Bahai News - U.N. Press Release GA/SHC/3499
6 November 1998


Press Release
GA/SHC/3499



ASSEMBLY WOULD REAFFIRM RIGHT OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE TO SELF-DETERMINATION, WITHOUT EXCLUDING STATE OPTION, BY THIRD COMMITTEE DRAFT


The General Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, without excluding the option of a state, by the terms of a draft resolution introduced in the Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) this morning, as it continued its consideration of human rights questions and situations.

By further terms of the draft, introduced by Egypt, the Assembly would express its hope that the Palestinian people would soon be exercising their right to self-determination in the current peace process, and urge all States and organizations to continue to support and assist the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.

Introducing his report this morning, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights in Cambodia, Thomas Hammarberg, said that impunity was a serious problem in Cambodia, both in regard to unlawful acts by the military and police, and relating to the massive violations of human rights during the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, which had not yet been addressed.

Also presenting his report, Maurice Copithorne, Special Representative of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Iran, said a good start had been made to the progress of human rights in that country. However, there were worrying signs that conditions were deteriorating. A number of reformers, political dissidents and commentators had been detained under unacceptable circumstances, which followed earlier patterns of abuse.

Elissavet Stamatopoulou-Robbins, Deputy to the Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on the human rights situation in Afghanistan, Choong-Hyun Paik. She said he had indicated that because of a significant increase in the volume of his work, this would be his last report. The overall situation of human rights in Afghanistan had not improved since he had taken up his duties as Special Rapporteur in 1995. In several aspects, it had deteriorated.


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Speaking during this morning's discussion of the reports were the representatives of Austria (on behalf of the European Union and associated States), Indonesia, United States and Norway.

During the continuation of the general debate on human rights, the representative of Mexico said human rights violations were inflicted on thousands of people simply because they had left their countries in search of work. They were subjected to acts of violence committed by local populations in recipient countries, by police in those countries, and by the restrictive policies of countries that were trying to prevent a phenomenon that was inevitable.

Cuba's representative said the headway of the neo-liberal globalization that was being forced upon the world went hand in hand with the advancement of poverty and social polarization. Now, with the world crisis, the economic and social impact was unpredictable. The right to development would increasingly be an unreachable dream if there was no action.

The representative of Norway said the present allocation to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights -- 1.7 per cent of the United Nations budget -- was inadequate in terms of the numerous and varied tasks entrusted to it. He expressed particular concern over the human rights situation in Afghanistan, calling it one of the most serious in the world.

Speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, the representative of Austria said the Union remained concerned about the human rights situation in Cambodia, particularly the extra-judicial killings which had taken place there since July 1997. The Union believed that the abolition of the death penalty contributed to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. Where the death penalty still existed, he called for its use to be progressively restricted, and insisted that it be carried out according to international minimum standards.

General statements on human rights were also made by the representatives of Albania, Japan, Uganda and Indonesia.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its discussion of human rights matters.


Committee Work Programme

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met this morning to continue consideration of alternative approaches for improving the effective enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and human rights situations and reports of special rapporteurs and representatives. (For background information on reports before the Committee, see Press Release GA/SHC/3494 of 4 November.)

The Committee also had before it a report by the Secretary-General on the human rights situation in Kosovo, and a note by the Secretary-General transmitting an interim report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

In his report on the human rights situation in Kosovo (document A/53/563), the Secretary-General stated that, from April this year, the scope and intensity of the conflict in Kosovo grew dramatically while the human rights situation deteriorated, and prospects for improvement arose only with the accord reached on 13 October between President Slobodan Milosevic of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Envoy of the United States, Richard Holbrooke.

Serious human rights abuses were being reported on a daily basis throughout the summer and early autumn, the report states. Fierce fighting took place in July and August and at least 138 people, including ten women, nine minors and 19 elderly persons, were reportedly killed in clashes in the first three weeks of August. Some 700 people are believed to have lost their lives since hostilities began in the spring, while more than 240,000 people were estimated to be internally displaced in Kosovo and other parts of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. Another 14,000 people had fled across the border to Albania.

It adds that, as a result of fighting, tens of thousands of people fled their villages into the surrounding forests, and concerns deepened that the crisis would turn into a humanitarian catastrophe unless they were able to go back to their homes before the onset of winter. There were widespread reports of government forces burning and looting houses and villages in areas under their control.

The period since August has been marked by more discoveries of concentrations of corpses and evidence of massacres, including the massacre of Serb and Albanian civilians, the report states. Serbian authorities announced that, on 27 August, in the village of Klecka, they discovered in a makeshift crematorium what they believe are the remains of civilians abducted and then killed by the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). On 2 September, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issued a statement in which she drew attention to statements, made by all parties in the Kosovo crisis,


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calling for an independent investigation by experts, including international forensic specialists, into the violent deaths resulting from armed actions.

Initiatives by the European Union, the Government of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and international organizations, including the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, calling for independent investigations into alleged massacres and arbitrary killings in Kosovo, have gained momentum in the last month, says the report. The Serbian authorities have announced that their experts are investigating the killings in Gornje Obrinje and Glodjane. A team of forensic experts from Finland arrived in Belgrade on 20 October. The team, working under the auspices of the European Union, will assist the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in forensic investigations in Kosovo, but is also authorized to carry out independent investigations.

The report adds that the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in 1992 established a mission of long duration in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The mission maintained its presence in Kosovo for 10 months. It carried out its mandate with the formal consent and support of the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in accordance with a memorandum of understanding signed on 28 October 1992. Following the elections in Yugoslavia in December 1992 and its exclusion from CSCE membership, the Government withdrew its formal consent for the mandate, and the mission therefore departed in July 1993.

In conclusion, the report states that the dramatic situation in Kosovo over the last several months has led the international community to seek to increase its monitoring capability in the region, and the Milosevic-Holbrooke accord of 13 October provides a tentative basis for such an increase. The accord provides for up to 2,000 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors in Kosovo who will comprise the Kosovo Verification Mission. Meanwhile, the Special Rapporteur and the Office of the High Commissioner are active throughout the country on the basis of their explicit human rights monitoring mandates. The need for an expanded international human rights presence, linked to the establishment of office premises of the Office of the High Commissioner in Kosovo and undertaken in consultation with OSCE, remains urgent as the human rights situation in the region continues to be a grave cause for concern.

A note by the Secretary-General transmits an interim report on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan (document A/53/539) prepared by the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights regarding that situation. The report states that due to the security situation, the Special Rapporteur was unable to carry out a planned visit prior to finalizing the report. The report is therefore based on the most reliable sources, particularly with regard to events of August when after the takeover of Mazar-i-Sharif by the Taliban, ten Iranian diplomats and a journalist were killed. A memorandum


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prepared by the Special Rapporteur and submitted to the Taliban is included in the report, as is the Taliban's response to the Special Rapporteur's findings.

Overall, the report states that the Special Rapporteur is horrified by the reports from Afghanistan, which are profoundly disturbing and indicative of a worsening pattern of grave human rights violations. Particularly shocking were the killings and other violations occurring in August and September in Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamiyan, which included summary executions and arbitrary detentions of non-combatants. The Special Rapporteur condemns the human rights violations in the strongest terms and states there can be no justification or tolerance of such outrages, nor impunity for perpetrators. He also states that silence cannot be the strategy of the international community, deploring the killing of United Nations staff in Afghanistan during July and August.

In his report, the Special Rapporteur calls on all sides to end the armed conflict and to refrain from any acts constituting violations of human rights, both of the civilian population and combatants, including violations based on ethnicity, religion or gender. He also calls for the release of all detained non-combatants and the lifting of restrictions placed on women and girls. He calls for the international community to remain vigilant about respect for human rights in Afghanistan and calls for closer monitoring of the situation by the United Nations through an enhanced human rights presence in the field by establishing a human rights advisory capacity there.

Other recommendations of the Special Rapporteur contained in the report include investigation of violations including through aerial photography of reported sites of mass graves. Full cooperation in those investigations by all parties to the conflict is also recommended, as is the bringing to justice of those responsible for the violations.

Draft for Introduction

A draft resolution on the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination (document A/C.3/53/L.26) would have the Assembly express deep concern over the difficulties facing the Middle East peace process. The Assembly would reaffirm the right of the Palestinian people to self- determination and would express the hope that the Palestinian people would soon be exercising that right. The Assembly would also urge all States and all parts of the United Nations system to continue supporting and assisting the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination.

The draft is sponsored by Algeria, Andorra, Austria, Bangladesh, Benin, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Cuba, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Portugal, Qatar, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, South


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Africa, Spain, Sudan, Togo, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Viet Nam and Yemen.

Human Rights in Cambodia

THOMAS HAMMARBERG, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Human Rights in Cambodia, said it was in the nature of such a report to focus on negative points. The points he made were intended to be constructive.

Impunity continued to be a serious problem in Cambodia, particularly in regard to unlawful acts by the military and police, he said. The culture of impunity needed to be broken. The Government had decided in June to establish a human rights committee to initiate investigations and to improve the administration of justice. During his most recent mission, he had presented another progress report on politically motivated violence, calling for action to be taken. The Government had responded, and asked for assistance in the form of United Nations legal and technical expertise, which the Special Representative welcomed.

Another important aspect of the problem of impunity related to the massive violations of human rights during the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, which had not yet been addressed, he said. The Government had reacted positively to initiatives to provide international assistance to Cambodia in responding to past serious violations of Cambodian and international laws.

Prison conditions also continued to be very poor, and there were still food problems in some prisons, he said. He had suggested international assistance for prison reform. Torture and ill-treatment of arrested persons were problems which ought to be put high on the reform agenda.

He was still concerned about the lack of progress in women's rights. The rate of girls dropping out of school was high, especially at the secondary level, and women were victimized through domestic violence and experienced a lack of access to public health facilities. Major efforts were also needed to improve the rights of the child.

The rights of minorities was another field that needed to be addressed, he said. Improved legal protection was needed, as was illustrated during the election campaign and its aftermath. There had been xenophobic anti- Vietnamese statements. The protection of the rights of indigenous peoples also required strong measures against unwanted logging.

Last week there had been a major conference in Cambodia to highlight the continuous problem of landmines, he said. That was a daily trauma for Cambodians. Even with new techniques, it would take 30 years before the


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demining task was completed. In the meantime, innocent children, women and men were being maimed by those planted killers.

The international community should remember that Cambodia still suffered from the misery caused by war and large-scale repression and killing, he said. It was important that the international community supported constructive efforts to build a society ruled by law and the protection of human rights.

The representative of Austria, speaking on behalf of the European Union, asked about the establishment of a provisional human rights commission, which was a step the Union welcomed. He asked the Special Representative to provide further information about the commission, about how the drafting of the law to establish the commission was going, and if there were any obstacles or a proposed time-frame.

Regarding the establishment of a group of experts, he said he was glad to hear the information about the supreme council of the majesty to oversee the justice system. Could the Special Representative comment on its work? He had also stressed the need for increased legal protection of minorities and the need to protect indigenous populations. What could the international community do to be of assistance?

The representative of Indonesia said Cambodia was a neighbouring country and her country would spare no effort to help the Cambodian people. She thanked the international community for its support. She had noted that in one part of the report, the mandate of the office of the High Commissioner in Cambodia was essentially to assist the Government and the people in the establishment of a system of human rights. The Cambodians themselves must do that, with the assistance of the international community and the United Nations regional offices. Noting that she was confused about the stated mission of the office of the High Commissioner, she sought clarification on the office's mandate and whether it included both monitoring and investigation.

The representative of the United States asked the Special Representative to provide more specifics on the atmosphere during and in aftermath of the July elections. He was also interested in how the atmosphere might relate to the ability of Cambodian politicians abroad to return to the country.

Mr. HAMMARBERG, in response to the representative of Austria, who had asked about the establishment of a human rights commission, said that what the Cambodians had in fact established had been a human rights committee, which was a government body designed to supplement the work of the police. The Cambodians were aware that there should be an independent commission of human rights. The intention was to draft a law that would start such a process. The High Commissioner in Geneva was very keen to give advice in that regard.


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The task of the group of experts was to try to assess the nature of evidence when it came to establishing guilt for the violations that took place between 1975 and 1979, he said. The approach from the United Nations side was that this should be something the Cambodians themselves should do, but that the international community should be prepared to give assistance if required. He said he would cooperate very closely with the group.

Regarding the Supreme Council of Magistracy, he said its task was to oversee the functioning of the judiciary. The first meeting of the Supreme Council took place in December last year. There had been one more meeting, but the body was not functioning as well as had been hoped. Hopefully, actions would be taken to encourage it to start to function properly.

There were two major problems regarding minorities, he said. The first was xenophobia against Vietnamese. There had been several violent incidents, and after the elections there had been anti-Vietnamese sentiments that had led to Vietnamese shopkeepers to take down their street signs. He urged the Cambodians to campaign against such violence. The law of nationalities also needed to be clarified, as it contained a stipulation about people of Khmer origin having a right to nationality.

The other major problem related to indigenous peoples living in the northeast of the country, he said. He had not had enough time to focus on the problem, but clearly the illegal and massive logging in that part of the country had been a major problem for those people.

Regarding the comment on the mandate of his office that had been made by the representative of Indonesia, he said the Office of the High Commissioner mainly assisted in human rights institution-building -- in the education and training of police and military personnel. It had begun an interesting programme with judicial mentors, experienced experts going out into the provinces to conduct dialogues with local officials. That helped to increase the competence of the local judiciary. A minor part of the work of the office was to collect facts. The idea was not to replace the police, and certainly not the courts. The office collected facts to help with more competent human rights reporting. People went to the office and told what they had experienced. The staff at the office analysed the facts and brought some of it to the authorities. That was not a major part of the work, but it did play a part.

Regarding the elections, he said he had not pronounced on whether they were free and fair and credible, that was not his role. The United Nations had left that to the joint international observer group. His role was to continue as before the human rights work. There were human rights violations in the period before and during the campaign. During the demonstrations that took place after the elections there was some violence, some of an anti-Vietnamese nature. There had also been some violent breaking up of demonstrations by the police.

Some people were killed during the period, and there were a number of bodies found outside Phnom Phen, he said. They had been tied up and shot at close range. His office could only bring the facts they had found to the Cambodian authorities. They could not identify those people, and he hoped the Cambodian police authorities would clarify the situation. Concerning the


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return of Cambodian politicians abroad, he said the various parties had assured their security.

Human Rights in Iran

MAURICE COPITHORNE, Special Representative on the Situation of Human Rights in Iran, said that a year ago, he had highlighted the promising statement by the new President of the Islamic Republic and his ministers on the emphasis that the new administration would place on meeting some key changes. Those were to lead to significant improvements in the human rights situation in Iran. The Government of Iran had made reference to the concept of "civil society" and the strengthening of freedom of expression. While one could question the priorities chosen, or the rate of progress, the evident intent was undeniable, and a start had been made. That trend had continued from January this year to August. The commitment to reform remained strong, and progress had to be recognized.

Towards the end of the summer, however, some worrisome signs had appeared that conditions were slipping backwards, he said. A number of reformers, political dissidents and commentators had been detained under unacceptable circumstances, which followed the earlier pattern of denial of access to either family or lawyer; failure to specify charges; personal abuse while in detention; and, in some cases, the apparent disappearance of the individual concerned. It was clear that the rights of an accused when that person was a critic of the Government or the system of governance, were still a very fragile thing in Iran.

Particular attention should also be given to the circumstances of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran, such as the Baha'i , he said. There was a report that two other Baha'i had been given death sentences, which was now confirmed, despite assurances to the contrary made by Iranian authorities to the Special Representative. A campaign seemed to have been launched against the Baha'i community open learning network, which was at least part inspired by the difficulty of a Baha'i to enroll in a university. There were reports of widespread raids on Baha'i homes during which personal effects had been seized.

With regard to the fatwa placed on author Salman Rushdie, an accommodation seemed to have been reached in September, between the Iranian


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and British Governments. But the statements that had subsequently emanated and continued to emanate from Iranian sources suggested that, in the view of some influential persons in Iran, there had in effect been no change. In any case, any understanding reached between the two Governments did not necessarily remove such a case from his own agenda.

He acknowledged that, from time to time, his reports had contained factual errors, for which he accepted full responsibility. For example, in the current report, he had attributed responsibility for certain armed attacks in Iran to the wrong organisation.

The representative of Norway asked for further comments about the Special Representative's contact with the authorities in Iran and asked if it was adequate or could be improved on, particularly regarding his possible visit. Regarding the Baha'i, could the United Nations or Member States assist that situation to make conditions for Baha'i more secure?

The representative of the United States asked if the Special Representative could discuss further the defence of actions in the name of national security and the situation of women in Iran? What was behind the recent closure of media and what were the strengths and freedoms of the press? Regarding the Baha'i, what conclusions could he draw from the Government's closure of the Baha'i open learning network? How had the lack of access affected the Special Representative's work, and what explained Iran's refusal to invite him to visit?

The representative of Austria regretted that no invitation which would allow for further dialogue was forthcoming. First, with regard to the reform of the legal system, how could the Government's steps for reform be strengthened and measured in terms of progress? Also, since the Special Representative had said the enjoyment of women's rights was a touchstone of improvement, what additional information did he have on that? Third, the Islamic Human Rights Commission seemed to be more open on individual cases, but what could be done to strengthen that Commission? Finally, with regard to the Baha'i, of particular concern was that since 1992, one Baha'i had been executed, and other death sentences had been imposed: how could the situation of that minority as a whole be improved, and what could the international community do in that regard?

Mr. COPITHORNE said there were many sources for information on what was going on, and the Government of Iran had facilitated that in some cases. Senior officials had held discussions with him in Geneva. However, that was no substitute for a country visit, which would be a key element in the full discharge of his mandate. Regarding Iran's refusal to invite him, the question should be directed at that Government. He had heard an invitation would be forthcoming.


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Regarding the request for elaboration on national security, he had heard an answer that said "so-and-so" had not been persecuted because of religion or ethnicity, but because he had been engaged in spying for some foreign Government, and so forth. That explanation was of concern as it was not backed by evidence. Security was a serious matter, but that should be balanced with regard for human rights. On the situation of the freedom of expression, it would help if the constraints were clearly defined. What were the boundaries within which citizens could operate? he asked. That had to be defined.

Regarding women, he said a formal answer would be that Iran would not accede to the Convention on discrimination against women -- that had been reported in the press. He was pessimistic that, a year and a half into the new Government, there was no evidence of progress, for example in regard to freedom of expression. Various expressions of intent had been evident last year, but there had not been enough action.

Regarding reforming the legal system, that had to be done within the country's own specific cultural and social characteristics, he said. A number of programmes had been announced. Those needed to be monitored regularly. The programme on improving prisons, and the proposals to reform courts, regarding information on executions and the bar association, were tentative expressions of independent thought and could be looked into more closely. Friendly visits between bar associations in Iran and other countries could help.

Concerning the Islamic Human Rights Commission, he said the benchmarks for progress were clear -- the Paris Principles, which had stressed, among other things, the need for an independent human rights commission. Finally, on the conditions of the Baha'i, whether the action was State or non-State, clearly the Government should be held responsible. Regarding where the Government should go from here, he said Baha'i could be granted the right of Iranian citizenship, including access to education, passports and equality of inheritance. When such programmes were in place, he would be able to report more adequately. The treatment of minorities should be an important part of the Government agenda.

Human Rights in Afghanistan

ELISSAVET STAMATOPOULOU-ROBBINS, Deputy to the Director of the New York Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, introduced the report of the Special Rapporteur, Choong-Hyun Paik. She said he had indicated that because of a significant increase in the volume of his work, this would be his last report. The overall situation of human rights in Afghanistan had not improved since he had taken up his duties as Special Rapporteur in 1995. In several aspects, it had deteriorated. Fighting of


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varying intensity had continued, resulting in numerous casualties, and the civilian population had not been spared.

The atrocities committed by all parties involved in the conflict over the past two years had widened the ethnic and religious divide between different Afghan communities, she said. Owing to the prevailing security conditions, the Special Rapporteur had not been able to travel to the area prior to finalizing his report.

Recent events that were of particular concern were the allegations of mass killings, principally, but not exclusively, of persons belonging to the Hazara ethnic group in the city of Mazar-i-Sharif in August, she said. They had rendered very precarious the situation of Shia Muslims in Afghanistan.

The international community could not remain inactive in the face of events of such gravity, she said. All parties should exercise restraint in the treatment of their political and military opponents. An independent investigation of the killings should be conducted and the results accepted by all sides. The international community should monitor the situation more closely, and should assist Afghans in creating conditions conducive to national reconciliation.

A matter of particular concern was the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan, which had deteriorated considerably under the control of the Taliban movement, she said. They continued to be denied access to adequate health care, all levels and types of education as well as to employment. The international community should strive to arrive at an internationally acceptable level of enjoyment of basic human rights by all members of Afghan society.

Statements on Human Rights Questions, Situations

BRUNO RODRIGUEZ PARRILLA (Cuba) said today's serious political and social problems were joined by an economic crisis, seriously threatening to become a global crisis in a globalized world. What would be the United Nations responsibility, that of the human rights mechanisms, that of the Third Committee, in keeping the crisis from hitting mainly the poor, the hungry, the sick, the illiterate, from hitting children, the elderly and women? How to keep the consequences from affecting mainly developing countries? How to ensure the right to development under those circumstances?

He said every year 12 million people starved to death, 12 million children died before reaching age five from malnutrition and curable and preventable diseases, and 600 million people would die before reaching age 40. More than 1.3 billion people lived under the poverty line; 841 million went hungry; 880 million lacked medical care; a year from now, 95 per cent of AIDS patients would be living in the South countries. Meanwhile, three individuals


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alone owned wealth equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of 48 countries together; in Europe and the United States, $17 billion was spent on pet food, compared to $13 billion spent on the developing countries' health and basic human nutrition; 1.3 billion human beings lived on less than a dollar a day; only $6 billion was invested in basic education in developing countries, while $8 billion was spent on cosmetics in the United States.

What human or universal values underlay that dramatic reality? he asked.The headway of the neo-liberal globalization that was being forced upon the world went hand in hand with the advancement of poverty and social polarization. Now, with the world crisis, the economic and social impact was unpredictable. The right to development would increasingly be an unreachable dream if there was no action. Economic, social and cultural rights were and would continue to be the "invisible" part of the United Nations human rights mechanisms, if those did not change. Despite the United States blockade, despite its economic difficulties, no Cuban went unprotected or hungry; no Cuban lacked medical care; no Cuban child lacked a school; and no Cuban lacked proper social security.

AGIM NESHO (Albania) said that, despite the recommendations and continuous appeals of the resolutions, the situation in Kosova had tragically deteriorated into an open policy of ethnic cleansing and genocide. Since the beginning of this year, the Serbian military and police forces had launched a military attack on the Albanian population. The consequences of that attack had brought: wanton and summary execution, causing thousands of deaths, including of women and children; intentional shelling and burning down of Albanian villages, which had destroyed one third of the homes, causing more than 300,000 people to flee; and a catastrophic humanitarian situation with people living without shelter, food and medical assistance.

The Albanian Government viewed the present situation in Kosova as a two-fold crisis, he said. It had a frightening humanitarian aspect and a political dimension, which lay at the root of the whole issue. Every solution of the issue of human rights in Kosova should take into consideration a sustainable political solution and the respect of the will of the Kosovar Albanians to self-determination. The ethnic Albanians who lived in their own land constituted a compact population with a majority of 90 per cent who were subjected to a colonialist rule.

The regime of Milosevic should be kept under continuous pressure from the international community, the use of force and a strong international monitoring presence in Kosova, he said. Peace and respect for human rights would be a reality only when the authors of the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Kosova, including Milosevic, were brought to justice.

JANIS BJORN KANAVIN (Norway) said the present allocation to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights -- 1.7 per cent of


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the United Nations budget -- was inadequate in terms of the numerous and varied tasks entrusted to it. One third of the population of the developing world lived in absolute poverty; most of them women and children. Observance of human rights was one of the essential conditions for development in the wider sense of the term. Conversely, development can and should be seen as essential to the promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The human rights situation in Afghanistan was one of the most serious in the world, he said. Women were effectively excluded from participation in the country's economic, social and political life. Civilians had been killed or disappeared. That was clearly unacceptable. Moreover, recent developments demonstrated that Myanmar had persisted with its widely condemned violations of human rights. Norway noted with regret that there was no improvement in the human rights record of Iraq. In Africa, his country was particularly worried about the atrocities against the civilian population caused by the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The international community also could not tolerate the attacks on innocent civilians that were still taking place in Algeria.

MASAKI KONISHI (Japan) said it was regrettable that some reports could not be submitted to the Committee due to the fact that the special rapporteurs concerned had assumed their posts only recently. Japan hoped that during the next session all reports would be submitted in a timely manner.

Japan had aimed at promoting a gender-equal society, further protecting children's rights and providing relief to persons whose rights were violated, he said. As reaffirmed in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the promotion and protection of all human rights was a legitimate concern of the entire international community. The General Assembly had recognized that as the basis for discussions in such countries as Cambodia, Afghanistan, Iran, Rwanda and those of the former Yugoslavia, among others. The goals of such discussions should be to promote human rights and not to level accusations.

Resolutions should accurately reflect the situations in the countries under discussion, he said. While the international community was concerned about the situation in Iran, it should also note that the Government under President Khatami was making progress in that field, and its commitment to making changes had resulted in specific developments, such as the progress that had been made in the area for freedom of thought and expression. Moreover, in Nigeria substantial progress had been made toward transition to civilian rule and toward respect for human rights. Although human rights were not yet protected fully, the international community should welcome and encourage the positive trend in that country.

CHRISTIAN STROHAL (Austria), speaking on behalf of the European Union and Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Cyprus and Iceland, said the Union remained concerned


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about the human rights situation in Cambodia, particularly the extra-judicial killings which had taken place since July 1997. Moreover, it believed that the abolition of the death penalty contributed to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. Where the death penalty still existed, the Union called for its use to be progressively restricted, and insisted that it be carried out according to international minimum standards. The Union also deeply regretted the execution in Sierra Leone of 24 soldiers who were sentenced to death after court martials and denied a right to appeal.

He said the Union had entered into an in-depth human rights dialogue with a number of countries, including China. Dialogue with China aimed at supporting China's transition to an open society based on the rule of law and the respect for human rights. The Union welcomed important steps towards increased cooperation between China and the United Nations humans rights system. However, China was still far from meeting internationally accepted standards on human rights. The treatment of political dissidents, the continuing and widespread practice of administrative detention, the lack of the right to free speech, and the situation in Tibet, among others, remained matters of serious concern for the Union. It welcomed China's willingness to address those concerns through the European Union-China human rights dialogue. At this session of the Assembly, the Union would present draft resolutions on the human rights situations in Iran, Iraq, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Nigeria.

The extremely serious human rights situation in Kosovo, which had persisted throughout the 1990s, had deteriorated further in 1997, and had become a major crisis in 1998, he said. Atrocities were widespread in the region. The Serb authorities systematically violated fundamental human rights. The Union requested the authorities in Belgrade to facilitate the return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes in Kosovo. With regard to the human rights situation in Serbia, the Union expressed its concern about the recent closure of several independent newspapers and radio stations. The Union also called on all parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina to cooperate in the exhumation and identification of human remains.

In Belarus, the Union viewed with grave concern the continued violations of freedom of expression, including restrictions on the activities of the press, beatings and arrests of peaceful demonstrators and journalists, and the adoption of new media legislation which clearly obstructed international human rights standards, he said. The Union remained concerned at continuing reports of ill-treatment, extra-judicial killings and restrictions of freedom of expression in Turkey. Further, the status quo in Cyprus was unacceptable, he said, reiterating its call for human rights on the whole island.

FRED BEYENDEZA (Uganda) said that as the world community continued to be confronted with flagrant and grave violations of human rights, States needed


Third Committee - 15 - Press Release GA/SHC/3499 37th Meeting (AM) 6 November 1998

to take stock of their human rights regimes. Uganda was totally committed to the respect, promotion and protection of human rights, and a whole chapter of its Constitution was dedicated to the issue. His country had also established the Uganda Human Rights Commission, an independent body mandated with implementation of the human rights regime and with quasi-judicial powers. Programmes had also been instituted to take into account gender equality and cater for other disadvantaged groups such as young people and the disabled.

Rights, democracy and the right to development went hand in hand, he said. His country had established a transparent and accountable system of governance. Constructive dialogue and full consultations were carried out with different pressure groups -- no voice was muffled. Education was also an important priority, and universal primary education had been introduced.

The majority of the population of Uganda lived in poverty, he said. Poor people could not exercise their human rights. Despite its best efforts, Uganda still experienced bottlenecks in its pursuit of realizations and enjoyments of human rights. The problem was further aggravated by insurgency in various parts of the country, perpetrated by terrorist groups and their sponsors, resulting in the maiming, raping and killing of the Ugandan people. He appealed to the international community to prevail upon the terrorists and their sponsors to stop their acts immediately and unconditionally release all the abducted children so they could regain their full human rights and fundamental freedoms.


©Copyright 1998, United Nations

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