COMMISSION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

HR/CN/1090
19 April 2004

COMMISSION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS

19/04/2004
Press Release
HR/CN/1090


COMMISSION CONCLUDES GENERAL DEBATE ON PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS


Issues Concerning Capital Punishment, Anti-Terrorist Laws,

Human Rights Defenders, and Human Rights and Sexual Orientation Raised


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 19 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning concluded its general debate on the promotion and protection of human rights, hearing from a series of non-governmental organizations who raised such issues as the abolition of the death penalty, human rights and anti-terrorist laws, human rights defenders, human rights and sexual orientation, as well as violations of rights in specific countries.


Amnesty International said although the campaign to abolish the death penalty had gained dramatic momentum worldwide, some countries continued to use this cruel and irrevocable punishment.  Last year, 1,146 executions in 28 countries had been recorded, and 2,756 people had been sentenced to death in 63 countries.  Yet the true figures were surely higher.  The application of the death penalty was not just a gross violation of the right to life; it was often discriminatory and imposed disproportionately against the poor and against racial, ethnic and religious groups.  The Commission should adopt a resolution calling for a universal moratorium on executions and the observance of agreed safeguards and restrictions in capital cases.


International Possibilities Unlimited said it remained vitally important that the Commission strengthen its objection to the juvenile death penalty, and affirm that the world had evolved to a higher standard of decency when dealing with the children of the world.


With regards to human rights and anti-terrorist measures, the International Commission of Jurists said that for the third successive year, Member States of the United Nations would abdicate their responsibility to ensure human rights were protected while countering terrorism, and they would again fail to establish even a modest mechanism to monitor the performance of States.  All governments had a positive obligation to protect the security of people, including from terrorist acts.  However, it was the primary responsibility of the Commission to ensure that such counter-terrorism measures did not undermine human rights law built up over the last 50 years.


Human Rights Watch said that in many countries around the world, very basic human rights principles were under attack both from terrorism and from governments whose counter-terrorism measures often seriously violated human rights norms.  While neither terrorism nor some of the human rights concerns related to counter-terrorism were new, they had taken on a more transnational and globalized dimension since the attacks of 11 September 2001.  They posed many new challenges for the United Nations human rights monitoring system.


Concerning human rights defenders, the International Service for Human Rights said human rights defenders were the most at risk in those States where human rights were systematically violated.  The report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders was evidence of the situation of human rights defenders in the world today; they were subjected to many tactics by governments that wished to control them by judicial proceedings, surveillance and intimidation tactics.  But human rights defenders would not be silenced.


The South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre said that five years after the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and three years after the establishment of the post of the Special Representative for human rights defenders, many questions arose as to the purpose of the Declaration.  Among the most pressing issues were:  to what degree, if any, did the Declaration improve upon existing human rights protections that were afforded to all persons and prescribed by international law?  Could its provisions realistically be applied, or was it no more than a rhetorical expression of goodwill, to be filed away amongst the growing pile of other non-binding international instruments?


And with regards to human rights and sexual orientation, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network said that it had been encouraging to see a number of States take firm positions of principle in support of non-discrimination and ending human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered people and human rights defenders.  However, while increasing support was being shown cross-regionally, the rights of these populations continued to be violated in regions around the world.  It was particularly disheartening to witness States responsible for torture and death of their own gay and lesbian citizens argue against the inclusion of sexual orientation and vow to call for a paragraph vote on the draft text.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights demanded the Commission’s attention.


San Marino, Tunisia and Senegal delivered statements on the promotion and protection of human rights, as did representatives of the following non-governmental organizations: Centre for Economic and Social Rights; World Alliance of Reformed Churches; Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of:  Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development; International NGO Forum on Indonesia Development; Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation; Third World Movement against the Exploitation of Women; Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development and International Women's Rights Action Watch); International Indian Treaty Council, speaking on behalf of Indigenous World Association; Indian Council of South America and International Educational Development; Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, speaking on behalf of several NGOs Joint statement on behalf of:  Women's International League for Peace and Freedom; African Society of International and Comparative Law; Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; Interfaith International; International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements; International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples; International Alliance of Women; Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations; B’nai B’rith International; Indian Council of South America; United Towns Agency For North-South Cooperation and International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education -– OIDEL); Association for World Education, speaking on behalf of International Humanist and Ethical Union and World Union for Progressive Judaism; International Possibilities Unlimited, speaking on behalf of Friedrich Ebert Foundation; International Association against Torture; National Association Of Criminal Defence Lawyers; and Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research; International Commission of Jurists; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International; Europe-Third World Centre; World Organization against Torture, speaking on behalf of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues; Soka Gakkai International, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of: Soka Gakkai International; Arab Organization for Human Rights; International Alliance of Women; International Federation of University Women; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism; International Peace Bureau; MINBYUN -- Lawyers for a Democratic Society; Lutheran World Federation, New Humanity; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education -- OIDEL; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Pax Romana; Wellesley Centres for Women; World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women; World Federation of Trade Unions; World Association for the School as An Instrument of Peace; and Servas International); Dominicans for Justice and Peace, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of: Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Dominican Leadership Conference; International Presentation Association Sisters of the Presentation; Congregations of St. Joseph; International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture); Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur; Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic); South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees; Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos; Earthjustice ; International Service for Human Rights; North-South XXI; International Religious Liberty Association; Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network; Transnational Radical Party; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; International Institute of Humanitarian Law; Australian Council for Overseas Aid, Centre for Women’s Global Leadership; Canadian HIV/Aids Legal Network; World Federation of Democratic Youth; International Union of Socialist Youth; International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations; Group for International Solidarity; France Libertés -– Fondation Danielle Mitterrand; Agir Ensemble pour les droits de l’homme; National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers; Human Rights Advocates; Permanent Assembly for Human Rights; Comité international pour le respect et l’application de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples; International Buddhist Foundation; International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action; International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, speaking on behalf of World Medical Association and Physicians for Human Rights; Colombian Commission of Jurists; International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; and Liberal International


Colombia and Uzbekistan spoke in exercise of their right of reply.


The Commission today is meeting non-stop from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.  The morning meeting concluded at noon, and the midday meeting immediately started with the general debate opening on advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights.


Statements on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights


FEDERICA BIGI (San Marino) said San Marino categorically opposed the death penalty and fully supported all initiatives having as a goal the progressive abolition of capital punishment, or, at the least, the gradual establishment of a moratorium on executions.  San Marino was one of the first States in the world to abolish the death penalty, and the public authorities and population of the country had never felt the need to debate its re-establishment.  Inflicting death on a human being, even if he or she had been found guilty of abominable crimes, was not an act that conformed to justice, in the ethical sense of the term.  It was a blow against the most fundamental human right, the right to life, and took from a person the respect for human dignity which each was entitled to enjoy.  Its very application was an inhuman and degrading treatment.


Nor was the death penalty a valid form of protection of society or a means of dissuading criminals.  Experience had shown that where the death penalty was applied, the level of criminality had not diminished, and societies where it was applied were neither less violent nor safer.  Further, the possibility of making an irreversible mistake should not be ignored.  It was hoped that some day this issue would no longer be on the agenda of the Commission, and that capital punishment would no longer exist in any national penal code.


AHMAD TANSHEET, of Centre for Economic and Social Rights, said that since September 11, the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation had targeted over 27,000 Arabs and Muslims with arrests or raids for alleged links with terrorism.  Prison officials had abused Arab and Muslim detainees.  Overall, more than 200,000 Muslims and Arabs had been affected by United States Government actions carried out on the basis of race, religion, or national origin, leaving many American Muslims questioning whether they enjoyed the right to live in the United States as equal citizens.


Human rights, as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, belonged to everyone, not just to those of Christian, European descent.  Likewise, human rights violators existed everywhere, not just in countries of the South.  The Commission should heed the plight of those Muslims and Arabs being victimized by the United States Government in the name of security and counter-terrorism.


PORPEN KHONGKACHOKIRET, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, said the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders had concerns that Thailand’s regional human rights role could be declining.  It was of fundamental importance for the region that this role be preserved.  The Forum urged the Thai Government to immediately implement the Special Representative’s recommendations to consider ways to ensuring a more stable legal and practical environment for human rights defenders working on behalf of human rights in the region.  Asian States should issue standing invitations to the thematic procedures of the Commission, and should adopt their national policies and legislation to ensure the protection of human rights defenders.


Women’s rights should be recognized as fundamental human rights, and they should be free from sexual violence.  They should have the right to work and organize and the right to citizenship, and there should be respect for the work of women human rights defenders.  Human rights education was the seed for improving the capability and working environment of human rights defenders in Asia.


MELODIE SMITH, of World Alliance of Reformed Churches, said most mainline faith-based organizations throughout the world had adopted strong positions recognizing the dignity and value of every human being’s life and opposing capital punishment.  Amid growing protest that governments continued to kill the most vulnerable, the poor, the young, minority populations and the mentally impaired, there were some who refused to play God, who had courageously commuted the death sentences of persons convicted by corrupted systems of criminal justice.  In failing to act in formidable ways to stop executions against distinct classes of people, and in refusing to appreciate capital punishment as a step in the slippery slope towards mass murder and genocide among certain aspects of the human population, the world was destined to experience continued acts of terrorism and violence.


BILL SIMMONS, of International Indian Treaty Council, speaking on behalf of Indigenous World Association; Indian Council of South America and International Educational Development, said the United States presented itself to the world as a Government working for human rights and justice, and asserted that all people within its borders had access to justice.  However, this access had been trampled by the country’s new laws against terrorism, which were applied to those who criticized the UnitedState’s foreign or domestic policies.  The Government of the United States had fabricated the evidence used to convict Leonard Pelletier, and specifically aimed to undermine Amerindian leaders and the Amerindian movement with the aim of perpetuating human rights abuses against the American Indian peoples.


It was in a climate of terror that the American Indian movement was struggling to preserve its rightful place in the world community, as well as its self-respect and culture.


FATOU DIAWARA, of Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of:  Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; African Society of International and Comparative Law; Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples; Interfaith International; International Federation of Rural Adult Catholic Movements; International League for the Rights and Liberation of peoples; International Alliance of Women; Coordination Board of Jewish Organizations; B’nai B’rith International; Indian Council of South America; United Towns Agency For North-South Cooperation and International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education –- OIDEL), said the Commission was no doubt the key body for the promotion and protection of human rights and of great importance for non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and its prestige stemmed from its impartiality and integrity.  Access to it should be ensured for all human rights defenders.  The Commission should not be deprived of its most precious collaborators, those who had often been the main promoters of international and human rights law.


The absence or the forced inaction of this essential component of NGOs could only contribute to the weakening that all were obliged to note in this United Nations body which was becoming a laughing stock for many.  This was why the Commission should defend the fundamental rights of human rights defenders and do everything to ensure that human rights defenders could carry out their work.


DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, speaking on behalf of International Humanist and Ethical Union and World Union for Progressive Judaism, said membership in the Commission should carry responsibilities, and the Commission should develop a code of guidelines for access to membership and a code of conduct for those serving on it.


There was a need for stronger protection of human rights.  Without universal respect for human rights, the vision of the United Nations Charter of a world of peace grounded in respect for human rights and economic and social justice would remain an illusion.  All should make it clear in the Commission that the civilized world would never surrender to the vile threats of Jihadist bombers.  Only a total victory over ignominious, religious depravity and terror would bring salvation to the free world, to free people, and to those still to be freed.


JOTAKA EADDY, of International Possibilities Unlimited, speaking on behalf of Friedrich Ebert Foundation; International Association against Torture; National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers; and Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research, said there was hope that the world would soon see the end of the death penalty as a form of legal punishment.  There was growing momentum for the rejection of the juvenile death penalty in the United States.  The prohibition of the juvenile death penalty had been accepted throughout the world as an international norm, leaving the United States virtually isolated in its adherence to this practice.  An evolving standard of decency had clearly emerged on this issue.


However, it remained vitally important that the Commission strengthen its objection to this form of capital punishment, and affirm that the world had evolved to a higher standard of decency when dealing with the children of the world.  A better world was possible, and one day the world would walk away victorious in the fight to end this horrible practice.


NICHOLAS HOWEN, of International Commission of Jurists, said that for the third successive year, Member States of the United Nations would abdicate their responsibility to ensure that human rights were protected while countering terrorism, and they would again fail to establish even a modest mechanism to monitor the performance of States.  All governments had a positive obligation to protect the security of people, including from terrorist acts.  However, it was the primary responsibility of the Commission to ensure that such counter-terrorism measures did not undermine human rights law built up over the last 50 years.


Among the fundamental rights that had already been violated in pursuit of counter-terrorism efforts were freedom from torture; the right to life; freedom from arbitrary detention; the right to a fair trial by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law; freedoms of association and expression; the right to asylum; and the right to non-discrimination.  The existing United Nations human rights system was simply not adequate to fulfil the task of monitoring the compatibility of national counter-terrorism measures with international human rights obligations.  The same conclusion had been drawn by the acting High Commissioner for Human Rights and most of the Independent Experts addressing the International Court of Justice conference on the counter-terrorism and international human rights monitoring system held in October 2003.


WIDNEY BROWN, of Human Rights Watch, said in many countries around the world very basic human rights principles were under attack both from terrorism and from Governments whose counter-terrorism measures often seriously violated human rights norms.  While neither terrorism nor some of the human rights concerns related to counter-terrorism were new, they had taken on a more transnational and globalized dimension since the attacks of 11 September 2001.  They posed many new challenges for the United Nations human rights monitoring system.


Abuses committed in the name of fighting terrorism included prolonged incommunicado detention without judicial review; the transfer, return, extradition and expulsion of persons at risk of being subjected to torture; the physical maltreatment of detainees; and the adoption of security measures that curtailed the right to freedom of association and breach of the principle of non-discrimination.  The Commission should adopt a resolution on the protection of human rights in countering terrorism that would establish a special monitoring mechanism on human rights and counter-terrorism.


CLAIRE MAHON, of Amnesty International, said that although the campaign to abolish the death penalty had gained dramatic momentum worldwide, some countries continued to use this cruel and irrevocable punishment.  Last year, 1,146 executions in 28 countries had been recorded, and 2,756 people had been sentenced to death in 63 countries.  Yet the true figures were surely higher.  The application of the death penalty was not just a gross violation of the right to life; it was often discriminatory and imposed disproportionately against the poor and against racial, ethnic and religious groups.  Among others, those suffering from mental illness had been killed, and sexual orientation had been cited as a reason for imposing the death penalty.  Moreover, contrary to international law, people under the age of 18 continued to be executed.  The Commission should adopt a resolution calling for a universal moratorium on executions and the observance of agreed safeguards and restrictions in capital cases.


Additionally, some of the new laws and measures adopted since 11 September 2001 had negatively affected the enjoyment of human rights.  Given the serious nature of today’s threats to public safety and the duty of States under international human rights law to protect the populations from terrorism, Governments were urged to ensure that measures taken to prevent and respond to terrorist acts were in strict conformity with their obligations under international human rights law.  The Commission should give itself the means to monitor the effect of counter-terrorism measures on respect for human rights.


MALIK OZDEN, of Centre Europe-Tiers Monde, said impunity was a violation of the right to justice, the right to truth, to memory and to reparation.  Thus, the fight against impunity was of capital importance if continued human rights violations were to be avoided.  This fight should cover three aspects:  the prevention of violations of human rights, the repression of the authors of these violations, and reparation for the damage done to the victims.  Economic crimes were being committed more and more, and had alarming impact on the enjoyment of human rights, as was shown by several studies of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.  To omit the aspect of violations of economic, social and cultural rights in the fight against impunity was in effect to ignore the universality, indivisibility and interdependence of human rights, as affirmed by all States.


IMACULADA BARCIA, of World Organization against Torture, speaking on behalf of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, said they were gravely concerned about the deterioration of the situation of human rights defenders across the globe.  The 2003 annual report of the Observatory documented the situation of more than 550 human rights defenders and 80 non-governmental organizations facing repression in more than 80 States.  The Observatory was particularly concerned about the impact that security and counter-terrorism policy, legislation and practices had on the safety of human rights defenders and their ability to carry out their work.  Concern was also expressed that the increasing focus of States on the war on terrorism came at the expense of their commitment to human rights.  He drew attention to the situation of human rights defenders in conflict areas, where they were frequently viewed as enemies of the State and accused of shielding terrorists.


HABIB MANSOUR (Tunisia) said it was important that human rights defenders gained ever more credibility and support which were so necessary to accomplish their noble mission, which was that they should be above partisan considerations and aim to ensure that their activity took place in the spirit of objectivity, impartiality, and transparency.  It was to be regretted that some did not impose upon themselves the rigour that the promotion and protection of human rights demanded, and committed themselves on the basis of unfounded information which they did not take time to verify.  It had been thus when a representative of an organisation made comments during the session, and thus there was a necessity to reiterate that the freedom of expression in Tunisia continued to develop in a steady manner, and that the public authorities were working without cease to reinforce this right, thus favouring the existence of an open and pluralist country.  Tunisia intended to take an active role to ensure that new impulse was given to the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press as well as free access to information everywhere in the world.


PAPA DIOP (Senegal) said the situation of human rights defenders in the world remained a preoccupying one with regard to the threats, harassment and insults of which they continued to be the object.  In Senegal, the exercise of public freedoms, such as marches and other manifestations such as the freedom of association, of expression including that of the press, were included in the Constitution in such a manner that the public authorities could in no way take measures tending towards the suffocation or repression of human rights defenders.  Senegal was in the phase of implementing the recommendations of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders in her report, in particular that relative to the adoption by States of a national political framework on the situation of human rights defenders, which should include the specific steps of the implementation of the Declaration on the rights and responsibilities of individuals, groups and specific organs of 9 December 1998 in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms that were universally recognized.


FUJII KAZUNAR, of Soka Gakkai International, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of:  Soka Gakkai International; Arab Organization for Human Rights; International Alliance of Women; International Federation of University Women; International Fellowship of Reconciliation; International Movement against all Forms of Discrimination and Racism; International Peace Bureau; MINBYUN -- Lawyers for a Democratic Society; Lutheran World Federation, New Humanity; International Organization for the Development of Freedom of Education -- OIDEL; Organization for Defending Victims of Violence; Pax Romana; Wellesley Centres for Women; World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women; World Federation of Trade Unions; World Association for the School as An Instrument of Peace; and Servas International), said in recent years the world had experienced a growing number of regional and national conflicts, resulting in socio-political instability, the aftermath of post-war reconstruction as well as extreme incidents of terrorism.  Under such circumstances, people could not benefit from the current Decade for Human Rights Education.  There were two crucial issues to address:  first, better coordination for human rights education activities as well as proper monitoring of these activities; and secondly, there was an urgent need for international funding.  Non-governmental organizations worldwide believed that a global framework such as a second decade for human rights education with a new action plan should be supported by the United Nations system as a whole, and Member States should demonstrate their commitment to effective implementation of human rights education and should invite all actors to participate in the drawing-up of a new action plan aimed at promoting human rights education as a life-long process for all.


MINLI DALLH, of Dominicans for Justice and Peace, speaking on behalf of several NGOs (Joint statement on behalf of:  Dominicans for Justice and Peace; Dominican Leadership Conference; International Presentation Association Sisters of the Presentation; Congregations of St. Joseph; International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture); Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur; Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic), said the death penalty perpetuated a cycle of violence and promoted a sense of vengeance in world culture.  To continue to enact the penalty was to teach that violence and killing were acceptable ways of dealing with violence and killing.  Restoration of society and the healing of victims, as well as reform and rehabilitation of the offenders should be the goals of a criminal justice system.  In calling for the abolition of the death penalty worldwide, there was also concern for its unjust and unequal application, as it was often applied in a racist manner to minorities and the under classes in general.  All Governments should abolish the death penalty. 


RINEETA NAIK, of South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre, said that five years after the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and three years after the establishment of the office of the Special Representative for Human Rights Defenders, many questions arose as to the purpose of the Declaration.  Among the most pressing issues were: to what degree, if any, did the Declaration improve upon existing human rights protections that were afforded to all persons and prescribed by international law?  Could its provisions realistically be applied, or was it no more than a rhetorical expression of goodwill, to be filed away amongst the growing pile of other non-binding international instruments?


MARIA LUISA TOLEDO, of Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees, said that it was important to note that the Association – as a group of human rights defenders -– had tried to exercise the legitimate right to defend their disappeared relatives.  Serious concern was expressed over the violence afflicted upon human rights defenders, particularly in Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia and Mexico.  The spiral of violence extended through corruption and crime due to the impunity extended to perpetrators by Governments.  There was also much concern that the harassment campaigns had been extended to the criminalization of social protests and that the media criticized individuals unjustly.


RAFAELLA DE LA TORRE, of Federación de Asociaciones de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, said that her organization continued to condemn acts of terrorism.  She shared the pains inflicted against the Spanish people by the recent terrorist acts that had killed and wounded many innocent civilians.  The fire lit by terrorism could not however be extinguished by petrol.  The war of aggression against Iraq had so far killed 10,000 civilians besides military causalities.  The war had also made great damage to properties, which did not contribute to the combat against terrorism.  The war of aggression against Iraq did not in any way diminish the acts of terrorism.  It was rather an aggression that defied all international norms and international humanitarian law.


YVETTE LADORE, of Earthjustice, called upon all States to ensure that the constructive efforts envisaged at the World Summit on Sustainable Development with regard to environmental problems were followed-up and implemented.  The issue should not be held hostage to the sterile political debate.  The Commission should continue to fulfil its mission for the protection and promotion of human rights related to environmental questions.  The poorest and most vulnerable populations, including women and children, paid the heaviest toll from environmental degradation.  Moreover, while the European and Inter-American courts of human rights were more and more often called upon to deal with environmental related questions, those involved in the protection of the environment –- both governmental and non-governmental organizations -– more and more often linked environmental questions to human rights in programmes.


YOHANES BUDI HERNOVAN, of International Service for Human Rights, said human rights defenders were the most at risk in those States where human rights were systematically violated.  Defenders would continue to present the truth to the Commission, without taking sides.  The report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders was evidence of the situation of human rights defenders in the world today; they were subjected to many tactics by Governments that wished to control them by judicial proceedings, surveillance and intimidation tactics.  But human rights defenders would not be silenced.  The States present at the Commission should publicly recognize the legitimate role played by defenders in the promotion and protection of all human rights, peace, democracy and the rule of law. 


MANUEL FAJARDO CRAVERO, of Nord-Sud XXI, said that since 1980, an internal armed conflict had been going on in Peru between the Communist Party of Peru and the State.  That situation had prompted the State to promulgate a state of emergency, which had derogated some of the human rights and fundamental freedoms.  A military command had been put in place to manage the situation of the state of emergency while legislation, not compatible with international human rights law and international humanitarian law, had been adopted. A policy of genocide against the population had been pursued without regard to the Constitution.  Thousands of people had disappeared with the State being accountable for such acts.  That law of exception had been widely used in place of the penal code and other civil laws.


JUAN PERLA, of International Religious Liberty Association, said religious liberty and the elimination of intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief were essential to promote understanding, peace, and friendship among people.  The United Nations, government authorities and non-governmental organizations should continue to promote and protect actively the fundamental freedom of religion and the work of human rights defenders in the field.  Promoting and protecting this basic right and freedom was, now more than ever, essential to creating a more peaceful world.


SANCHAY CHAKMA, of Asian Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Network, said human rights defenders across the world faced serious repression from the authorities.  Often, non-governmental organizations were controlled through special financial rules.  Human rights defenders were under severe threat in Bangladesh, facing arrest, torture, harassment, extrajudicial killing and numerous troubles.  The Commission was urged to take the issue seriously. 


GEORGES RUAN, of Transnational Radical Party, said there should be a world-wide moratorium on the death penalty.  On a world-wide scale, the application of the death penalty was very bad - and there should be a moratorium for the entire United States as well as other countries.  In the name of human rights, morality and mercy, the machinery of death should be stopped in order to study its accuracy, fairness and faults.  In non-democratic countries, information on the death penalty was a state secret.  In some countries, thousands each year were sentenced to death and immediately executed, with no opportunity to appeal.  The death penalty in these countries was a humanitarian emergency and the international community had a duty and obligation to intervene.


DEIRDRE McCONNELL, of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said that human rights defenders exposed human rights violations mostly in countries where there was conflict.  They exposed arrest, detention, torture, disappearances, killings, and violence against women committed mostly by the government forces.  They spoke out on behalf of civilians including women and children, marginalized social groups and other victims.  They sought justice to end impunity by challenging the perpetrators of human rights violation and reminded all States of their obligations to uphold the rule of law.  Those activities sometimes brought them disaster.  She enumerated individual cases of human rights violations of a lawyer and a journalist in Sri Lanka.


MICHEL VEUTHEY, of International Institute of Humanitarian Law, said that the Institute’s main goal was to promote, disseminate and teach international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law through different training courses.  From its foundation in 1970 until today, the Institute has organized 130 courses for military personnel including basic, specialized and human rights courses.  More than 100 countries participated in such courses, which were very important in the education and training of military people on the respect and implementation of fundamental humanitarian standards, particularly in armed conflict.  The question of the implementation of humanitarian law must be considered together with the implementation of human rights law.  Those two important branches of international law could complete each other not just in peacetime, but also during international armed conflicts, internal conflicts and in situations of violence.  In the resolution on the promotion and dissemination of human rights law, a special paragraph should provide for the promotion and dissemination of international humanitarian law and refugee law.


KATHY RICHARDS, of Australian Council for Overseas Aid, said in the last decade, international development donors had considerably increased their focus on good governance activities.  These programmes should aim to assist States to provide universal and equitable basic services, protection for human rights and the opportunity for all people to have a say in the decision-making processes affecting their communities.  Yet development programmes addressing poor governance practices had come to primarily focus on the reform of Government and fiscal policies, the building of democratic institutions or training for the judiciary and public sector.  The challenge before donor States was to adopt a more expansive, holistic approach in their good governance activities.  The Commission should ensure that a commitment was made for good governance strategies to commence with a clear focus on the empowerment, involvement and representation of communities, especially those living in poverty and despair. 


SUSANA T. FRIED, of Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, noted with alarm the tendency of some governments to call into question the historic recognition in Vienna that violence against women was a human rights violation.  The growing in attacks, both physical and verbal, on women who asserted their human rights around the world, also concerned the Centre.  Governmental backtracking from their previous support of women’s human rights in various international and regional documents over the past decade signalled that opposition to women’s human right would be tolerated.  At the heart of much of the danger faced by women’s human rights defenders were the issues of gender role construction, reproductive rights, sexuality and violence against women.  Women who were actively working to defend human rights in the public arena could become targets of sexual violence as well as sexually based insinuation, seeking to discredit and debilitate their work on the basis of their sexuality.


JOHN FISHER, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said that it had been encouraging to see a number of States take firm positions of principle in support of non-discrimination and ending human rights violations against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgendered people and human rights defenders.  However, while increasing support was being shown cross-regionally, the rights of these populations continued to be violated in regions around the world.  It was particularly disheartening to witness States responsible for torture and death of their own gay and lesbian citizens argue against the inclusion of sexual orientation and vow to call for a paragraph vote on the draft text.  Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered rights demanded the Commission’s attention.  All States were called upon to support the inclusion of sexual orientation in the resolution under the present debate.  A clear message must be sent that none should be killed because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.


MIRIAM MORALES PALMERO, of World Federation of Democratic Youth, said thousands of people worldwide did not have access to health care, several millions were illiterate and some 200 million youth were homeless.  Moreover, many people were living in absolute poverty.  The Federation was concentrating its efforts on these aggravating affects and looking at ways to alleviate these problems.  The military intervention by the United States in Iraq and the massacre of the Palestinian people by Israel were clear examples of how there was a major lack of respect for human rights.  Cuba has been one of the biggest contributors of assistance to the Honduran people, especially when it came to medical assistance; today there were more than 15,000 doctors in 65 countries from Cuba in the third world making efforts to alleviate the situation in those countries.


AHMED SIDY ALY, of International Union of Socialist Youth, said the situation of the Saharawi human rights activists in the occupied territories of the Western Sahara was linked to the day-to-day situation of the Saharawi population living in those territories.  Ever since Morocco illegally occupied the territory in 1975, the Saharawi population had been subjected to a series of practices carried out by the Moroccan occupying power which involved forced unemployment, denial of salaries, forced deportation into Morocco, arbitrary arrest and detention, among other things.  Those responsible for the gross violations of human rights in the Western Sahara were still continuing to do so without impunity, he added. 


M’HAMED MOHAMED CHEIKH, of International Youth and Student Movement for the United Nations, said there was much concern for the repeated aggressions against the Saharawi human rights defenders in the Western Sahara, where Morocco, the illegal occupying power, had for the last three decades had a policy for the physical eradication of this part of society.  This policy was expressed in ways that violated international humanitarian law, but were also crimes against humanity including torture, reduction of the right to freedom of expression, association, and reunion.  The international community should take steps to ensure that these attempts ceased against human rights defenders in the Western Sahara , and to ensure that Morocco elucidated the cases of the hundreds of victims of forced disappearances in that territory.


SATISH K. KAREL, of Group for International Solidarity, said extra-judicial executions, forced disappearances, illegal arrests, detention, and torture were widespread in Nepal.  The wide-spread human rights violations, absolute impunity for the perpetrators and lack of justice for the victims had generated a negative attitude towards the army, the security forces and the State as a whole.  Civil society in Nepal had been asking the international community to open up the space for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to provide technical support for the protection and monitoring of the situation and helping national institutions to bring perpetrators to justice.  The Commission should, among other things, condemn the ongoing repression by the Government against the peaceful demonstrators, human rights activists, lawyers and other professional groups of people committed to democracy and the rule of law.


LAURE GEISSBUEHLER, of France Libertes -– Fondation Danielle Mitterrand, said the Commission should have its attention drawn to the case of Professor Bandajevsky, who had been imprisoned in Belorussia since June 2001 for having studied the pathologies linked to radiation in a country that had been touched by the Chernobyl catastrophe, where the population was dying and doctors were muzzled.  Eighteen years after the catastrophe, the right to freedom of expression and to truth were ignored to the detriment of scientific research on the consequences of the event which were still felt by the surrounding populations.  This was why the Commission should intervene to insist that Professor Bandajevsky be immediately released.


LAURE-JULIA HOLSTEIN, of Agir Ensemble pour les droits de l’homme, said that she wished to express concern over the situation of human rights in Cuba.  Citing the recent wave of arrests and prison sentencing of dissidents and journalists, she said the Commission must take a position on the arbitrary detention of these individuals who had been sentenced to more than 25 years in prison for nothing more than making their opinions heard.  The Commission should urge the Government to respect the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and to ensure freedom and respect for the personal integrity of all human rights defenders in Cuba.  The Special Representative on human rights defenders should travel to the country and have free access to all political detainees.


JOHN WESLEY HALL, of National Association of Criminal Defence Lawyers, said the death penalty for juvenile offenders was now a practice unique to the United States.  Many jurisdictions within the United States had found that evolving standards of decency prohibited the execution of those convicted of crimes when they were juveniles.  It was statistically probable that the United States had executed innocent persons, and that was reason enough to require a moratorium on the death penalty everywhere in the world.  The fact that a person could be executed for a crime he or she did not commit offended all notions of human decency.  All delegates were called upon to actively support the resolution on the question of the death penalty. 


JENNIFER ARTBURU, of Human Rights Advocates, said that there were more than 175 million migrants worldwide – a growing number of whom were in dire need of protection from dangerous border crossings and workplace abuses.  Migration worldwide was on the increase and a demand for migrant labour in developed countries along with poor economic conditions in sending countries continued to drive the movement.  To improve conditions for migrants, Human Rights Advocates asked that countries ratify the Convention on Migrant Workers, particularly receiving countries, as that was where the majority of abuses occurred.  Sending countries should keep in mind the billions of dollars in remittances that migrants sent home each year and take more responsibility for their workers abroad, giving them assistance in reporting abuses, and when possible negotiating bilateral treaties for their protection.  Additionally, countries should punish the employers who encouraged human smuggling rather than the migrant workers who were lured by their promises.


BRENDA VUKOVIC, of Permanent Assembly for Human Rights, said there was concern at the massive and systematic violation of economic, social and cultural rights suffered by the Argentine population.  There was an urgent need to move forward on punishing violations of economic, social and cultural rights, which were an integral part of civil and political rights.  The economic policies adopted by successive Argentine Governments were accompanied by illegitimate State action and corrupt action had grave results on the civil debt, and along with the corruption and constant inconsistency between the political system and social requirements had caused an explosive crisis.  The Argentine population was living under constant threat of becoming socially disappeared.  The violation of the rights of the homosexual community was also denounced, as none should be discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or identity.


MEHRAN BALUCH, of Comite international pour le respect et l’application de la Charte africaine des droits de l’homme et des peuples -- CIRAC, said half a century of continued human rights violations and oppression had reduced the indigenous Baluch population to a minority.  The nuclear blasts and defence programmes of Pakistan had made the people of Baluchistan poorer and more vulnerable, and their distinct national, cultural, political and administrative identity was being threatened.  Recognition of the aspirations of minority nationalities in the federation of Pakistan and due consideration of their cultural, linguistic, economic and political rights was imperative in order to lessen the sense of deep alienation prevailing among the masses of nationalities.  There were several pluralistic states, like Switzerland, which had nationalities and communities that possessed nation-like characteristics but did not have their separate states, and it was unfortunate that the rulers of Pakistan had never thought of accommodating minorities through a constructive and viable mechanism. 


LAKSHMAN LOKUMARAMBAGE, of International Buddhist Foundation, said he wished to bring to the attention of the Commission improvements in the situation of human rights in Sri Lanka since the signing of the ceasefire between the Government and the LTTE in February 2002.  After 20 years of war, people had begun to lead normal lives and to embrace one another in a spirit of brotherhood.  Among other developments, more than 300,000 internally displaced persons had returned to their homes and much rehabilitation and reconstruction work had taken place in the north and east of the country.  Moreover, elections had been held on 2 April 2004.  Thus, it was disappointing to see, in spite of such positive developments, one non-governmental organization continue to refer to Sri Lanka in negative terms, raking up outdated allegations and suggesting some form of “separate development” or “bantustantization” when the real need was for calm and restraint for the resolving of differences within a united Sri Lanka.  The international community should show solidarity with the people of Sri Lanka and help the parties to resolve the issues affecting them in the context of a democratic, united State, respecting the human rights of all.


MAYA BEN-HAIM ROSEN, of International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, reiterated its  primary criticism regarding the current situation, namely the Arab League and Organization of Islamic Conference States’ blocking of an effective international definition of terrorism in the interests of a politically-motivated exception, i.e. that any resistance by all means to occupation, colonial domination, among other things, should not be regarded as an act of terrorism -– however many civilians were being targeted, killed or maimed.  The Association had reservations about the value of creating a new special procedure, and/or installing a “human rights expert” in a revamped Counter Terrorism Committee.  The Association pointed the attention of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to the recent article by Justice Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court of Israel, - The role of a supreme court in a democracy and the fights against terrorism -- which listed a set of principles offered as a useful starting point for such a set of guidelines.  


LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, said there were many situations where defenders were targeted for their work on indigenous and land rights, and there was concern for the use of both the law and the court against human rights defenders.  It was disappointing to note that indigenous peoples in defence of their land rights could be labelled as terrorists.  Many violations were occurring under the mantle of State-driven racism against the indigenous peoples, through the vicious use of the law, the courts, and legislature, in particular in Australia.


MASSIMILIANO DESUMMA, of International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, said there was grave concern that health professionals and human rights defenders continued to be at risk for their work in documenting acts of torture or in providing treatment and support to victims of torture.  There was particular concern for persisting and unfounded allegations against the centre for victims of torture in Harare, Zimbabwe.  The human rights of patients, health professionals and indeed all citizens should be assured by the State, especially related to their right to health care.  The Commission should remind all States to respect, under all circumstances, the special obligations of health professionals to provide assistance to persons in need of their services.


ANDRES SANCHEZ, of Colombian Association of Jurists, said there was a worsening of the attacks against human rights defenders, leading to attack, persecution, and threats in many countries of the world.  In Colombia, 16 defenders had disappeared or had been murdered over the last year.  The Government, rather than implementing the recommendations of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had continued its campaign of harassment of defenders.  There was a policy of polarization, causing distrust, separation and hostility by the Government towards the defenders; their work was questioned, and they were accused of being in the service of terrorism.  It was not by inspiring hostility towards and rejection of human rights defenders that a truly democratic system of security would be developed.  It was of paramount importance that States adopt a policy favouring the fundamental role played by human rights defenders towards democracy.


ANNA BIONDI BIRD, of International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, said that he wished to denounce the violation of trade unionists’ fundamental human rights as a result of their democratic activities.  Citing instances of such violations in Colombia, China, Republic of Korea, Burma, Djibouti, Cameroon, Belarus, Cambodia, Zimbabwe and Haiti, he said that the examples showed clearly that the fundamental rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining remained among the most violated in the world and the Commission must therefore maintain the strong focus on trade union activists among the most endangered of human rights defenders.


FRANK CALZON, of Liberal International, said promoting human rights meant that the international community must commit itself to defend those who tried to exercise the rights set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It also meant that the Commission supported civil societies and a rule of law that honoured and respected rights.  The abuse of human rights was a pressing matter in many of the world’s countries, including the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Tibet, China and Cuba.  In Cuba’s case, much of the world was beginning to express its solidarity with the victims of repression who sought to exercise their rights.  Despite Havana’s expressed displeasure, democratic governments were inviting the families of Cuba’s political prisoners to share their stories.


Right of Reply


CLEMENCIA FORERO UCROS (Colombia), speaking in a right of reply, said that with regard to the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the work of human rights, the Government of Colombia believed that the work of those NGOs in keeping up with international law and human rights standards was valuable and must be respected.  There were protection programmes conducted by the Colombian Ministry of Interior where people were welcomed when they were under threat and, moreover, Colombia worked for constructive dialogue with Member States.  Furthermore, Colombia said they would like to construct a national human rights plan yet reserved the right to disagree with opinions made in the Commission where there were biased reports presented. They were not satisfied with those opinions expressed and hoped to reduce violence and suffering that was unacceptable to all in the Commission.


BADRIDDIN OBIDOV (Uzbekistan), speaking in a right of reply, said in response to the Representative of Switzerland that the death penalty could only be applied for violations of two types of crime and instances, and alternative sentencing was increasingly replacing the death penalty.  In addition to comprehensive measures to prevent torture, the Government had undertaken to reform the system of punishment in general.  There had also been efforts to ensure the informing of the families of persons sentenced to death in compliance with international standards.  The Government’s plan of action in this regard also included studies on a possible moratorium or abolition of the death penalty.


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For information media. Not an official record.