Press Release

3 April 2003


Official of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Gives Address

(Reissued as received.)

GENEVA, 3 April (UN Information Service) -- Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) carried on this afternoon with debate under the Commission on Human Rights' agenda item on the "Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in any part of the world", contending, among other things, that governments were using anti-terrorism measures unfairly as a means of clamping down on the legitimate activities of political opposition groups, minorities, foreigners and migrant workers.


General Debate on Question of Violation of Human Rights Anywhere in World


JAIRO SANCHEZ, of the American Association of Jurists (AAJ), said that following the attacks of 11 September, many countries had adopted national anti-terrorism measures and legislation that were an extension of already existing repressive and undemocratic policies.  Governments took advantage of the climate created by the attacks in order to pass these laws and measures almost without opposition.  Some governments had used the 11 September attacks to intensify, with total impunity, their repression of national movements, as was the case of Israel with the Palestinians.  The American Association of Jurists had analyzed the anti-terrorist legislation of the United States, France, United Kingdom, Italy and Spain -- that is, some of the so-called major Western democracies -- and found that it was vague as to the definition of terrorism. This allowed those Governments to classify as terrorist activities things that had nothing to do with terrorism, and allowed them to curtail the rights and fundamental freedoms of citizens and foreigners.

The AAJ also had analysed the anti-terrorist policies of the Security Council and the Council of Europe.  The Security Council had adopted in September 2001 resolutions 1368 and 1373 which spoke of terrorism without defining it, thus throwing the door open to arbitrariness.  The Council of Europe had adopted a series of measures on terrorism.  These measures were based on a general definition of terrorism which allowed to the Council to define as "terrorist" a wide range of persons and organizations.


BAHEY ELDIN HASSAN, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said the organization strongly condemned the aggressive war launched by the United States and United Kingdom against Iraq.  It absolutely denounced the initiation of this war, which pretended to be in the name of the noble principles people had long struggled and aspired for in order to establish values of freedom, justice and peace.

The Cairo Institute rejected any pretext given for the British/American military intervention, which justified war of occupation and conquest in the name of the Iraqi people, and called for a concerted international effort to free the Middle East region, including Israel, of all weapons of mass destruction.  This effort must be conducted with integrity and through the application of the same criteria.


OMAR EL KHALED, of North-South XXI, said the organization condemned the unjustified American terrorist war against the Iraqi people which would cost thousands of civilian lives.  It was a war against humanity and peace in the world.  It had been three years since Israel had withdrawn from southern Lebanon, yet it continued to detain Lebanese citizens in an arbitrary way.  In addition to these detainees, there were dozens of disappeared Lebanese citizens who had been kidnapped by Israeli troops during their invasion.

The Lebanese hostages in Israeli prisons shared their suffering with the thousands of Palestinian prisoners.  Israel had transformed Palestinian villages and cities into collective detention camps where the most repulsive kinds of torture were being practiced.  The issue of the Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners was an international humanitarian issue that had not received any serious attention from the international community.


HABIB ACHOUR, of Association tunisienne des droits de l'énfant, said the world was undergoing new violations of human rights.  Certain specific events had marked the human rights environment of today.  The first such incident was the tragic event of September 11.

However, in the shadow of the American war on Iraq, the suffering of the Palestinian people was being ignored by the international community.  Palestinian children were fighting with mere stones in their hands, whilst Israeli tanks were demolishing their houses.  The terror that had descended on New York was the same as the daily suffering of the Palestinian people.  These suffering were doing so at the hand of extremism and fanaticism.  Unfortunately, extremists and fanatics always managed to persist and abuse the good will of believers in democracy and human rights.  The most elementary of human rights was the one that was first violated -- the right to life. 


MALUZA MAVULA, Comité international pour le respect et l'application de la charte africaine des droits de l'homme et des peuples, said the fifty-ninth session of the Commission was taking place at a unique moment in the history of the United Nations, when gross and massive violations of human rights were taking place in the name of globalization and the war against terrorism.  In this connection, one could referred to the situation in Iraq, the occupied Palestinian territories and Guantanamo Bay.


YADOLLAH MOHAMMADI, of Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, said the people of Iraq were suffering because of the aggression of the United States and its allies and the aggressive policies of Saddam Hussein.  Both the Iraqi authorities and the military authorities of the United States and its allies were responsible for this strategy and they must stop the war and facilitate access to humanitarian organizations.

It had been over half a century that the occupied Palestinian lands had been subjected to war.  The level of violence had escalated so much that since the start of the intifada, more than 2,000 Palestinians had died and 40,000 had been injured.  Israel’s actions were a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilians During War.


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For information media - not an official record