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UN Sub-Commission Hears from Non-Governmental Organizations on Violations of Human Rights Around the World

The Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights this afternoon heard from a number of non-governmental organizations alleging human rights violations in countries and regions around the world.

Under its agenda item on the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies of racial discrimination and segregation, in all countries, the Sub-Commission heard about alleged violations in Iraq, Tibet, Sudan, the Moluccas, Sri Lanka, Iran, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Alaska and Jammu and Kashmir among others.

Non-governmental organizations addressing the Sub-Commission were Dominicans for Justice and Peace with the Dominican Leadership Conference, the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers; Jeunes Médecins Sans Frontières; Europe – Third World Centre; International Union of Socialist Youth; International Commission of Jurists; Association for World Education; World Union for Progressive Judaism; Franciscans International; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations; Interfaith International; Baha’i International Community; International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; Innu Council of Nitassinan; Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action; International Educational Development; Afro-Asian Peoples Solidarity Organization; European Union for Public Relations; Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights; International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples; Asian Legal Resource Center; International Association of American Minorities; and Indigenous World Association; World Federation of Trade Unions.

The Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l’Homme Maroc, an advisory human rights council to the Government of Morocco, also took the floor.

The Sub-Commission will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 28 July, to continue its debate on the question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in all countries.


OLIVIER POQUILLON, of Dominicans for Justice and Peace and Dominican Leadership Conference, the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, said the rights of the people of Iraq were being greatly violated. Various important actions by the United Nations and the international community should take place in order to benefit the people of Iraq and the society, as listed in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which Dominicans for Justice and Peace fully supported. There was a need to consider the establishment of a truth and reconciliation body and a restitution entity. The reconstruction of Iraq should be a priority long-term objective. There was great concern for the lack of security and the non-respect for the rule of law. The level of security in Iraq had a major impact on the daily lives of Iraqis. Respect for the right to health was far from being achieved. The restoration of sovereign Iraqi State lay also in the guarantee of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities. All relevant bodies of the United Nations should take seriously into consideration the report of the High Commissioner and implement its main recommendations as quickly as possible.

ELYES BEN MARZOUK, of Young Doctors without Frontiers Tunisia, said misery was the most flagrant violation of human rights. It affected the totality of human rights. It was by consequence a negation of the human nature, which based the whole fundamental principles of humanity in their social, economic, cultural, spiritual and political aspects. Where the human being was condemned to live in misery, human rights were violated. Civil societies should stimulate the conscience of citizens and incite governments to respect certain international norms. They had a vital role in the building of a culture of peace and tolerance. They could also combat with determination and conviction the systematic violations of human rights and freedoms. They could fight against extremism and discriminatory behaviour and xenophobia, which threatened social cohesion, solidarity between peoples and world peace.

MALIK OZDEN, of Europe Third World Centre, said the hopes for peaceful relations among states under the auspices of the United Nations had proved to be a pipedream, notably in the context of the activities of the United States which had violated the rights of people to self-determination and to security. This was true both for Iraq and for the people of Afghanistan, and had been proved in the past, for example in the case of NATO and the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, which had marked the beginning of unilateral action by the United States without care for the United Nations. The United States had begun an era of preventive war, thus opening the door for all types of abuse. Today, the violations of human rights committed by the occupying forces were clear: they could not assure the security of Iraq, and had even led to a growth of Islamist groups in Iraq. By endorsing the presence of the United States in these lands, the Security Council had contributed to a weakening of its status. It was time for the United Nations to resume its role in a world where human rights were respected, and to oppose the exploitation of the United Nations and its sidelining. All Member States should cooperate peacefully to ensure the upholding of the United Nations Charter.

TSERING JAMPA, of International Union of Socialist Youth, said the group remained gravely concerned about the current state of human rights in Tibet, particularly since the adoption of resolution 1991/10 by the Sub-Commission. The freedom struggle of the Tibetan people was a unique one that had consistently adhered to the principle of non-violence to achieve freedom in their homeland. The Chinese authorities arrested and detained Tibetans as much for their religious beliefs and practices as for so-called political reasons. That was apparent from the fact that almost 90 per cent of currently incarcerated political prisoners were monks and nuns. The large percentage of arrests and detention of clergy occurred because of their expressed allegiance to the Dalai Lama. Simple acts such as possession and display of the Dalai Lama’s photo, conducting prayer ceremonies for his long life, and refusing to denounce him during political education sessions led to crackdowns.

NICOLAS HOWEN, of International Commission of Jurists, said last year the Sub-Commission had decided to discuss whether measures to combat terrorism were compatible with human rights. Since September 11, 2001 many States had adopted anti-terrorism measures, and these as well as the rhetoric around them had proved to give legitimacy to violations of human rights. Some measures violated the basic principles of the rule of law, such as the independence of the judiciary. One common practice had been to introduce vague or imprecise definitions of terrorism into national law. There was also a growing tendency to restrict the definition of a political offence, and to consider all violent forms of political opposition as terrorist acts. Political offences and terrorism were different categories, which should be governed by different regimes. Arbitrary detention and illegal restrictions of the right of habeas corpus had also been seen, and this was extended to migrants who were illegally detained and extradited. The need for clear and detailed guidelines from the United Nations was now urgent, as such an instrument would complement the appeal of the General Assembly that States ensure that any measures taken to combat terrorism comply with all their obligations under international law.

RENE WADOW, of Association for World Education, said he would address the grave situation in Darfur, Sudan and its regional implications which fit under the Sub-Commission’s mandate to consider urgent matters involving serious violations of human rights in any country. In the three months since the session of the Commission on Human Rights, there had been a good deal of media and international attention given to the Darfur area by the United Nations, the African Union, international non-governmental organizations, and States, including European Union. The Darfur situation was not a sudden happening. For some time, armed bands of pastoral Arab tribes from Darfur and adjacent Kordofarn had been raiding villages in northern Bahr el Ghazal, bringing back loot, including men to work, and women, raped so they would reproduce.

DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said it was time to make it crystal clear that the civilized world would never surrender to the vile threats of those Islamist bombers who threatened the entire world with their bloody crimes against humanity. Only an unshakeable determination to achieve total victory over such ignominious, religious depravity and terror would bring salvation to the free world, for free people, and for those still to be freed from bondage. All Muslim leaders, both spiritual and secular, were called upon to speak out unequivocally on the concept of Holy Jihad, and make it crystal clear that extremist Islamist interpretations of Jihad as linked to terrorism were a total denial of world civilization. The competent working groups of the Sub-Commission should raise this matter with the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council.

ALESSANDRA AULA, of Franciscans International, said the international community had expressed its will to respect and promote human rights since the United Nations Charter was adopted in 1945. At the regional level, a number of instruments had been adopted in that regard. The 1993 Vienna Conference had also reiterated the indivisibility and interdependence of human rights and their relationship with democracy and development. States were responsible for guaranteeing the protection of human rights. They should adopt national legislation in accordance with international norms. Some States such as the United States had not ratified the Convention on the Rights to the Child. Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Cuba had not signed the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social Cultural Rights. The international community should also pay further attention to the situation in Darfur, where human rights violations continued.

PELPINA SAHUREKA, of International Association of Democratic Lawyers, said all peoples wished to live in peace and freedom in their own lands. But the Alifuru people in the Moluccas were still victims of military aggression and occupation by Indonesia. The people of the Moluccas wanted peace. The war was not and had never been an internal religious conflict; it was a war that was imposed by the Indonesian Jihad troops. Peace could not be accomplished if the war continued to rage and the Indonesian military and Jihad forces were allowed to continue to commit horrendous human rights violations without being punished. An international fact-finding mission should be sent for proper investigation of the roots of the war. The enforcement of law against international terrorism should also apply to the Indonesian Jihad forces.

SHAMIM SHAWL, of International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, said the world witnessed systematic and continuous violations of fundamental rights in the Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir. Despite the latest improvement of relations between India and Pakistan and exhortations of the present Indian leadership by making the right noise of peace, amity and friendship, one had not witnessed any appreciable letup into violence against the valiant people of Kashmir. On the contrary, one had seen an upsurge in aggression by the Indian forces against unarmed civilians who were being killed everyday in staged encounters. There was a fear that the present Indian leadership was only using the latest thaw with Pakistan as a means to further consolidate its brutal hold over the occupied state.

CHARLES GRAVES, of Interfaith International, said there was concern for the situation in Sri Lanka which appeared to defy all solutions. The Government of Sri Lanka needed international support to develop a realistic strategy to solve the long-standing conflict involving its various communities. It was evident that the internal political battles of the majority groups in Sri Lanka had hindered the peace process. The experts of the Sub-Commission should certainly see the relevance of doing something during the current session like trying to convince Sri Lankan leaders to solve the conflict in the country. Inter-religious suspicion complicated the peace process, but normally the religious communities should be able to come up with peace proposals, and it was hoped they would take a stand along with politicians for conflict-resolution and the peace process.

DIANE ALA I, of Baha’i International Community, said Baha’is continued to be subjected to arbitrary arrest, short-term detention, harassment and discrimination in many different localities in Iran. The officials confiscated Baha’i homes, denied their rightfully earned pensions, barred them from employment and blocked their private businesses. All attempts to obtain redress were systematically denied. The Government persisted in banning the sacred institutions that were responsible, in the Baha’i faith, for most of the functions performed by the clergy in other religions. The community was alarmed by recent developments which indicated that Iranian officials might be carrying out a methodical plan to destroy Baha’i historical and holy places. At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, the authorities had confiscated all Baha’i cemeteries, sacred sites and centres.

HANAN SHARFELDDIN, of International Organization for the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination, said that for 50 years, people from all corners of the globe had been hearing and watching the same scenes on television of the innocent being assaulted by armed forces. This was a source of anxiety for non-governmental organizations, as these scenes had almost become routine, awakening no pain or outrage. Human society had heard and seen so much of this that it no longer worried about the dramatic scenes and horrors taking place around it, with moral and human values becoming ignored. The most recent of these was the stance of the Israeli and American leaderships when the International Court of Justice condemned the security wall in Israel and called for its removal. It was time that the extremist Zionists realized that the wall would only bring more suffering and hardship to all in the region, including the Jews. The entity that had been implanted in the region was a racist and arrogant entity, and the Experts of the Sub-Commission should remain alert to the dangers posed by the entity, not only to the region, but to the world as a whole. There was a human duty to the Palestinian brothers, whatever their religion, who wished to live a peaceful and lawful life in a State of their own, which would be the foundation for peace in the region.

ARMAND MACKENZIE, of Innu Council of Nitassinan, said that although Canada had a reputation as a country that respected human rights, it had recently intensified its dishonest and widely condemned policy of extinguishment of aboriginal peoples such as the Innu. In response to numerous aboriginal criticisms of that policy, the international outcry over it, and the United Nations Human Rights Committee recommending its abandonment as incompatible with article 1 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the extinguishment provision was recently amended. In some new land claims treaties, the words ‘surrender’ and ‘extinguishment’ were to be deleted, but in return the Aboriginal party would have to agree that the Treaty itself defined the totally of their rights and that they could never assert their rights granted from any previous treaties or from any violations of aboriginal title that might have occurred in the past. Under that agreement, the Canadian Government was indemnified against all violation of Aboriginal or treaty rights in perpetuity.

LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, said that with regard to the incompatibility between democracy and racism, this was illustrated by the situation in Australia and New Zealand. These experiences could be merely the forerunners of situations throughout the world where the legal courts, better informed about indigenous peoples and international human rights norms, would understand that indigenous law and title could have status. Governments could risk overwhelming political pressures to extinguish or suppress traditional rights. The United Nations should be able to distinguish and reprimand all States that breached international human rights and showed no compunction or intention to remedy the situation. The international community could not be selective in what it chose to sanction, and the United Nations should ensure that the international human rights stance on the elimination of long-standing, entrenched discrimination against the indigenous peoples of the world was unambiguous, understood, and cautionary. The Sub-Commission should consider how the General Assembly resolution on the Incompatibility between Democracy and Racism could have application to States to prevent neo-colonial abuses of the human rights of indigenous peoples.

KAREN PARKER, of International Educational Development, said the group remained extremely concerned about the situation in Iraq. Inept and dishonest United States leadership, ugly and vicious behaviour of many United States troops and commanders, as well as abject corruption by United States constructors in all areas of reconstruction had severely undermined humanitarian and human rights law and resulted in the wholesale theft of Iraqi resources. The second wartime use in Iraq of weapons containing depleted uranium made the situation all the worse. At present, foreign medical personnel were documenting a medial catastrophe related to low-level radiation and destruction of the Iraqi medical delivery system – already seriously challenged by the long years of economic sanctions. Purposeful killings, maiming, torture and abuse of prisoners of war was a war crime, yet the United States was apparently not to be taken to task by any country for its violations in Iraq, even though all high contracting parties to the Geneva Conventions were under an affirmative duty to seek out alleged violators and bring them to their own national tribunals if the countries involved in a war did not or did so in an inadequate manner. International Educational Development had also long raised the issue of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in the course of the war in Turkey against the Kurdish people.

TAHIR NASEEM MANHAS, of Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization, said the tragic plight of millions of innocent victims of violence in places ranging from post-invasion Iraq to Darfur in Sudan had once again highlighted the close nexus between human rights and security; without respect for human rights there could be no real security and without effective security there could be no realization of human rights. Among the situations that clearly established this close nexus was the one prevailing in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which, for several decades now, had borne the brunt of externally inspired violence. Pakistan was urged to give up, once and for all, its support for militancy, work intensively to disband militant groups and recognize that its policy had not only led to intensive suffering for the Kashmiri people but had undermined stability, progress and human rights at home.

NUMTAZ KHAN, of European Union for Public Relations, drew the attention of the Sub-Commission to the reports appearing in the Pakistani press about a recent four-day fact-finding visit to Pakistan-controlled Azad Kashmir by a delegation of the independent non-governmental organization: the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. Commenting on the Commission’s visit in its July 21 edition, the reputed Pakistani daily “Dawn” had quoted the Commission’s Secretary-General as stating at a press conference held in Islamabad on July 20 that “based on meetings with members of the press, civil society, the judiciary and the general public”, the Commission had concluded that the people of Azad Kashmir “toiled in miserable conditions, contrary to the Government claims that the situation was improving”. The group strongly urged the Government of Pakistan to pay serious attention to the findings of the Commission and take effective remedial measures if the international community was to take seriously its claims of being genuinely interested in the welfare of the people in Jammu and Kashmir.

PENNY PARKER, of Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, said there was clear evidence of a decline in item 2 on the violation of human rights in any part of the world since 2000 when the Sub-Commission lost its right to vote on country resolutions. The Sub-Commission should appoint during this session an expert or group of experts to prepare a joint working group on improving the item. There were some interesting phrases in the existing terminology of item 2 which warranted a new look. There were various suggestions, and it was hoped that there would be many more ideas.

VERENA GRAF, of International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, said the situation in Sri Lanka could be characterized as increasingly institutionalised lawlessness. Successive governments had ruled during most of the island’s post-independence period with the help of Emergency Regulations and the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 1979 which replaced the rule of law and due process. A general militarization of society had taken place over the years helped on by the war. The army that had comprised only 12,000 men in the early 1980s had been increased to over 100,000 not counting other para-military units. Instead of eliminating violence as a means of regulating conflict within society, it was being resorted to by the Government itself as well as the political parties in the fight for power. The democratic process in general could not be said to have been strengthened by the introduction of the system of an executive presidency.

ALI SALEEM, of Asian Legal Resource Centre, said that pursuant to its proposal for an item in the provisional agenda, the decision of the Sub-Commission not to discuss this issue was accepted. By submitting the proposal, it had been hoped that an international human rights protection mechanism could become a reality to prove its reliability to victims who were re-victimized merely on the basis that they dared to seek redress for the violations committed against them. It was not the presence or the absence of the rule of law which created a difference in support or delayed implementation of human rights principles. The Sub-Commission should find a way to make it one of its primary concerns to contribute towards the realization of an effective remedy for human rights violations and thus become relevant to those millions who suffered violations of their rights despite the existence of the international human rights protectorate.

RAJA NAJABAT HUSSAIN, of International Human Rights Association of American Minorities, said the people of Jammu and Kashmir had been waging a peaceful struggle for self-determination for more than five decades. The tranquillity and serenity of their homeland had been destroyed by the atrocities committed by the Indian occupation forces. Instead of fulfilling its promises made to the people of Kashmir, the Indian Government had unleashed a saga of repression to suppress the people’s peaceful movement for their right to self-determination. It had not only resorted to physical torture, rape, custodial killings and fake encounters but had also enacted a number of draconian laws to perpetuate its illegal occupation in occupied Jammu and Kashmir. The stories of human rights violations in the Indian-occupied Kashmir were barbaric as well as unprecedented. More than 700,000 Indian troops had been deployed in Indian-occupied Kashmir, making it the most heavily militarized area in the world.

RONALD BARNES, of Indigenous World Association, said the intervention served as yet another diplomatic protest on the subjugation, domination and exploitation of the indigenous peoples of Alaska. There was a black hole for peoples that were denied the right to self-determination, thus the conflict between States and peoples continued, because the politically oppressed carried the indelible knowledge that they had yet to exercise the right to self-determination under the Charter of the United Nations and international law. The Sub-Commission was called upon to adopt a resolution for a thematic study on flagrant violations of the right to self-determination under the Charter of the United Nations.

AMIR SHAH, of World Federation of Trade Unions, urged the Government of Pakistan to take genuine and independently verifiable steps to improve the human rights situation in Gilgit-Baltistan. Measures should be taken to enter into a dialogue with Jammu and Kashmir, including Gilgit-Baltistan; reduce the presence of Pakistan’s army in Gilgit-Baltistan, making civilian agencies responsible for the maintenance of law and order and ending the excessive interference by Pakistani security agencies in the politics and governance; curtail the power of the Pakistani Federal Minister for Kashmir Affairs; clamp down on sectarian violence, and particularly on Sunni extremists; reverse the manipulation of the educational curriculum; end the expropriation of land that had made the indigenous people of Balawaristan a minority at the expense of Punjabi and Pashtun settlers; and remove travel restrictions on Kashmiris.

HAMMOU OUHELLI of Conseil Consultatif des Droits de l’Homme Maroc, said it was an advisory human rights council to the Government of Morocco, established in 1990 as a pluralist independent national institution to advise His Majesty on human rights issues. King Mohammed VI was committed to the promotion of human rights, and had stated that the struggle against terrorism should be waged transparently and in the context of human rights, as was fitting for a country in which human rights prevailed. In a new law, the Council had had its prerogatives expanded, and was now required to submit an annual report on the situation of human rights in Morocco. The first report had been submitted, along with a report on prisons and prisoners, and another on progress made on human rights, including information on violations of human rights reported in the context of the anti-terrorism struggle. Less than two months later, the Government had reacted by taking various measures, including the holding of inquiries into matters reported by the Council. The defense and promotion of human rights was a difficult task globally, requiring the cooperation and participation of all concerned. The Council in Morocco worked to these ends. The major advantage lay in the existence of the King, who was personally involved in protecting and promoting the human rights of all in the country.

Source: United Nations Office at Geneva

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