Speakers in Third Committee Draw Links between Fight to Secure Human Rights, Fight against Poverty, as Three-Day Discussion Concludes

28 October 2009

Speakers in Third Committee Draw Links between Fight to Secure Human Rights, Fight against Poverty, as Three-Day Discussion Concludes

28 October 2009
General Assembly
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fourth General Assembly

Third Committee

32nd & 33rd Meetings (AM & PM)

Speakers in Third Committee Draw Links between Fight to Secure Human Rights,

Fight against Poverty, as Three-Day Discussion Concludes


Say Civil, Political Rights Remain Focus, Even as Economic Rights Unfulfilled;

Human Rights Cause Can Be Sustained in Developing Countries in Anti-Poverty Effort

Concluding its three-day general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights, speakers in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) drew links between the fight to secure all people’s enjoyment of human rights and the fight against poverty, stressing that States must do more to integrate human rights concepts into people’s everyday lives.

Offering a view from the developing world, the representative of Nigeria said developed partners tended to focus on civil and political rights, even as the right to education, health, and adequate housing remained unfulfilled.  And, while civil and political rights were absolutely necessary, they should not be given priority over economic, social and cultural rights.

As echoed by other speakers, he called on United Nations agencies, international human rights bodies, along with the entire international community, to ensure that efforts to promote and protect human rights did not lean only toward civil and political rights.  He said the fight against poverty was where the cause of human rights could be sustained, especially in developing countries.

Among the draft resolutions expected to be tabled in the coming days was the text on the right to food, which the representative of Monaco said would be co-sponsored by her Government.  Fearing that the economic crisis was moving the world away from its target to resolve hunger, the Government of Monaco was combating food insecurity as part of its international cooperation policy with Africa.  The projects ranged from setting up school canteens to promoting market gardening.

She said her Government supported the assertion by the Rapporteur on the right to food, who said that climate change, changes in food prices and other negative global trends were disrupting the livelihood of smallholders, who were very often women living in rural areas.  She expressed hope that the World Food Summit, scheduled for November, would breathe new life in the agriculture sector, especially in its role of ensuring the right to food.

While urging Governments to work together to implement human rights standards across nations, several speakers underscored the need to be even-handed, or risk harming the credibility of United Nations human rights mechanisms.  The representative of Republic of Korea was one of the speakers who decried what he saw as increased confrontation, rather than cooperation and consensus, between different groups of States in the name of protecting human rights. 

In contrast, he said the principles of universality, impartiality and objectivity behind the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review process made that mechanism appealing to States.  And although it was not the best vehicle for addressing urgent and serious violations, a coterie of Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and treaty body officials ‑‑ the United Nations’ “special procedures and mandate holders” -- functioned as its eyes and ears, making that process a robust one.  He supported the call to solidify the mutually-reinforcing relationship between the Universal Periodic Review process, special procedures and treaty bodies.

Ukraine’s representative offered a strong defence of the special procedures system, saying it was one of the most dynamic and effective mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights.  Since their subject areas were interrelated, his Government welcomed their efforts to develop joint action initiatives and to increase interaction among them.  While the Human Rights Council was right to examine cases of unnecessary overlap, it should take note that the system of special procedures was designed to be as all-encompassing as possible. 

The representative of Nepal, who voiced similar views, added that special procedures and mandate holders should consciously eliminate any form of political bias, and said that United Nations Rapporteurs should refrain from finger pointing against certain Member States.  Further, he believed the role of the General Assembly and Third Committee was to identify broad themes for the Human Rights Council and special procedures to take up, and not to “re-do” work already being done by the Council and its subsidiaries.

Nevertheless, a few speakers, such as the representative Canada, argued that the international community had an obligation to express its views to the Committee, and to use the tools at its disposal to seek to prevent abuses.  As others hand done in previous meetings, he highlighted what his Government viewed were human rights abuses in Guinea, Iran, Honduras, Myanmar, Belarus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and Sri Lanka.

The meeting ended with a number of speakers exercising their rights of reply, triggered by remarks similar to the one made by the Canadian representative.  Nearly all those speakers questioned why they had been singled out by States that were not entirely blameless themselves.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the Bangladesh, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Republic of Moldova, Argentina, Peru, Bahrain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Cameroon, Mauritania, Serbia, Senegal, Iran, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, Australia, Myanmar, Lesotho, Togo and Canada.

The representative of the Observer Mission of Palestine also spoke, as did the representatives of the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Those that spoke in the right of reply included Turkey, Cyprus, Japan, Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Zimbabwe, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar and Sudan.

The Committee will meet again tomorrow at 10 a.m., Thursday 29 October, to take up the report of the Human Rights Council.  It was also expected to hear the tabling of, and take action on, several draft resolutions.


The Third Committee met today to continue its general discussion on the promotion and protection of human rights.  For further details, please see the press release GA/SHC/3960.


KIM BONG-HYUN ( Republic of Korea) expressed regret at the increased confrontation, rather than cooperation and consensus, between different groups “in the name of protecting human rights,” an approach contrary to the core principle of protecting and promoting human rights.  This principle, he stated, was based on universality, impartiality and objectivity, among others, and it was exemplified by the Universal Periodic Review.  Because of the review, many States were not only cooperating with human rights mechanisms, but strengthening the implementation of human rights instruments on a national level, as well.

However, he did not believe that the Universal Period Review’s prefixed schedule and strict time constraints addressed the urgent and more serious violations of human rights.  In this regard, he expressed continued support for the role of special procedure mandate-holders as “reliable eyes and ears” for the international community.  He also stated that the Universal Period Review and special procedures were mutually complementary and reinforced one another and he supported the call to solidify the linkages between the Universal Periodic Review, the treaty body system and the special procedures. 

His Government was not only State party to seven core human rights instruments, but was committed to the advancement of women and their human rights, and the combating of gender discrimination and violence against women.  He looked forward to the establishment of a composite entity for strengthening gender architecture within the United Nations system.

IQBAL AHMED ( Bangladesh) said his country had already become party to most of the universal human rights instruments, which was a testimony to the commitment to protect human rights at home and globally.  In 2009, the National Parliament passed the “Human Rights Commission Bill”, giving legal coverage to the existing Commission in order to help safeguard the people’s constitutional rights to live with dignity. Bangladesh had also promulgated the Right to Information Ordinance in 2008, which recognized both the right of the public to obtain information from public bodies, and the obligation to make such information available.

Bangladesh had also instituted reforms in its police force, and was ensuring that peacekeepers received proper and adequate orientation on the issues of human rights before being sent to peacekeeping missions.  The right to development must also be pursued, he said, from a rights-based approach that kept the specific needs of the developing countries in mind.  The rapid response capacity of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to react promptly to critical human rights situations through Peace Missions Support and its Rapid Response Unit should be put to the best use.

Acknowledging that much remained to be done by Bangladesh with regards to human rights, he added that his country was committed to the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide.

DIMITRIOS KARAMITSOS-TZIRAS (Greece), subscribing to the statement made on behalf of the European Union, said his intervention would focus on the situation of human rights in Cyprus.  Turkey’s occupation has led to a constant violation of human rights.  Among other violations, he cited the fate of missing persons and the trauma that continued to be felt by their families, as well as the loss of ownership of property by its legal owners.  Despite United Nations resolutions, the massive violations had not been adequately addressed.  Almost 34 years had passed since the Vienna decision to improve the living situation of the Greek Cypriots who remained enclaved since the Turkish occupation.  Only some of the agreed actions had been taken by Turkey.

He said one of the saddest aspects of the occupation was the looting and destruction of art and cultural objects in Cyprus.  Monasteries had been demolished and thousands of artefacts of classic and Byzantine origin had been smuggled abroad.  But, perhaps the worst consequence was the tragic situation of missing persons.  This tragedy extended to the families of those missing persons. Greece welcomed the positive results achieved by the bi-communal Committee on Missing Persons.  It fully supported this committee, contributing financially. But, Turkey continued to evade its responsibilities.  Since September last year, ongoing full-fledged negotiations had taken place, and Greece looked forward to the completion of these discussions and a reunified Cyprus.  But, it regretted that the human rights situation in Cyprus continued to be a grave concern.

NADYA RASHEED, Observer Mission of Palestine, reiterated her appreciation for the report by Special Rapporteur Richard Falk, which described the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  The Palestinian people’s existence as an occupied and stateless people did not negate their entitlement to enjoy their human rights.  An accurate examination of the human rights situation of Palestinian people should be based on the provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which would reveal that their rights were being systematically breached by the occupying Power.  Time limits did not permit an exhaustive exposé of Israel’s violations; they included, among other things, denial of the right of self-determination, killing and injuring of civilians, and the perpetration of extrajudicial killings.  Acts of terror were committed against civilians by the military, as well as armed settlers.  Thousands were arbitrarily imprisoned, displaced from their homes, or had their homes demolished.  People’s movements were restricted by checkpoints and roadblocks.  Entire populations, especially in the Gaza Strip, were subject to collective punishment.

If Israel was not held accountable for those violations, it would only be further emboldened, she said.  The fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict headed by Richard Goldstone had concluded that the Israeli military campaign of December 2008 was planned, and was aimed at punishing, humiliating and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population.  During that time, more than 1,400 civilians were killed and more than 5,500 injured.  Homes, infrastructure, hospitals, schools, mosques, and economic, industrial and agricultural facilities were destroyed.  Even United Nations facilities were damaged.  Achieving peace had one basic requirement:  respect for international law.  Israel must cease all its violations and respect international law, including humanitarian and human rights law.  The international community had its own clear responsibilities in that regard.  Efforts should be expended to hold accountable those responsible.

KHALIFA SALEM AL MAZROOEI ( United Arab Emirates) said his Government was party to 15 international treaties and instruments, in addition to 9 treaties on issues related to labour and labourers.  It had also ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights, adopted at the Tunisia Summit in 2004.  It was currently finalizing the constitutional procedures to sign the torture convention and the optional protocol on trafficking associated with the organized crime convention.  It was looking into signing the two optional protocols associated with the child rights convention, on the involvement of children in armed conflict and on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

He said the country had a national committee to combat human trafficking.  It was the first country in the region to issue a law on combating human trafficking that also spelled out prevention and punitive measures against perpetrators.  In addition, as there were more than 3 million workers from various countries in the United Arab Emirates under temporary contracts, the Government had taken measures to protect labourers’ rights through, among others: wage protection; establishing remittance facilities and health insurance; guaranteeing “employment transference” and improved accommodation; and settling labour disputes.  A law was being drafted on the relationship between domestic help and household employers.  The Government was also conducting bilateral and multilateral dialogues with countries of origin.

On human rights in general, he said the Government had established a society for human rights, which was a civil society organization for spreading human rights awareness.  Among other things, the society helped improve conditions for detainees and prisoners.  Police stations had departments for the protection of human rights, which provided psychological assistance to victims.  The Government was spreading awareness of human rights concepts through schools and through professional training among police and in the judicial field.  Finally, welcoming the Goldstone report on rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the United Arab Emirates called on the international community to bring those responsible to justice and to compensate victims for their losses.

ALEXANDRU CUJBA ( Republic of Moldova) said the new Program of Governance of his Government, based on the three pillars of freedom, democracy and prosperity, foresaw a complex process of reforms at the political and legislative levels, and aimed to ensure the functionality of a democratic, credible and prosperous country.  An independent judiciary represented a key element of the State for democratic governance.  The Government had launched a series of structural and procedural reforms in the field of justice to restructure judicial organization and self-administration.  It also aimed to eradicate corruption and reform the prosecution to make it demilitarized, independent and unsubmissive to any political party.  The Government was determined to develop its legal and institutional framework in the field of human rights.  It was targeting the modernization of the judicial system in the sprit of European values, including transparency, efficiency and improved detention conditions, among other things.

He said these actions also meant to raise the image of the law enforcement agencies within society, including the penitentiary institutions, where transparency was being enhanced.  In that regard, he mentioned the July 2008 visit by the Special Rapporteur on Torture, as well as his participation in a workshop held in Moldova on 16 September 2009 on “Prevention of Torture”.  Moldova remained open for a constructive dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on torture, as well as with other relevant United Nations structures in the human rights field.  It was working with the United Nations and the European Community to strengthen the National Prevention Mechanisms under the Optional Protocol against Torture.  It was also elaborating a national plan for the elimination of torture.  Moreover, it was investigating the circumstance that led to the acts of violence that took place during and after the post-electoral protests last April.  A special inquiry commission had been established.  Meanwhile, the Office of the Prosecutor General was investigating all allegations of violence, torture and human rights violations and organizers, instigators and perpetrators would be brought to justice.

SUDHIR BHATTARAI ( Nepal) said that, since the adoption of the United Nations Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations had advanced the cause of human rights through the establishment of numerous instruments and declarations.  For its part, Nepal was supportive of the Human Rights Council, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and of the special procedures and mandate holders.  Those entities should work together to produce a coherent response, without political bias.  Rapporteurs and special procedures mandate holders should be impartial and not indulge in finger pointing against certain Member States.

He added that, in carrying out the Universal Periodic Review mechanism, the Human Rights Council should take note of the socio-economic and political developments of, and the diversity in, the various regions of the world, especially in developing countries.  It should enhance its credibility by making its upcoming review as effective as possible.  The General Assembly and Third Committee should work better to identify thematic issues for the Council, United Nations treaty bodies, special procedures and the High Commissioner’s Office, in a way that added value to the cause.  It should not engage in redoing things already being done by the Human Rights Council.  It should recognize that the three pillars of peace and security, development, and human rights were linked to each other, and to that end, should work to realize the right to development and the principles enshrined in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

He said Nepal’s transition process was nearing its conclusion.  It had progressively improved the human rights environment in the country.  Its Assembly was the most representative in the world.  Constitutional provisions for the promotion and protection of human rights were being reinforced by elected representatives for the first time.  He reiterated his country’s commitment to bringing about social inclusion and the rule of law, and to eliminating of traditional discrimination.  It would work to guarantee judicial independence and multiparty competition.  It was committed to ending the impunity that was prevalent during the time of internal conflict, through a truth and reconciliation commission.  He voiced appreciation for the High Commissioner’s human rights Office in Nepal, and its efforts to assist national human rights institutions.  But, Nepal needed more technical assistance, and he was confident that international community would come to its aid.  The Government had extended invitations to United Nations human rights procedures and, last year, the Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people had conducted a visit. 

DIEGO LIMERES (Argentina), aligning his delegation with the statement made on behalf of the Rio Group, said support for the universal and inter-American system for the protection of human rights was a pillar in his society.  To end the cycle of impunity, Argentina believed the international community should send a message that human rights violations would be investigated and punished wherever they occurred.  To this end, his Government supported the International Criminal Court. Also important was the Convention on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances.  Argentina trusted that the four outstanding ratifications preventing that Convention from entering into force would occur by the end of the year.  It would once again be submitting, with France, a resolution on this Convention, and hoped this draft would be supported and approved by consensus.

He said Argentina condemned all acts that directly or indirectly hampered the work of human rights activists.  The United Nations should adopt measures to ensure that the lives and freedom of expression of these human rights workers were defended.  Argentina supported other relevant agreements on freedom of expression and association.  It was concerned over the adoption of vague anti-terrorist laws that discriminated against women, among others.  Argentina rejected discrimination on any grounds, including gender and sexual orientation.  As a plural state, it was committed to the elimination of discrimination against religions or discrimination on racial grounds. To this end, it guaranteed freedom of worship. It was also party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.  It was fully committed to being a model society that was fully democratic and inclusive, and it recognized the role of the State in eliminating social exclusion.  It approached disability as a cross-cutting issue vis-à-vis the integration of the disabled in society.

EDGARD PEREZ ALVAN ( Peru) called migration “a tool of development”, and said his Government was doing all it could to protect the rights of migrants and that of their families.  The human rights of migrants should be protected, irrespective of their legal status, and any violation against them should be penalized.  In addition to their contribution to the economy, they also enriched the cultures of host countries.  As such, States should curb racial discrimination against migrants in their countries.  They must actively implement the human rights instruments to which they were party, by instituting national labour laws governing the workplace and workers’ health.  They should try to minimize the threat of detention and deportation that so often prevented irregular migrant workers from forming labour associations.  Some States retained laws that criminalized irregular migrants and in those cases, they should ensure measures to avoid excessive detention.  Those States should identify alternatives to detention.

He said the migration policies of transit and destination countries were often in violation of migrant rights and also encouraged dangerous migration.  States should work towards “regularizing” irregular migrants, so that they had access to residence, and to economic, social and cultural integration facilities.  For example, they should reduce remittance charges, and recognize the private nature of remittances, which were not in any way to be considered a form of official development assistance.  States needed a comprehensive approach to migration, in view of migrants’ contribution to the economy and culture of societies.  Both destination and origin countries must acknowledge their shared responsibility to uphold the rights of migrants, as countries of South America were doing through the Lima Declaration of May 2008.  They were currently engaged in dialogue to coordinate their migration policies, overseen by the Peruvian Government.  Countries of South America were also seeking to establish South American citizenship, in line with the Quita Declaration of 2009.

Domestically, he said Peru had a hotline for women migrant workers, and the Government was working to help victims of trafficking.  It had a multi-sectoral working group to combat trafficking, which was developing prevention and prosecution policies, and programmes for victim assistance.

HUSSAIN MOHAMMED ALAM ( Bahrain) said the presentation of the Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially in women and children, had refreshed memories on this issue, which was a concern for all countries. Migrant workers had become part of that issue, with some countries serving as transit points for persons fleeing poor conditions and seeking livelihoods.  Many countries had undertaken measures to confront the root causes of trafficking.  In light of increased awareness, many countries had established partnerships between the public and private sectors to bring an end to human trafficking.  In this regard, Bahrain’s legislative framework was being reformed. Specifically, laws No. 1 and No. 8 had been promulgated.  They took, as their inspiration, international instruments on human trafficking.  A department had been set up within the Interior Ministry and a reception centre for women and children had also been established.  A pamphlet on the rights of migrants had been published and a hotline for foreign workers to talk about their problems had been set up.  Work was being done to improve the relations between employers and employees and special courts had also been created to deal with these issues.

He noted that the wife of Bahrain’s king had held a conference that included the participation of Antonio Maria Costa, Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and Director-General of the United Nations Office in Vienna and Joy Ngozi, Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons.  It had called for an international framework to combat this problem.  It had also called on partners to integrate this concept into their activities, including the campaign “Stopping Child Trafficking Now”.  Moreover, Bahrain had become party to the Convention on the Abolition of Slavery, as well as the Convention on Transnational Organized Crime.  The Kingdom’s efforts were based on its belief that it was necessary to protect human rights.

PALITHA T. B. KOHONA ( Sri Lanka) noted that while States had adopted laws, policies and programmes to protect human rights, the challenge lay in implementing them, so that human rights standards were genuinely integrated into everyday life.  As States worked to meet that challenge, they needed to recognize the need to maintain uniformity in implementing those standards, since selective and non-uniform efforts would result in lessened credibility.  As a developing country, Sri Lanka was making every effort to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.  It reaffirmed the right to development as a fundamental right that was intrinsically linked to other rights.  It continued to safeguard and advance economic, social and cultural rights, despite “challenges posed by adverse forces”.  The increased emphasis placed on those elements by the High Commissioner was encouraging.

He said Sri Lanka was State party to seven core human rights treaties and other related international instruments, including the Geneva Conventions.  The Constitution incorporated a detailed fundamental rights provision.  An independent judiciary had actively expanded the scope of those rights.  It was also committed to sharing information with all human rights mechanisms.  The national human rights commission, which had 10 regional offices, was charged with investigating allegations of violations, while the Ministry of Human Rights oversaw the country’s reporting obligations to treaty bodies and coordinated the activities of the Government in the area of human rights.  If they disputed a decision of a public official or authority, aggrieved persons could seek recourse from a parliamentary commissioner.  The police and armed forces were given human rights training.

He said the country had submitted its report for Universal Periodic Review by the Human Rights Council in May.  At the moment, the Government was in the process of addressing post-conflict issues, including the rights of internally displaced persons.  It was taking steps to resettle them, and, in the interim, was addressing their right to protection and providing them with food, shelter, medical care and counselling.  It was taking steps to demine, and to rebuild infrastructure.  It was providing for the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of combatants.  In those processes, it was assisted by United Nations agencies and civil society groups.  To improve its human rights efforts, the Government would be glad to share information.  But, in view of the backlog in some of the treaty bodies, it strongly supported efforts to rationalize reporting obligations, which had become a bureaucratic burden for some States.

SHRI SYED SHAHNAWAZ HUSSAIN, Member of Parliament of India, said a State that did not respect basic human rights would have failed its primary responsibility.  India, a place of diverse cultures, traditions and thought, had a Constitution that guaranteed equality before the law and freedom from discrimination based on race, sex, caste, religion or place of birth.  Citizens were guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully and form associations, and had freedom of movement within the territory of India.  It was the largest democracy in the world, with a solid secular foundation that nevertheless respected the right of every individual to practice, profess and propagate their religion.  Lawmakers were guided by certain directive principles, which included eliminating and minimizing inequalities, as well as ensuring gender parity, the development of women and children, and the development of physical and mental health for all.

He said various states in India had human rights commissions, and the country as a whole had a rights commission, as well.  To investigate and register complaints of violations of the rights of women, it also had a national commission for women.  The judiciary had crafted a system of public interest litigations through which the most vulnerable in society could seek justice through “a public-spirited person or organization”, which had been effective in providing remedies to detainees, children and other vulnerable groups.

He said the Indian Government promoted civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, in a consistent way.  It welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the right to development. It believed that targeting countries for intrusive monitoring was indicative of bias, and did not further the cause of human rights.  While human rights abuses must be addressed, it should be done through cooperation, dialogue and consultation.  Much could be done by the international community if it worked together, rather than in ways that obstructed human rights promotion.

JEAN-DANIEL VIGNY ( Switzerland) said a variety of contradictory trends were becoming apparent.  On the one hand, with the outcome of the review conference of the world conference against racism, the international community concluded an agreement that underscored the fundamental importance of freedom of expression in the combat against racism.  At the same time, this right was being denied on a daily basis by numerous States.  Some were adopting legislation restricting freedom of the press, while others attempted to muzzle the press through threats or scare tactics.  This severely limited the social and political scope for debate and exchange of ideas.  Switzerland was particularly concerned about efforts aimed at restricting individual freedoms in the name of traditional, religious or moral values.  Cultural relativism was increasingly being introduced in international human rights forums and the daily lives of millions of people.  This concept restricted fundamental rights and liberties, including for women and girls, homosexual, ethnic minorities and human rights defenders.

He stressed that the values uniting the world community were those of the United Nations Charter, as well as those of a democratic and plural society in which individual freedoms constituted a solid foundation.  Switzerland was firmly convinced of the importance of the role an effective and just judicial system played in any society that wished to respect human rights. Judgments could only be pronounced by courts of law and stipulated penalties could only be enforced by the State.  Any other form of “justice” was contrary to human rights values.  This was especially the case when the death penalty was applied and where extrajudicial or arbitrary executions were carried out.  Regrettably, that form of punishment was also sometimes used as a means of reducing freedom of expression by introducing an element of terror into an already tense situation.  To this end, he announced that fourth World Congress against the Death Penalty would be held in Geneva in February 2010.

PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) said his Government took the promotion and protection of human rights and the enhancement of peoples’ welfare as the supreme principle of all State activities.  Human rights were firmly guaranteed legally and, in practice, as inviolable sacred rights.  His country faithfully fulfilled its international obligations in this regard and had participated in the fiftieth session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child in January.  It had also submitted its national report for the Universal Periodic Review scheduled for December.

Yet, acts that contravened the United Nations Charter with respect to the promotion and protection of human rights were being witnessed and his delegation believed the Third Committee should pay due attention in that respect.  The principle of respect for national sovereignty should be strictly observed in the human rights field.  Indeed, human rights were violated without exception in the countries or territories whose national sovereignty was infringed.  The examples included Iraq, Afghanistan and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Further, obstacles to dialogue and cooperation should be removed in the international human rights forums.  At the United Nations Human Rights Council, and here at the Third Committee, some forces still clung to acts that incited distrust and confrontation.  The practice of denunciation, naming and shaming and the adoption of resolutions against developing countries should be ended.  Those anachronistic acts were remnants of a time of politicization, double standards and selectivity and were introduced even as the Universal Periodic Review mechanism of the Human Rights Council aimed at equality, impartiality and universality.

He went on to stress that past human rights violations should be properly resolved. While some countries had been taking positive measures to apologize and compensate for their past human rights violations, Japan continued to evade Government responsibility for such extra-large-scale crimes against humanity as the massacre of 1 million Koreans, the forced drafting of 8.4 million Korean people, and the sexual slavery of 200,000 comfort women for its army during its military occupation of Korea.  The Japanese authorities were even now engaged in all sorts of discrimination and human rights violations against Korean residents in Japan. Japan should clearly understand that its future lay in genuine apology and honest compensation for its past crimes, and should behave accordingly.

SHRI SYED SHAHNAWAZ HUSSAIN, Member of Parliament of India, said a State that did not respect basic human rights would have failed its primary responsibility.  India, a place of diverse cultures, traditions and thought, had a Constitution that guaranteed equality before the law and freedom from discrimination based on race, sex, caste, religion or place of birth.  Citizens were guaranteed the freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully and form associations, and had freedom of movement within the territory of India.  It was the largest democracy in the world, with a solid secular foundation that nevertheless respected the right of every individual to practice, profess and propagate their religion.  Lawmakers were guided by certain directive principles, which included eliminating and minimizing inequalities, as well as ensuring gender parity, the development of women and children, and the development of physical and mental health for all.

He said various states in India had human rights commissions, and the country as a whole had a rights commission, as well.  To investigate and register complaints of violations of the rights of women, it also had a national commission for women.  The judiciary had crafted a system of public interest litigations through which the most vulnerable in society could seek justice through “a public-spirited person or organization”, which had been effective in providing remedies to detainees, children and other vulnerable groups.

He said the Indian Government promoted civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights, in a consistent way.  It welcomed the report of the Secretary-General on the right to development.  It believed that targeting countries for intrusive monitoring was indicative of bias, and did not further the cause of human rights.  While human rights abuses must be addressed, it should be done through cooperation, dialogue and consultation.  Much could be done by the international community if it worked together, rather than in ways that obstructed human rights promotion.

CECILE MBALLA EYENGA ( Cameroon) said the reports before the Committee made it possible to get a general sense of the state of human rights around the world. It was clear that, even as important anniversaries for international human rights instruments were being celebrated, the picture was somewhat patchy. Certainly new legal instruments for the protection of human rights should be welcomed.  But the right to development should enjoy greater attention.  All men and women should live free of hunger and should enjoy adequate housing.  Unfortunately, the situation was worsened by the economic and financial crisis, as well as the continuing impact of climate change.  The international community must ensure the equal priority of the promotion of the right to adequate living situations, education and health, and political mechanisms must be put in place in that regard.

Noting the report on the Subregional Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Central Africa, she welcomed the work of that centre.  Also welcome were the Consultative Committee on Security in Central Africa and the Code of Conduct for Security and Armed Forces in Central Africa.  She welcomed the nomination in 2008 by the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa of a commission for human rights, good governance and human rights.  She said true ownership of human rights issues was a cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Cameroon welcomed the work of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  It would also like to see a separate budget chapter for the Subregional Centre, which would better ensure the Centre’s profile.

SIDI OULD GHADI ( Mauritania) said the Mauritanian Constitution protected people’s right to employment and access to public services, and also guaranteed a number of freedoms for the individual.  The country was in the midst of unprecedented changes, where freedom of the press and freedom of association were widely exercised.  In addition, the Government had ratified many human rights covenants and conventions, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the conventions on torture, rights of the child, rights of women, and others. 

He said the country had adopted a law criminalizing slavery, which spelled out punishments for those engaged in slavery.  In general, it was fine-tuning its domestic laws to reflect principles contained in international instruments.  That was because the country had reached a turning point in its history, having embraced democracy, as shown in its recent elections.  The Government was implementing programmes to combat poverty, illiteracy and ill health.  In a further effort to advance its ratification of international conventions, it was amending its criminal codes. 

In addition, he said the Government was working to resolve the situation of refugees from Senegal and Mali, who had come to the country after the events of 1999.  It had established an agency to foster their voluntary return, and most had indeed returned to their homes.  In summary, his Government was committed to upholding the international human rights instruments to which it was party, and was determined “to enshrine those rights throughout society”.

FEODOR STARCEVIC ( Serbia) said the level of protection and promotion of human rights had improved significantly in the last ten years, and would continue to be improved.  Intense activity at the national level was aimed at harmonizing domestic laws with ratified international instruments.  The Government had recently signed an anti-discrimination law, and was working with ombudsmen at provincial and local levels, and with civil society, to promote a culture of tolerance among its citizens.  In February, the Ministry for Human and Minority Rights had signed a memorandum of cooperation to provide for more concrete cooperation with civil society on human rights issues.  In addition, the Government was committed to cooperating with the United Nations human rights mechanisms.

He then drew attention to the situation of human rights in the southern Serbian province of Kosovo and Metohija.  Despite an international presence there, the human rights situation, especially in terms of non-Albanian communities, “remained precarious”.  The legal vacuum left after the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo last February had created uncertainty for non-Albanian populations as regards their rights.  Statements given by the representatives of Pristina authorities, on their commitment to fully respect human rights in the province, were only declarative.  Steps taken to protect the rights of that population were trivial. 

He said ethnically-motivated crimes persisted, creating an atmosphere of fear, and impeded the right of return of 200,000 displaced persons ‑‑ predominantly Serb, Roma and other non-Albanian who had fled Kosovo in 1999.  Minorities faced obstacles in their access to services, ranging from access to courts to public transportation.  Protection of poverty rights was a grave problem, notwithstanding attempts by the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) to help original owners repossess their property.  Serbian culture was under constant threat, with attempts by Pristina authorities to re-write history.  More than 150 churches and monasteries had been destroyed, some dating back to the 11th century.  Textbooks claimed that the Serbian Orthodox heritage was Kosovo Albanian heritage.  It amounted to cultural cleansing, which the international community must act to prevent.

He explained that, since Kosovo’s administration had been entrusted to UNMIK and the Kosovo multinational security force (KFOR) and the European Union Rule of Law Mission (EULEX), as per Security Council resolution 1244 (1999), his Government was not in a position to report directly on the implementation of international instruments in Kosovo.  Instead, the reports were made by UNMIK.  After examining those reports, the Human Rights Committee had made observations concerning restricted freedom of movement and access to services.  The Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the rights of internally displaced persons, Water Kalin, had identified entrenched patterns of discrimination, lack of jobs and too few schools for minorities as among the obstacles to the return of displaced persons, as were difficulties in repossessing property and in building new houses.  Even among those in favour of Kosovo’s independence, there were reports that Kosovo’s government had failed to take appropriate action against organized crime.  Against this backdrop, Serbia’s pragmatic approach had been lauded in the latest report by the Secretary-General, and indeed it was the common responsibility of all States to improve human rights in that province.

PAUL BADJI ( Senegal) reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights, which was a fundamental part of its pursuit of socio-economic development.  It was unlikely that peace, security and stability could be established in an environment where discrimination and repeated forms of violations were perpetuated against the most vulnerable segments of society. Thus, all efforts toward economic progress would be in vain without the protection of human rights.  Referring to Conor Gearty’s book, Can Human Rights Survive?, he said the idea of human rights was intrinsically bi-dimensional, with an absolute aspect, as well as a commitment to full human development. In that light, the economic crisis had had a negative impact on the human rights situation in many countries, thus exacerbating the sectarian mindsets of some and leading to greater instances of discrimination.

He said it was crucial that the responses to stem the crisis enabled a re-focusing on human beings.  In that context, the respect for the freedom of expression and worship and the protection of basic rights to health care, food and education for vulnerable groups should be ensured.  For its part, Senegal was focusing on policies to assist women and young people.  It had also signed the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Protecting human rights required daily vigilance and an ongoing commitment. It would be foolish to expect a linear development.  Thus, priority should be given to education, prevention and cooperation, since this strategy would lead to appreciable results.  Moreover, the logic of confrontation, in which some countries were targeted, should be replaced, since it only resulted in division.  A reference model that distained the beliefs and values of certain people had to be avoided.  He highlighted the contributions of the special procedures mandate-holders and invited them to uphold the letter and spirit of their mandates.

ISABELLE PICO ( Monaco) said her Government was expected to co-sponsor a resolution on the right to food.  More than 1 billion people were said to suffer from food shortages.  In the last two years, the number of hungry people had increased, moving the world away from its target of halving poverty by 2015.  The food and economic crisis was making it necessary for the international community to turn its focus to agriculture.  Her Government supported the assertion by the Rapporteur on the right to food that climate change, changes in food prices, and so on, were disrupting the livelihood of smallholders, who were very often women living in rural areas. 

She said the Government of Monaco was combating food insecurity as part of its international cooperation policy with Africa.  Its efforts had reached 150,000 children.  Some examples of bilateral projects included the construction of school canteens, planting fruit trees and promoting market gardening.  As a result of those projects, rates of illness had decreased, especially those associated with protein deficiencies.  Infant mortality had also gone down.  As for projects targeting women, she said the Government was working with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to reduce women’s vulnerability during pregnancy, and to improve the health of women who were breastfeeding.  She expressed hope that the World Food Summit, scheduled for November, would breathe new life to the agriculture sector, especially in its role of ensuring the right to food.

FARHAD MAMDOUHI ( Iran) drew the Committee’s attention to the discrimination on the basis of religion, which had been on the rise in the countries of the European Union.  Muslims were even deprived of their right to wear religious symbols or clothing, or to practice their faith in public areas.  Muslims were also branded and accused of extremist ideas, leading to their unfair targeting by police and security agents.  It was also alarming that politicians were racing to prey on fears of minority religious groups, particularly Muslims.  The harassment of Muslim prisoners was also a cause for concern and a number of international bodies and figures had expressed condemnation to that end.

He noted there were similar human rights violations in Canada, where indigenous peoples were discriminated against, particularly in houses of incarceration.  Likewise, juvenile detainees of indigenous or other ethnic minority heritages were discriminated against.  There were also concerns that anti-terrorism mechanisms did not conform to Canada’s human rights commitments.  He further noted the dismay that had also been expressed by a number of bodies considering possible human rights violations and discrimination in the United States.  Likewise, numerous reports indicated that the counter-terrorism posture of the Government inspired discrimination by law enforcement authorities. Moreover, the United States Government also supported the Zionist regime of Israel.  The recently released Goldstone report was another indication of United States disrespect for the human rights of the Palestinian people.

SOPHIA NYAMUDEZA ( Zimbabwe) said the global financial and economic crisis had confirmed what her delegation had always said:  that the continued, unregulated implementation of neo-liberal economic formulas would result in the erosion of people’s rights, particularly in developing countries.  She urged developed countries to honour their financial commitments, so that the people of the South could realize their rights to life, food, education and development, for human rights could not be guaranteed in an environment of abject poverty.  Unilateral coercive measures were contrary to international law, humanitarian law, the United Nations Charter and to the norms and principles governing peaceful relationships among States.  Zimbabwe itself was victim of unilateral coercive sanctions at the hand of some developed countries, because of its land redistribution initiatives.  If those countries valued the enjoyment of human rights of Zimbabweans, they should lift their sanctions, so the country could move ahead with its development.

She said the Government was fully aware of its responsibility for the welfare and security of its people.  It would not shy away from criticism in areas that needed improvement.  But, it took exception to the double-standards and selectivity that was employed by the European Union and countries such as New Zealand, Canada and Australia in the realm of human rights.  Such politicization of the human rights agenda would not aid people’s enjoyment of human rights.  In response to allegations levelled against Zimbabwe by the European Union and New Zealand, which she said were unsubstantiated, she said the Government could not intervene in the case of Roy Bennett, because it would constitute interference in the workings of the court.  In any case, Mr. Bennett had been released on bail.  Also, contrary to allegations that there was no freedom of expression and assembly in Zimbabwe, former opposition parties had held meetings and made statements without facing any victimization.

She said, although the European Union and some Western countries continuously raised concerns about slow progress in implementing the Global Political Agreement (GPA), the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, who were the guarantors of the GPA were happy with progress made so far.  Zimbabwe’s real problem was the West’s refusal to remove the sanctions imposed against the country.  Having said that, she then drew attention to human rights abuses in European Union countries and in Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  The European Union countries carried out large-scale crackdowns on migrants, forcibly transferring them to detention centres.  Canada, Australia and New Zealand were notorious for their treatment of indigenous persons.  She called on them to descend from their “moral high horse”.

LUCA DALL’OGLIO, International Organization for Migration (IOM), said migrants in an irregular situation were vulnerable to exploitation.  The association of irregular migration with smuggling and trafficking networks were persistent issues of global concern, which had been exacerbated by the financial and economic crises.  Irregular migration could expose migrants to exploitation and abuse that was further compounded for vulnerable groups, such as women and children.  Preventing irregular migration, while at the same time protecting them, was one of the most difficult challenges facing the world.  Irregular migration had been criminalized.  The High Commissioner for Human Rights had called for an end to imprisonment of irregular migrants and reminded States that human rights were not suspended because a person was a refugee or migrant.  The Secretary-General’s report had stressed that irregular migrants should not be deterred from access to health care, education or having their children registered at birth.

He said human rights were not dependent on residence status.  And, while detention of irregular migrants was not contrary to international law, the practice was often in violation of those norms.  It was crucial for Governments to: pass and implement sound migration laws; train police, border guards and law enforcement officials; and ensure Government accountability.  Humanizing and improving the system need not come at the expense of legitimate security and border control concerns.  But, a perspective focused primarily on irregular migration could often serve to obscure the broader picture, in which properly managed migration could bring benefits, both to migrants and societies.  Irrespective of their national origin, creed, colour or legal status, migrants shared with the nationals of their host communities, both a common humanity and the right to expect decent and humane treatment.  While migrants enjoyed fundamental human rights, they also had the duty to respect the laws of receiving countries.  The key in developing migration policies was to ensure that human rights norms were reflected adequately.  After that, the challenge was to ensure sound implementation.

BUKUN-OLU ONEMOLA ( Nigeria) emphasized that human rights had to be seen in a holistic manner.  While civil and political rights were absolutely necessary, they should not be given priority over economic, social and cultural rights.  For developing countries, the right to education, health, and adequate housing constituted challenges equally pressing as civil and political rights, on which developed partners tended to focus.  He called on the United Nations and its agencies, international human rights bodies and the international community as a whole to ensure that efforts to promote and protect human rights did not tilt too much toward civil and political rights only.  The fight against poverty was truly the key to ensuring the sustenance of human rights, especially in developing countries.

He stressed that the Nigerian Government was committed to promoting and protecting human rights.  In this regard, the rule of law had become the country’s abiding governance principle.  But, given the country’s 150 million people, its cultural and religious diversity and its long history of military rule, there were still considerable challenges.  Still, the Government had earlier this year ratified the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and acceded to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families, Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, and the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  A National Plan of Action for the promotion and protection of human rights had been submitted to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the commitments contained in that plan would serve as a benchmark for judging Nigeria’s progress. A trust fund for the rehabilitation and reintegration of human trafficking victims had also been set up.  Nigeria was also successfully reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review mechanism in February.

Continuing, he emphasized that the phenomenon of vigilante justice arose out of public anger after hoodlums broke into homes and left people and property devastated.  Nevertheless, the government was engaged in a public awareness campaign that stressed that the lives of these hoodlums should not be taken and justice should not be taken into the hands of citizens.  It was on record that the police had rescued some of these hoodlums.  Nigeria regretted this phenomenon and was doing its best to stop it.  While it had not yet fully done so, it was working towards that end. Nigeria would continue to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur in fulfilling his mandate.

ROMAN TODER ( Ukraine) said that, in the future, there should be more emphasis on strengthening human rights at the national level, strengthening United Nations special procedures, and promoting human rights education in primary and secondary schools.  A States obligation to respect human rights was unconditional.  Human rights belonged to everyone, no matter what their status, even if they were believed to have committed a crime.  As such, the fight against terrorism must be conducted with full respect for human rights and carried out in line with international human rights law.  The United Nations should continue to be the central forum for dialogue on ways to improve international standards, and to scrutinize progress by Member States.  The Universal Periodic Review mechanism provided an opportunity for the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies to respond to States, as they sought to improve their human rights records.  The two mechanisms must try to avoid duplication, and should complement each other’s work to reinforce the credibility of both.

He said the fight against poverty was also about human rights.  The quality of life depended on people’s political liberty and access to economic opportunity.  Thus, access to health care and education was essential to the realization of rights.  His Government was opposed to the use of the death penalty, believing it had no deterrent effect, and so welcomed the trend towards its abolition.  But, it was concerned about the large number of executions still being carried out.  It welcomed the new human rights instrument to protect economic, social and cultural rights, and had been among the first to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on those rights at the 2009 treaty event in New York.

He said the system of special procedures, started 40 years ago, was one of the most dynamic and effective mechanisms for promoting and protecting human rights, and provided a link among government, national institutions and civil society.  They must cover both country issues and thematic issues.  In addition, since the various aspects they covered were interrelated, it was natural to expect some overlap among them.  His Government welcomed efforts by special procedures to develop joint action initiatives and to increase interaction among them.  While the Human Rights Council was right to examine cases of unnecessary overlap, it must remember to that the system of special procedures was as comprehensive as possible.  For its part, his Government was adamant in its efforts to combat totalitarianism and to prevent the restoration of totalitarian ideology in the country.  It was strongly committed to cooperation and dialogue in promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.

ARNAUD OUEDRAOGO ( Burkina Faso) said the International Year of Human Rights Learning and the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had given his country the chance to take a hard look at individual and collective commitments for protecting human rights.  Further, Burkina Faso had appeared before the Human Rights Council as part of its Universal Periodic Review.  That appearance had breathed new life into the Government’s support for human rights and led to institutional reforms and legislative acts to implement the recommendations of the mechanisms.  A National Week for Citizenship, as part of the celebration of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, had also been instituted.

For Burkina Faso, monitoring human rights was the best means of complying with its international obligations, he said.  The Government believed that everyone in the country needed to be part of this process, alongside the civil service. There was also a consultative organ in the ministry for the promotion of human rights, whose main role was to provide technical assistance in the drafting of reports submitted to international human rights bodies.  Noting the complexity of the different evaluation methods for monitoring human rights, he called for technical cooperation among States and between them and United Nations bodies.

GARY QUINLAN (Australia), reaffirming his Government’s commitment to human rights, said that since taking office two years ago, it had turned that commitment into genuine progress in realizing those rights at home and abroad.  It had started by focusing on the needs of Australia’s most marginalized, which was exemplified by the Prime Minister’s apology to indigenous Australians for past mistreatment. That new beginning was backed by a $5.6 billion investment in addressing “indigenous disadvantage” as well as support for the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.  The Government had also announced the National Human Rights Consultation, which had held more than 65 community roundtables and public hearings in more than 50 urban, regional and remote locations.  The resulting report identified what could Australia could do better and assessed options to that end.

To meet its international human rights obligations, he said Australia was working to implement the vision in Article 56 of the United Nations Charter, which is known as the “Australian pledge” and concerns “higher standards of living, full employment and conditions of economic and social progress and development”.  Faced with the global food, debt and financial crises, it was critical that the world community acknowledge the importance of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights.  It should also be recognized that the process of development must be equitable and accessible to all.  For its part, Australia would use its seat on the Economic and Social Council to advance the realization of these fundamental rights.

He stressed that his delegation considered gender equity fundamental to economic development.  The time had also come for all countries to address discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Australia also strongly opposed the use of the death penalty and reiterated its support for a moratorium on executions.  It further registered its opposition to corporal punishment when used as a criminal sanction by Governments.

Noting that the protection and promotion of human rights was the obligation of each State, he welcomed the ratification of the Disabilities Convention by the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Burkina Faso, as well as the former’s ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Brazil had also acceded to both Optional Protocols of that Covenant.  Australia commended the way in which small nations like Vanuatu, Tonga and Tuvalu had approached their Universal Periodic Review.  It welcomed the launch of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, as well as the launch of the United Nations trust fund for a memorial to honour victims of the slave trade.

Unfortunately, some countries had failed to live up to their obligations to their people, he said.  The situation in Fiji had worsened in April when the military regime abrogated the Constitution, imposed draconian Public Emergency Regulations, dismissed the judiciary and delayed elections until 2014.  He called on the regime in Fiji to withdraw these regulations immediately, to make good on its commitment to dialogue and to move quickly to free and fair elections.

He said the people of Iran should be ensured their right to peaceful protest and free expression.  Australia deplored the violence that followed the June presidential elections and was concerned by the continued detention of so-called opponents of the regime, executions of juvenile offenders and discrimination against minorities.  He urged Iran to ensure transparency in its judicial system and to investigate fully reports of torture, rape and death in detention.

He condemned the conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi and welcomed the recent contact between her and the Government of Myanmar.  Australia urged genuine dialogue.  It strongly supported the Secretary-General’s engagement with that country and urged Myanmar to respond constructively.

Australia would continue to closely monitor the Sri Lankan Government’s treatment of internally displaced persons, he said.  This included how it managed their resettlement and instituted political reform and reconciliation.  He went on to say that Australia believed national implementation of human rights standards was paramount, and vital global human rights institutions and initiatives should guide and assist States in that process.  For that reason, the forthcoming review of the Human Rights Council should be used to assess the effectiveness of the international human rights system.  His delegation was encouraged by the Universal Periodic Review and the work of the special procedures mandate-holders, but believed the Human Rights Council could do more to respond to urgent human rights challenges.

U THAUNG TUN (Myanmar), pointing out that the notion of human rights had been widened to include the right to development, said it was a sad reflection of current times that some powerful nations had been exerting pressure on developing countries through economic sanctions that were contrary to the United Nations Charter and were inimical to the cause of human rights.  In addition, he found it troubling that some countries continued to single out others for alleged violations, in view of the innovative universal period review mechanism that was now looking at the human rights situation in every State, and which would review Myanmar in 2011.

He labelled “patently subjective” the comments on human rights in Myanmar by the United States, New Zealand and Sweden, which spoke on behalf of the European Union, all of whom, he said, should respect his country’s right to be reviewed in an equitable manner by the universal period review.  He opposed their selectivity and double standards, as well as the use of human rights as a political tool.  His country stood today at an important juncture, as it prepared to hold multiparty elections in 2010, having achieved significant progress in the past decade, he maintained, while recognizing also that formidable challenges remained.  Undue outside pressure on the country could in no way assist its people in meeting those challenges, he stressed.  He pledged Myanmar’s continued commitment to its national objectives and its readiness to strengthen cooperation to promote and protect human rights.

MOTLATSI RAMAFOLE ( Lesotho) focused on the right to food and on human rights and extreme poverty, which he said were linked.  In Lesotho, 70 per cent of the people lived in rural areas and depended on subsistence agriculture.  An overwhelming majority of those people were poor.  In the last two cropping seasons, Lesotho had experienced two extremely irregular climatic conditions, which affected crop cultivation and increased the vulnerability of the rural poor.  The Food and Agriculture Organization had estimated that 450,000 people would fall under the “precarious” food insecurity category.  On top of that, the WFP reported that assistance targets would not be fully met from July to December.

Nevertheless, the Government would persist in its sustainable agricultural development programmes for mountain areas, he said, and in identifying and promoting income generating activities for the rural poor.  He asked that the international community promote actions to encourage investment in agriculture, among other things.  The Government also had social protection schemes to help the poor to contain the devastating effects of the food crisis.  Health services would be subsidized and free health care given to extremely vulnerable people.  It had also launched free primary and secondary education programmes, but needed help from partners to ensure the quality of education.

He said that work on human rights must be focused towards improving the Human Rights Council, and Lesotho looked forward to participating in a review of that body in 2010.  It also welcomed the United Nations’ “Delivering as One” principle, and believed that, through it, the United Nations could align its strategies and programmes, as informed by the priorities of individual countries.

NAKPA POLO ( Togo) said her country had made a qualitative step forward in its legislation and criminal law by becoming unambiguously opposed to the death penalty.  Among other things, Togo was committed to limiting judicial error, and its larger goals were incompatible with the use of that penalty.  Crime trends were not consistent with the use of the death penalty and the abolition of this cruel form of punishment had become part of the consciousness of the Togolese people.  Since 1978, Togo had not employed the death penalty.  Although some death sentences had been handed down, they had been either commuted to life imprisonment or other prison terms.  Togo also supported the right to life.  Thus, it had abolished the death penalty on 23 June.  Today, it called on other countries to renounce the use of that form of punishment.

HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said that respect for and implementation of human rights norms remained a challenge for all States, including Canada.  At the national level, Governments must continue to work to ensure that institutions were in place to protect those rights.  Multilateral mechanisms could also contribute to national efforts.  But, when there was no will, or too little action, on the part of some Member States, the international community had an obligation to express its views to the Committee, and to use the tools at its disposal to seek to prevent abuses.  Abuses were particularly prone to occur following constitutional or electoral crises, and women’s human rights were particularly at risk.

He said Guinea had seen “unacceptable” use of violence against peaceful citizens, with sexual violence against women as especially egregious.  Since the coup, Canada had called repeatedly for a return to constitutional order.  In Iran, the already poor state of human rights had deteriorated further, because of additional restrictions on the media and freedom of expression, the crackdown on the opposition and imprisonment and abuse of protesters, academics and journalists.  Iran must ensure due process; its death sentences were the ultimate violation of human rights.

Continuing, he said that the Canadian Government condemned the human rights violations that occurred in Honduras as a consequence of the June coup d’etat and tensions following President Zelaya’s return in September.  Canada reiterated calls for all sides to support the national dialogue process.  In Burma, the military had refused to recognize elections and persisted in preventing democracy.  The regime must allow all citizens, including Aung San Suu Kyi, to exercise their right to participate in free and fair elections in 2010.  Following his use of the name “Burma”, Chairman PENKE (Latvia) reminded him to refer to countries by their officially recognized name.

In addition, he continued, the Canadian Government had been disappointed that steps taken after parliamentary elections in Belarus had not led to further progress.

Other situations highlighted by Canada’s delegate included the disregard for individual rights and lack of due process in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and the obstruction of women’s rights in Sudan.  He also spoke out against attacks on the media in Sri Lanka, and said his Government would continue to support the work of human rights defenders through its annual John Humphrey Freedom Award.  Canada had engaged in dialogue and technical cooperation with several countries to support their efforts to advance human rights.  During its term on the Human Rights Council, it had worked towards making it a forum for constructive dialogue.  All United Nations Member States had an important role to play in highlighting human rights abuses, whether at the Third Committee, the Human Rights Council or through other bodies.

ROCHELLE ROCA HACHEM, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said education was the key to fostering a culture of peace. All people had the right to quality, life-long education.  That right was particularly relevant to girls and women in developing countries, as well as to minorities, migrants and marginalized peoples.  UNESCO’s Global Monitoring Report, which outlined progress on the Education for All Goals, would be released soon and would provide Member States with policy advice and technical support, to enable educational reform that met related strategies.  UNESCO’s National Education Support Strategies would also assure United Nations system-wide coherence in the “One UN" country plan.  UNESCO conducted teacher trainings and produced applicable tools for the incorporation of the principles of human rights, tolerance, diversity and respect in educational curriculum. It also advocated the protection of language through multilingual education.

She noted last week’s launch of the UNESCO World Report “Investing in Cultural Diversity and Intercultural Dialogue”, which provided rich analysis, recommendations and a coherent vision of how cultural diversity was beneficial -- not a threat -- to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.  UNESCO was also pleased to be the lead agency for next year’s International Year for the Rapprochement of Cultures. Intercultural dialogue was an integral tool in exercising the rights and freedoms associated with cultural diversity, and should be bolstered to foster mutual understanding and respect among peoples, cultures and civilizations.  UNESCO had also conducted an inter-regional research project on interfaith dialogue practices by and for youth that would be featured at a Youth Forum at the 2009 Parliament of World Religions.

She stressed that UNESCO’s many standard-setting instruments were aimed at safeguarding cultural diversity.  The organization also believed the roles of education and cultural diversity in sustainable development must be more widely recognized and utilized, especially in terms of their contribution to South-South cooperation.  The integration of culture into national development policies and regional processes should be effectively pursued.  An example of this was last month’s first meeting, which UNESCO co-organized in Italy, in a series of World Forums on Cultural Industries.

ANDA FILIP, Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), said parliament was well-placed to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, but needed to be equipped to do so.  The objective of the Union’s human rights programme was to strengthen the capacity of parliaments to promote and protect human rights.  In addition, it had consistently advocated the establishment of specialized human rights committees within parliaments, which could function as focal points for monitoring State compliance.  The recommendations and concluding observations of treaty bodies invariably required both legislative action and budgetary resources.  However, parliaments should be involved long before those bodies issued their conclusions.  The national reports that States submit would gain from parliamentary input, and parliamentarians should be included in national delegations that discussed reports with treaty bodies.

She said the Union was working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to help parliaments familiarize themselves with the treaty body system.  The same went for the Universal Periodic Review process.  Parliamentarians had insisted that their legislatures play a part in drafting the national report, and that the report be debated in parliament before it became final.  Parliamentarians should also be part of the national delegations presenting the report to the Human Rights Council.

She also stressed the importance of freedom of expression for parliamentarians.  Thirty years ago, the Union had set up a special committee on the human rights of parliamentarians to examine communications on violations of the rights of members of parliament.  At its most recent session, it examined 60 cases, concerning 250 members.  Some of them occurred during coups d’etat, such as in Madagascar and Niger.  Sometimes, the threat came not only from Government, but from within the parliamentarians’ own political parties, which might want to suppress criticism from their own ranks.  There was also a need to guarantee the rights of opposition parliamentarians to speak freely and be free of harassment.

Rights of Reply

The representative of Turkey, responding to earlier remarks by the representative of Greece, said their accusations would mislead one to believe that the problems in Cyprus started in 1974.  In fact, the United Nations peacekeeping force had been deployed to the island in 1964.  They were dispatched to stop Greek Cypriots from attacking Turkish Cypriots.  The policy of intimidation and expulsion by the Greek Cypriots was still remembered vividly by the Turkish Cypriots that were forced to live in enclaves in an area that covered only 3 per cent of the total area of the island.  From 1963 to 1974, they lived under siege conditions.  The United Nations archives contained full reports from that period, and he invited interested parties to visit the United Nations library.  The Greek speaker had tried to depict the issue as one of invasion and occupation, as if it had suddenly happened in 1974.

He said the ethnic cleansing plan, drafted by the Greek Cypriot leadership, was designed to deprive the Turkish Cypriots of constitutional safeguards and to subjugate them.  They failed to force the Turkish Cypriots off the island, but nevertheless succeeded in hijacking the state in 1963.  There was a military coup in 1974 in Cyprus, orchestrated by the Greek military regime to annex the island to Greece.  To counter that coup, Turkey had intervened as a guarantor power, acting within its rights and responsibilities under the 1960 Agreements to prevent the annexation of the island to Greece.  The Turkish intervention was not the beginning of the problem, but a consequence of the provocative policies of the Greek Cypriots.

He said the Turkish Cypriots had voted in 2004 in favour of the United Nations settlement plan.  Former Secretary-General Annan had stressed to the Security Council in 2004 that States should do all they could to eliminate restrictions and barriers that had the effect to isolate the Turkish Cypriots.

[The speaker was interrupted by the Chair for going over his time limit.]

Responding, the representative of Cyprus said that Turkey was once again using false accusations to divert attention from its own record on the issue of Cyprus.  If the division of Cyprus persisted, it was because the Turkish army continued to occupy part of an independent sovereign country, which was a Member of the United Nations.  He would not respond to all of the allegations by the Turkish delegation. Cyprus’s statement yesterday, as well as the judicial decisions of various bodies, stood for themselves.  But, he asked, was it a paradox that a country, which was a non-permanent member of the Security Council, was occupying a portion of another State, thus undermining that other State’s territorial integrity and failing to comply with relevant Security Council resolutions?  Answering his own question, he said it was a paradox -- and illegal, too.

He said a solution to the Cyprus problem must be found by the Cypriots for the Cypriots.  It should be based on Security Council resolutions and the values and principles on which the European Union was founded.  The protection of the human rights of the people of the island -- regardless of their origin -- was needed.  If Turkey really wanted this to occur, it must withdraw from the island, leaving Turkish and Greek Cypriots to live together in peace.

The representative of Japan exercised his right of reply with regard to remarks made by the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.  On 13 October, the representative of Japan had made a clear statement on his country’s position, but since the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea had brought up the subject for a second time, he would repeat his explanation.  Since the end of World War II, Japan had expressed its sincere apologies for the use of comfort women and made compensation through the Asian Women’s Fund.  It was true that there were outstanding issues between the two countries; since World War II, the two had not normalized relations.  Talks with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on the settlement of past actions was part of normalization talks.  In line with the Japan-Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Pyongyang Declaration, items up for discussion included abduction, nuclear weapons and missile use, and the settling of “the unfortunate past”.  He reminded the representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to take concrete steps to advance those talks.  Also, it was not possible to justify ongoing violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea by invoking the past.  That country must heed the international community’s concern and face the reality of its human rights situation, which was serious.  It should address its people’s right to food and the punishment of returnees, and to end public executions.

Also speaking in exercise of the right of reply, the representative of Guinea said the report of the Special Rapporteurs was important and the international human rights instruments must guide work of the United Nations. Guinea was party to all the human rights instruments and was doing everything necessary to meet its obligations.  During their statements, the European Union and Canada had referred to Guinea, particularly condemning the tragic consequences of the unauthorized demonstration earlier this year.  The European Union had called on the Guinean Government to carry out investigations and to allow the return of constitutional order and human rights. He informed the Committee that the seizure of power had taken place without any bloodletting and that event had been welcomed by the people of Guinea, as well as by the international community. Moreover, a consensual instrument had been adopted on the holding of elections, and elections would take place later this year.  Further, presidential elections would be held in January 2010, with a second round scheduled for March.

He noted that the event had taken place to protest the possible candidacy of the Moussa Dadis Camara, but so far he had not announced his candidacy.  The Government had taken measures to apologize to the families of those who had died. A facilitator had been nominated -- who was Blaise Compaoré, the president of Burkina Faso -- to seek a resolution in Guinea.  Further, United Nations envoy Haile Menkerios had held talks with the Guinean authorities, which would cooperate with the United Nations commission of inquiry once it was established.  He stressed that the examination of human rights must be done in a spirit of clear-sightedness. Double standards should not be used.  In that regard, dialogue and cooperation was necessary, and this was why the Government was cooperating.

The representative of Saudi Arabia, exercising her right of reply regarding remarks made by the European Union, said her country had laws to ensure the protection of human rights of all citizens, including women and minorities.  Hers was a conservative society, progressing on the path to development, while maintaining respect for its history, culture and religion.  Saudi Arabia was proud of its history, culture and religion, and knew itself better than anyone else.  It had made advancements in protecting women’s rights, knowing they were important.  It had been driven to embrace those advances because of internal forces, not external forces.  Her generation of women participated in modern Saudi culture, and were assuming their rightful place in contemporary Saudi society.  At the same time, the Government would do all it could to fulfil its human rights obligations.

Regrettably, the European Union had chosen to preach lessons on the importance of the basics of human rights to developing countries, and yet instances of racism and religious discrimination, for example, in the form of Islamophobia, were widely documented.  The European Union needed a more balanced approach to human rights, and would do well to highlight the grave violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in general, and in East Jerusalem, in particular, by Israel.

The representative of Zimbabwe reaffirmed its commitment to the human rights of all people.  Speaking in response to Australia, she informed the Committee that her Government had not cancelled the visit of the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, but merely postponed it.  It had had to be moved because of the meeting of the Southern African Development Community. New details would be revealed as soon as they were known. She urged all delegations to gather enough information before pontificating their beliefs to the Committee.

Iran’s delegate said Canada’s remarks lacked credibility and reliability in both substance and procedure. While Canada advocated itself as a global leader in the area of human rights, it could not be proud of its own record. Reports demonstrated that the Canadian Government was not complying with its international obligations, particularly in its discriminatory treatment of aboriginal persons, minorities and Muslims, among others. Indeed, the Committee on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights had strongly urged Canada to implement recommendations dating back to a few of its earlier periodic reports. Since 2001, Canada’s Arab and Muslim communities had continually felt discriminated against. Further, Special Rapporteur on racial discrimination had noted the anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in Canada.

The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea responded to the representative of Japan on relations between their two countries, describing it as a relationship between victim and assailant.  Japan had imposed numerous human rights violations on the Korean people, and was now trying to mislead the public by saying that normalization of relations consisted of settlement of the abduction issue, while leaving aside its need to redress its past criminal acts.  The core issue in normalization talks was not the abduction issue, but Japan’s “liquidation” of past crimes.  So far, Japan was refusing to make reparations.  To liquidate its past crimes, Japan needed to take moral and material responsibility for its actions.

He noted that the Women’s Fund, which gave money to former comfort women, was a non-governmental organization, while the crime was committed by the Government and the military of the time.  Therefore, the State should offer compensation, not a non-governmental organization.  Japan thought it had solved the issue of comfort women.  Why then did many non-governmental organizations and comfort women still call for Japan to redress that issue?  Japan had apologized, but for what?  He did not want to hear Japan’s deceptions, but wanted a sincere apology and proper compensation.  It had taken over 60 years to acknowledge State involvement in the crime of sexual slavery of 200,000 Korean women.  The international community would see how many decades more for Japan to redress that crime against humanity.

The representative of Myanmar -- responding to Sweden, which spoke on behalf of the European Union; the United States; New Zealand; Japan; Australia and Canada -- said his country opposed selectivity and double standards in the promotion of human rights.  The use of human rights for political purposes and the selective targeting of certain countries were contrary to the United Nations Charter.  It was regrettable that comments had been made based on information emanating from anti-Government groups.  Any human rights complaints should be made in an objective manner and the Universal Periodic Review provided the best means of doing so.  Significant headway in the promotion of human rights could only be made if it was based on a balanced approach.

Responding to Canada, Sudan’s representative categorically rejected the remarks on the human rights situation in his country, particularly regarding the rights of women. In its intervention, Canada had not mentioned that women in Sudan had obtained the right to vote before many countries in the world.  The tradition and culture of the Sudanese people was enriched by many values and Canada’s attacks were not based on reality or evidence. He invited Canada to investigate the situation in Sudan, the Government of which had cooperated with all United Nations officials.  Moreover, its press was free and it responded to criticism. It also worked towards peace.  Canada should be part of the solution.  It should not confine itself to false information, but, with its partners in Europe -- who help the rebels in Sudan -- promote development action. There should be an end to these lies, which only hampered the march of the Sudanese people toward peace.

The representative of Japan said his country had been facing up to its past with sincerity since World War II.  On the other hand, the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was posing a clear danger to the lives of its own people.  He drew attention to paragraph 72 of the report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in which he said that an array of rights and freedoms were being egregiously violated by authorities on a daily basis.  They were widespread, systematic and abhorrent, and were transgressed with impunity.  He urged that country respond honestly to the international community’s concerns about its human rights situation, and to take concrete action to improve it.  On the issue of abduction, he explained that it was indeed a core issue in normalization talks, alongside the nuclear issue.  Japan was merely asking its neighbour to carry out the promises it had made last year.

In response, the representative of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said Japan was making groundless allegations against his country, while seeking to escape its own human rights violations for past crimes, which was a shame.  And, as he had already talked about the abduction issue, he wouldn’t repeat himself.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.