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Press Release
UNITED NATIONS

HR/CN/1086
15 April 2004

COMMISSION ADOPTS THREE RESOLUTIONS ON THE VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE OCCUPIED ARAB TERRITORIES

Special Representative of Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders Presents Report

(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 15 April (UN Information Service) -- The Commission on Human Rights this morning adopted by roll-call vote three resolutions on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, and the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine.

In the resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, one against, with 21 abstentions, the Commission called upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, 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, and demanded that Israel should rescind its decision. The Commission determined the Israeli decision constituted a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

On Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories, the Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 27 in favour, two against, with 24 abstentions, a resolution in which it stated that the settlements were a major obstacle to peace and to the creation of a Palestinian State. It urged the Israeli Government to reverse its settlement policy in the occupied territories and to prevent any new installation of settlers. The Commission also demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the so-called security fence, including in and around Jerusalem, which was in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law.

On the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine, adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, seven against, with 15 abstentions, the Commission reaffirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation and strongly condemned human rights violations of the Israeli occupation authorities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The Commission also strongly condemned the Israeli occupation of the territories as being an aggression, an offence against humanity and a flagrant violation of human rights. It strongly condemned the construction of the Israeli wall in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Commission was also addressed by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, who presented her report. There were indications of a disturbing institutionalization of violence against human rights defenders, Ms. Jilani said, and evidence of a high level of impunity. However, a majority of Governments had shown willingness to resolve the situation. Initiatives taken to support defenders, to formulate policy on their protection and efforts to adopt the principles of the Declaration as binding national legislation were promising and reassuring. Information consolidated over the year had revealed that foremost among those targeted were human rights defenders acting to protect the rights of minorities, demanding the right to self-determination, asking for democratic governance and rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, labour rights, the rights of women, and those promoting peace, among many others. The situation was serious, Ms. Jilani said.

Representatives of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Thailand delivered statements as concerned countries.

Also this morning, the Commission concluded its general debate on the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms, hearing first from Representatives of national human rights institutions and then from non-governmental organizations. It then started its consideration of the promotion and protection of human rights.

The Commission unanimously decided to postpone consideration of the draft resolution on human rights and sexual orientation to its sixty-first session.

Representatives of Israel, Syria, Ireland (on behalf of the European Union), Palestine, Pakistan, Australia, and China spoke during the discussion on the resolutions.

Speaking on the effective functioning of human rights mechanisms were Representatives of: National Human Rights Commission of Togo, the Senegalese Committee of Human Rights, the Fiji Human Rights Commission, the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, the Indonesian National Commission on Human Rights, the National Institution for Human Rights-Qatar, and the Commission for Human Rights of the Russian Federation. The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Indigenous World Association (speaking on behalf of International Possibilities Unlimited and Indian Council of South America); Pax Romana (speaking on behalf of several NGOs1); South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre; World Union for Progressive Judaism; International Service for Human Rights; Romanian Independent Society of Human Rights; International Humanist and Ethical Union; Agir Ensemble pour les droits de l'homme; Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center and Center for Women’s Global Leadership.

When the Commission meets at 3 p.m. this afternoon, it will take action on draft resolutions under its agenda item on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world, including the question of human rights in Cyprus.

Action on Resolutions on Question of Violation of Human Rights in Occupied Arab Territories, including Palestine

The Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, one against, with 21 abstentions, a resolution on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan (E/CN.4/2004/L.12), by the terms of which it called upon Israel to comply with the relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, in particular 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, and demanded that Israel should rescind its decision; 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 Syrian Golan and to desist from its repressive measures against them; determined that all legislative and administrative measures 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, and constituted a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law; called upon Member States not to recognize any of those legislative or administrative measures; and requested the Secretary-General to bring the present resolution to the attention of all Governments.

The result of the vote was as follows:

In favour (31): Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

Against (1): United States.

Abstentions (21): Australia, Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Honduras, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom,

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) noted that Israel had come into possession of the Golan Heights after a war initiated by its Arab neighbours, in which Syria had lost the territory. Moreover, in recent years, there had been negotiations with Syria, including those of Madrid in 1991 and the negotiations that had taken place here in Geneva with the late President Assad of Syria and former President Clinton of the United States. Those negotiations had failed due to President Assad’s negative reply to the proposals put forward by Israel. The negotiations had stalled because of the Syrian refusal to cut a deal that would have given Syria full concessions, but would also have been a compromise, reflecting the interests of both parties.

For peace to have a chance, he continued, Syria should fight terrorism seriously, and close down the ten major terrorist organizations headquartered in Damascus, including that of Hamas, and arrest the leaders of those organizations. Similarly, Syria should reign in Hezbollah, which operated with impunity from Lebanese territory and with the support and assistance of Syria. Furthermore, Syria should release information on the whereabouts of the three Israeli soldiers who had gone missing in action in Lebanon 22 years ago.

Israel remained committed to negotiating a peace settlement with Syria, he concluded. However, passing one-sided resolutions that sought to determine the future of outstanding issues such as the Golan Heights prejudged the outcome of those negotiations and created a disincentive for the Syrians to return to the negotiating table.

MIKHAIL WEHBE (Syria) said first of all, the draft resolution expressed extreme concern over Israeli practices which continued to affect the lives of Palestinians and Syrians living in the occupied Golan. Second, it highlighted the need for Israel to comply with the internationally legitimate requests. Third, it underscored the fact that Israel should comply with Security Council resolutions which called upon it to withdraw from the occupied territories, and to resume the peace process. Fourth, in the context of the spread of Israeli settlements, the attempts to impose Israeli identity on Syrians and the presence of 19 Syrian citizens in Israeli prisons should be underscored. The illegal nature of Israel’s decision of 14 January 1981 which had imposed its law on the territory with de facto annexation should be highlighted. A fifth objective of the draft was to call upon all States not to recognize the legislative measures mentioned and to call upon Israel to put an end to changing the demographic structure of the occupied Golan and to allow Syrians to return home and restore their property. It was aimed at ensuring the human rights of the Syrians in the occupied Golan, and to achieve this an end should be put to the occupation. The Commission should put pressure on Israel, and recognize the plight of Syrian citizens and support the resolution, with a view to supporting the international resolutions already adopted.

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the Union regretted that it was not able to support the draft text. The Union underlined the need to respect and safeguard the human rights of persons living in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. However, the Union felt that in order for the Union to support the text, it would need a stronger focus on the human rights question.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said the present text was one-sided and aimed only to condemn Israel. It would not move the parties any closer to resolving the situation, nor would it ameliorate the situation of those living in the region. It was the opinion of the United States that the Quartet’s Road Map was a comprehensive plan and that direct negotiations between the parties were the only way forward. Such an approach had borne fruit in settlements between Israel and Egypt and Jordan, respectively, and could bring resolution to the situation between Israel and Syria. The present text showed the bias of the Commission against Israel, which was also visible from the fact that the Arab-Israeli situation was the only item on the Commission’s agenda that contained three resolutions. Moreover, there were three resolutions critical of Israel under other items. Only a grave distortion of judgment about the relative gravity of human rights abuses worldwide could account for such disproportionate attention by the Commission. The energy put into this discussion would be better directed at achieving progress on the ground. The United States would call for a vote on the text and would vote against it.

The Commission adopted by a roll-call vote of 27 in favour, two against, with 24 abstentions, a resolution on Israeli settlements in the occupied Arab territories (E/CN.4/2004/L.19), in which it expressed its grave concern at the continuation, at an escalated level, of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; the continuing illegal Israeli settlement activities in the occupied territories and related activities, such as the expansion of settlements, the expropriation of land, the demolition of houses, the confiscation and destruction of property, the expulsion of Palestinians and the construction of bypass roads, which changed the physical character and demographic composition of the occupied territories and constituted a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. The settlements were a major obstacle to peace and to the creation of a Palestinian State.

The Commission in the resolution also strongly condemned all acts of violence, including indiscriminate terrorist attacks killing and injuring civilians, provocation, incitement and destruction, and urged the Palestinian Authority to concretely demonstrate its determination in the fight against terrorism and extremist violence; the continuing high level of casualties on both sides, particularly civilians; and the continued closure 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; to reverse its settlement policy in the occupied territories; to prevent any new installation of settlers; to implement the recommendations regarding the settlements made by the former High Commissioner for Human Rights in her report to the Commission at its fifty-seventh session; to take and implement serious measures, with the aim of preventing illegal acts of violence by Israeli settlers; demanded that Israel stop and reverse the construction of the so-called security fence, including in and around Jerusalem, which was a departure from the Armistice Line of 1949 and was in contradiction to relevant provisions of international law; and urged the parties to implement immediately and fully, without modifications, the “road map” endorsed by the Security Council with the aim of resuming negotiations on a political settlement.

The result of the vote was as follows :

In favour (27): Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Bhutan, Brazil, Chile, China, Croatia, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nepal, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sweden, Ukraine and United Kingdom.

Against (2): Congo and United States.

Abstentions (24): Australia, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, Honduras, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said that 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. That was agreed upon in September 1993 in the Oslo Accord. That issue was discussed at length during the Camp David Summit in July 2000 and during the negotiations that followed in Taba in January 2001. Regrettably, the Palestinian Authority had made a tragic decision to resort to violence rather than continue those negotiations. The resolution lacked a direct condemnatory reference to that decision. This year, the resolution on settlements was not about settlements at all. Rather, it dealt with political and non-human-rights matters under the guise of a discussion on settlements.

The resolution criticized the security fence, a defensive measure which Israel had felt bound to introduce, not because of her own choice, but because of the continuous wage of violence, the infiltration of terrorists into Israel across the pre-1967 borders in order to place bombs and dynamite charges. The infiltration of suicide-bombers into Israeli cities and villages resulted in crimes against humanity by killing and wounding civilians, including women and children. 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. The fence was temporary. Its sole purpose was security. It could be moved or removed in accordance with any agreement. It was reversible, but the lives taken by terrorism were not. Discussion of the defence measure had no place in the Commission, especially not within the context of a resolution about settlements. He urged the members to vote against the resolution.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said since the European States had started to table this resolution, Palestine had supported endeavours in this respect as it was a resolution which addressed only the settlements, although it had grown over the last few years to encompass more. The draft resolution contained one of the most dangerous orientations that called upon the Commission to promote civil war in a country. The countries in the operative section strongly condemned all acts of violence and urged the Palestinian Authority to concretely demonstrate its determination to fight all forms of terrorism and extreme violence. This was an instigation to the Palestinian Authority to engage in war against the Palestinian people, and this was categorically rejected, as Palestinians were not engaging in terrorism, but in their legitimate right to fight the oppressor. Terrorism took place in a specific location, and the resolution specified the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but the military operations that took place in the territories were also operations of legitimate resistance, but if in Israel were terrorism according to the draft. Israel was not an occupied Arab or Palestinian territory, and it should therefore not be discussed under the resolution, unless it was agreed that Israel as a whole was occupied Palestinian territory. As long as operative paragraph C and 2 should remain, Palestine could not agree with the resolution.

SHAUKAT UMER (Pakistan), speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, said in an explanation of the vote before the vote that the Conference remained greatly concerned over the practice of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, which continued to pose serious obstacles to the establishment of peace. However, he was constrained to point out that the text, instead of focusing on the issue of settlements, had ventured into areas that did not appropriately fall within its domain. For example, operative paragraph 2 placed the onus of violence solely on the Palestinian Authority. However, the Palestinian Authority could not be expected to fulfil all its obligations in the midst of the brutal occupation. Moreover, the illegal construction of the separation wall, in contravention of international law and international humanitarian law, had introduced a dangerous new dimension to the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. Moreover, the text also mentioned Israel’s right to self-defense in face of terrorist attacks, without taking into account that that right to self-defense could only be invoked within the territory of the State. Occupation rendered the right to self-determination invalid. The Arab Group had been engaged in serious consultations with the text’s sponsors to reach consensus, but the sponsors had not been inclined to reach consensus on the genuine concerns expressed above. Thus, the Organization of the Islamic Conference would, with great regret, abstain.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States), speaking in an explanation of the vote before the vote, said that the text was fundamentally inconsistent with the joint statements of the Quartet and failed to recognize clearly that all sides had responsibilities to move the peace process forward. Although the sponsors had attempted to add some measure of balance by including language condemning terrorist attacks against civilians, the text still targeted all specific criticism against, and called for action by, Israel. There was not one obligation or responsibility cited for the Palestinians themselves or any criticism of those that harboured terrorist groups and offered support for their activities. Democratic reform was the key to the future that the people of the Middle East deserved and was essential to a peaceful resolution of the long-standing Arab-Israeli dispute. Without action on reform and the abandonment of terror by Palestinian authorities, there would be no possibility of moving towards peace.

At the same time, it was clear that Israel must also take steps within the road map’s framework to support the emergence of a viable and credible Palestinian State and to work for a final status agreement, once the threat of terror was removed. And as progress towards peace was made, settlement activity must cease. It was crucial that Palestinians take action against violence and terror. Yet, given its lack of balance, the resolution failed to provide any incentive for either side to walk the road of peace. Real, practical and meaningful steps toward peace and a lasting resolution of the conflict must be the goal, not one-sided, distorted resolutions. Thus, the United States would call for a vote on the resolution and would vote no.

MANUEL A. GONZALEZ-SANZ (Costa Rica) said that his country would abstain from voting because of the lack of balance in the draft resolution. There were two parties and they both were suffering from the conflict. His delegation would support the resolution in the future when it would take into consideration the situation of both sides in a balanced manner.

PETER MAXWELL HEYWARD (Australia) said Israeli settlements were an obstacle to finding a long-term solution to the conflict. Australia would abstain from voting on the resolution, as it was unbalanced. Australia respected the right of Israel to protect their citizens, but there were concerns for the barrier’s route.

WANG MIN (China) said with regard to the statement of the delegation of Pakistan, China hoped that concerning the second part of operative paragraph C and D could be voted on separately, paragraph by paragraph. If there was a vote, China would abstain.

The Commission also adopted as orally amended and by a roll-call vote of 31 in favour, seven against, with 15 abstentions, a resolution on the question of the violation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine (E/CN.4/2004/L.6), by the terms of which it reaffirmed the legitimate right of the Palestinian people to resist the Israeli occupation; strongly condemned human rights violations of the Israeli occupation authorities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem; strongly condemned the Israeli occupation of the territories as being an aggression, an offence against humanity and a flagrant violation of human rights; strongly condemned the war launched by the Israeli army against Palestinian towns and camps; strongly condemned the practice of “liquidation” or “extrajudicial executions” carried out by the Israeli army against Palestinians; strongly condemned the establishment of Israel settlements and other related activities in the occupied Palestinian territory; condemned once again the expropriation of Palestinian homes in Jerusalem, Hebron, and the rest of the occupied territory; and condemned once again the use of torture against Palestinians during interrogation.

The Commission also strongly condemned the offensives of the Israeli army against hospitals and sick persons and the use of Palestinian civilians as human shields during Israeli incursions into Palestinian areas; strongly condemned the Israeli army’s practices of opening fire on ambulances and paramedical personnel; strongly condemned acts of mass killing of Palestinians, including the killing of children, such as recently took place in Nablus, Gaza, Al-Nusseirat, and Al-Burreij; strongly condemned acts that amounted to collective punishments; expressed its grave concern at the restriction of the freedom of movement imposed by the Israeli occupation forces on Yasser Arafat, the democratically elected Palestinian President; affirmed anew that the demolitions carried out by Israel of at least 30,000 Palestinian houses, facilities, and properties constituted grave violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention; affirmed anew that the Fourth Geneva Convention was applicable to the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967; called once again upon Israel to desist from all forms of human rights violations in the occupied territories; called upon it to withdraw from the territories occupied since 1967; strongly condemned the construction of the Israeli wall inside the occupied Palestinian territory; requested the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territory to investigate Israel’s violations of international law, international humanitarian law and the Geneva Convention; and called upon the relevant United Nations organs to urgently consider the best ways to provide the necessary protection for the Palestinian people until the end of the Israeli occupation.

The result of the vote was as follows :

In favour (31): Armenia, Bahrain, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Chile, China, Congo, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Gabon, India, Indonesia, Mauritania, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Togo, Uganda, Ukraine and Zimbabwe.

Against (7): Australia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom and United States.

Abstentions (15): Argentina, Austria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, France, Guatemala, Honduras, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and Sweden.

YAAKOV LEVY (Israel) said the implications of the draft resolution on f the text contributed neither to the advancement of human rights, nor to the cessation of violence in the area; nor would it contribute to peace and security through a return to the negotiating table. Were it truly designed to promote human rights concerns, it would have taken a factual, rather than contrived approval, a fair-minded rather than one-sided perspective, and one that was not detached from reality. Those genuinely interested in peace should address their messages to both sides, for peace could not be reached by calling on Israel alone to make concessions, nor could peace be attainted by indicting only one side. Arab leaders should address their people not only regarding their rights, but also regarding the need to make concessions and compromises with the other side in future negotiations, and to recognize the other’s rights. The text was one-sided and politicised, replete with unsubstantiated accusations against Israel alone, thus rendering it meaningless. Some of the speakers who chose Israel as a scapegoat for the failures of the Palestinian Authority to protect the human rights and to deliver humanitarian assistance and social services to their people, should pause for a moment of introspection. As the vote approached, the Commission was urged not to let those who had no genuine commitment to human rights and did not support such rights at home, to influence the vote, to not lend their support to the cynical exercise and abuse of power, not to abstain, but to vote against the draft resolution.

NABIL RAMLAWI (Palestine) said that the draft text was the same since many years. The same position by the Commission had been reflected in the resolution since at least 25 years now. However, the occupying power -- Israel -- had never stopped violating the human rights of Palestinians on a daily basis. By building the wall, Israel had usurped the Palestinian lands. Yesterday, by agreeing with the Israeli Prime Minister, Mr. Bush had allowed Israel to steal Palestinian lands. The walls now give more land. The separation wall was intended to take more land from Palestinians. Mr. Bush had given his blessing to such acts. Israel was seeking international legitimacy to the wall in its efforts take away additional lands from Palestine. As the Secretary-General reiterated, there was no international legitimacy with regard to the building of the wall.

RICHARD S. WILLIAMSON (United States) said there was deep concern for the terrorist activities and the ongoing violence in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. The human rights situation had deteriorated in large part due to the conflict. Unfortunately, the resolution did not reflect the reality of the situation on the ground, and presented a completely one-sided perspective and turned a blind eye to everything else occurring in the region, including terrorism. The resolution’s sponsors simply ignored the fact that Israeli actions took place in the context of Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens. A fair observer of the situation would have recognized Israel’s right to self-defence, a right reflected in the United Nations Charter. There could be no excuse for the violence the Israeli people had been forced to endure. The United States remained engaged with both Palestinians and Israelis to bring about a Palestinian State and ensure a secure Israel. The actions of the Commission were however unhelpful and appeared divorced from the reality if what were necessary on the ground to achieve a goal of peace. It was inappropriate for the resolutions of the Commission to pass judgment on political matters, such as borders and settlements that were outside its jurisdiction and beyond its competence. Such action could never substitute for negotiations between the two parties, and the United States looked forward to the day when the Commission would take a balanced and constructive approach to the human rights situation in the region. The United States would vote against the resolution.

MARY WHELAN (Ireland), speaking on behalf of the European Union in an explanation of the vote before vote, said that the Union remained deeply concerned by the persistent violence in the Middle East and occupied territories. The Israeli military presence had led to the killing and injuring of many civilians in the occupied territories, and Israel bore the responsibility for investigating such incidents and sanctioning the perpetrators. However, the Union also condemned all terrorist acts and called upon the Palestinian Authority to address the issue of security and combat terrorism. The Union added its voice to much of the concern expressed in the text, but could not support the draft as it did not condemn terrorist acts in a sufficiently clear and unequivocal manner and used emotive language not appropriate to the Commission on Human Rights. Moreover, it did not call upon the Palestinian Authority to meet its expressed commitment to ensure that those responsible for terrorist acts were brought to justice. The Union reiterated its commitment to the cause of human rights in the occupied territories, as demonstrated by its own resolution and its support for relevant resolutions in other United Nations fora.

Document on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a report (E/CN.4/2004/94) submitted by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights defenders. Section I of the report describes the Special Representative’s activities during the course of 2003, referring to cases of concern raised with Governments, country visits to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and to Thailand, as well as the postponement of a visit to Turkey. Section II analyses trends and patterns in cases of concern taken up by the Special Representative over the year. The Representative’s analysis suggests that defenders are particularly vulnerable to violations during the publicizing of human rights concerns, peaceful demonstrations, participation in conferences and meetings, and during electoral periods. Unknown individuals, military and paramilitary forces and private actors continue to be reported as frequent perpetrators of violations, while the courts and judicial proceedings are increasingly perceived as selectively applying relevant law to the detriment of human rights defenders. Section III of the report analyses responses sent by Governments to the Special Representative’s communications. Section IV concludes by emphasizing that the number and type of violations being committed against human rights defenders, in practice, reflect severe challenges to the actual implementation and legal applicability of international human rights standards for all persons. The report concludes with a number of recommendations addressed primarily to States, but also to human rights defenders, including a suggestion that States consider the adoption and publication of a policy on human rights defenders identifying specific steps that will be taken to implement the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

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A third addendum (E/CN.4/2004/94/Add.3) contains a summary of cases transmitted to Governments and replies received. Communications were sent to Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Gambia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Liberia, Malaysia, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Switzerland, Syrian Arab Republic, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United Republic of Tanzania, United States of America, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam, and Zimbabwe.

Statement by Special Representative of Secretary-General on Human Rights Defenders, and Responses

HINA JILANI, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on human rights defenders, said her report contained an account of activities undertaken under the mandate over the past year, during which time cooperation had been strengthened with many bodies. The information revealed that foremost among those targeted were human rights defenders acting to protect the rights of minorities, demanding the right to self-determination, asking for democratic governance and rights, the rights of indigenous peoples, labour rights, the rights of women, and those promoting peace, among many others. The situation was serious, and communications had been sent regarding the killings of 18 defenders, and attempts on the lives of 10 others, and assaults on 48 others. Reports of abductions of 18 defenders and 48 others who had been tortured had been received.

The Commission should note that an overwhelming majority were targeted as members of non-governmental organizations. A disconcertingly high number of communications concerned violations committed by Courts, Government ministries and Parliaments, indicating a disturbing institutionalization of violence, and a high level of impunity. Almost 50 per cent of cases sent to Governments remained without response, and silence precluded the possibility of a dialogue, and denied the Commission the prerogative of contributing to international human rights standards. However, a majority of answers received showed willingness to resolve the situation. Initiatives taken to support defenders, to formulate policy on their protection and efforts to adopt the principles of the Declaration as binding national legislation were promising and reassuring.

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