Iraq, OPT: Senior officials from 10 countries and one international organization address Commission on Human Rights
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 19 March (UN Information Service) -- Senior officials from Tanzania, Morocco, Finland, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, the Sudan, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Estonia, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Kazakhstan, as well as the President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, this morning addressed the Commission on Human Rights as it continued with its high-level segment.
Among the main topics addressed by the speakers was the conflict in the Middle East, the fight against extremism and terrorism, the growing vilification of Islam, and the negative impacts of globalization on developing countries. The speakers noted that it was clear that all these issues were linked, with the increased feeling of disenfranchisement among the peoples of the developing countries giving rise to such phenomena as cultural and religious discrimination, and a consequent growth in levels of extremism.
The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it was alarming to observe the growing discrimination, intolerance and associated violence in the world. This was an area for collaboration, as all should act together to create a culture of respect, tolerance, understanding and dialogue if there was to be any hope of achieving sustainable development and the protection of human dignity.
The Minister for Human Rights of Morocco said the fight against all forms of extremism, whatever they may be, should not cause an abandonment of international law. War had never been a means of eliminating extremism, but rather a fertile soil for it, and this should be recognized by Governments. Terrorism, a frequent end product of extremism, should be put to an end. This should not be done with further human rights violations, but should be done with respect of all human rights. There was no contradiction between Islam and human rights.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh said the benefits of globalization were unevenly shared, and its negative effect on human rights was manifested in various ways. It had further marginalized many countries, particularly through their participation in international trade. There was a need for policies and measures at both the national and international levels to combat this. Equally, there was a strong need to combat the growing phenomenon of vilification of Islam.
The Minister for Justice and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Human Rights of the Sudan said the situation in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories was of grave concern, and it was essential that the relevant resolutions of the Commission be implemented. However, it was the situation with regard to Iraq that was perhaps the most difficult one facing the international community in recent history.
The Secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaisons of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya said there was a growing tendency of linking national struggles for independence with the horrible phenomenon of international terrorism, and this was unacceptable. There was no way of comparing this rejected and condemned practice with a struggle for a human right, and the Commission should adopt a clear position on the issue, without condoning any attempt to deprive people of their right to freedom under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The Minister of State of Tanzania said the conflict in the Middle East continued to undermine human rights and the humanitarian situation in the region. Terrorism had also become an acute threat to international peace, justice and security, and Governments should act together in fighting terrorism, as they were all duty bound to provide security to their citizens. Globalization was unstoppable, but it was only acceptable if it respected justice and promoted human rights.
The Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland said globalization had certainly brought about various positive developments, however not everyone had access to these advantages. While globalization had produced wealth and opportunities, the reality of rising inequalities presented a key challenge, particularly with regard to the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous peoples. The principles of the rule of law and human rights were essential for an equitable process of globalization.
The Assistant Deputy Minister for Political Affairs and Head of International Organization Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia said that in the fight against terrorism, all States should respect the values of human rights, and refrain from using the need to combat terrorism as a pretext to engage in acts of discrimination against any race or religion, or associating any religion with terrorism and extremism. International counter-terrorism measures, regardless of the extent of their effectiveness, would never succeed in totally eradicating this phenomenon if they were viewed in isolation from the root causes of the emergence and proliferation of terrorism.
The Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia said in the context of discrimination, Estonia had followed a constant inclusion policy, and had made remarkable progress towards a truly multicultural and multiethnic society.
The Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran said human rights were closely linked and relevant to issues of high significance such as peace and development. Armed conflicts and wars not only undermined the security and stability of nations, but also diminished the enjoyment of human rights, and as such conflicts should always be avoided by the international community.
The Commissioner for Human Rights of Kazakhstan said human rights and development were inter-dependant and inter-linked. The rights to freedom of conscience and of belief were fundamental to social harmony, as were inter-ethnic reforms aimed at improving relations between ethnic groups. This had proved to be vital in the process of strengthening democracy.
Speaking in a right to reply was Israel.
The Commission will meet at 3 p.m. to continue with its high-level segment and hear statements from senior officials of Japan, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Luxembourg, South Africa, Guatemala, Spain and Viet Nam, as well as the Executive Director of UNAIDS.
WILSON MASILINGI, Minister of State in the Office of the President of the United Republic of Tanzania, said the Commission needed to be strengthened through the provision of adequate financial resources to enable it to assist developing countries that observed good governance to ensure a better promotion and protection of human rights. The international community must work together to address new uncertainties and challenges facing the world with a view to promoting peace, security and development. One special challenge facing the international community in this regard was to help developing countries to build their economies and strengthen the fight against poverty and disease, particularly malaria and HIV/AIDS, as well as to augment their capacities for the delivery of justice and defence of human rights.
The developed world needed to be more forthcoming in addressing the inequities in the global or multilateral trading system, which had made the fight against poverty in the developing countries much more difficult. He said the continued erosion of their purchasing power through market access impediments and unfavourable terms of trade not only denied poor people access to basic necessities of life but also disempowered their governments to deliver on their basic human rights responsibilities. The heightened levels of poverty continued to undermine human rights, particularly in the African continent. It deprived human beings of their ability to develop their skills towards development and also hindered full enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights.
Mr. Masilingi said that in Tanzania, the promotion and protection of human rights for all had been given a prominent place and had remained a firm commitment of the Government. As such, over the past 41 years of independence, Tanzania had been able, within its meagre resources, to build up a comprehensive framework of human rights protection, embracing civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. In addition, Tanzania had ratified almost all major human rights instruments, as well as enacted domestic legislation that provided for several mechanisms to protect fundamental rights and democratic freedoms. The establishment of an independent Human Rights and Good Governance Commission in March 2002 was clear evidence of the Government's Constitutional commitment to human rights.
MOHAMED AUAJJAR, Minister for Human Rights of Morocco, said the world was going through a difficult period with regard to international events, as shown by the tensions in the Gulf and the Middle East. Every effort should be made to find a peaceful solution to the war in Iraq, as it would have a negative effect on human rights and individual freedoms in the region. Morocco called for increased cohesion and solidarity and shared the profound preoccupations of humanity as a whole which were enhanced by the current situation and by the anticipation of a war which could be regretted. It believed that humanity could make a peaceful choice, solving differences, appeasing tensions, and upholding a culture of peace and tolerance. The international society preferred peace and solidarity, given the need to ensure safety and the right to life, which were such key human rights. An end should be put to terrorism, but this should not be done by further human rights violations. It should be done while respecting all human rights. The defence of human rights, as universally recognized, was defined by a guarantee of human security, of which the right to life was the foundation. Thus, the fight against all forms of extremism, whatever they may be, should not cause an abandonment of international law. War had never been a means of eliminating extremism, but rather a fertile soil for it. Islam was not a religion of war, but one of peace, and it required great protection today.
Morocco had reaffirmed its attachment to human rights as universally recognized, and had shown this attachment ever since the accession of King Mohammed VI. The emerging democracy of Morocco gave particular attention to the reinforcement of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Human rights had even become part of the school curriculum, since education of the young was the right path to the future.
The world was undergoing great changes and important transitions, and Morocco remained open and turned towards the future when consolidating what had already been gained. When presiding the Group of 77 plus China, Morocco would leave no stone unturned in developing democratic international relations that would be equitable and solid, and would also work to promote the right to development and humanizing globalization.
JUAN MANUEL SUAREZ DEL TORO RIVERO, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said that the Federation was immeasurably saddened that it had proved impossible to find a peaceful resolution and it was deeply concerned about the safety, health and well being of the civilian population of Iraq. The impact of this possible conflict on the people of the neighbouring countries was also a source of concern. The national societies of the countries bordering Iraq, supported by the International Federation, had increased their preparedness and readiness to provide assistance to all war-affected individuals in their respective countries, in cooperation with their governments. These efforts required the full support of the international community in the immediate present, as well as for the longer term. It was necessary to seriously consider the principles and requirements of possible planning of post conflict reconstruction, building on the principle of impartiality and ensuring early and specific commitment by the international community to support the people of Iraq in assuring their individual rights and dignity.
Mr. Suarez del Toro Rivero said that millions of people lived in precarious conditions that denied them access to water, food, health, education and employment, making them more vulnerable to disease, disasters, violence and conflict. Thus to speak of protecting human dignity implied taking long-term initiatives to bring about sustainable development, and reducing the risks of disasters and epidemics, thereby achieving security, stability and peace. The Federation believed that the issues of human rights, human dignity and sustainable development should not remain mere intellectual concepts, but needed to be translated into international and national policies and concrete action at the local level. Good intentions were not sufficient.
Mr. Suarez del Toro Rivero said that there was a need for urgent action to protect human dignity. Work at the global level should be to promote local action on the part of the organizations that were best equipped to translate good ideas into responses that heeded the needs of the vulnerable. The world must act to create a culture of respect, tolerance, understanding and dialogue, if it was to have any hope of achieving sustainable development and the protection of human dignity.
JAAKKO LAAJAVA, Under-Secretary of State of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, said human rights were universal. This universality entailed a right, but also a duty of the international community to promote human rights and prevent violations in any part of world. There was a need to emphasise the importance of working together in an atmosphere of openness and dialogue. This was the only way to achieve the promotion and protection of human rights.
Globalization, he said, had certainly brought about various positive developments, however not everyone had access to these advantages. All should be fully aware that globalization involved positive prospects but also considerable risks. Finland had organized the Helsinki Conference, held last December, with the aim of promoting the establishment of new global partnerships that could lead to lasting positive results of globalization on the basis of equality and inclusiveness. With regard to the positive potential of globalization, there was a growing sense of togetherness among people, and from the point of view of human rights, this represented a major avenue forward. However, while globalization had produced wealth and opportunities, the reality of rising inequalities presented a key challenge, particularly with regard to the rights of women, children, minorities and indigenous peoples.
Economic, social and cultural rights had gained special significance as a result of the process of globalization, as they could add human rights-based tools to economically motivated activity. The fundamental duty of Governments to secure all human rights for individuals had not lost any of its relevance even in changing circumstances. Finland, he said, hoped that this session of the Commission would be able to take concrete steps to promote these rights.
Mr. Laajava said that the Commission was taking place under exceptional circumstances, and Finland condemned terrorism in all its forms. The fight against it, however, should take place in full conformity with the principles of the rule of law and human rights. The same principles of the rule of law and human rights were essential for an equitable process of globalization.
REAZ RAHMAN, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, said the Four Party alliance government of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia was committed to upholding human rights through the establishment of the rule of law, good governance, an effective criminal justice system, and a culture of openness, transparency and accountability, in short a responsible government. Due to the importance of the role of strong national institutions, the Government had pledged itself to promote and foster mechanisms that would progressively strengthen the foundations of a liberal democracy and a cohesive and tolerant society. Despite limitations of both capacity building and inherent obstacles facing a fragile democracy, significant progress had been made in this institution-building process.
He said the establishment of the rule of law and restoration of law and order had been a prime election commitment of the Government. Last year, in response to a worsening law and order situation, and to concerns over internal security, safety of the people, suppression of terrorist acts and criminal activities, the Government had launched a special operation to address these concerns. Given the magnitude of the problem, the Government had decided to employ all available resources, including the army and the paramilitary forces, in this drive. The general population had welcomed the operation, which had succeeded in a marked improvement of the situation. The Government was committed to harnessing all resources to help ensure the safety and security of the common man.
The realization of the right to development assumed particular relevance in the context of the debate on poverty and marginalization, he said. This remained a major challenge for a developing country like Bangladesh. Sadly though, consensus was yet to emerge to operationalize this right in all its aspects. The benefits of globalization were unevenly shared, and its negative effects on human rights manifested itself in various ways. Globalization had further marginalized many countries, particularly through their participation in international trade. For an effective response, there was a strong need for policies and measures at both the national and international levels. It was essential to complement the national efforts of the developing countries by enhanced international cooperation.
TORKI BEN MOHAMMED BEN SAUD AL-KABEER, Assistant Deputy Minister for Political Affairs and Head of the International Organizations Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, said that his country had emphasized its unconditional support for the resolutions on terrorism adopted by both the Security Council and the Commission and had collaborated fully with the international community in its endeavours to combat terrorism. Saudi Arabia subscribed to the general view, however, that in the fight against terrorism, all States must respect the values of human rights and must refrain from using the need to combat terrorism as a pretext to engage in acts of discrimination against any race or religion or to associate any religion, and particularly the Islamic faith, with terrorism and extremism. Moreover, while categorically condemning all forms of terrorism, a distinction must be made between the phenomenon of terrorism and the right of peoples to resist occupation and achieve self-determination.
Mr. Al-Kabeer said that what we saw and heard on a daily basis reflected the tragic situation in the occupied Palestinian territories and the flagrant practices of the Israeli occupation forces, which were exploiting the tense political situation in the region and totally disregarding not only the resolutions of the Commission but also all the conventions governing international humanitarian law. Lasting peace in the Middle East must be based on justice and equality. Peace could not prevail without respect for the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, recovery of all Arab rights and Israel's withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories and the occupied Golan and Lebanese Shabaa farms. Discontinuance of the policy of double standards in dealing with Middle Eastern issues was one way to help achieve this.
Mr. Al-Kabeer said that there were some who had spared no effort to exploit the events of 11 September in order to mar relations between the Muslims and the West. Regrettably, these movements had succeeded in intensifying anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim extremism to an unprecedented extent. The Commission's role in addressing the question of the defamation of religions had become more crucial than ever before in view of the images of Islam that were becoming prevalent as a result of those hostile campaigns of incitement. One of the dangerous phenomena facing our society was the problem of poverty, which had proliferated for environmental reasons, as a result of the inability to meet the challenges of worldwide competition in various fields or due to the increasing pace of globalization. The time had come for the Commission to consider appropriate mechanisms to deal with the phenomena of poverty and globalization and their impact on the full enjoyment of human rights.
ALI M.O. YASSIN, Minister of Justice and Chairman of the Advisory Council on Human Rights of the Sudan, said Sudan was committed to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, and this stemmed from its legal obligations as a party to international and regional treaties, and was also based on its deeply rooted cultural heritage and values. The occurrence of some individual incidents of human rights violations in Sudan was attributed to the armed conflict, the absence of which would mean the realization of the effective enjoyment of human rights in the country. During the last few months, a historical breakthrough to achieve peace in the Sudan had been achieved, and the ongoing negotiations would continue in a spirit of openness and transparency so as not to fail the legitimate and high aspirations of the people of Sudan for achieving a lasting settlement to the conflict.
The situation in the occupied Palestinian and Arab territories was of grave concern, and it was essential that the relevant resolutions of the Commission be implemented. However, it was the situation with regard to Iraq that was perhaps the most difficult one facing the international community in recent history. Any military strike against Iraq without the authorization of the United Nations Security Council would be void of any legality, and would undermine the United Nations. Sudan opposed any military action against Iraq.
Sudan, Mr. Yassin said, would continue to participate in the Commission in the spirit of constructive cooperation and transparency in the manner demonstrated in previous sessions. However, it expected from this session a new and positive approach different from past unfair and unreasonable considerations of its situation. It was hoped that a positive and encouraging signal by the Commission would provide a meaningful contribution to the ongoing peace process, and enhance Sudan's resolve for the protection and respect of human rights which Sudan aspired and remained committed to.
ABDERRAHMAN MOHAMMED SHALGAM, Secretary of the General People's Committee for Foreign Liaisons and International Cooperation of Libya, said that in Libya the human being was the primary target of development. Basic needs such as food, health and education received priority attention. The Government had built several hospitals and health care centres which provided free health care to all. Hundreds of schools and universities offered free and mandatory education. The Libyan people believed that there was no dignity left to a person deprived of his or her basic human rights. This was why the Government had issued the Great Green Document for Human Rights in the era of the masses. The document was a framework reference document containing the principles organizing the enjoyment of human rights and basic freedoms in Libya. In accordance with this document, men and women had equal rights; every citizen had the right to express opinions and ideas; the legal system was independent; and the death penalty was only applied to those who committed murder or to those whose life threatened society.
Libyans had suffered a lot from sanctions, he said. For 20 years, one member State of this Commission had imposed upon Libya unilateral sanctions depriving the country from importing development technology. Libyan students had not been allowed to attend their universities. An unprecedented law in violation of all international agreements had been enacted to punish any foreigner or company from another country for investing capital in Libya's economic development. As the Commission was aware, some countries had resorted to the United Nations in order to impose sanctions on Libya to achieve political goals. These sanctions had not yet been completely lifted in spite of the unanimous call of the international community. Libya had suffered enough negative consequences as a result of the sanctions B the lives of hundreds of children and elderly people had been lost, people had been deprived of health care and their right to travel, and the economy and trade had been crippled.
Referring to the situation of the Palestinian people, he said the right to self-determination was a permanent item on this Commission's agenda. The realization of this important right had been hampered by serious obstacles. There was a growing tendency of linking national struggles for independence with the horrible phenomenon of international terrorism. Libya was opposed to such tendencies. Libya's position must not be interpreted as trying to justify any form of terrorism since Libya firmly rejected and condemned terrorism. There was no way one could compare this rejected and condemned practice with a struggle for a human right defended by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Commission was entrusted with the implementation of human rights instruments. It had to adopt a clear position on the issue and should not condone any attempt to deprive people of their right to freedom under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
MARINA KALJURAND, Under Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia, said that the integration of information technology into Government structures constituted one of the ways for better implementation of human rights for the promotion of democracy. Estonia had implemented the concept of e-state in order to achieve the goals of an open society. This year, Estonia had launched an e-state Academy project. The aim of the project was to provide training in the field of state-provided Internet services for officials from Central European, Tran-Caucasian, and Balkan countries. The development of the Internet and communication technologies would be meaningless without the existence of a dynamic civil society. For this end, the Parliament had recently adopted the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept. This created a firm basis for the cooperation of the public and non-profit sector in supporting and promoting the non-profit activities and increased the social capital of Estonia.
Gender equality and the fight against discrimination of women was also an important part of the modern human rights protection system, she said. Estonia had taken concrete steps to this aim. Every year, the Government adopted an action plan which stipulated the priorities for the coming year in the field of promoting gender equality. In the plan, particular attention was paid to the reconciliation of family and working life, the promotion of women's business activities, equal pay for equal work of equal value, and the dissemination of relevant information. Special steps were foreseen for dealing with issues concerning elderly women aiming to improve the coping strategy of the elderly and to make a more thorough evaluation of the positive roles that they did and could play in society.
Ms. Kaljurand said she was happy to say that although some differences still existed between the career opportunities open to men and women, the number of top women managers in business, and the number of women decision makers in politics was increasing constantly. In the present Government there were four women Ministers, two of whom were holding for the first time untraditional portfolios such as Foreign Affairs and Economic Affairs. She was convinced that women must play an equal role in setting the political agenda and in decision making in Estonia.
G. ALI KHOSHROO, Deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, said the analysis of the international human rights instruments, enacted since the inception of the United Nations, corroborated the conviction of the international community to respect and protect human rights. However this conviction had not been fully realized due to the lack of a close relationship between human rights on the one hand, and a creative and conducive environment on the other. Human rights were closely linked and relevant to issues of high significance such as peace and development. The close relationship between human rights and peace was therefore undeniable. Armed conflicts and wars not only undermined the security and stability of nations, but also diminished the enjoyment of human rights. This could be best seen and understood by the present situation in the occupied Palestinian territories.
There was, he said, no doubt that a war in the Persian Gulf region would also deteriorate the already aggravated situation of the peoples involved, including their human rights. Resorting to unilateral action in this region would only nurture totalitarianism, which in