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(b) Human rights questions, including alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms
(c) Human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives
(e) Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
29. The Chairman invited the Committee to begin its general discussion of agenda item 117.
35. Mr. Maalouf (United States of America) said that, as a Lebanese living in the United States for 24 years, he was honoured to speak for his country on human rights issues. Democratic States that protected human rights were best able to secure peace, promote economic development, combat international terrorism and crime, avoid humanitarian crises and improve the global environment. By guaranteeing political and economic freedom they would unleash their people’s potential and ensure their prosperity. Democratic and economic processes were the best foundations for domestic stability and international order. Countries, like his own, that incorporated the core principles of the rule of law, government accountability, freedom of speech and religion, equal justice, respect for women and private property, and religious and ethnic tolerance into their systems of governance had flourished as a result. While respecting other nations’ traditions and values, his country advanced the principles of democracy and human rights to which all people aspired.
36. The United States supported democracy worldwide and helped newly formed democracies implement democratic principles, which promoted individual rights and freedoms and enabled everyone to share the benefits of a globalized world. Democratic nations were more likely to deter aggression, create and expand open markets. The promotion of democracy was an essential component of global stability, prosperity and security. Human rights training and support had strengthened civil society in Chile, Peru and Argentina and had led to healthy dialogue on past abuses and to willingness to seek national reconciliation. Great strides had been made that year in the Middle East; Bahrain, with its peaceful implementation of the liberalization programme that was its National Action Charter and, together with Qatar, Jordan and Morocco, had elevated women to the Cabinet and city councils in local and national elections. Morocco had introduced historic legislation in family law, revolutionizing the rights of women and children and underscoring that Islam did not clash with women’s aspirations.
37. However, the Syrian Arab Republic, whose dictator, like that of Iraq, had made false promises of liberalization, still had a dismal human rights record, while Belarus’s systematic denial of basic civil and political rights had isolated it from Europe and the international community. Only a few months previously the Cuban dictatorship had committed one of its most egregious acts of repression with its arrest, summary trial and incarceration of over 100 political and labour activists and professionals for the alleged “crime” of publishing newspapers, organizing petition drives and meeting to discuss their country’s future. Reports painted a shocking picture of brutality and injustice in the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea, one of the world’s most repressive regimes, which trampled on individual rights and freedoms and used almost unparalleled repression and surveillance to intimidate and control, while an extensive and horrible prison-camp system received transgressors. With a food shortage caused partly by a closed system of governance, politically favoured groups and the military enjoyed discriminatory access to food, posing a threat to regional stability.
49. Mr. Alaei (Islamic Republic of Iran) said his country indeed shared the United States’ desire for peace in the Middle East. He endorsed the view expressed by the Secretary-General in connection with the Millennium Summit, to the effect that post-war institutions had been built for an international, as opposed to a global, world, and that innovative approaches were now needed for the international human rights protection system encompassed all dimensions of United Nations work. The core concept in that domain was the emergence of global governance in a worldwide system, which, as it grew, made its structures central to shaping the lives of millions of people worldwide and enabling them to exercise unparalleled power to achieve their goals. That unique characteristic of modern international development had transformed the role of States in discharging their responsibilities towards their citizens and reduced their participation in world affairs that directly affected their people’s lives.
60. Mr. Shobokshi (Saudi Arabia) said that human rights were as ancient as mankind, and since those rights were granted by Allah, they were not subject to change. Saudi Arabia was honoured to be the home of the most holy sites of Islam, and its leaders had the privilege of being the guardians of the Islamic holy sites. Saudi Arabia was founded on Islam and its teachings of justice, equity, freedom, dignity, stability and security. Human rights were intended to safeguard the dignity of humanity and ensure its happiness, not to satisfy its base instincts and desires. Saudi Arabia had ratified four of the six international human rights instruments, and was considering the ratification of other conventions in that area. It had provided financial assistance to United Nations voluntary funds in the area of human rights, and had included human rights education at all levels of schooling.
61. The world was facing great challenges in the area of human rights because of the political motivations that had begun to distort the concept. Double standards were also being applied, and a case in point was the representation in the media of Islam and Muslims as sources of terrorism and violence. The theory of the inevitable clash of civilizations and confrontation between religions was another example. Globalization had led some States to believe they could interfere in the domestic affairs of other States using the protection of human rights as a pretext. Influential powers raged against human rights violations in some countries, but closed their eyes to other, similar, violations. Israel was the blatant example of repeated attacks on the human rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Israel’s actions were viewed as self-defence, while the same actions committed by Palestinians were seen as terrorism. Human rights were inherent in all human cultures; no culture held a monopoly. It was useless to impose values on a society or an individual that were alien to its beliefs, and no culture should proclaim itself the arbiter for all. The global nature of human rights derived its legitimacy and continuity from cultural diversity, moral principles and religious values.
65. Mr. Laurin (Canada) ...
67. In recent months, there had been a sharp deterioration in the situation in the Middle East. Canada was profoundly disturbed by the continuing terrorist campaign against Israeli civilians, but also by the worsening of the already difficult humanitarian situation in several Palestinian cities. The disproportionate and discriminatory restrictions imposed on Palestinians were seriously affecting their human rights. He urged all parties to live up to their human rights obligations and to refrain from any actions which could further inflame the situation.
The meeting rose at 1.10 p.m.
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Corrections will be issued after the end of the session, in a separate corrigendum for each Committee.