Session 57 - Children's rights at the Commission on Human Rights

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(19 March-30 March) -
- Silvia Albery -

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 19 March 2001

High Commissioner for Human Rights Reviews Activities, Previews
Upcoming World Conference against Racism, Says She Will Not
Seek a Second Term.

The Commission on Human Rights opened its fifty-seventh
session and was urged by the High Commissioner for Human
Rights to focus on tolerance and respect for fundamental
freedoms in a year that would culminate in the holding of the
World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination,
Xenophobia and Related Intolerance.

High Commissioner Mary Robinson also said that human-rights
violations continued around the world -- among other things,
hundreds recently had been killed on the grounds of their
ethnicity; refugees and asylum-seekers continued to arrive in
wealthier countries to cold and often hostile receptions; and
insidious, subtle forms of discrimination continued to operate,
closing off employment and promotion and barring people of
particular races, religions or social backgrounds from housing and
other necessities.

Mrs. Robinson went on to tell the Commission that the World
Conference against Racism -- to be held from 31 August to 7
September in Durban, South Africa -- would mark the end of her
four-year term of office, and that she would not be seeking a
second term.

Statements
MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights, underlined that in the months ahead, the overriding
challenge for her Office and the Commission should be the
successful stewardship of the World Conference against Racism
Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be
held in Durban.

Mrs. Robinson said that in integrating human rights and a gender
perspective into the programmes of the UN as a whole, her Office
had been advocating the added value of the rights based
approach centred on the framework of the core human rights
treaties that States had ratified and on the obligations they had
thereby assumed. Many examples were seen of gross human
violations in conflict situations, with women and children often the
worst affected.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 20 March 2001

Organization of Work of the Commission

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a report
(E/CN.4/2001/15) of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
which reviews her visit from 3 to 4 December 2000 to Colombia in
order to verify the human rights situation in that country, support
the work of the Office in Bogota and highlight the role being
played by the Director and his staff.

The report reviews the activities of the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia;
difficulties in implementing the duties of the office; the national
context in Colombia including the peace dialogues between the
Government and the guerilla groups, the sharp differences that
have arisen among the political elite over land reform and the
referendum, and the crisis that resulted; the human rights
situation and international humanitarian law in Colombia which
includes sections on civil and political rights, economic, social and
cultural rights, rights of the child, rights of women, and the main
breaches of international humanitarian law; situations of special
concern such as developments in the armed conflict and peace
negotiations, the spread of paramilitarism, growing populations
displacement, administration of justice and impunity, the prison
situation, human rights defenders, trade unionists, ethnic
minorities, freedom of opinion, speech and education, and
political rights; a follow-up of international recommendations; and
the advisory and technical assistance activities of the office in
Colombia.

Introduction of Report of High Commissioner for Human Rights

MARY ROBINSON, High Commissioner for Human Rights,
introducing her report, said the Commission on Human Rights
was in a position to exercise real leadership in the struggle
against racism.
Mrs. Robinson said the international community had to come to
grips with the various ways in which racism revealed itself in
today's world. It was worrying that despite the defeat of
apartheid, some of the old forms of racism persisted. The last
decade had witnessed the outbreak of brutal racial and ethnic
tensions in Asia, Africa, Europe and elsewhere. Civilians, in
particular women and children, had been the victims of
unspeakable cruelty.
Mrs. Robinson said that the fact that some racist groups had
misused the Internet to spread repugnant hate speech needed
to be addressed urgently. The specific impact of racism on women
and children deserved special attention.
Too many children were deprived of basic education, health care,
food, or adequate housing simply because they did not belong to
the "right" race, ethnicity, nationality, or colour, Mrs. Robinson
said. The struggle against racism was a struggle for all nations,
large and small and no region, no country, no community could
fairly claim to be free from intolerance. Each State needed to
think of special measures for reversing historical injustices that
had consigned certain groups to positions of disadvantage.
Equally important, each State should establish relevant
institutions and develop education and training programmes to
foster tolerance and appreciation of diversity as part of their
efforts to eliminate racism
Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 21 March 2001
Right to Self-determination
Under this item the Commission has before it a note by the High
Commissioner on Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/18) containing
summaries of the papers presented by the Special Rapporteur
and other Experts on mercenary activity. The report reviews
international, regional and national legislation relating to the
phenomenon of mercenaries and measures to implement existing
legislation. It also addresses the relevance of the international
definition of mercenary activity and traditional and current forms
of mercenary activities.
Statements
NKOSAZANA DLAMINI-ZUMA, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the
Republic of South Africa, said
Talking about how to bridge the past and the future might be
uncomfortable, Mrs. Dlamini-Zuma said. Change was usually
uncomfortable. Yet it should be possible to work towards a world
and a future where a Palestinian child and an Israeli child could
have access to food, shelter, health services, education and
security. A future where the Palestinians would have their own
motherland and live in harmony with their Israeli neighbours. One
should work towards a future where an African child was proud
to be an African and didn't aspire to be European or white
because the white colour and race guaranteed food, shelter,
education and security. A world where women enjoyed all
freedoms and were an integral part of the political class, business
class, professional class, and religious leadership and still were
able to be mothers and wives. A world where one could land at
any airport and be treated as a human being irrespective of
colour, nationality, religion or gender.
BONAVENTURE CHIBAMBA MUTALE, Attorney-General of Zambia,
said that Zambia found itself in a veritable development quagmire
intrinsically linked to the realization of its people's human rights
and fundamental freedoms.
The Government had adopted an implementation plan on gender
policy designed to attain equality between the sexes, and it had
participated in the SADC Regional Conference assessing progress
on the prevention and eradication of violence against women and
children. The Government planned to invest in children's
programmes with special reference to orphans, vulnerable
children and street children. Zambia had prepared her initial
report as a State party to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child.

SAMER AL-NAMA (Iraq) said the human rights situation in the
occupied territories of Palestine had taken a sharp turn for the
worse since September. The High Commissioner's report was an
authentic testimony to the situation and the gravity of the
violations of human rights of Palestinians which had led to
thousands of civilians being injured, particularly children.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 21 March 2001

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
and follow-up to the World Conference on Human Rights
Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it the report
of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on her visit to the
occupied Palestinian territories, Israel, Egypt and Jordan
(E/CN.4/2001/114). The document continues to review
Palestinian policies and practices, including what it considers as
the exploitation of children and their military training, violence
directed against Israeli civilians, the use and failure to confiscate
illegal weapons, the unwarranted release of terrorist detainees,
attacks on and the destruction of Jewish holy sites, the abuse of
protective symbols and of accepted principles relating to the relief
of the wounded.

Statements
RUUD LUBBERS, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees, said that in some of the most challenging returnee
situations today - such as East Timor and Kosovo - the
international community must create basic institutions of national
protection that never before existed. National human rights
institutions - with support and encouragement from the
international community - must encourage the development of
solid institutions and the rule of law and should help returnees
realize their rights in practical ways - by recovering their homes
and property, obtaining documents, collecting pensions and
getting their children back to school.

IGNAC GOLOB, State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of Slovenia,
The Slovenian Government also felt concern about the plight of
migrants and refugees in the region, the State Secretary for
Foreign Affairs said, and felt that further international cooperation
was sorely needed to avoid lone desperate actions by countries
most affected by migratory flows; it was concerned about the
situation of children in conflict situations and had contributed to
efforts to rehabilitate children affected by armed violence in
Kosovo; and it was especially involved in de-mining efforts,
having established the International Trust Fund for Demining and
Mine Victims' Assistance, whose seat was in Slovenia and which
operated with support from the United States, the European
Union, and other contributors.

MICHAEL MELCHIOR, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for the
State of Israel, said he believed there was no contradiction
between religion and peace, and that ethnic and cultural diversity
was a source of internal strength, not division and strife.
Several anti-Israeli items featured on the Commission's agenda.
Israel's withdrawal from Southern Lebanon had apparently gone
unnoticed. A balanced, positive approach in which violence was
renounced and negotiations restored was needed. There had
been attempts to politicize the World Conference against Racism
and to exclude Israel. Proposed attempts to isolate Israel
politically were counterproductive and distracting. The Deputy
Minister for Foreign Affairs concluded by noting that his own
cousins, three children, had been injured in an attack on a school
bus only weeks ago. He prayed for the sense to avoid future
situations where parents needed to bring their children to the
grave.
Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 22 March 2001
Special Rapporteur on the Use of Mercenaries Presents Report
The Commission on Human Rights continued its debate on the
right of people to self-determination and heard its Special
Rapporteur on the use of mercenaries present his report. The
Commission also heard statements from senior Government
officials from the Czech Republic,

Statements
IGOR ROGOV, Minister of Justice of Kazahkstan, said that in 1991,
Kazakhstan adopted a law on state independence which
recognized the rights of individuals as recognized under
international law.
Mr. Rogov said that Kazakhstan was party to a wide range of
multilateral treaties which guaranteed human rights. Currently,
the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination
Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child
were in the last stages of ratification. The Government planned to
create an Ombudsman on human rights. The Rome treaty was
being analysed.

JOHN BATTLE, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, said that the last century had seen violence and
suffering of an unthinkable level.

Mr. Battle said that while hundreds of millions grew ever richer,
some 1.3 billion - two thirds of them women - had no access to
adequate food, water, sanitation, essential health care and
primary education. Around 35,000 children died each day from
preventable diseases. This reality denied the most elementary of
human rights, the right to live. The international community must
ensure that economic, social and cultural rights - as well as civil
and political rights - were protected in a globalized world.

GRAZYNA BERNATOWICZ, Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry
for Foreign Affairs of Poland, said that legislation for the benefit of
individuals was needed and that legislation enacted by any State
to deprive an individual of his inalienable human rights needed to
be recognized as anti-human and void.

The Under-Secretary of State of Poland said that the ratification
process on two Protocols to the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, the Protocol on Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts
and the Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and
Child Pornography, had been sped up in preparation for the
United Nations Special Session on children in September 2001.
Poland planned to cooperate closely with the European Union
and other partners in preparation for the World Conference
against Racism and desired its success. The continued HIV/AIDS
pandemic was of concern, therefore, Poland planned to introduce
a relevant resolution to the Commission. The collective
responsibility of world leaders to uphold the principles contained
in the United Nations Millennium Declaration was to be honoured
by Poland in practical implementation.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 22 March 2001

Hears Statement by Nigerian Minister for Foreign Affairs

WALID OBEIDAT (Jordan) said that for more than half a century,
the Palestinian people had been deprived of their basic right to
self-determination under Israeli occupation.
It was regrettable that as the Commission deliberated today,
the Palestinian people, including women and children, continued
to face flagrant violations of their human rights before the eyes of
the international community. Israel was carrying out a systematic
violation of international humanitarian law, particularly the Fourth
Geneva Convention, and the excessive use of force against
civilians was causing devastative and permanent disabilities. The
resumption of negotiations from the point where they stopped
was a must.

DANIEL LACK, of the World Jewish Congress, also speaking on
behalf of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and
Jurists, said the Special Session last fall on the situation in
Palestine had been marred by a vituperative and excessive
resolution which had caused most democratic members of the
Commission to reject or abstain from it.
Not surprisingly the report was one-sided, prejudiced, and
distorted. A typical example was its quotation out of context of
press reports ascribing to the Israeli Government and military
leaders the intent to conduct an alleged policy of extra-judicial
executions and assassinations. Meanwhile not a word in the
report was devoted to the calls for genocidal killing of all Jews
and Israelis which could be heard, read, and seen daily in all
forms of the Palestinian media. The report also attempted to
mask the appalling policy of recruiting children behind whom
Palestinian armed militia took cover.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 26 March 2001

AHMED MOTALA, of International Save the Children Alliance, said
the right of all people to be treated equally was a well-
established principle in international human rights law. However,
the concept of equality within most human rights treaties had not
sufficiently recognized the extent to which children were
discriminated against. While the international community had
devoted considerable attention to the problem of racism, racial
discrimination and related intolerance in recent years, knowledge
and study of the extent to which children around the world were
affected by discriminatory practices continued to be overlooked at
the international level.

Discrimination against children had far-reaching implications for
society as a whole. Children in almost every society lacked power
and were therefore vulnerable to discrimination. In many
societies, their civil rights were unrecognized or compromised.
Furthermore, there were specific groups of children who were
subjected to additional discrimination because of racism,
xenophobia and related intolerance. This discrimination had a
profound impact on their life chances -- lower levels of school
enrollment, higher dropout rates, poorer health and greater
exposure to sexual and physical violence. Perhaps even more
corrosive was the impact on children's self-esteem, the
internalizing of negative attitudes which diminished their capacity
to challenge or even acknowledge the abuse they experienced.
They themselves then transmitted and reinforced these attitudes
through the generations.

Commission on Human Rights, 57th session, 26 March 2001

Special debate on Tolerance and Respect.

The Commission on Human Rights began a one-day special
debate on the subject of tolerance and respect by focusing this
morning on how such qualities applied to religion and
reconciliation.

In introducing the panellists, Mary Robinson, the High
Commissioner for Human Rights, said that the special debate
offered an opportunity to deepen the sense of shared values at
the beginning of a new century. The purpose of the debate was
to explore action-oriented ways and means for promoting the
principles of tolerance and respect. It was to be hoped that the
discussion would be an enlightening contribution to preparations
for the upcoming World Conference against Racism in Durban,
South Africa.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, one of
the three panellists, told the Commission that religion, which
should encourage tolerance, respect, compassion, and peace,
had far too frequently done the opposite; yet it need not be so if
one could learn the obvious, that no religion could hope to have a
monopoly on God, goodness, virtue or truth.

Statements
WALTER LEWALTER (Germany) said the Nazi era and the
Holocaust had led the fathers of the German Constitution to put
human rights and the equality of humans at the forefront; later,
Germany had hosted many immigrants whose children had since
grown up in the country and had made great contributions to
German culture and lifestyle.

ARCHBISHOP TUTU, said that they had succeeded in South Africa
in handling the dismantling of apartheid and establishing peace
and reconciliation. The victory would have not been impossible
without international support. Nelson Mandela was freed, and
apartheid was dismantled, thanks to international support. If the
international community was able to defeat apartheid as it did in
South Africa, why could it not overcome the conflicts and
problems of racial discrimination everywhere. "Dream God's
dream, dream as you did that apartheid would be terminated in
South Africa, dream that Arabs and Jews would live peacefully
one day." For forgiveness was not forgetting and it was not a
denial that the past existed. Confession by perpetrators of crimes
would at least help victims' to relief from their grief. No amnesty
or compensation could substitute the death of a child or a loved
one.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 27 March 2001

Commission on Human Rights Told that in Age of Globalization,
National Policies must be Bolstered by Increased International
Support
Countries and non-governmental organizations discussing the
right to development told an extended meeting of the
Commission on Human Rights this evening that economic
globalization, if left to its own devices, would not help many of
the world's poorer people and nations, and that international
financial events could overwhelm the ability of developing
countries to control their destinies and protect their economies .

Statements
ADAMOU SEYDOU (Niger) said
In Niger, barely one child out of three had the opportunity to
attend school because of the lack of an adequate infrastructure.
The Government had therefore decided to construct 1,000
classrooms in 2001. Similarly, the Government was trying to
ensure that girls and boys had equal access to education. In the
health field, the Government had allocated funds for the
construction of 1,000 clinics. The health situation in the country
was a matter of serious concern.

FREDERICO S. DUQUE ESTRADA MEYER (Brazil) said his country
had developed several successful programmes in the field of
development: one was targeted at promoting more efficient
social policies and strengthening the participation of civil society
in social initiatives; another provided financial resources to
mothers who committed themselves to keeping their children
aged 7 to 14 in school; this had proved a very cost-effective
initiative and one that had improved the overall quality of life of
poor segments of the population. A successful programme to fight
HIV/AIDS, including through free distribution of drugs, had kept
the rate of infection far below a dire forecast made for Brazil by
the World Bank. A Brazilian programme for elimination of child
labour had been effective, as had a literacy project that now was
being used in other countries with the support of UNESCO.

KHEIREDDINE RAMOUL (Algeria) said External debt was an
important facet in fighting poverty. There was a flagrant denial of
the right to development against the Palestinian people. This was
in defiance of international law. The humanitarian assistance
aimed at helping Palestinian children was taxed by the occupiers.
Algeria called for an appropriate reaction from the international
community which so far had been lacking. These evasions
showed the selectivity in the implementation of human rights
around the world.

JAVIER LABRADA ROSABAL, of the Youth Study Centre, said that
there could be no talk of development when one out of three
people in the Third World lived in poverty; 40,000 children died
every day. Cuba managed to maintain development in all
spheres. Its efforts had not been only for Cubans -- it had shown
its commitment to the international community. Over 2,500 Cuban
doctors were living and practising all over the world. Cuba had
not been able to do more in terms of development because of the
genocidal blockade imposed on it by the United States.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 27 March 2001

Debate on Racism and Racial Discrimination Continues
BENITA FERRERO-WALDNER, Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs of
Austria,
Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said that the total of those displaced by
conflict was estimated to be between 20 and 25 million all over
the world, double the number of refugees falling under the 1951
Convention. The fate of these displaced persons in many
instances was desperate. Women and children were among the
most affected. Ethnic minorities remained among the primary
targets of racism, xenophobia and discrimination.
The trafficking in human beings, which was in essence a
contemporary form of slavery, was a matter of serious concern,
Ms. Ferrero-Waldner said. The transborder nature of this scourge,
mostly involving forced prostitution or bonded labour, called for a
coordinated and interdisciplinary action by the international
community, involving the countries of origin, transit and
destination. In order to ensure long-term effectiveness, the fight
against trafficking in human beings, in particular of women and
children for the purpose of sexual exploitation, also required
enhanced awareness-raising among potential victims, their
protection, as well as assistance in their reintegration.

FELIPE PÉREZ ROQUE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Cuba, said
that the Commission was today more divided than ever and on
the verge of an irreversible point of disrepute. On the one hand,
there were the Representatives of the Third World: they were
hostages to debt, victims of the unfair order imposed around the
world; who only owned their poverty and backwardness; who
were the ones contributing millions of starving, poor, illiterate
people; children and mothers who died; the ones who had
grievously sustained, with their suffering, the opulence of their
exploiters.
As everyone knew, a genuine concern over the human rights
situation in Cuba was not at stake in this accusation. What was
really at stake was whether a small Third World country could or
could not choose its own path and build, in its own way, a future
of equality and well-being for its children.

GUSTAVO BELL LEMUS, Vice-President of Colombia, said that Help
was needed from the international community to aid the
Government in continuing its efforts, Mr. Bell Lemus said, as the
finances of the country were limited and there were many
challenges to be met in protecting the population. Changes had
been made to the penal code to enable that persons were tried
in civil courts; efforts had been made as well to keep children
from participating in the conflict. And a committee was
investigating claims of human-rights violations.

M. S. RAJAKUMARI, of Pax Romana, said that no form of racism,
overt or hidden, should go unchallenged. Discrimination based on
ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, social status, race, birth and
geographical locations provided the institutional basis for
poverty.
Children and youth were sometimes not only victims, they were
also victimizers. In some countries, they were used by adults as a
weapon of ethnic and racial wars. Children and youth who
themselves had been victims of racial and ethnic discrimination
were easily manipulated when racism was used to motivate
revenge.

BOJJA THARAKAM, of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial, said that during
the preparatory process for the upcoming World Conference
against Racism, there had been several specific references to the
problem of caste discrimination around the world. The Asia-Pacific
Seminar of Experts on Migrants and Trafficking in Persons had
noted that caste discrimination was a root cause of trafficking
and migration. Members of the Committee on the Rights of the
Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination
against Women had raised concern about the treatment of Dalit
women and children.

Commission on Human Rights 57th session, 28 March 2001

Human rights in the occupied Arab territories, including Palestine

Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a report
(E/CN.4/2001/121) of the human-rights inquiry commission
established pursuant to Commission resolution S-5/1 of 19
October, 2000 which offers a number of conclusions and
recommendations on the situation in occupied Palestine.
The report notes that Israel's specific tactics affecting Palestinian
economic rights remain as previously reported, with the added
consequences of Israel's withholding of tax revenues due to the
Palestinian Authority. The effect of human rights violations on
children is both disproportionate and cumulative, according to the
report. The report notes that amid the prevailing threats to
Palestinians' right to life, the Palestinian health system risks
collapse. The report also claims that Israel's territorial
fragmentation of the occupied territories is significantly more
severe now.

There is a note verbale (E/CN.4/2001/108) dated 15 September
2000 from the Permanent Delegation of the League of Arab
States to the United Nations Office at Geneva addressed to the
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The note
contains a summarized account of Israeli practices during the
period from January to July 2000. The note reviews such practices
as the demolition of houses, uprooting of trees, acts of
aggression by settlers, acts of aggression by the Israeli army and
police, Israeli schemes against Jerusalem, torture and detention
of children, Israeli measures against Palestinian workers, acts of
aggression against religious site and the seizure of water
resources.

Statements
MARY ROBINSON, United Nations High Commissioner for Human
Rights, said that since her trip to the occupied territories, Israel,
Egypt and Jordan last November, the situation on the ground had
worsened. It was truly tragic that babies and young children on
both sides had been killed and seriously wounded, the latest
terrible examples being the killing two days ago of a 10-month-
old Israeli baby girl, and yesterday of an 11-year-old Palestinian
boy. And now, today, there was news of the killing and wounding
of Israeli teenagers waiting for a ride to school.

FAYZA ABOULNAGA (Egypt) said the region of the Middle East
was going through a grave period in which peace and security
were threatened. The deterioration of the situation of Palestinian
human rights was beyond all limits.
There was a consensus that the Israeli human rights violations
ran contrary to international and humanitarian law. Israel was
targeting children. There were reports of objective bodies and
eyewitnesses reports that spoke in detail of Israeli human right
violations, so much so that one could not close one's eyes to the
state of affairs.

JUAN ANTONIO FERNANDEZ PALACIOS (Cuba) said that The
situation on human rights in the Palestinian occupied territories
was grievous. The civil population felt besieged by a stronger
power willing to use all its force against children and adolescents
throwing stones. In order to smash the Palestinian people's just
rebellion, the Israeli armed forces had not hesitated in using
rubber bullets, real bullets and even heavy weapons like rockets,
shot from armoured vehicles and helicopters.

ABSA CLAUDE DIALLO (Senegal) said that developments in the
region since the 56th session of the Commission showed that the
serious, massive and repeated human rights violations in
Palestine and the occupied territories had reached an
unprecedented level. Senegal was concerned by the excessive
use of military force that had caused numerous deaths among
the Palestinian population, in violation of international
humanitarian law and in particular the Geneva Conventions.
What would happen to the thousands of children who were
victims of oppression, terrorized by the occupation forces and
deprived of their right to education? The total closure of the
occupied territories had plunged the Palestinian people into
unbearable poverty. Added to this were the destruction of non-
military objectives, including houses and fields and the retention
of income taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority. The
Palestinian people had the legitimate right to live in peace within
secure and internationally recognized borders.Owner: Silvia Albery

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