebanon. This also amounted to an indirect occupation. For that reason, all the maps of minefields in the possession of Israel were needed; those provided by Israel during the most recent exchange of prisoners were the same as previously provided, except for eight, five of which concerned minefields lying on the Israeli side of the border. Security Council resolutions continued to insist upon the full provision of minefield maps. Lebanon was determined to exercise the right of all its citizens to return home and was determined that all mines be cleared.
TIM CAUGHLEY (New Zealand) said international human rights understandings were under threat of erosion. There were huge gaps between internationally endorsed standards and the actual practices of many States. The international community needed to return to basics on human rights. States needed to acknowledge that they were failing to respect and ensure human rights. They must make greater efforts to bring a halt to violence against vulnerable groups and individuals. The most egregious form of legally sanctioned violence was the death penalty, which was still retained by far too many States and territories around the world. Violence against women also remained among the most pervasive problems.
All countries were in the process of working towards the full realization of human rights, but New Zealand felt particular concern about the situations in some countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. Concern also was felt over events in Chechnya and Ingushetia, Israel and the occupied territories, and over renewed violence in Sudan. The commitment to greater openness on human rights issues shown by China and Iran was welcomed. New Zealand also acknowledged the extraordinary work done by many people who were committed to protecting human rights.
SVERRE BERGH JOHANSEN (Norway) said that, given the time constraints, Norway wished to refer delegations to its written statement – to be distributed – and asked that it be recorded in the official records. Norway reaffirmed its commitment to working with other countries to improve human rights worldwide. It did not suffer under the illusion that the current dialogue was perfect.
Norway called attention to situations of human rights cited in the written statement, including those in Afghanistan, Nepal, China, Myanmar, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Cuba, Colombia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Uganda, as well as to situations in the Middle East and Chechnya. Each of these situations was briefly discussed in the written statement.
PAUL MEYER (Canada) said Canada was principally preoccupied by the situation in Iran, where freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and torture continued; by the dire human rights situation and poverty in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea; by reported abuses in and impeded humanitarian access to Darfur, Sudan; by the detention of senior members of the National League for Democracy in Burma; by the serious escalation of terrorist violence in the Middle East and the worsening humanitarian situation in the occupied territories; by allegations of physical abuse of detainees including torture in Syria; by the disregard of human rights by the Government of Zimbabwe; by the deplorable situation of human rights in Turkmenistan; by restrictions on freedom of expression, association, religion and spiritual beliefs in China; and by the situation in Haiti.
Canada urged the provisional Government of Iraq to place the promotion and protection of human rights at the forefront of its efforts. Canada supported the efforts of the Afghan Transitional Administration to implement the country’s new Constitution. It urged the new Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to intensify efforts to improve security. Canada also was disturbed at the situations in Belarus, Chechnya, Saudi Arabia, Burundi, and Nepal. Cuba was called upon to release political dissidents. Viet Nam should stop the detention of citizens for their political and religious views. Colombia was reminded that anti-terrorist measures should respect human rights. Canada asked all parties in Côte d’Ivoire to collaborate on the creation of an international commission of inquiry into human rights violations and abuses. It urged that those who bore the greatest responsibility for crimes against humanity, war crimes and serious violations of international law in Liberia be brought to justice; was disturbed by the culture of impunity surrounding honour killings in Pakistan; was troubled by recent events in Kosovo; strongly condemned the attacks in Uganda; and was concerned about the situation in Aceh, Indonesia.
EDUARDO CASTILLO PEREIRA (Nicaragua) said that during the 1980s it had been common to hear in the international press of unspeakable suffering in Nicaragua. Now, Nicaragua was going through the process of redressing the after-effects of that period. Nicaragua wished to join voice with the international press on behalf of those who could not express themselves – the Cuban people. Seventy-five dissidents had recently been detained and sentenced to long prison terms in Cuba for having expressed views different from those of the regime. This was reminiscent of Nicaragua’s own dark past. Just last December, Cuba had signed a commitment in Geneva to build a society of information for all. Days later, it was removing all citizen access to the Internet.
Nicaragua had suffered its own setbacks to freedom of expression through the recent murders of journalists. The Government was now investigating those incidents.
THIERRY MALEYOMBO (Central African Republic) said at the beginning of the Third Millennium, when the international community was fighting without halt for a world that was dedicated to peace and justice, when the rules of access to power were clearly defined in international instruments, many were probably wondering about the underlying reasons for the patriotic events that had taken place in the Central African Republic, which some had called a coup d’état. The new authorities of the country intended to give a greater, more elaborate and more precise vision and conception of human rights to the people of Central Africa who had always linked this notion with the basic issues of arrests and assassinations.
A national dialogue had been established to give a voice to all. The media and private press were carrying out their trades perfectly independently. Work was being done to prepare for presidential and legislative elections, and the international community was invited to observe these elections. Rights were being observed and efforts were being made to enhance education, jobs and health. All those who defended human rights should ask themselves: When people had no more rights because a democratically elected head of State had become a dictator, what could the international community do?
MURAD N. NAJAFOV (Azerbaijan) said the main obstacle to development in Azerbaijan and in other countries of the region lay in continued acts of aggression by Armenia which now had gone on for 16 years. Armenia had forcibly expelled 200,000 Azerbaijanis from Armenia and had conducted ethnic cleansing against the Azerbaijani population in the occupied area of Nagorno-Karabakh and in seven other regions of Azerbaijan. As a result of this aggression, the total number of expelled Azerbaijanis from their native lands had reached 1 million.
Today, Azerbaijan had one of the largest displaced populations in the world. The armed forces of Armenia continued to occupy 20 per cent of Azerbaijani territory and Armenia continued to build up its military capability. The progressive development of the States of the South Caucasus region could only be achieved through the establishment of just and lasting peace and stability in the region on the basis of respect for sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States. The Government of Azerbaijan believed that the international community should more actively promote the process of peace negotiations and the achievement of a political settlement to the conflict.
RAJMAH HUSSAIN (Malaysia) said this agenda item had been the cause of the politicization of the Commission over the years. It had been the means by which the West had pushed for the adoption of politically motivated, country-specific resolutions vilifying developing countries. Much criticism had been levelled at this “name and shame” game of the West. It was high time this discussion was used responsibly by countries to address the real issue of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world. A better and more productive approach to country-specific resolutions would be to recognize the reasons for the deficiencies of particular countries and then to assist those countries rather than pillorying them. Selectivity must be avoided, especially as some countries of the West were just as guilty of human rights abuses, which had been swept neatly under the rug and shielded from international condemnation.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights could be viewed as the apex of a human rights triangle to which all countries aspired. The developing countries seemed to appear as occupying the lower end of that triangle. If that was the case, they should be given a helping hand rather than condemnation. Countries had different ways of approaching the implementation of human rights, with some giving prominence to community rights over individual rights. For example, Malaysia put much emphasis on community rights; the country was sensitive to the existence of Asian values as well as of universally recognized ones.
GHASSAN OBEID (Syrian Arab Republic) said the Commission should find ways to establish a dialogue between the North and South. A way should be sought to achieve the true objective of the Commission, which was ensuring the protection and promotion of human rights. There were countries where there was economic or military domination -- and the Commission should take into consideration problems of those countries before pointing fingers against them on grounds of human rights.
One country having such a problem was Lebanon. Israeli forces were still detaining Lebanese citizens. There were also 19 Syrians in Israeli prisons who had been taken into custody during Israel’s occupation of southern Lebanon. In addition, Israel had refused to hand over maps showing the locations of minefields it had planted during its occupation of southern Lebanon. The Security Council had called on the Israeli Government to hand over the maps but it had not reacted to that request. Due to Israel’s refusal, many people had lost their lives or had been maimed by landmines.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said this forum was degraded by politicization, double standards, and selectivity. There were no more grave violations of human rights and crimes against humanity at the present time than the illegal and unilateral invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies and the incessant killings of innocent civilians in the occupied Arab territories. However, no action was taken against these heinous crimes against humanity. On the contrary, developing countries were selected to be arbitrary targets of attacks full of arrogant language and threats. Those who had created this abnormal situation were none other than the United States and the European Union.
In this hall last year, the European Union had launched a surprise attack on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by tabling a resolution against the country in a confrontational manner. This had surprised and shocked many countries. Equally surprising was that the European Union had unilaterally abandoned its ongoing human rights dialogue with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The European Union was doing exactly the same thing this year while claiming that its resolution would be part of its “cooperation” with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. No country would accept this so-called mode of cooperation, which was, in essence, intended to name and shame it, and impose on it unfair demands. The Commission should give priority to eliminating politicization, selectivity, arbitrariness, and power politics or its credibility would again be questioned.
SERGEI ALEINIK (Belarus) said human rights violations should be condemned wherever they occurred, and international cooperation in the field of human rights should be broadened. But constructive dialogue under item 9 had been replaced by political and, sometimes, economic pressure based exclusively on power. It was hard to believe in the sincerity of Western countries when they used selectivity and double standards to identify issues for consideration by the Commission under this agenda item.
The use of human rights issues as a means for achieving political and economic goals was destined to fail and was contrary to the very concept of human rights. Unilateral measures against sovereign States, the practice of political pressure, the use of discredited principles must end. The Commission, the most authoritative United Nations body in the sphere of human rights protection, should avoid politicization and steadily increase the efficiency of its activities. The Commission should discontinue the practice of examining so-called country resolutions, and should shift its efforts to elaborating universal standards for human rights and to offering recommendations for their implementation in the spirit of constructive cooperation with national Governments.
FRANCES-GALATIA LANITOU-WILLIAMS (Cyprus) said the international community had repeatedly pronounced authoritatively on the issue of the violation of human rights in Cyprus, on a global and regional level, through key resolutions, decisions and reports of the United Nations and other organizations. The international community had affirmed that human rights concerns in Cyprus derived predominantly from the persisting occupation and division of the island and from the political situation which remained unresolved. It had condemned unequivocally the violation of human rights in Cyprus, and had called for the full restoration of human rights without delay.
Cyprus remained strongly committed to the process of re-unification under a viable and functional federal system of government for the benefit of all Cypriots, a system of government that would guarantee the fundamental rights and freedoms of all. The people of Cyprus had legitimate concerns about their future, and hoped that the final text of the Secretary-General’s reunification plan, which would come out in a few days, would take into consideration those concerns and yearnings.
YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said that following Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000 in conformity with Security Council resolution 425, it was advised that Lebanon would implement its own commitments under that resolution to assert effective authority and restore security in southern Lebanon instead of allowing terrorists such as Hezbollah to operate freely on its soil. But since Israel’s withdrawal, numerous terrorist attacks had been launched by Hezbollah across Israel’s northern border, with the active support of Iran and Syria, the most recent having begun just 48 hours ago with the resumption from Lebanese soil of heavy shelling of an Israeli position in Har Dov. Lebanon continued to harbour, support and encourage terrorists. On the issue of landmines, the transfer of maps had been confirmed by a senior officer of UNAFIL. The only Lebanese currently held in Israel were one convicted terrorist and a man who had claimed Lebanese citizenship, of which Israel had no proof. However, Israel would look into Lebanon’s allegations.
A note verbale had been circulated that listed ten Damascus-based terrorist organizations that continued to operate. The previous delegate from Syria had claimed these organizations dealt merely with information, but the new head of Hamas had informed his followers in Gaza that the worldwide leader of Hamas was the head of Hamas in Damascus. Were that organization’s activities, which included sending dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, still considered “information activities”? The heavy Syrian military presence in Lebanon had not served to disarm Hezbollah but to prevent the deployment of the Lebanese army along the southern border of Lebanon.
PHILIPPE LEBLANC, of Dominicans for Justice and Peace, speaking on behalf of several NGOs*, said serious concern was felt for ongoing violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Iraq. The major long-term issue in Iraq was the recovery of a devastated country, and the key factor for this was the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty and the guarantee of the rights of religious and ethnic minorities.
Instability, causing irreparable harm to the people, was the result of a lack of security which had created an atmosphere of vulnerability and hopelessness. Impunity led to high levels of fear and anxiety, and given the lack of a functioning legal system, there was no recourse for people who suffered human rights violations. The international community must bring about conditions allowing for the material, economic and social reconstruction of Iraq.
RENE WADLOW,of Association of World Citizens, delivering a joint statement with Association for World Education, said one central point should be made: the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should play the central role in reconstructing the rule of law when States had had a long period of disorder. While that seemed simple and evident, it was difficult to put into practice. Nevertheless, human rights should provide the framework around which a new democracy was structured.
This applied to the current situations in Haiti and Myanmar. The Office of the High Commissioner was on the front line of action in restoring societies whose social and moral fabrics had been torn. While important work had been done, cooperation with the Office should be redoubled to ensure that human rights were placed at the centre of all restructuring efforts.
ULRICH FISCHLER, of International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, said that against the background of the ongoing conflict in Chechnya, the two organizations considered it of utmost importance to assess the Russian Federation's level of compliance with the resolution on Chechnya adopted by the Commission three years ago.
In 2004, with the armed conflict in its fifth year, numerous forced disappearances and extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions continued to be routinely carried out by federal and other security forces. Russia also continued to resist establishing any meaningful accountability process for crimes committed by its forces. Only a very small number of cases reached the courts. The Russian Federation had not yet established an independent commission of inquiry into alleged past abuses, and impunity still prevailed in Chechnya.
ROUL VAN – TROI NAVARRO MARTINEZ, ofWorld Federation of Democratic Youth on behalf of Organization for the Solidarity of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America, said the rights to education, food and health were elementary rights that should be enjoyed by everyone and not just some. Millions of young people were illiterate and hungry, in both developed and developing countries, and nothing was being done to help them. Instead, money was being spent on war -- and it was the hungry, the illiterate, the poor and the ill who died. Money would be better spent on eradicating disease and education.
The Commission sought to condemn Cuba, a country that had tirelessly worked to combat illiteracy and disease both in its own country and elsewhere. The violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the young anywhere in the world should be fought in unison, under the banner of truth.
KATIA WEILHAMMER, of World Organization against Torture, said the organization was gravely concerned by the massive violations of human rights and humanitarian law that were being perpetrated in several countries beset by internal armed conflicts. The situation in Nepal was of particular concern. Since the breakdown of the ceasefire between the Government and the rebel Communist Party of Nepal in August 2003, a dangerously escalating number of violations of human rights and humanitarian law had been perpetrated by both parties, including arbitrary and incommunicado detention, rapes, torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.
In Sudan, the World Organization against Torture was alarmed by the use of the death penalty as punishment in that country. Despite claims by the Russian Government that the situation in Chechnya was normalized, reports of widespread violations perpetrated by the Russian armed forces continued to surface.
BANI DUGAL, of Baha’i International Community, said the organization continued to call for international support because such support had proven effective in helping to protect an entire community, the Iranian Baha’is. Pressure exerted by the international community had put a stop to the most horrendous abuses against this community. Recently, there had been small steps, not substantial, but international support had produced real results on the ground.
Unfortunately, the overall situation had not improved, and the Baha’is still faced systematic deprivation of their rights as Iranian citizens: not only their civil and political rights, but also their economic, social and cultural rights. The international community should take a stand, clearly and openly, to ensure that the few small steps already taken were followed by more fundamental measures that could effectively address and improve the situation.
ALESSANDRA AULA, of Franciscans International, said the organization wished to draw attention to situations of human rights in Togo and in Papua, Indonesia. In Togo, the 37 year-old regime was systematically hampering fundamental freedoms, including through a revised Press Code, through which the Ministry of the Interior had been given sweeping powers to close any newspaper that was considered a threat to law and public order. Human rights defenders were under constant police surveillance and regularly suffered from arbitrary detention, harassment and intimidation. There were also reports of the widespread use of torture.
In Papua, Indonesia, the level of violence had increased in 2003, in particular during military operations carried out in the Wamena area. Other disturbing developments included the formation of a militia group under a leader responsible for gross human rights violations in East Timor, the appointment of Inspector General Timbul Silaen as the new head of the Regional Police, and the division of Papua province into three separate provinces, which had ended the implementation of the Special Autonomy law and had fuelled horizontal conflict. Both Governments were urged to redress these situations.
IAN SEIDERMAN, of International Commission of Jurists, said human rights in Nepal had deteriorated rapidly. Nepal had among the highest number of reported enforced disappearances in the world. The Government had over the past two years engaged in a practice of holding a substantial number of persons without legal authority and sometimes for political reasons.
In Zimbabwe, the human rights situation remained grave. Beatings and torture by the police against persons associated with the opposition party occurred frequently. In youth militia training camps, children were violently abused, tortured and raped. The International Commission of Jurists deplored the continued arbitrary detention of more than 600 persons by the United States at GuantanamoBay in Cuba. In addition to denying the detainees access to lawyers and courts, the United States insisted that neither human rights nor humanitarian legal regimes applied to their situations, effectively nullifying their existence as persons under the law.
MARIE GOUVERNEUR, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said the organization felt concern for human rights situations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Togo, Cameroon, Iran, China, Viet Nam, North Korea, Chechnya, Turkey, Cuba, Tunisia, and Algeria.
Some of these situations should be addressed by resolutions of the Commission, and the international community should make its views known with regard to all.
LOUBNA FREIH, of Human Rights Watch, said the organization wished to draw attention to situations in China, Chechnya and Iraq. Over the past year, progress in human rights in China had come to a standstill and violations of the rights to free expression, association, assembly and due process had continued. The Chinese Government continued to insist that such issues could only be the subject of closed bilateral dialogue, not public international scrutiny. However, the Commission should adopt a draft calling on Chinese authorities to end such violations and to cooperate fully with the Commission’s special procedures.
In Chechnya, although Russian authorities had sought to convince the international community that the situation was normalizing, grave human rights violations continued unabated. No peaceful resolution of the conflict would be possible until the cycle of abuse came to an end. In Iraq, while the transition under way held the promise of greater respect for human rights in the future, the Iraqi people continued to face abuses by armed groups, Iraqi security forces and occupying military forces. The Commission must not drop Iraq from its agenda at this critical time, but should keep a mechanism operational to monitor the situation and to make recommendations to the transitional authorities and occupying powers.
PETER SPLINTER, of Amnesty International, said that the Commission had failed to scrutinize situations in many countries marked by serious human rights violations, such as Algeria, Indonesia, Nepal, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, the United States and Zimbabwe. The credibility of the Commission and its membership had been severely damaged as a result. Amnesty International also was seriously concerned about shortcomings in the implementation of the Commission's decisions. The Commission should address with greater commitment the need to reform its approach to the promotion and protection of human rights. If the political will could not be found to do that collectively, then each UN Member State should ask itself what it could do to improve the Commission, whether alone or with others.
The human rights situation in Iraq continued to be of great concern. And Nepal was currently experiencing its highest level of violence since the start of the armed conflict in 1996.
Right of Reply
AKMAL SAIDOV (Uzbekistan), speaking in right of reply, said the statements made today showed that there was no State in the world that had achieved the universal enjoyment of human rights. There was not a single State in the world without problems with human rights. With regard to the statements of the European Union, the United States and Norway, the efforts of those countries to assert the values of democracy and human rights throughout the world were valued. When considering situations related to human rights in any part of the world, it was necessary to work on the premise of a paradigm of dynamism. Uzbekistan was engaged in constructive cooperation with all human rights conventions of the United Nations. It was consistently implementing its obligations under these and other treaties.
ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN (Armenia), speaking in right of reply to the statement by the Representative of Pakistan who had spoken on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said that for some reason the Representative had disregarded entirely the plight of approximately 400,000 Armenian refugees who had been the victims of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh. While elsewhere the OIC had stood firmly for the rights of oppressed peoples, it did not support the right to self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Only a careful and balanced approach to the peace process in the south Caucasus would work. Such statements should not, and could not, cast doubt on the excellent relations enjoyed by Armenia with the majority of OIC members.
As for Azerbaijan, its patchy logic had been addressed in past interventions. Such statements only cast doubt on Azerbaijan’s commitment to achieving a lasting solution to the conflict. Armenia appealed to Azerbaijan to exercise restraint and judgment.
ABDULLAH AL-ALSHEIKH (Saudi Arabia), speaking in right of reply, said Saudi Arabia had listened to a number of statements in which reference was made to human rights situations in some countries, including Saudi Arabia. Although those statements welcomed Saudi Arabia's recent achievements in the field of human rights, the Saudi Government was highly astonished at some comments, as the remarks demonstrated not only a lack of familiarity and knowledge but also selectivity and ignorance of the true state of affairs and of real reform measures undertaken. Saudi Arabia was pursuing basic and far-reaching reforms in various fields, including in the promotion of the rights of Saudi citizens and foreign residents.
ELSADIG ALMAGLY (Sudan), speaking in right of reply, said the Irish Ambassador had made it clear that the European Union was in the process of tabling a resolution against Sudan. Sudan and the European Union had had a discussion in Khartoum, yet no reference had been made today to the mechanisms of human rights involving Sudan. There was no great difference between item 9 and item 19 as far as the targeting of countries was concerned. With regard to the next agenda item, it was the same thing: technical assistance was a fine gift, but wrapped in thorns. It could be provided bilaterally, and not under an agenda item. The situation of human rights in Sudan had recently made significant progress, and this had been recognized by all, including the European Union. The European Union’s draft resolution would have a negative affect on the situation, and the Government of Sudan would find it more difficult to find a solution to the situation.
CHITSAKA CHIPAZIWA (Zimbabwe) said Zimbabwe was most distressed by New Zealand’s unbending commitment to interfering in Zimbabwe’s affairs. New Zealand had chosen to support dissent in Zimbabwe and was upset that no results had been achieved by this stance. It should be noted that New Zealand remained part of the British Commonwealth, from whose colonial hangover Zimbabwe had withdrawn. In demonizing Zimbabwe, New Zealand could bask in the warm regard of Australia and Canada. Zimbabwe would remain steadfast in its efforts to address the needs of its people. It needed no directions from outside. Zimbabwe would refrain from chastising New Zealand on its mistreatment of its own indigenous population through all means, including mass murder.
In response to Canada, it was necessary to say that the Zimbabwean Government had given fuller meaning to the human rights of the majority of her people by redistributing land. It was a pity that Canada’s own record had not been as equitable. Canada’s native people had illusory control over marginal lands in most of Canada, but the situation was far from ideal. It had not been as successful as the programme undertaken by Zimbabwe. Repeating falsehoods could not transform them into engaging truths. And while Zimbabwe was far from being a perfect country, Canada and others should stop prescribing good governance for it. Human rights were not under threat in Zimbabwe; foreign intrigue in Zimbabwe’s domestic affairs, however, might put human rights in danger. As for the statements of non-governmental organizations, Zimbabwe would not respond to them. The NGOs could seek comfort where they could find it.
LA YIFAN (China), speaking in right of reply in reference to the statement made by the Representative of Ireland on behalf of the European Union, said the European Union accused other countries on grounds of human rights without mentioning problems in Europe, where people were imprisoned and even assassinated. The issue of the Falun Gong had been mentioned by the European Union. China considered the Falun Gong an evil movement. It had claimed the lives of thousands of innocent people who had been dragged into its belief system.
TRUONG TRIEU DUONG (Viet Nam), speaking in right of reply with regard to the speech delivered by the Representative of the United States, said that since the end of the Viet Nam war, the Government and people of Viet Nam had spared no effort to rebuild the society and legal system, and to ensure the application of all the most fundamental human rights and freedoms. The people of Viet Nam were happy. The speech by the United States, while acknowledging progress made by Viet Nam, still contained biased information and wrongful observations. The United States was the least qualified to talk about abuses of human rights in Viet Nam. It should look back on history and remind itself of what it had done to the rights of millions of Vietnamese, namely depriving them of their right to life – and by extension their freedom of expression. If the United States could not do anything to remedy such a huge loss of life, at least it could refrain from trying to teach Viet Nam about human rights.
TÜRKEKUL KURTTEKIN (Turkey) said in response to statements by Pakistan and the Greek Cypriot Government that it should be noted that the Republic of Cyprus had originally been established as a partnership between two peoples. That partnership republic had been taken over and destroyed by one of the two sides. The Turkish Cypriot people, exercising their right to self-determination, had founded the TurkishRepublic of Northern Cyprus, which Turkey’s Government had recognized. The good faith negotiations of the Secretary-General had taken place on the basis of two equal entities. Turkey hoped that the talks would continue positively. In response to Pakistan’s statement, Turkey wished to point out that it was undesirable to put blame on only one side, as had been done.
CHOE MYONG NAM (Democratic People's Republic of Korea), speaking in right of reply in reference to the statements made by Australia, New Zealand and Norway alluding to the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, said the naming and shaming of other countries could not help the Commission in its efforts to protect and promote human rights.
HUSSAM-EDIN A’ALA (Syrian Arab Republic), speaking in right of reply, said Syria felt outrage at the propaganda and defamation offered by the delegation of Israel, a country that was trying to victimize Syria. Israel set itself up as a poor lamb at the mercy of the wolf, but it was a lamb that was armed to the teeth with a vast arsenal. Why was Israel the only country considered by the United Nations to be an occupying authority in other lands? The propaganda of Israel prompted Syria to say that Israel had not withdrawn from the southern Lebanon because of resolutions but because of Lebanese combatants, and if Israel respected international law it should withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, too. The Representative of Israel sought to harm Syria by saying it should withdraw from Lebanon, but the presence of Syria in Lebanon was due to a request from that friendly brotherly country, and because of the violation of the fundamental rights of the inhabitants of those lands by Israel, including the deprivation of the right to life.
GEBRAN SOUFAN (Lebanon), speaking in right of reply to the statement by Israel, said that if Israel wanted to speak about the occupation of land in southern Lebanon, Lebanon agreed to do so, but this was not the appropriate forum. On the subject of Hezbollah, there had been no such organization before the Israeli occupation. Such organizations would only continue to proliferate as long as the occupation continued. Lebanon condemned terrorism and supported the relevant international resolutions. The Representative of Israel had not referenced the efforts by Lebanon to ensure its own security, including from violations of its airspace on an ongoing basis. As for the allegations of attacks launched from Lebanese territory, Israel should question the basis for such attacks. The right to struggle against occupation was a legitimate right, and while Lebanon did not wish to provoke Israel, Israel must withdraw from southern Lebanon. Moreover, all of the maps of minefields should be handed over, which had not yet occurred. Finally, the Representative of Israel did not have the right to speak about terrorism. Everyone condemned it.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN HERRERA (Cuba), speaking in right of reply, said that the discussion of item 9 had converted the Commission into a tribunal where the developing countries were accused. Some countries criticizing the developing countries were giving their own vision of human rights. The Representative of Nicaragua, for instance, said Nicaragua was at peace and enjoyed democracy. How could he say that while Nicaraguans were dying of hunger? Instead of criticizing Cuba, Nicaragua should better protect the human rights of its own people. After that it could give lectures on human rights.
NAKPA POLO (Togo), speaking in right of reply, said Franciscans International had attacked the Government of Togo this afternoon, and it had done so ceaselessly over the last few years by publishing documents on the situation of human rights in Togo. The law had been changed in Togo to ensure that journalists did not publish things that destabilized the country, and this had been done to ensure that freedom did not result in the end of freedom. Journalists were not harassed, and there were no obstacles to the freedom of expression. This law was intended to protect the country, and dialogue was ongoing between the Government and journalists. Today in Togo there was no journalist being held in detention for a press offense. In Togo there was no secret place of detention, and Togo was party to several international instruments on human rights. Togo had cooperated fully with the United Nations with regard to its reporting obligations. This NGO should function usefully, rather than persecute Togo.
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India), speaking in right of reply, said the Representative of Pakistan had treated the Commission to a number of innovative suggestions on how the use and effectiveness of agenda item 9 could be enhanced. However, there were some points of his statement that should be rejected outright. The Representative had evidently allowed himself to be swayed by his unfamiliarity with Indian values, including, among others, secularization and democracy. He had referred to the “occupation” of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Jammu and Kashmir were an integral part of India. The only occupation was that of Pakistan and the only threats faced by the people of the region stemmed from cross-border terrorism. He did not wish to waste the Commission’s time in recalling the many times Pakistan had espoused causes it was later forced to abandon, but one case in specific merited mention. Pakistan had extolled the virtues of the Taliban, from the effects of which regime the world was still trying to recover.
GYAN CHANDRA ACHARYA (Nepal), speaking in right of reply, said the allegations of human rights violations attributed to Nepal by some non-governmental organizations were exaggerated. Instead, the Government was making efforts to promote and protect human rights and democracy. It was the Communist Party of Nepal that was perpetrating human rights violations against the population. The armed forces were protecting the people from attacks by these rebels. The Government had done all it could to investigate human rights violations committed around the country.
SEYMUR MARDALIYEV (Azerbaijan), speaking in right of reply, said Armenia had tried to distort the very principle of self-determination, which should be exercised in a peaceful manner. The occupation by Armenia of Azeribaijani territories had nothing to do with this right. The term “people” was not necessarily applicable to the Armenian minority living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan had repeatedly announced its will to find a peaceful solution to these issues, but would not cede a single inch of its land to occupants. Armenia should cease its bad habit of disseminating false information in its efforts to implicate Azerbaijan. With regard to the speech of Norway on the Azerbaijani Presidential election of last year, there was a need for clarification. Those arrested had committed a breach of the peace following the election. They had not been arrested because to their political orientation, but because of their actions.
YONATRI RILMANIA (Indonesia), speaking in right of reply, said Indonesia had noted with interest the trend in which some countries criticized the human rights progress made by Indonesia. Indonesia could also have noted the “progress” of Australia in the area of human rights, especially in relation to indigenous people and asylum seekers, but before raising that issue here, Indonesia would have asked itself what gave it the right to probe into the domestic affairs of Australia. EDUARDO CASTILLO PEREIRA (Nicaragua), speaking in right of reply to the right of reply of Cuba, said the defense of human rights was in the best interests of the Nicaraguan Government. The President of the country was monitoring carefully the protection of human rights in Nicaragua. Acts of corruption were being monitored and the international financial community had trust in the Government's performance. It was Cuba that had impoverished its people.
IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan), speaking in a second right of reply, said it was indeed regrettable that India had once again sought to defend the indefensible. The defiance of United Nations resolutions, the brutal repression of the Kashmiri people and State terrorism were all grave evidence of India’s policies. Massacres of civilians who were not Pakistani insurgents showed that the security forces had used villagers as human shields. The Indian security forces used force to suppress people, and between 1990 and 2002, the number of missing people in Kashmir had reached over 3,000, and tens of thousands had been injured, tortured, widowed and orphaned, all living reminders of the social impact of counter-insurgency acts. It was high time that India halted its loud denunciations of Pakistan and took care of the grave situation of human rights in the land of Kashmir.
MARÍA DEL CARMEN HERRERA CASEIRO (Cuba), speaking in a second right of reply, said that for years Cuba had watched Nicaragua use its seat in the Commission to condemn States and to support terrorists. This year, Nicaragua had not addressed any other issue, it had just spoken out against Cuba. Nicaragua should be asked how much it was being paid to play this role. The Representative of Nicaragua had defended the system in the country. But there was still hunger, poverty and unemployment in Nicaragua, all phenomena that had been overcome by Cuba more than 40 years ago. More attention to those issues was needed in Nicaragua.
In press release HR/CN/04/19 of 24 March, the speaker of Qatar on page 10 was incorrectly identified. Following is the correct name.
FAHD AL-THANI (Qatar) said that his country had deplored and condemned the barbarous acts committed by Israel in the assassination of Sheikh Yassin. That crime demonstrated the repression and oppression of Israel’s policy against the Palestinian people and represented Israel’s determination to undermine the peace process. The international community must act to bring such acts to an end and to protect the Palestinian people and their leaders. Finally, the Palestinian people should be reassured of the international community’s solidarity with their cause of realizing their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
*Joint statement on behalf of: Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Congregations of St. Joseph; Dominican Leadership Conference; Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur;Caritas Internationalis - International Confederation of Catholic Charities; Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers; Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic; International Presentation Association Sisters of the Presentation)
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