COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ADOPTS RESOLUTIONS
ON SITUATION IN OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 15 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights adopted resolutions this morning calling for Israel to cease repressive measures in the occupied Syrian Golan; end human rights abuses and withdraw from Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; and halt the construction of settlements in the occupied Arab territories. The three measures, adopted by roll-call votes, were tabled under the Commission's agenda item on the "question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine".
In a resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour and 1 against, with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasized that the displaced persons of the population must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their properties; and determined that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan were null and void.
The lone vote against the resolution was cast by the United States.
A Representative of Israel said Israel had come into possession of the Golan Heights in self-defense against a war initiated by neighbouring Arab countries, that Israel had been negotiating with Syria to reach a peaceful solution to outstanding problems, including the issue of the Golan Heights, and that the resolution was one-sided.
A Representative of the Syrian Arab Republic said Syria wanted to negotiate with Israel, but Israel wanted both peace and the land it had occupied, and should instead manifest its real need for peace.
In a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of
33 in favour and 5 against, with 15 abstentions, the Commission, among other things, reaffirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation in order to free their land and be able to exercise their right to self-determination; strongly condemned the violations by the Israeli occupation authorities of human rights in the territory, including East Jerusalem; the
Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory; the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps which had so far resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children; and the practice of "liquidation" or "extrajudicial executions" carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians.
A Representative of Israel said that if the resolution really aimed to end violence, it would have included a clear and unequivocal demand for the Palestinian leadership to cease and desist from all acts of violence and would have called upon their followers, including their paramilitary militia groups and security forces, to end the violent armed attacks and suicide terrorist bombings against Israelis that they had initiated in September 2000.
A Representative of Palestine said the situation in the occupied territories had deteriorated under increased military action by Israel and that Israel, through its actions, was practicing what amounted to State terrorism.
In a resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, adopted by a roll-call vote of 50 in favour and 1 against, with 2 abstentions, the Commission expressed grave concern at continuing Israeli settlement activities, including the illegal installation of settlers in the occupied territories and related activities, such as the expansion of settlements, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads, which changed the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem. The resolution said settlements were a major obstacle to peace and to the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State.
The United States cast the dissenting vote.
The Representative of Israel said the issue of settlements was one of those difficult issues left to be negotiated with all outstanding issues during permanent status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, and the resolution was not about settlements at all, but rather dealt with political and non-human-rights matters under the guise of a discussion of settlements.
The Representative of Palestine said settlements were yet another phase of the Israeli occupation and could not be negotiated as they constituted a war crime and must be dismantled for the sake of a permanent peace.
The Commission also continued general debate this morning on its remaining agenda items. These cover the topics of specific groups and individuals; the report of the Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights; the promotion and protection of human rights; advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights; and rationalization of the work of the Commission.
Providing statements were Representatives of Algeria, Pakistan, Syria, Sri Lanka, Finland, Paraguay (on behalf of the MERCOSUR countries), Paraguay (national statement), Uruguay, New Zealand, Cameroon, Thailand, Armenia, and Libya.
The Commission will reconvene at 3 p.m. to continue its open debate on remaining agenda items.
Action on Resolutions on Question of Violation
Of Human Rights in Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine
In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.3) on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour and 1 against, with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel, the occupying power, to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, particularly resolution 497 (1981) in which the Council decided that the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan was null and void and without international legal effect; called upon Israel to desist from changing the physical character, demographic composition, institutional structure and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan, and emphasized that the displaced persons of the population must be allowed to return to their homes and to recover their properties; called upon Israel to desist from imposing Israeli citizenship and Israeli identity cards on the Syrian citizens in the occupied Golan and to desist from its repressive measures against them; determined that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken or to be taken by Israel that purported to alter the character and legal status of the occupied Syrian Golan were null and void, constituted a flagrant violation of international law and of the Geneva Conventions, and had no legal effect; called upon member States not to recognize any of the legislative or administrative measures referred to above; and requested the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention to all Governments and other relevant organizations.
The results were as follows:
In favour (31): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, India, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Togo, Uganda, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.
Against (1): United States.
Abstentions (21): Australia, Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Thailand, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
A Representative of Israel, speaking before the vote, said the Commission must remember how Israel came into possession of the Golan Heights. It was in self-defense against a war initiated by neighbouring Arab countries. Syria lost the war, which it started in 1967, and lost that territory. In recent years, Israel had been negotiating with Syria, attempting to reach a peaceful solution to outstanding problems including the issue of the Golan Heights. An agreement was almost reached several years ago in a famous meeting between the late President Assad and United States President Bill Clinton. This unique opportunity was lost because of Mr. Assad's negative reply to the Israeli proposal. Israel was still committed to negotiating a peace settlement with Syria. Passing one-sided resolutions that determined the future of one of the outstanding issues, i.e., the Golan Heights, prejudged the outcome of these negotiations and created a disincentive for the Syrians to return to the negotiating table. Israel also called on Syria to close the offices of 10 major terrorist organizations in Damascus and to arrest the leaders of these organizations. Syria should also provide information on the whereabouts of three Israeli soldiers who had been missing for 21 years. Israel called on members of the Commission to vote against draft resolution L.3.
A Representative of the Syria said things seemed to be going upside-down with Israel accusing its victims of not wanting peace. It would take courage to say that Israel was the aggressor and wished to come to the negotiating table. On the basis of United Nations resolutions, Syria wanted to negotiate with Israel. But Israel wanted both peace and the land it had occupied. It took courage not to expel people in the Golan from their land; it took courage not to kill Palestinians in the occupied territories; and it should be courageous to accept the Arab peace proposal, which aimed at settling the situation in peaceful manner. Israel should manifest its real need for peace. It had killed Egyptian prisoners of war; it had shot down civilian planes; and it continued to kill people in the region. Syria called on Commission members to vote for the resolution. A Representative of the United States, explaining the country's vote before the vote, said the resolution on the Syrian Golan was another completely one-sided text containing biased and unwarranted criticism aimed at Israel. Its adoption would in no way move the Commission any closer to resolving the status of the Syrian Golan or improving the lives of those individuals resident there. The goal of the United States was a comprehensive peace with security for all States of the region. The United States had not forgotten that Israel still faced hostility from two of its neighbors, Syria and Lebanon. Direct negotiations between the parties were the only viable way to reach a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. This resolution on the Syrian Golan again reflected the overriding bias within the Commission on the question of Israel.
One could not but notice that the Arab-Israeli situation was the only regional problem to be the sole subject of an entire item on the Commission's agenda, when it should really fall under item 9. Only a grave distortion of judgment about the relative gravity of human rights abuses worldwide would account for such disproportionate attention by the Commission. The Commission's approach to this matter detracted from its essential role of addressing serious human rights abuses wherever they might occur. The United States urged others to join in rejecting the Commission's biased approach by voting against this resolution.
A Representative of Canada said that while Canada agreed with some elements contained in the resolution, there were others which it could not support. Canada recognized that the Golan was occupied territory and did not recognize permanent Israeli control over the territories occupied in 1967. Canada also supported the concept that the peace process must be based on Security Council resolutions 242 and 338. However, the resolution provided neither the full context nor a balanced assessment of the situation of the region. For this reason, Canada would abstain.
A Representative of Guatemala said the delegation was concerned by the wording of some of the paragraphs in the draft resolution. It was of the view that the problem of occupation should be dealt with by the Security Council and not by the Commission. The human rights violations of occupied people were a subject to be dealt with by the Security Council or other United Nations bodies. The Commission should devote its attention to human rights violations in other States. The Guatemalan delegation would abstain in the vote on draft resolution L.3.
In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.12) on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 33 in favour and 5 against, with 15 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation in order to free their land and be able to exercise their right to self-determination; strongly condemned once more the violations by the Israeli occupation authorities of human rights in the territory, including East Jerusalem; the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory; the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps which had so far resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinians, including women and children; the practice of "liquidation" or "extrajudicial executions" carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians; the establishment of Israeli settlements and other related activities in the occupied Palestinian territory; the expropriation of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem and Hebron, the revocation of identity cards of the citizens of East Jerusalem, and the imposition of fabricated and exorbitant taxes with the aim of driving Palestinian citizens of Jerusalem out of their homes, and called upon the Government of Israel to put an end immediately to these practices; condemned the use of torture against Palestinians during interrogation; the offensives of the Israeli army of occupation on ambulances and paramedical personnel and the practice of preventing ambulances and vehicles of the International Committee of the Red Cross from reaching the wounded in order to transport them to hospital; expressed grave concern at the deterioration of the human rights and humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, and particularly at the acts of mass killing perpetrated by the Israeli occupying authorities against the Palestinian people; at the military siege imposed on the Palestinian territory and the isolation of Palestinian towns and villages; at the restriction of movement imposed on Chairman Yasser Arafat by the Israeli occupation authorities; at the massive arrests conducted by the Israeli occupying authorities against about 15,000 Palestinians, without trail and without any criminal charges having been brought against them; affirmed anew that the demolition by the Israeli occupying forces of at least 30,000 Palestinian houses was a grave violation of articles 33 and 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention; that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable to the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel since 1967, and any change in the geographical, demographic and institutional status of the city of East Jerusalem from its status prior to the June 1967 war to be illegal and void; called once again upon Israel to desist from all forms of violation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory and to withdraw from the territory occupied since 1967; and called upon the relevant United Nations organs urgently to consider the best ways to provide the necessary international protection for the Palestinian people until the cessation of the Israeli occupation.
The results were as follows:
In favour (33): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, India, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.
Against (5): Australia, Canada, Germany, Peru, and United States.
Abstentions (15): Austria, Belgium, Cameroon, Costa Rica, Croatia, France, Guatemala, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Poland, Sweden, United Kingdom, and Uruguay.
A Representative of Israel said the wording and implications of the text of L.12 contributed neither to the advancement of human rights nor to the cessation of violence in the area; nor would L.12 contribute to peace and security through a return to the negotiating table. Were this draft text prepared with the aim of ending violence, it would have included a clear and unequivocal demand for the Palestinian leadership to cease and desist from all acts of violence and would have called upon their followers, including their paramilitary militia groups and security forces, to end the violent armed attacks and suicide terrorist bombings against Israelis that they had initiated in September 2000. Were the authors of this draft resolution committed to ending incitement, hatred and violence, they would call upon the Palestinian leadership, media, the preachers in the mosques, in Gaza and the West Bank, to end their anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish campaign and their rhetoric of hatred. The text before the Commission was completely one-sided and politicized. It was replete with unsubstantiated accusations against Israel, and Israel alone, thus rendering the resolution meaningless.
Whatever the item on the agenda, item 8, item 9, development, housing, whether it related to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict or not, Israel was singled out for different treatment and blamed for all the failures of the Palestinians. Israel suggested to some of the speakers who chose Israel as a scapegoat for the failures of the Palestinian Authority to protect human rights and to deliver humanitarian assistance and social services to their people to pause for a moment of introspection. Funds allocated to the Palestinian Authority were misappropriated. A conscious decision of certain Arab States and of the Palestinian leadership was to perpetuate the plight of those Palestinians who had become refugees in 1948 and their descendent by keeping them in refugee camps as political pawns and agents of incitement to be used against Israel in public, such as in the Commission. If the countries represented in the Commission by such eloquent speakers were really concerned with the plight of these refugees, would they have kept them and their descendents in camps for 55 years?
A Representative of Palestine said the Commission was debating the deterioration of the situation in Palestine while the Israeli delegation was talking the opposite. The vast majority of the members of the Commission had adopted a similar resolution last year. The situation in the occupied territory had deteriorated with the increased military action by Israel; and the number of martyrs had been increased with many Palestinians being killed. Many villages had been isolated by Israel measures of blockade. Israel, through its actions, had practiced what amounted to State terrorism. The actions taken by Israel had been in violation of all relevant international norms. The occupation itself, let alone the human rights violations of the occupied people, was a violation of international law. The Israel authorities were retreating more and more from peace negotiations.
Palestine once again called on the Commission to adopt draft resolution L.12.
A Representative of the United States said the United States was deeply concerned about violence and terrorist activities in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza and about the human rights violations that had accompanied that violence. However, it was clear that Israel was not responsible for all the ills plaguing the people in the region. Unfortunately, resolution L.12 failed to recognize that simple fact. This resolution simply ignored the fact that Israeli actions took place in the context of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Among the most egregious provisions in all the resolutions considered under this agenda item was the language on right to resistance, which attempted to justify the use of terrorism by Palestinians against Israelis.
The United States found any act of terrorism morally unjustifiable. Palestinian suicide bombers murdered innocent Israeli men, women and children, and these actions must be condemned in the strongest terms. Adoption of such a resolution would be contrary to the very concept of human rights. The actions of this Commission appeared divorced from reality and furthered reduced the credibility of the Commission and increased the mistrust and fear that fueled the region's hatred. The United States would call for a vote and would oppose this resolution.
A Representative of Canada said Canada was deeply concerned about human rights in the Palestinian territories and had consistently called on Israel to comply with its obligations under international law. However, this resolution contributed neither to an improvement of the situation on the ground not towards a solution of the conflict. It contained unacceptable and often inflammatory language directed exclusively at one party to the conflict. The failure of the resolution to condemn all acts of violence, particularly in the context of suicide bombings targeting Israeli civilians, was a serious oversight which rendered the resolution fundamentally unacceptable. Suicide bombings, rocket attacks and other actions intended to harm civilians and sow fear among the civilian population were human rights violations deeply repugnant to the Commission's core values. No claim could ever justify these crimes. For these reasons, Canada would vote against resolution L.12.
A Representative of Guatemala said the delegation was concerned by the pertinence of a resolution that would address the protection of the human rights of the people affected by Israeli occupation of Arab territories. The political character of the occupation should be addressed by other United Nations bodies rather than by the Commission. The resolution also should take into consideration the suffering of both peoples affected by the conflict. Guatemala would abstain from the vote on draft resolution L.12.
In a resolution (E/CN.4/2003/L.18) on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, adopted by a roll-call vote of 50 in favour and 1 against, with 2 abstentions, the Commission called upon the Israeli Government to cooperate with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967; expressed grave concern at the continuation, at an escalated level, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; at the continuing Israeli settlement activities, including the illegal installation of settlers in the occupied territories and related activities, such as the expansion of settlements, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads, which changed the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, as settlements were a major obstacle to peace and to the creation of an independent, viable, sovereign and democratic Palestinian State; strongly condemned all acts of violence, including indiscriminate terrorist attacks killing and injuring civilians, provocation, incitement and destruction; expressed concern at the closures of and within the Palestinian territories and the restriction of the freedom of movement of Palestinians; urged the Government of Israel to comply fully with previous Commission resolutions on the subject of the settlements; to reverse its settlement policy; to prevent any new installation of settlers; to stop the construction of the so-called security fence in the Palestinian territories; to implement the recommendations regarding the settlements made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights; to take and implement serious measures with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers, and other measures to guarantee the safety and protection of Palestinian civilians in the occupied territories; and urged the parties to cooperate in the early and unconditional implementation, without modifications, of the road map endorsed by the Quartet with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement.
The results were as follows:
In favour (50): Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Libya, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa,
Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.
Against (1): United States.
Abstentions (2): Australia, and Costa Rica.
A Representative of Israel said the issue of settlements was one of those difficult issues left to be negotiated with all outstanding issues during permanent status negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. This year, the resolution L.18 on settlements was not about settlements at all. Rather, it dealt with political and non-human-rights matters under the guise of a discussion of settlements.
This resolution criticized the security fence, a defensive measure which Israel had felt bound to introduce because of the continuous wave of violence, the infiltration of terrorists into Israel across the pre-1967 borders, in order to place bombs and dynamite charges. In the absence of any significant counteraction by the Palestinian Authority, Israel had no choice but to establish a defensive mechanism in the form of a security fence. Prior to the current wave of violence, there was no need for restrictions on freedom of movement. What necessitated these defensive measures to protect the right to life of Israeli civilians was the violence imposed upon Israel by a conscious decision of the Palestinian Authority.
A Representative of Palestine said settlements were yet another phase of occupation. It was a military phase since all Israeli settlers in areas implanted in Palestinian territories were military and armed. Settlements had been referred to in international law as a crime of war. The first protocol to the Geneva Conventions reiterated this fact in its article 85. Israel wanted this issue to be discussed and negotiated. Settlements could not be negotiated; they constituted a war crime and must be dismantled for the sake of a permanent peace.
The draft resolution before the Commission included something new compared to previous sessions. In operative paragraph 3 b, it referred to the dismantlement of settlements in order to achieve peace. It was a very important element and a key issue for a long-lasting peace. Operative paragraph 4 stressed the need to adhere to the road map for peace. The Commission was suggesting the acceptance of the road map without amendments, as opposed to the 19 amendments previously suggested by Israel. Palestine stood behind this draft resolution and wished to be a co-sponsor.
A Representative of the United States said resolution L.18 was inconsistent with the joint statement of the Quartet and the Road Map. It failed to recognize that all sides had responsibilities if the peace process was to move forward.
It never once cited the obligations and responsibilities of the Palestinians themselves or criticized those who harboured Palestinian terrorist groups and offered support for their activities. Reducing terrorism and enhancing the security of all parties was something both parties must do.
A Representative of Canada said Israeli settlement activities undermined the hopes of Palestinians and prejudiced the prospects for a fair-minded peace. Canada considered those activities to be contrary to international law and an obstacle to the establishment of a viable Palestinian State. Israel should freeze all settlement activities. Canada would vote in favour of draft resolution L.18.
A Representative of Australia said Australia regarded Israeli settlements as an obstacle to long-standing peace. However, Australia would abstain in the vote on draft resolution L.18 since the draft resolution did not condemn in equal terms all acts of violence.
A Representative of Algeria said Algeria would vote in favour of draft resolution L.18. It welcomed it as being one of the most positive texts on the situation in the Middle East. It was clearly stated that the two international Covenants were being violated by the establishment of settlements in the occupied territories. Every day members of the Israeli Government called for the deportation of the Palestinian people and this was also referred to in the text of the European Union. Algeria noted that unfortunately it could not cosponsor the resolution since Paragraph 4 mentioned the Road Map initiative, which Algeria was not familiarized with since it had not read the text of that initiative.
A Representative of Argentina said Argentina would vote in favour of draft resolution L.18 because of the country's concern about the deteriorating situation in the region. The fact that Argentina supported the resolution should not be interpreted as not condemning all terrorist activities. Argentina supported the proposition that Palestinians and Israelis live in peace within determined territories as two States.
A Representative of Ireland, speaking on behalf of the European Union, explained that the Union had not been able to support resolution on L.3 on the Syrian Golan since a stronger focus was needed on the human rights issue. Concerning resolution L.12, the European Union was highly disturbed by the ongoing cycle of violence, settlements and collective punishments in the occupied Palestinian territories. Israel bore the full responsibility for sanctioning such human rights violations. At the same time, the Palestinian suicide bombings continued. These acts must be unequivocally condemned and the Palestinian Authority bore the responsibility for preventing such violations of human rights. Whilst the resolution condemned terrorism indirectly, the language of the text was not strong enough. In addition, parts of the language were not appropriate for the Commission.
A Representative of Syria said Syria had voted in favour of resolution L.18 because the text emphasized the illegitimate character of the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories. Syria noted that operative paragraph 4 made reference to the Road Map. Syria did not know what the content of the Road Map was and did not know whether the Road Map was consistent with the relevant Security Council Resolutions and the Madrid Conference for peace in the Middle East based on the principle of land for peace.
A Representative of Brazil said Brazil had supported the resolution on the Syrian Golan to express Brazil's support for the thrust of the draft, in particular for the need to resume peace talks for the establishment of a just and comprehensive peace in the region. However, Brazil wished to stress the position of the Brazilian Government that the frontiers between Israel and Syria were a matter of negotiation between both parties, on the basis of the parameters established by Security Council resolution 242.
LAZHAR SOUALEM (Algeria) said the situation of migrants continued to give rise to a certain amount of concern. The scope of this phenomenon showed the dysfunction of international society, and consisted of inequalities produced as a result of globalization. Globalization was intended to improve the situation of peoples worldwide, but instead had been one of the leading causes of migration. The causes of migration could also be found in situations of war and armed conflict. Unfortunately, migration involved millions of people around the world. The events of 11 September had brought about a new surge of xenophobia and fear directed against migrants. Algeria had participated in a conference in Tunisia on migration. It was a first step, and had provided the opportunity to discuss harmonized methods of dealing with all aspects of problems related to migration.
Algeria was also concerned about internally displaced persons. The number of countries affected by migration and internally displaced persons was growing. A decade had seen calls for cooperation between the bodies of the United Nations on issues related to migration. Lack of initiative by Governments had been made up for by efforts and initiatives through international organizations to protect the human rights of displaced persons. Nonetheless, much hard work was still required from all parties concerned.
IMTIAZ HUSSAIN (Pakistan) said the Constitution of Pakistan guaranteed the fundamental rights of minorities, which constituted 3 per cent of Pakistan's total population of 140 million. Minorities in Pakistan were a valued asset. Apart from their contribution in all walks of life they were an important component of the cultural diversity of Pakistan. Last year, in deference to the minorities' longstanding demand, the separate electorate system had been abolished in Pakistan. The abuse of the blasphemy law and violence against minorities were issues of great concern to Pakistan. Appropriate administrative and legal safeguards were being promulgated to thwart the abuse of minorities' rights.
Human rights defenders had remained under assault in many societies, especially in situations of armed conflict and foreign occupation. Impunity, wrapped in draconian security measures, had been a major impediment to the noble efforts of the human rights defenders. Freedom of opinion and expression and eradication of the impunity of State apparatuses were essential measures for facilitating the promotion of awareness of fundamental rights in all societies.
AYMAN RAAD (Syria), speaking under agenda item 15, said the work accomplished by human rights defenders was essential for pursuing the efforts of the Commission. Human rights defenders should carry out their noble mission without any impediment. The work submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, was to be commended.
However, she had made reference to Syria, which she should not do. The inclusion of Syria in the Special Rapporteur's report would be without any credibility. The Government of Syria was doing all it could to promote the work of human rights defenders. PRASAD KARIYAWASAM (Sri Lanka) said momentous developments were now taking place in Sri Lanka. The 20-year-old armed conflict was no more. The Government had consciously chosen a path to win peace, and not war. The process of reconciliation towards establishing a permanent political settlement in the country was firmly on course. Respect for the rights of the individual had been a traditional virtue in Sri Lankan society, since the predominant beliefs of the country enshrined the concept of the dignity of the individual and the principle that every human being was born equal. In this context, it was the Government's belief that individual rights and the collective rights of a group or a society were mutually complementary and not mutually exclusive and that one type did not take precedence over the other. Any attempts to trample individual rights for the sake of group rights would only promote forms of totalitarian or undemocratic practice.
The Government was undertaking action to improve freedom of expression, to ensure greater media freedom, to introduce new legislation aimed at opening up the Government more to people, and to achieve gender equality.
HANNU KYROLAINEN (Finland), speaking on behalf of the Nordic and Baltic countries, said the Nordic and Baltic countries supported the development of new international human rights instruments where they could further enhance the enjoyment of human rights or meet a well-founded need. It was of utmost importance that the efficiency of the work of treaty bodies be ensured through adequate resources. Their proper functioning should not under any circumstances be dependent on voluntary contributions. The inadequate implementation of existing conventions remained a key problem of the UN human rights system.
All States were urged to make widely available their periodic reports, as well as the full texts of concluding observations on their reports in order to facilitate transparency and effective national follow-up to concluding observations, The functioning of the treaty bodies needed to be kept under constant supervision, and follow-up mechanisms should be systematically developed. Strong and effective national institutions could contribute substantially to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It was important to give these institutions the possibility of commenting on draft legislation and draft policy papers that concerned human rights issues, including on the subject of the compatibility of national laws and practices with international human rights norms.
LETICIA CASATI (Paraguay) said the countries of the MERCOSUR group, Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and the associated countries of Bolivia and Chile, were giving higher priority to the promotion and protection of human rights. Since 2000, officials dealing with issue of human rights in the respective countries had met periodically for consultations and for coordinating a common policy. The meetings had allowed the countries to consolidate their policies and to exchange best practices. These countries affirmed their commitment to the universal implementation of legal instruments and mechanisms intended to protect human rights. They also found it essential to design principles to elaborate policies and strategies by Governments on human rights.
Cooperation among States and international organizations was essential for the effective implementation of the international humanitarian laws and to guarantee access by individuals to protective mechanisms. MERCOSUR attached great importance to the attention given by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on technical cooperation under the Quito framework
JULIO DUARTE VAN HUMBECK (Paraguay), speaking in the country's national capacity, reaffirmed the importance of the establishment, strengthening and functioning of national human rights institutions. The Government of Paraguay had recognized the importance of national institutions and their role in the promotion and protection of human rights. The Commission was informed that Paraguay had ratified several international human rights instruments and was engaging in dialogue with human rights defenders and civil society activists. The Government was working in consultation with civil society to create a solid basis for a national human rights plan.
It was stressed that cooperation played an important role in strengthening national bodies. The High Commissioner for Human Rights was therefore congratulated for giving priority to national institutions and their strengthening through technical assistance. The High Commissioner was indeed a good partner, and the Commission was informed that Paraguay had already signed an agreement on technical cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner.
RICARDO GONZALEZ (Uruguay) said Uruguay considered international cooperation to be fundamental for facilitating the full enjoyment of human rights. Uruguay supported actions undertaken by the international community to promote and protect human rights, and cooperated with all mechanisms of the Commission. At the regional level, Uruguay attached great importance to the workshops organized by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the preparation of reports on economic and social rights. The next workshop would be held in Montevideo from 7 to 9 May and would focus on the implementation of affirmative action measures to promote the rights of people of Afro-American descent.
At the sub-regional level, Uruguay stressed the importance of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights continuing its cooperation with MERCOSUR countries and with Chile. At the national level, Uruguay continued to be open to cooperation in the field of human rights and was harmonizing national legislation with international standards in the field of human rights.
JILLIAN DEMPSTER (New Zealand), also speaking on behalf of Australia and Canada, said the human rights treaty body system was an important means of holding States accountable for their obligations under the six core human rights treaties. But more than that, it enabled States to engage in constructive dialogues with the treaty committees about best practices, acknowledging that there was always room for improvement in the implementation of their human rights obligations. The reporting process could be a useful means of informing and complementing the development of States' national human rights protection systems. There were, however, a number of issues that threatened to undermine the effectiveness of the human rights treaty system. That included the extent of non-reporting and overdue reports and the capacity of the committees to consider States' reports promptly.
Addressing the challenges facing the human rights treaty body system required a cooperative approach by States, the six treaty bodies, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions. All of those actors had a stake in the human rights treaty body system. The improvement of that system was something many had advocated, and New Zealand and others intended to contribute positively. Many States struggled with the onerous responsibilities of treaty body reporting. That was a particular concern for small developing States.
JEAN SIMPLICE NDJEMBA ENDEZOUMOU (Cameroon) expressed gratitude to the United Nations and the Commission for its promotion and protection of, without discrimination, the human rights and fundamental freedoms of people with disabilities. A future international convention on the human rights of people with disabilities would be an important step in the right direction. It would be a decisive, determined and fundamental step forwards. It would affect the manner in which people viewed each other, and surmount and break existing psychological barriers, whether they were that of indifference, fear, or hatred. In Cameroon, there were 1.5 million people with disabilities, constituting almost 10 per cent of the population. The Government of Cameroon would therefore participate actively in the drawing up of a draft convention on the human rights of people with disabilities.
Cameroon believed education was an indispensable facet to the full enjoyment of all human rights. In Africa education remained the best weapon in the fight for progress. In this context, the Commission was informed that the Government of Cameroon had signed the Vienna Plan of Action and fully supported the United Nations Decade on human rights education.
LAXANACHANTORN LAOHAPHAN (Thailand) said Thailand had consistently upheld the rule of law and would continue to do so. It also attached great importance to the work of human rights defenders both at the national and international levels. Since January, Thailand had become a party to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. While Thailand strove to strengthen its human rights mechanisms, it felt that regional and cross-regional cooperation on human rights must be enhanced to allow the sharing of experiences and best practices.
Thailand strongly supported the advisory services and technical cooperation programmes offered by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Thailand also wished to stress that the work of the Commission would be much more beneficial to people worldwide if members of the Commission focused their attention on the issue of standard setting and sharing of experiences and if work was depoliticized.
ZOHRAB MNATSAKANIAN (Armenia) said a State Department for Migration and Refugees had been established in 1999 to address migration and refugee issues and to elaborate legislative initiatives in that respect. In November 2000, the Government had adopted a concept for State regulation of population migrations for the country. It outlined policy principles for the regulation of migration. It contained priorities, mechanisms and directives for its management. It also outlined recommendations for introducing specific legislative initiatives to reflect priorities of the State policy on migration.
In 1999, the National Assembly of Armenia had adopted a Law on Refugees which had been followed by a Government policy paper on the integration of refugees. The primary objective of these steps was to facilitate comprehensive integration of refugees in Armenia and their subsequent naturalization.
WIDAD KHALIFA SARRAH (Libya) said that based on the teachings of Islam calling for equality between all peoples and for assisting all those in need, as well as based on the Declaration of Human Rights, Libya felt responsible vis-à-vis all people with disabilities around the world. Their human rights must be respected and the Government had therefore called for an international year for the disabled, as well as the adoption of special provisions for the fulfillment of the human rights of people with disabilities.
Libya had focused on the necessity of providing health care and preventing future disabilities. Special programmes in schools had been undertaken, aiming to integrate people with disabilities into the educational system. In this context, one could not refrain from mentioning disabilities occurring as a result of anti-personnel land mines. Libya had suffered greatly from anti-personnel mines left in the country since the Second World War. The international community must cooperate to rid the world of anti-personnel land mines.
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