MORE VITAL THAN EVER TO MOVE AWAY FROM SELECTIVITY AND PARTIAL APPROACHES TO HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUES, THIRD COMMITTEE TOLD
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
Sixty-second General Assembly
32nd & 33rd Meetings (AM & PM)
More vital than ever to move away from selectivity and partial
approaches to Human Rights Issues, Third Committee Told
Regrettable That Certain Countries Continue
To Name, Blame Others Rather Than Promote Human Rights
As the recently established Human Rights Council continued to receive a stream of support from many delegations today in the Third Committee’s (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) continuing review of human rights issues, a number of speakers warned that although that body was now the practical expression of reform ideas, there had been efforts to artificially create a negative atmosphere, to use it to divide countries and as a means of wielding power.
Such actions were unacceptable, said the representative of the Russian Federation. The universal periodic review mechanism of the Human Rights Council, he stressed, had to become a key instrument of international human rights oversight among United Nations Member States. Double standards, discrimination and politicization had to be totally ruled out.
According to General Assembly resolution 60/251, which created the Human Rights Council, it was decided that the Council shall “undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies…”.
Flagging their country positions on perceived, significant and even entrenched problems related to human rights, many delegates, after reviewing specific situations around the world, nevertheless expressed support for the universal periodic review mechanism as a suitable impartial authority that might address problems with objectivity.
Calling human dignity the core philosophical value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the representative of the United States said fundamental rights had been instrumental in building successful societies. In a few generations, freedom had spread globally, and there had been important progress in some countries, he said, using Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Guatemala and Lebanon as examples. In other places, sobering realities had to be confronted vis-à-vis the protection of human rights, he said, listing violations by some eight countries. He said that when Governments grossly and systematically violated human rights, country-specific resolutions had to be adopted by the Assembly, no-action motions opposed and special mandates maintained. International attention had to focus on imprisoned human rights and democracy defenders, he said.
Iran’s representative, on the other hand, said it was regrettable that certain countries continued to name and blame others rather than constructively promote human rights. The appalling situations in Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret detention centres in Europe, violations of the rights of refugees and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people were just a few examples of the gross human rights injustices committed by “the self-proclaimed champions of human rights”.
Lamenting the fact that in too many places, human rights defenders still fell victim to the injustices they fought against, Canada’s representative commended the strength and perseverance of those persons. He told the Committee that his country was still concerned about limitations on freedom of expression in Cuba, and went on to express concern about the situation of human rights defenders in Syria and Zimbabwe. He went on to say that the killing and mass arrest of monks and other protesters in Burma showed intolerance for opposition and noted that Iranians who had expressed dissenting views continued to be harassed and silenced.
The representative of Cuba said those who had spoken about her country were the same ones who allowed racial hatred and xenophobia. Suddenly, the main mass-violator of all human rights, who did not recognize the right to development, or the right to food and health, was posturing as the great champion of human rights. Cuba, nevertheless would work on human rights matters in the Assembly as well as in the Human Rights Council and hoped that the universal periodic review mechanism would guarantee an impartial, objective scrutiny of the human rights situation of any country in the world.
No doubt, instances of gross and systematic human rights violations anywhere in the world must be addressed by the international community collectively and holistically, the representative of India remarked. However, addressing human rights situations, with a specific bias against certain groups of countries, and as a matter of routine, would not promote the cause of human rights protection. An approach based on dialogue, consultation and cooperation had a better chance of leading to genuine improvement. It was more vital than ever to move away from selectivity and partial approaches, he stressed.
Two draft resolutions were also introduced today, on “Eliminating the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as instruments to achieve political or military objectives” and on “Supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula” by the United States and Senegal, respectively.
Statements were also made today by the representatives of Georgia, Morocco, Qatar, Sri Lanka, Burkina Faso, Kuwait, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Myanmar, Cyprus, Greece, Botswana, Peru, Belarus and Mexico.
The Observer for Palestine addressed the Committee as well.
The representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization also made a statement today.
The representatives of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Japan, China, Egypt, Israel, Turkey, Pakistan, Cuba, Vietnam, Poland, Cyprus and Canada spoke in exercise of the right to reply, as did the Observer for Palestine.
The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. on Thursday, 1 November, to take action on a number of draft resolutions.
The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) met today to continue its general discussion of human rights. For more background information, please see press release GA/SHC/3893, GA/SHC/3894, GA/SHC/3895, GA/SHC/3896 and GA/SHC/3897.
Introduction of Draft Resolutions
The representative of the United States introduced a draft resolution entitled Eliminating the use of rape and other forms of sexual violence as instruments to achieve political or military objectives (A/C.3/62/L.16).
The draft resolution was the product of many hours of negotiations, he said, adding that he believed they were now close to a text that would command universal consensus. If there was one issue that united the world, it was that rape and sexual violence were always wrong, and when they were used to achieve political or military objectives it was particularly egregious and reprehensible. Adoption of this resolution would be a credit to the United Nations, and it would help to make the world a better place, he said.
The representative of Senegal then introduced a draft resolution entitled Supporting efforts to end obstetric fistula (document A/C.3/62/L.21). She said that medical condition was an outcome of poverty, lack of access to quality health care, and discrimination against women. It affected some two million women and young girls in the world, and constituted a real public health problem. Coordinated and global action was needed at all levels to address the problem and help women with that medical condition to be reintegrated into their communities. The draft aimed to make obstetric fistula a rarity in the world. Negotiations on the text were continuing and it was hoped that it would be adopted by consensus.
ILYA I. ROGACHEV ( Russian Federation) said that the letter and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had enshrined the desire of all progressive humanity to prevent a recurrence of the World War Two nightmare, and the international community should be concerned at cynical attempts to whitewash Nazism and distort history. Fulfilling the Declaration had been hampered by attempts to impose unilateral standards and by selective interpretation of human rights as well as democratic principles. The international community should stand above expedient political interests and focus on dialogue. To foster such dialogue, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, had proposed the establishment of a Russian/European Union Institute for Freedom and Democracy.
On the agenda of the United Nations was the task of building a new human rights architecture that would serve progress and development, he said. The Human Rights Council was the practical expression of reform ideas from the 2005 Summit, yet there had been efforts to artificially create a negative atmosphere in the Council, use it to divide countries into good and bad, and exert political pressure. The Russian Federation found such actions unacceptable. The universal periodic review mechanism had to become a key instrument of international human rights oversight among United Nations Member States. Double standards, discrimination and politicization had to be totally ruled out. His country supported the work of Louise Arbour, High Commissioner for Human Rights, he noted, and also strengthening and improving the treaty bodies. Ensuring comprehensive respect for human rights was one of the fundamentals of the United Nations, and only constructive work based on international law would build an effective human rights architecture.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD ( United States) called human dignity the core philosophical value of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He had personally observed the aspiration for that quality in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Fundamental human rights had been instrumental in building successful societies. In a few generations, freedom had spread across the world, and there had been important progress in some countries, such as Indonesia, Sierra Leone and Guatemala. In the Middle East, the political rights of women had been on an upward trajectory. In Lebanon, the international community was committed to supporting the Government’s efforts to lay democratic foundations for an open, free and tolerant society.
In other places, sobering realities had to be confronted, he said. In Zimbabwe, civil society was still under siege. In Cuba, some 250 political prisoners and detainees continued to be held in harsh conditions; that country also had the highest number of detained journalists per capita in the world. North Korea remained one the world’s most isolated and repressive regimes. In Burma, basic freedoms of speech, assembly and worship had been dramatically curtailed by a military dictatorship. In Belarus, intimidation of those seeking to exercise the right of peaceful assembly had been stepped up. In Syria, political prisoners had been arbitrarily arrested, detained without trial, tortured and abused. In Russia, developments that undermined the democratic order were not in the interests of that country or its people. China’s leaders also had to understand that their country’s success depended on more progress to protect human rights. When Governments grossly and systematically violated human rights, country-specific resolutions had to be adopted by the General Assembly, and no-action motions had to be opposed. Special mandates had to be maintained as well, and international attention had to be focused on the plight of imprisoned human rights and democracy defenders.
Responding to points of order raised by the representative of Myanmar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the Chairman called upon delegations to refer to countries by their official names.
TAMAR TCHITANAVA ( Georgia) said that she would like to note some of the achievements as well as the challenges facing her country in the field of human rights. Reforms of the judiciary, law enforcement and penitentiary systems were ongoing, while a plan to reduce the number of institutionalized children had also been approved, she said. Considerable progress had been achieved in protecting the rights of minorities and freedom of religion as well as belief. Combating corruption had also become a national priority.
Yet discussion of the human rights situation in Georgia would not be complete without a consideration of the situation in Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia, she said. Ethnic cleansing had been carried out against Georgians, and because of the tragic conflict, 80 per cent of the people who formerly lived peacefully in Abkhazia were displaced and homeless inside and outside of Georgia. The generations born in exile shared the same right to return, she added. Human rights and property rights were abused in a visible and unacceptable fashion, and the continued incidents of human rights violations in the Gali district underlined the necessity of opening a full-fledged United Nations human rights sub-office there. More decisive steps needed to be taken to address all the issues she had outlined, she said, adding that strong action from the international community was of utmost importance.
MAHMOUD KHANI ( Iran) said that the crux of the issue of cultural diversity was the question of how rich, diverse and independent cultures could be better reconciled to interact better and thus promote universal human rights. Iran had tabled a consensus resolution in response to the question, which it hoped would promote respect for cultural diversity. Also, the recent Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Tehran had adopted a plan of action that renewed the commitment of member countries to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms including the right to preserve cultural identity.
Turning to the issue of human rights, he said it was regrettable that certain countries continued to name and blame others rather than constructively promote human rights. The appalling situations in Guantanamo Bay, rendition and secret detention centres in Europe, violations of the rights of refugees and the inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people were just a few examples of the gross human rights injustices committed by “the self-proclaimed champions of human rights”. Discrimination on the basis of religion had also been on the rise in many Western countries in the past several years. In Canada, there were allegations of disappearances as well as murder of aboriginal women, extrajudicial or arbitrary executions, and other allegations of serious human rights violations. There were also concerns that counter-terrorism practices did not conform with human rights obligations.
LOFTI BOUCHAARA ( Morocco) said that more than 600 million people, or about 10 per cent of the world’s population, suffered from a physical or mental disability with 80 per cent of them living in developing countries. It was a sad reality that disabled persons had been rejected by society. Discrimination against them had taken different forms. By denying them the full enjoyment of their rights, societies were depriving themselves of the extraordinary contribution that disabled people could make.
He catalogued a number of measures that his country had undertaken vis-à-vis the rights of disabled persons. This year, Morocco became a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; a national strategy for the prevention of disabilities had also been set out, aimed at reducing the country’s disability rate. Since 1995, a community-based re-adaptation programme had been in place, and disabled persons also benefited from a technical assistance programme. Legislative steps had also been taken over several years to ensure the rights of disabled persons.
FAHAD ALI AL-HAMMADI ( Qatar) recalled that his country’s Constitution, which had come into force in 2005, guaranteed equality before the law. It prohibited discrimination and ensured personal freedoms; the freedom of association; freedom of religion; freedom of expression; freedom of assembly; and the right to work. Those rights had been reflected in the Criminal Code and other laws. Several governmental and non-governmental departments had been established to deal with human rights, including in the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He drew attention to positive steps that Qatar had taken to address human trafficking. Legislation had been enacted to prohibit the exploitation of children. A number of international human rights conventions had been ratified, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The United Nations Human Rights Training and Documentation Centre for South-West Asia was hosted by Qatar, which had also hosted a number of international conferences on the development of democracy and human rights. There was political will and a favourable climate in Qatar for the protection and promotion of human rights.
ILEANA NÚÑEZ MORDOCHE ( Cuba) said that in the 48 years of the Cuban Revolution, not one case of extrajudicial execution, disappearance or torture of a prisoner had been proven. “Not a Cuban mother has had to look for the remains of a missing child.” However, Cuba’s example seemed to stir up aggression among those “self-proclaimed” champions of human rights -– former colonizers –- who were keeping records of the human rights situation of developing countries, while at the same time disregarding their domestic problems.
She said those who mentioned Cuba were the same ones who allowed racial hatred and xenophobia, as well as the kidnapping of hundreds of people in Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secret prisons in the old continent. The United States, which claimed to fight terrorism while harbouring the most dangerous one, Luis Posada Carriles, was now prescribing Cuba “peaceful changes towards a pluralist democracy…suddenly, the main mass violator of all human rights, who does not recognize the right to development, or the right to food and health”, was posturing as the great champion of human rights. Cuba would work on human rights matters in the Assembly and the Human Rights Council, hoping that the universal periodic review mechanism would guarantee an impartial, objective scrutiny of the human rights situation of any country in the world.
PRASAD KARIYAWASAM ( Sri Lanka) said a number of Government efforts to promote and protect human rights were taking place in his country under difficult and trying circumstances, due to the continuing terrorism campaign against civilians by one of the world’s most ruthless terrorist groups. Several references by countries to Sri Lanka were based on a situation that did not exist anymore. His country had opened itself up to international scrutiny on the basis that openness and accountability could strengthen national efforts.
The Government of Sri Lanka had initiated a number of actions, such as legal measures, to protect the human rights of all its citizens. He was therefore surprised by several unreasonable assumptions and unjustified demands seemingly based on hearsay, and politically motivated lobbying efforts by interested parties. Addressing the situation of migrants, he said Sri Lanka was disturbed by the international agenda’s lack of attention to the human rights of this group. Some, who otherwise championed civil and political rights worldwide, had chosen to turn a blind eye to the plight of migrants. Ratification of the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was still far below expectations. Some States seemed to believe that international agreements, like the Convention, might interfere with their domestic migration policies. He appealed to the Committee to adopt a well-informed, balanced and reasonable approach to all situations, so the human rights of all people could be protected.
ARUNA KUMAR VUNDAVALLI ( India) said a self-critical appraisal was needed to determine whether the international community had managed to achieve a genuine improvement in human rights by giving out “report cards” about countries or even by undertaking intrusive monitoring. No doubt, instances of gross and systematic human rights violations anywhere in the world must be addressed by the international community collectively and holistically. However, addressing human rights situations with a specific bias against certain groups of countries, and as a matter of routine, would not promote the cause of human rights protection. An approach based on dialogue, consultation and cooperation had a better chance of leading to genuine improvement. It was more vital than ever to move away from selectivity and partial approaches.
It was also important to distinguish between a country that was responsive and had functioning democratic institutions and one that was inherently repressive and unable, or unwilling, to improve human rights standards, he continued. The international community’s collective efforts should focus on improving the capacity of States so they could embrace the rule of law and democracy as essential ingredients for promoting and protecting human rights. India was doing its part to ensure human rights protection, with the Indian Parliament acting as a vehicle to guarantee socio-economic rights, particularly for people in rural areas. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme, launched in 2006, provided 100 days of employment annually to every rural household. The Supreme Court of India had recognized the right to food. The Indian Parliament had also enacted the Right to Information Act to widen public knowledge of the decision-making process and to promote transparency and accountability in public institutions. He also noted that India was the seventh country to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
MOUSSA NEBIE ( Burkina Faso) said that it was essential for cultural diversity to be taken into account in the promotion and protection of human rights. In his country, culture was an essential element of life. It had always been a nation of cultural diversity, with some 60 ethnic groups living intelligently together. Globalization should be a source of enrichment, and not result in one culture dominating another. Religious discrimination was not a problem in Burkina Faso, where different religious groups lived in perfect harmony in a climate of understanding, mutual respect and dialogue. That said, his Government had adopted measures to avert all discrimination on the basis of religion.
A strategy for the promotion of peace and tolerance was in place in Burkina Faso, he said. The Government had also created a national ethnic committee with representation from all religious groups. With many of its nationals abroad, the country had made the protection of their rights a priority. It also welcomed, on its territory, a large number of people from foreign countries; a welcoming attitude and good treatment of foreigners were values deeply entrenched in Burkina Faso’s culture. His national Constitution prohibited all forms of discrimination that would impact on the rights of migrants and a simplified visa procedure had been put into place. Burkina Faso supported any initiatives that strengthened the judicial protection of migrants in the world. The demands of globalization obliged States to facilitate free movement of people as well as the free exercise of their activities in all countries.
SALAH HAMDAN DAHAM AL-SAIF ( Kuwait) said that his delegation had closely considered the report by Asma Jahangir, Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief and now wished to highlight the issue of Muslims who were being abused through the misuse of laws to combat terrorism. It was unacceptable to target those who pursued a divine religion such as Islam, because of terrorist acts committed by small groups who themselves had been condemned by the Islamic community.
Kuwait also shared the concerns of Jean Ziegler, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food he said, adding that some marketing methods by companies and the pressure they brought to bear, which led to malnutrition and obesity, was worrying. His Government, which supported a healthy, clean food trade, agreed with Mr. Ziegler on the dangerous effects of biofuels that used agricultural products, and the subsequent effects on nutrition. Kuwait called on countries pursuing such policies to find alternative modes of production by using agricultural waste rather than the harvest, so that the poor would not be the victims.
He also welcomed the report of John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and noted that it clearly stated that Israel’s violations of human rights did not respect Security Council resolutions. Mr. Dugard had correctly stated that the Israeli side claimed it was protecting itself against terrorism, yet a number of people were classified as terrorists when they were fighting for self-determination. His country supported the Special Rapporteur’s proposal to seek an opinion from the International Court of Justice on the long-term effects of Israeli occupation, he said.
PAK TOK HUN (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) spoke about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms under the pretext of the global “war on terrorism”, citing the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan. Human rights meant national sovereignty; if such rights were not guaranteed by such sovereignty they were “no more than a fiction”. In order to promote and protect human rights, aggression and interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States must be stopped. Removing double standards and selectivity was also important. As examples, he mentioned the unlawful acts by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and maltreatment of prisoners by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in overseas secret prisons, “while developing countries, which take [an] independent road of their own choice, are becoming the target of ‘human rights violations’”.
He said in many developed countries, minority nationals and foreigners were becoming the target of violence. He highlighted the crackdown by Japanese authorities, with hundreds of heavily armed police and armoured vehicles, on the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryon), the lawful overseas compatriot organization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. He said his country had made every possible effort to promote and protect human rights, even under the continued threat of aggression and the unprecedented economic blockade forced upon it by the United States and other hostile forces over the past 60-odd years. His country was free from such social problems as rape, prostitution, discrimination and violence, and all its people led a stable life while enjoying the benefit of the social welfare system.
HENRI-PAUL NORMANDIN ( Canada) said that in too many places, human rights defenders still fell victim to the injustices they fought against, and he commended their strength and perseverance. His country further commended Ghana for encouraging the work of human rights defenders. In Senegal, Boukounta Diallo had been an ardent defender of human rights in his country and in Africa. Canada saluted the condemnation by the Vice-President of Colombia, Francisco Santos Calderón, of threats and thefts against human rights defenders. His country also supported the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, recognised the “countless” human rights defenders in Sri Lanka, acknowledged the progress that had been made in Nepal, and congratulated Egypt for banning female genital mutilation.
Canada welcomed the recent release of political prisoners in Cuba, but was still concerned about limitations on freedom of expression in that country, Mr. Normandin said. He went on to express concern about the situation of human rights defenders in Syria and Zimbabwe. The killing and mass arrest of monks and other protesters in Burma showed an intolerance for opposition; to demonstrate solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy, the Canadian Parliament had conferred honorary citizenship upon her. Iranians who had expressed dissenting views had continued to be harassed and silenced. Canada acknowledged Adrian Long, who advocated worldwide for the improvement of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. It was regrettable that there were no positive developments vis-à-vis human rights in Belarus. Human rights defenders had contributed to advancing human rights inside Canada, and they would continue to do so.
Following an intervention by the representative of Myanmar on a point of order, the Chairman again reminded delegations to refer to that country by its official name.
FEDA ABDELHADY-NASSER, Observer for Palestine, thanked Mr. Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, for his report, which had starkly conveyed the situation vis-à-vis the human rights of an entire people who continued to be systematically and gravely violated by Israel, the occupying power. The Palestinian people’s existence as an occupied and stateless people did not negate their entitlement to enjoy human rights, she noted, and listed a number of charters and conventions which reaffirmed all people’s human rights under law.
Time limits prevented an exhaustive exposé of Israel’s violations, she said. In many cases, however, Israel’s practices amounted to war crimes against the Palestinian people. Extrajudicial killings, expansion of colonial settlements, destruction of homes as well as obstruction of access to medical care and education were but a few of the violations. All those violations were being committed with utter disrespect for the law and United Nations resolutions, and all before the eyes of the international community. If Israel was never held accountable for these crimes, it would continue to act with impunity in its trampling of the law. All efforts should be exerted to end the grave violations of human rights of the Palestinian people.
U HLA MYINT ( Myanmar) said that, with the advent of the Human Rights Council, confrontation over human rights would hopefully diminish. In the Third Committee, however, there had been a continuing tendency to selectively target developing countries, despite a widely held view in the same Committee that country-specific resolutions were counterproductive. Without a profound understanding of the challenges facing various countries, there could be no genuine and effective international cooperation. The latest attempt to introduce a country-specific resolution on Myanmar showed that -- from some countries -- confrontation was still the preferred approach. The continuation of such negativity was a matter of deep regret.
The current situation in Myanmar was delicate and complex, he said. Due to protracted insurgencies, there were no easy solutions to the challenges that his country was facing. While special procedures were an effective tool for United Nations action in human rights, such procedures, by relying principally on information from anti-Government elements, could unwittingly spread disinformation about member countries. Unilateral sanctions had impeded Myanmar’s development. Thousands of women had lost their jobs as the textile industry had been adversely affected by sanctions imposed by Western countries. The nations leading the charge to take Myanmar to task with a country-specific resolution were the same ones that sought to deprive his country of its right to development. Only through cooperation could people everywhere enjoy political, economic, social and cultural rights.
ANDREAS D. MAVROYIANNIS ( Cyprus) said that, as a result of the military force used against his country in 1974 and subsequent occupation of part of its territory, the Cypriot people had collectively been denied the basic right to peaceful existence. A large part of the population had been deprived of property rights, while others were missing. Nearly a third of the population were refugees and could not return. Those massive violations of human rights had been reported and repeatedly condemned by a plethora of United Nations resolutions and by the European Court of Human Rights. The denial of fundamental human rights of refugees, relatives of missing persons as well as enclaved persons, the destruction of the religious and cultural heritage in the occupied part, and the forceful division of the country and its people along ethnic lines were the main list of violations, he cited.
He said the occupying Power had also brought more than 160,000 settlers from Turkey in an effort to alter the demographic composition of the island, which constituted a war crime according to the Statute of the International Criminal Court. Any settlement of the Cyprus question must be based on international law, relevant United Nations resolutions, European Union principles and decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Full conformity with individual human rights standards for the people of Cyprus as a whole, regardless of their ethnic origin or religion, should be an integral element of any just, comprehensive, functional and sustainable solution.
DMITRI ALEXANDRAKIS ( Greece) said that the 1974 military invasion and occupation of Cyprus by Turkey had resulted in massive violations of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Greek Cypriots. In an attempt to change the demographic structure of the Cypriot population –- with obvious political consequences -– Turkey had transferred thousands of Turkish settlers to the island. The destruction of the ancient Greek and Byzantine cultural and religious heritage of Cyprus continued, he said. Thirty-three years of reports, resolutions and judgments had failed to assure the protection of human rights for all people in the occupied part of Cyprus. Greece was concerned about Turkey’s unwillingness to conduct an effective investigation into the fate of missing persons and to provide relevant information to their relatives. Turkey continued to prevent displaced persons from returning to their homes and repossessing their properties.
It was regrettable that the human rights situation in Cyprus continued to be one of grave concern. The illegal presence of 43,000 Turkish troops there was one of the main obstacles to a comprehensive settlement, he said. His country recognized the need to reach a negotiated solution to the Cyprus problem, and fully supported the implementation of the July 8, 2006 agreement, reached between the leaders of the two communities. It was the only achievable path towards the resumption of fully-fledged negotiations for a mutually acceptable bi-zonal and bi-communal federal solution, he said, on the basis of the relevant Security Council resolutions and European Union principles and values.
SAMUEL O. OUTLULE ( Botswana) said that, in addressing human rights, approach was as important as substance. Common ground always had to be found; considerable time spent on name-calling and finger-pointing did not serve the best interests of the people. Botswana commended the Human Rights Council for the progress made in its institution-building, including the consensus package that it had adopted on 18 June following transparent and open negotiations.
There was no consensus on the abolition of capital punishment, which was not prohibited under international law, he said. Capital punishment was a matter of law enforcement and criminal justice in which the State exercised sovereign authority. It was perfectly responsible when some countries exercised their sovereign right to either abolish or impose a moratorium on capital punishment, but they had to realize that their specific national situations did not set norms and standards for other States with different circumstances. What had to be abolished was war, and the right of States to wage war, which was the most blatant form of violating the right to life and security.
ROMY TINCOPA ( Peru) said that the international community’s prioritization of human rights had reached unprecedented levels in recent decades. In turn, the capacity of the United Nations to promote human rights had increased. Addressing the establishment of the new Human Rights Council, she said her country assigned the broadest possible meaning to human rights. Peru had taken major steps in combating corruption and impunity, and in assuring the independence of the judiciary. Representatives of some of the United Nations special mechanisms had visited Peru, including the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, and the Working Group on the use of mercenaries. The Government had recognized the constructive recommendations of the group.
She then mentioned three matters for special attention, firstly, strengthening of the universal system for promotion and protection of human rights. Peru reaffirmed its unswerving commitment to reform of the human rights programme. Her country was a member of the Human Rights Council, and would be one of the first to be assessed by the universal periodic review. Secondly, on the protection of the poorest and marginalized, she said Peru was committed to developing strategies to promote diversity and development as well as the full participation of indigenous peoples. Finally, on the issue of combating impunity, she said her country was trying to fully comply with recommendations. The process of consolidating human rights had a long way to go, but Peru was committed to it, in order to give its citizens the fullest protection of their rights.
ZOYA KOLONTAI ( Belarus) expressed her country’s opposition to country-specific resolutions that were based on “double standards”. There had been more than enough arguments against such resolutions, which ran counter to the universal periodic review mechanism adopted by the Human Rights Council. Such resolutions overshadowed the results of that mechanism. States that initiated country-specific resolutions had failed to carry out open and transparent consultations. Of the 15 such resolutions that had been adopted over the last five years, 12 had had the support of less than half of the Member States. Any country could be targeted by such resolutions, which were based on information from non-governmental organizations. Like other Member States, Belarus hoped for a balanced, just and non-politicized approach to human rights as represented by the universal periodic review mechanism.
In the Third Committee, country-specific resolutions had been confrontational and short-sighted, she said. They only added fuel to the fire in an already tense atmosphere, where the framework for respectful dialogue had been narrowing. Belarus, which opposed confrontation, had been working to streamline its human rights situation. In October, there had been a street demonstration by the opposition in Minsk that had been sanctioned by the Government and widely advertised; its peaceful nature had been documented by the local office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). There had also been an international conference on Christianity, Islam and globalization, and from tomorrow there would be a scholars’ conference. Her country was open to dialogue and prepared to develop cooperation on human rights in both bilateral and multilateral formats, including through the United Nations.
TOSHIHIKO MURATA, Liaison and Executive Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said that the Right to Food Guidelines (which had been unanimously adopted by the FAO Council in 2004) were an effort to support countries in realizing their right to food. His organization was currently working with a number of countries to integrate the right to food, among other measures, into their legislation. The FAO encouraged all States to acquaint themselves with the guidelines, as implementing the Right to Food Guidelines were the surest way of ensuring that a country was taking the best steps towards implementing the right to food.
SOCORRO ROVIROSA ( Mexico) affirmed her country’s commitment to human rights and fundamental freedoms, both on its territory and elsewhere. She welcomed the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol, which had been the product of commitment and intensive work on the part of the international community. Those instruments represented a significant achievement; their implementation should end discrimination against persons with disabilities. Mexico was pleased by the high number of States that had signed the Convention when it was opened for signature. In recent days, the Convention had been ratified by her country, and the instruments of ratification would be deposited shortly. As in past years, and jointly with New Zealand and Sweden, Mexico would be presenting a draft resolution on the matter.
She underlined Mexico’s concern about the protection of the human rights of migrants, adding that her delegation would present an initiative on that topic to the Committee. Mexico had been implementing a programme to modernize migration reception facilities. She paid tribute to the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, who was welcome to pay another visit to Mexico. The Government had invited the national human rights commission to oversee implementation of the Convention against Torture. Regarding human rights and terrorism, she said the best-practice approach proposed by Martin Scheinin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, was welcome.
Right of Reply
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea said his country rejected the representative of the United States statement about the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as groundless. If that country was so concerned, he asked, how could they kill people every day in foreign countries and establish secret prisons? It was preposterous that the United States considered itself a human rights leader. It should get rid of the improper habit of stigmatizing other countries and clean its untidy house inside and out, he said. Responding to Canada, he said that country had made a statement supporting the so-called non-governmental organizations that engaged in abducting nationals of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and inciting riots. He denounced Canada for encouraging dangerous and criminal acts, and appealed to it to address the human rights situation of its indigenous people, who were living under regrettable conditions.
The representative of Syria said that, this morning, the Committee had heard a new extremist sermon from the United States that divided the sovereign world into two categories: the good guys and the bad guys. The United States reading of the important human rights questions was based on imposing its extremely fragile frame of reference on international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter. The statement in which the United States had attacked Syria betrayed remarkable ignorance, and an erroneous view of everything that was happening within the United Nations and the world. The record for violations of human rights could be seen in testimonies by United States nationals who spoke of what was happening in Guantanamo and secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prisons. The United States reading of human rights was ideological and far removed from law. While the rest of the world was trying to engage in dialogue, the extremist fundamentalist propaganda of the United States promoted the myth of the clash of civilizations and of religions, and instigated against Islam and Muslims, fabricating illusory enemies whenever needed. A country like the United States, which had bombed Viet Nam with prohibited weapons, and exposed violent movies to the world promoting violence, could not consider itself a moral judge on human rights questions. Finally, he said, Canada was advised to steer clear of the United States example in this regard.
The representative of Japan said the claim by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea that Japan had been suppressing residents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and their association in Japan were groundless and unacceptable. The measures taken in Japan had been within the law, and those who had engaged in criminal activities had to be duly punished. Japan had been striving to create a society without discrimination. The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should take concrete measures to improve its own human rights situation.
The representative of China, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said the United States had reverted to its “old disease of vicious finger-pointing”. The representative of the United States had turned a blind eye to the enormous progress that China had made in human rights, while ignoring its own deplorable human rights record where control over the Internet had been increased, anti-war sentiment suppressed, and racism and xenophobia were rampant. He added that the representative of Canada had directed all his accusations at developing countries, ignoring the deplorable human rights situation of his country’s allies. China opposed efforts to link political considerations to the Olympic Games.
The representative of Egypt expressed her thanks to Canada for their congratulations to her country on banning female genital mutilation. But that had been done 10 years ago, Canada was a bit late. Egypt provided safeguards to all its people without any discrimination of any ethnic group. Canada’s record of violence against migrants and indigenous people had been the matter of many special procedures reports. Egypt not only respected its national commitments but its international commitments, as well. Canada, however, voted against the Human Rights Council on institution-building because the document in question mentioned Palestine. Moreover, Canada supported those violations of all human rights laws because they had been done by Israel. Egypt was not aware of any decision selecting Canada as world human rights protector. Before looking out of its own country, she said, Canada should start by fixing its own house from the inside.
The representative of Israel, addressing Kuwait and the situation of Palestinians there, said that Palestinians were persecuted in that country after the first Gulf war, and asked if that was consistent with concerns raised by the Observer for Palestine. The Palestinian Observer continued to use the same old pattern of never looking into their own mirror, but blaming Israel for situations that both would like to change, he said. He expected that the Palestinians would recognize Israel’s right to live in peace and security, and said he hoped that the current talks between the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would lead to peace soon.
The representative of Turkey said that the statement made by Greece might mislead people to believe that the Cyprus problem began in 1974. How then did one explain the deployment of a United Nations peacekeeping force to Cyprus in 1964 to stop attacks by Greek Cypriots on Turkish Cypriots? The Greek side had demonstrated a collective loss of memory and stubborn denial. The archives of the United Nations were full of reports from that period. The international community should engage in contact with the Turkish Cypriots without delay.
The representative of Pakistan responded to a reference made about her country the day before by Switzerland. That reference had been ironic, given the poster campaign in Switzerland which had been initiated not by a neo-Nazi fringe group, but by a leading political party that was a member of the coalition Government.
The representative of Cuba said he deplored Canada’s unfounded allegations, which lacked any justice and balance. At the same time as that country refused to address its own human rights situation, racism and xenophobia were on the rise. The indigenous peoples of Canada were dealing with a most precarious situation, as they had been deprived of economic benefits for the exploitation of their lands, leaving them with a choice of assimilating or being poor and marginalized. Freedom and democracy were not the exclusive heritage of northern countries, which furthermore did not have the right to judge the situation in other countries.
The representative of Viet Nam, responding to Canada, said his country believed that the full enjoyment of human rights could only be promoted through genuine dialogue, and not confrontation. It had therefore been disheartening to hear a misleading statement from Canada saying there was harassment of human rights defenders in Viet Nam. Viet Nam did not condone harassment of its citizens, he said, and the law treated all citizens equally. Everyone had to respect the law, and all were responsible for their own actions.
The representative of Poland, referring to a point raised by the representative of Singapore, noted that capital punishment did not exist in her country. Poland’s position on the issue was in line with that of the rest of the European Union, and it would co-sponsor the proposed draft resolution on capital punishment.
The Observer for Palestine said that several erroneous arguments had been made by the Israeli delegation. No argument could justify the war crimes and gross human rights violations that Israel had committed as the occupying power. The question was whether that country was willing to recognize its oppression of the Palestinian people. It was customary for the Israeli side to bring up terrorism; however, the crushing acts of terrorism that Israel had committed against the Palestinian people were too evident to be disputed. It was hoped that Israel would adhere to the recommendations made by John Dugard, the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The representative of Cyprus said that Turkey was using false accusations and distortions to divert attention from his own country. If the division of Cyprus persisted, it was because the Turkish army continued to occupy a sovereign nation and sustain an illegal secessionist entity. If Turkey really wanted the issue resolved, all they had to do was withdraw all of their troops and let Greek and Turkish Cypriots live together in peace.
The representative of Canada said his country did not speak because it pretended to have a perfect record, but as one of 192 Member States. Everyone had a duty to uphold human rights, as they were on the agenda of the Committee. Canada was entirely in favour of a constructive dialogue, but that did not take place in the abstract. The Committee could not talk about aspirations, but had to talk about human rights as they were implemented in the real world. “Constructive dialogue” did not mean remaining silent. The Committee had to speak together, address different issues, and speak frankly and respectfully. Canada was fully in favour of a healthy and open discussion on human rights, and that was why the Committee was here today.
The representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, responding to Japan, said the action taken against Koreans in Japan was premeditated, systematic and a political effort by Japanese authorities to stamp out a Korean organization and its activities. Japan had meanwhile been denying indisputable crimes against humanity that it had committed more than half a century ago.
The representative of Japan said the measures taken involved an act of crime; there was also a matter of money owed to the Government by the Korean organization. He added that human rights violations, such as the ongoing abduction issue, had not been solved. Issues of the past should not be used as an excuse for doing nothing about ongoing human rights violations by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
* *** *For information media • not an official record