Bahai News - U.N. Press Release GA/SHC/3499
6 November 1998
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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
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
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
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
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
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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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(AM) 6 November 1998
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
Third Committee - 14 - Press Release GA/SHC/3499 37th Meeting
(AM) 6 November 1998
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
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
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