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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/1085
14 April 2004

UN JOINT INSPECTION UNIT PRESENTS REVIEW OF GEOGRAPHIC DISTRIBUTION
OF OFFICE OF HIGH COMMISSIONER
Commission Hears of Activities of National Human Rights Institutions
(Reissued as received.)

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The Commission also carried on this afternoon with its consideration of the activities of national institutions for human rights.  A series of national institutions described their responsibilities and functions.  Speaking were representatives of human rights institutions of New Zealand, Argentina, Mexico, India, Niger, Australia, the Republic of Korea, Venezuela, Uganda, Morocco, Palestine, Canada, the Philippines, Denmark, Ireland, Ghana, Rwanda, Algeria, Northern Ireland, Honduras, Nepal, and Saudi Arabia.

The Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Thursday, 15 April, and is expected to conclude debate under its agenda item on the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms.  It will then act on draft resolutions and decisions tabled under its agenda item on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.

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Statements on National Institutions for Human Rights

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GARBA LOMPO, of National Commission of Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties of Niger, said that while the meeting of the Commission was going on, the rights of persons remained subsidiary in many regions of the world.  One could not give a deaf ear to the crying heart of the Spanish people in their fight against terrorism following the horrible attack in Madrid.  How could one be indifferent to the attacks of which the Palestinians and their leaders were victims?  Could one remain silent before the distress and hopelessness of the Iraqi and Afghan peoples who aspired only for the freedom to effectively enjoy their rights?  Those litanies also concerned the African continent, which had experienced similar situations and serious fratricidal conflicts, as well as poverty, destitution, misery, disease and displacements.  It was important to focus on the grave events taking place in Côte d’Ivoire.  The political, military, economic and social tensions that erupted in September 2002 had plummeted the country into a cycle of human rights violations.  The situation should be a matter of concern to everyone.

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SAID ZEEDANI, of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Citizen’s Rights, said the Commission’s work was being challenged by the ruthless practices of the Israeli occupation forces and the consequent weakening of the Palestinian National Authority.  Yet those same conditions had made the Commission’s work all the more indispensable.  The magnitude, scale and consequences of the violations committed by the Israeli occupation forces had resulted in enormous human and material losses which the Commission continued to document and report on.  Since the beginning of the Intifada in September 2000, nearly 2,800 Palestinians –- including 545 children –- had been killed by Israeli forces and settlers.  Assassination was an official policy of Israel’s Government.  Tens of thousands of Palestinians had been detained for varying periods and arrest campaigns were a daily occurrence.  Furthermore, the construction of a separation wall jeopardized the freedom, future and livelihood of the Palestinian people and its imminent completion had driven the Palestinians to raise the issue at the General Assembly, which had requested a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice.

Such conditions had adversely affected the performance of the Palestinian National Authority, frustrating its efforts for democratic reform and rebuilding, hindering the work of its institutions and depriving it of the lion’s share of its capabilities for providing security and other vital services to citizens.  However, the Authority had not done all that was possible to alleviate the suffering of Palestinian citizens and to consolidate the rule of law and to ensure respect for human rights and transparency.  Of particular concern were vigilantism, the misuse of firearms and security lapses. 

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