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Report of the Secretary-General **
1. In its resolution 56/141 of 19 December 2001, the General Assembly, inter alia, requested the Commission on Human Rights to continue to give special attention to the violation of human rights, especially the right to self-determination, resulting from foreign military intervention, aggression and occupation, and requested the Secretary-General to report on this question to the Assembly at its fifty-seventh session under the item entitled “Right of peoples to self-determination”.
2. On 10 April 2002 the Secretary-General addressed a note verbale to all Governments drawing their attention to General Assembly resolution 56/141 and requesting them to submit any pertinent information relating to that resolution.
3. To date, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has received three replies in response to the above note of the Secretary-General and one in response to previous notes verbales on the same issue.
4. The present report includes a summary of replies received, as well as an account of the consideration of the issue “The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation” at the fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights.
II. Replies received from Governments
6. The constitution of 1999 lists national self-determination as one of the nation’s unwaivable rights and the pre-eminence of human rights as one of its values. The right to national self-determination allows the sovereign people to choose their political structure and independence, whereas the idea of the pre-eminence of human rights means that the law should be interpreted so as to favour the rights and freedoms of individuals.
7. In its note, Venezuela also makes reference to the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman, which is charged with promoting, defending and monitoring the rights and guarantees included in the constitution and in international human rights treaties.
9. According to the Government of Azerbaijan, a distinction should also be made between the rights of persons belonging to minorities and the right of peoples to self-determination. The former are individual rights and the latter is a collective right. Therefore, minorities cannot refer to the right of peoples to self-determination to support claims of secession or dismemberment of a State. However, the Government of Azerbaijan considers that some forms of autonomy within a sovereign State might bring an end to armed conflicts involving minorities.
11. According to the Government of Kuwait, international cooperation is important for the implementation of the right of peoples to self-determination and the removal of the obstacles that impede its realization.
12. The Government of Kuwait took the plight of millions of refugees and persons uprooted from their homes as an example of the negative effects caused by military intervention, aggression and occupation in countries and foreign zones.
14. Cuba expressed its support for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self-determination, “including the right to build their own independent State”, and expressed its deepest concern at the difficult situation the Palestinian people are experiencing due to the Israeli occupation of its territory. According to Cuba, resolving the Palestinian issue is key to achieving a just and lasting peace in the Middle East.
15. The Government of Cuba demands that the Government of the United States of America return the Cuban territory its naval base occupies in Guantanamo Bay. This territory, Cuba wrote, has been “usurped illegally against the wishes of its people”.
16. Finally, Cuba urged the United States to respect the right of Puerto Ricans to self-determination, arguing that the people of Puerto Rico have the right to establish their independence.
III. Fifty-eighth session of the Commission on Human Rights
17. During its fifty-eighth session, under agenda item 5, the Commission on Human Rights discussed “The right of peoples to self-determination and its application to peoples under colonial or alien domination or foreign occupation”. Three resolutions were adopted by the Commission under this agenda item: resolution 2002/3 on the “Situation in occupied Palestine”; resolution 2002/4 on the “Question of Western Sahara”;and resolution 2002/5 on “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”.
18. Resolution 2002/3, entitled “Situation in occupied Palestine”, reaffirmed the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to establish a Palestinian State, and endorsed the Arab peace initiative led by Saudi Arabia.
19. Resolution 2002/4, entitled “Question of Western Sahara”, recalled the progress made since the 1988 agreements reached between Morocco and the Frente Popular para la Liberación de Saguia el-Hamra y de Río de Oro. The Commission called upon both parties to cooperate on remaining difficulties regarding the implementation of the different phases of the settlement plan. In addition, the Commission reaffirmed its support for the organization of a referendum for self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.
20. Resolution 2002/5, on “The use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination”, refers to the threat posed by mercenary-related activities to peace, security and self-determination of peoples. The Commission welcomed the report presented by the Special Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries and the efforts made by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights in organizing the second meeting of experts on traditional and new forms of mercenary activities.
** This report is being submitted on 5 July 2002 so as to include as much updated information as possible.