(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.
Previous Conference Report items
- 05/04/2001: Meetings During the Third PrepCom - UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms
- 01/04/2001: The Protection of War-Affected Children: Securing Children's Rights in the Context of Armed Conflict - Report from the First Hearings
- 21/03/2001: Report from 3rd Session, Preparatory Committee Meeting for the UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms
- 10/03/2001: Report for Special Session from Child Labour Action Network
- 06/03/2001: Key messages for the outcome document from the preparatory workshop of children and young people
Organisation Contact Details:
Working Group for the Human Rights Council - NGO Group
Alan Kikuchi-White on email: Alan.Kikuchi-White@sos-kd.org, or Veronica Yates on email@example.com
Last updated 13/03/2002 15:26:25