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25 March 1996

Press Release



GENEVA, 21 March (UN Information Service) -- Mexico's Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs this afternoon called for an end to "politicization" of human rights and for the use of an international approach to improving human well-being that stressed cooperation and mutual respect, instead of confrontation.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergio Gonzalez Galvez told the Commission on Human Rights that no single country could take on the role of monitor of human rights in other nations. Confrontation was usually useless or counter- productive. Cooperation, co-existence between nations, and mutual respect worked best.

Mr. Gonzalez Galvez' statement was preceded and followed by continued discussion by the Commission of the right to self-determination and of the situation of human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine. Pakistan, India and several non-governmental organizations spoke on the question of control and self-determination in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Often, non-governmental organizations pleaded for self- determination for Kurds, who, it was claimed, were suffering grievously under several governments.

Representatives of the following countries made statements at the afternoon meeting: Australia, Mauritania, Nicaragua, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Pakistan.

Representatives of the following non-governmental organizations also spoke: Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, Himalayan Research and Cultural Organization, World Society of Victimology, and the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism.

Iran, Morocco, Israel, Turkey, Portugal, Indonesia and Palestine spoke in right of reply.

Statement by Deputy Foreign Minister of Mexico

SERGIO GONZALEZ GALVEZ, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico, said defence and promotion of human rights was of the highest priorities in Mexico, and recently the Government had begun far-reaching constitutional reforms in the area of administration of justice in an effort to further bolster the country's culture of human rights.

Mexico also had given its full support to international instruments and agencies concerned with human rights. Recently, special thematic rapporteurs from the Commission had visited Mexico.

Mexico was concerned that human rights were not being fully respected everywhere in the world, due in part to different levels of development and to rising levels of poverty, the Deputy Minister said. It was important to recognize that the absence of development was an impediment to the advancement of other human rights. Mexico was trying mightily to raise the living conditions of its citizens. Recently, it had significantly raised expenditures for education, health and housing, especially in the least developed areas of the country. That had been done despite the severe economic crisis afflicting the country. Similarly, greater emphasis was being given to the well-being of the country's indigenous peoples. New connections had been made with indigenous peoples, including an agreement signed recently with the Zapatista group aimed at cultural and social respect and support.

Recently, he said, in the Mexican city of Puebla, Mexico, Canada, United States and the Central American States met to forge an agreement to protect the human rights of migrant workers and to make migration for work a positive experience both for sending and receiving countries.

It must be stressed that no single country could take on the role of monitor of human rights in other countries, he added. Confrontation was usually useless or counterproductive; cooperation, better co-existence between nations, and mutual respect worked best. Mexico felt that the time had come for streamlining work in the field of human rights and ending politicization of the subject. It further felt that the time had come for a separate agenda item devoted to the human rights of indigenous peoples.

Statements in Debate

MALIK OZDEN, of Centre Europe - Tiers Monde, said his organization had repeatedly drawn the attention of the Commission to the plight of the Kurds, who continued to be subjected to oppression by the governments of the countries in which they lived. Their fundamental rights were being violated before the eyes of the international community. Today, Kurds were dispersed throughout several States of the Middle East, particularly Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. In all those countries, Kurds were either ignored, considered

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non-existent or, as was the case in Iraq, exterminated. There would never be peace in the region as long as Kurds had not recovered their rights.

RIYAZ PUNJABI, of the Himalayan Research and Cultural Foundation, noted that there had been calls by some delegations of the Commission for self-determination in Jammu and Kashmir. Although the Indian Constitution specifically guaranteed that right, there was a feeling that it had been eroded over time. The demand for self-determination was increasingly being voiced by groups in different countries. A combination of disillusionment with the path of development, economic disparities, rising expectations and a greater focus on religion all contributed to the creation of identities based on ethnic background, region, language and religion. The increasing demands of self-determination based on considerations of race and religion would take mankind back to the age when tribe fought against tribe, and armies clashed in the name of religion. If the international community did not wish to witness the erosion of progress, it was essential that the strengths of stable borders and nation States be emphasized.

SYED NAZIK GILANI, of the World Society of Victimology, pointed out that the United Nations "package" on Kashmir remained frozen, observers continued to supervise a cease-fire and the United Nations continued to shoulder a budget on Kashmir. India currently engaged 44 per cent of its military strength in the territory. The diversion of budgets from progress and development into a huge armoury and nuclear capability prevented the two neighbours from moving towards a position of trust and good relations. He urged the Commission to assist in securing a just and lasting peace in the region by revitalizing initiatives intended to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights of the people of Kashmir within the tangled context of India, Pakistan, Indian-occupied Kashmir and Azad Kashmir. Reneging on respecting the avowed right to self-determination of the people of Kashmir, and using military strength against that people, struck a serious blow against the fundamentals of the Indian polity.

TARIQ KHAN, of the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism, said Indian-occupied Kashmir was facing the worst crisis of its history. Demands for the right to self-determination were suppressed by the Indian army, resulting in widespread human rights violations. Between 1989 and 1995, 50,000 people had been killed, and thousands remained behind bars. In the Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, discrimination was integrated into the legal provisions concerning participation in elections. No political party or individual might participated in the elections without the expressed support of the "occupation act". The forcibly divided state of Jammu and Kashmir should be unified, and the people allowed to decide their own political future.

BILL BARKER (Australia) said the recently elected Government of Australia had already confirmed its strong commitment to support the peace

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process between Israel and the Palestinians. In that context, his Government deplored the recent terrorist attacks in Israel -- their sole purpose being to defeat the efforts to arrive at peace through negotiation. Moreover, Australia welcomed the achievements of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza and the West Bank; it viewed the successful conduct of the Council elections, the development and management of economic infrastructure and the efforts to improve the security situation as valuable steps in the realization of a civil and democratic Palestinian society. Australia would continue to play a prominent and active role in the Water Resources and Arms Control and Regional Security Working Groups, offering its expertise and experience in the search for a just and comprehensive peace.

OULD MOHAMED LEMINE (Mauritania) said the Middle East had turned resolutely towards peace, but that would have to be sustained by the force of law. It was essential that Israel should withdraw from all occupied territories, including the Golan. Recent efforts to achieve a peaceful settlement must be strengthened and encouraged. The achievement of peace necessitated the undertaking of action to strengthen confidence and promote dialogue and understanding. The hope of finding a just, comprehensive and lasting peace was fully justified; when the political will existed, all obstacles could be overcome.

LESTER MEJIA SOLIS (Nicaragua) said that the declaration for peace signed on 13 September 1993 had shown concrete progress. The peace initiated between the parties had culminated in the establishment of a Palestinian Authority and the election of the Palestinian Council. But despite the progress registered, the obstacles facing the final part of the peace process were serious ones. One of the obstacles was the extremism which had recently resulted in the killing of innocent citizens. He reiterated his country's commitment to back any initiative designed to combat terrorism.

ZOZULYA VLADYSLAV (Ukraine) said that in the next century, the world would have to face two problems: globalization and fragmentation. In modern international law, there were no norms stating that the right to territorial secession should be granted. That situation was unsatisfactory. Territorial secession was conditional upon a number of factors, among which was that it could not be given to an ethnic group not living in a close community. His Government was sympathetic to territorial secession through autonomy, but there was confusion as to the definition of the right to self-determination. Ukraine appealed to the international community to show solidarity in defining it.

SHAMEEM AHSAN (Bangladesh) noted that the prolonged Israeli occupation of Arab land and the denial of basic economic rights to Palestinians for nearly three decades had taken a severe toll in the occupied areas. The momentum created by the peace process would not be served by the imposition of Israeli law and jurisdiction in the occupied territories or by discriminatory

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practices against the people. In the spirit of true partnership in peace, there was a pressing need to desist from collectively penalizing the people in the occupied territories for the terrorist attacks on Israeli targets undertaken by individuals or groups. Responding differently to incidents in which a Palestinian might be implicated was discrimination and a serious breach of human rights principles.

MAKMUR WIDODO (Indonesia) said his country had always supported the struggle of the Palestinian people to regain their sovereignty. The peace process had made some gains, but Israeli aggressive policies and expansionist practices continued.

On the matter of East Timor, he said, it was an undeniable fact of history that the people of the island had exercised their right to self-determination to free themselves from colonial subjugation and to join the nation of Indonesia through the Balibo Declaration of 1975. Portugal's hollow claim to continue as administering Power of East Timor had been rejected by the International Court of Justice. Indonesia remained fully committed to dialogue with Portugal under United Nations auspices on the question of East Timor.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said it was ironic that while the principle of self-determination had given birth to many United Nations Member States, questions had arisen whether the right to self-determination was universal. But freedom as a concept was, by definition, absolute and universal -- it was not possible to be partially free. A second irony was that although the people of Jammu and Kashmir were among the first to have their right to self-determination recognized by the United Nations, they had yet to exercise that right, despite numerous United Nations resolutions calling for it. So-called elections held there had been cited as self-determination, but it had been ruled that voting under the auspices of the occupying Power was not a free and impartial plebiscite. The voting had been fraudulent. Kashmiris deserved a free and impartial plebiscite.

Right of Reply BAGHER ASSADI (Iran), exercising the right of reply, said the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations yesterday had, as was the American habit in the Commission, misused the privileged position and opportunity granted her by the current session and engaged in name-calling. The official American policy and established practice of selectivity and politicization regarding the issue of human rights was known to all. Their wild accusations did not even merit to be seriously challenged. What was at issue here was that distinguished guest speakers should be reminded not to misuse the occasion.

NACER EBNJELLOUN-TOUIMI (Morocco) said he regretted that some Member States and non-governmental organizations had alluded in their previous

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statements to the situation in Western Sahara. He said the process of identification of voters in that territory would resume as soon as the necessary conditions were fulfilled. The statement by France Libertés, was impartial and full of slogans; any real evidence would be welcomed and would be investigated by the Government.

YOSEI LAMDAN (Israel), said debate over the last two days had been lopsided and predictable. Killing and maiming a large number of Israelis was not a small thing. To an impartial observer, such terrorism justified such acts as the closing of Israel's borders to migrant workers who, after all, had no great right to work in Israel. Some speakers, thankfully, had recognized the inequities of the Special Rapporteur's mandate and had pointed out the Palestinian Authority's own responsibility for respecting human rights and preventing terrorism. The speech of the representative of the Palestinian Authority had been no more than an irrational outburst; he seemed not to represent the Authority but only himself.

NECIP GAUZ (Turkey), said the United Nations was founded by sovereign States. The Commission, as an organ of the United Nations, should in no way be used to attack the unity and territorial integrity of its Member States. No one should be allowed to question international treaties which had given birth to Member States. Turkey totally rejected such attempts. Turkey was a secular, pluralistic democracy with the rule of law; it had no problem whatsoever with its citizens of Kurdish descent. He urged the Commission not to permit speakers to utter threats of violence.

GONÇALO DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal), said Indonesia had claimed that East Timorese had already exercised their right of self-determination. But he had given a surprising interpretation to the decision of the International Court of Justice. The Court had found it did not have jurisdiction because Indonesia had been absent from the proceedings; it had recognized that the General Assembly had treated East Timor as a territory that did not yet have a decided sovereignty, and had called for a process of self-determination there. Portugal had challenged the Government of Indonesia to accept the jurisdiction of the Court and to abide by its ruling over the case. That challenge had failed to find a positive response.

Mr. WIDODO (Indonesia), said his delegation had clearly stated on many occasions that it could not but recognize the right to self-determination by the East Timorese. The International Court of Justice had rejected Portugal's claims, having failed to find evidence in its favour.

NABIL RAMLAWI, observer for Palestine, speaking in right of reply, said the representative of Israel had claimed Israel's measures in Palestinian territory were to guarantee security in Israel. However, the following questions should be asked: Could one legitimately commit crimes to protect

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oneself? Could Israel legitimately close territories or kill innocent civilians to "protect itself"? Mr. ASSADI (Iran) said Israel should convince the Palestinian people under its occupation and in the diaspora, in the spirit of freedom and not with arms.

Mr. DE SANTA CLARA GOMES (Portugal) said he was impressed by the respect shown for the International Court of Justice by the Indonesian delegation and hoped that, in the future, Indonesia would respect the decision ultimately made by the International Court on the question of East Timor.

Mr. LAMDAN (Israel) said Iran had a lot to do to convince the international community that it was not spreading terror. His delegation would be happier if Iran would stand up and condemn outright the latest terrorist attacks in Israel -- nothing less would suffice.

Mr. WIDODO (Indonesia) said all should leave such questions to history alone. What had the Portuguese provided East Timor for 450 years of colonization? What had happened in 1975, if not a decision by the East Timorese for self-determination?

Mr. RAMLAWI, observer for Palestine, asked if the Israeli delegation was ready to condemn his own Government for the crimes perpetrated since 1967. He was ready to condemn individual crimes.

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For information media. Not an official record.