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Islam and the West ( 7 Oct 2009, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Human Rights Council holds general debates on situation in Palestine and occupied Arab territories, human rights bodies and Vienna Declaration

Human Rights Council

MORNING

30 Sep 2009 

 

The Human Rights Council this morning held general debates on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, on human rights bodies and mechanisms, and on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

 

In the general debate on the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, speakers said that the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict provided evidence that serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, perhaps amounting to war crimes and even crimes against humanity, were committed by both sides during the conflict. This required a full and impartial investigation, and there had to be full accountability for any serious violations of international law. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission had done its best to execute what was a biased mandate in an even-handed way, and the report held both sides responsible.

The Palestinian conflict was at the heart of the situation in the Middle East, and there had to be a Palestine State. A solution for the Palestinian refugees also had to be found. One speaker said the root cause of the Gaza tragedy was the 1988 Hamas Charter, which was a Charter that called for Jews to be killed and Israel to be eliminated. The High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission, and the Human Rights Council were urged to unequivocally condemn the Genocidal Hamas Charter which was a defamation of religion as well as a blueprint for murder.

 

Speaking in the general debate on human rights situations in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories were Ireland, New Zealand, Lebanon, Iceland, Maldives, United Arab Emirates and League of Arab States.

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, International Human Rights Commission, International Commission of Jurists, World Union for Progressive Judaism, Centre Europe Tier Monde, North-South XXI, Defence for Children International, Hudson Institute, International Educational Development, Union of Arab Jurists, Maryam Ghasemi Educational Institute for the Support of Children, Institute for Women's Studies and Research, Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, Association of World Citizens, United Nations Watch and Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies.

 

The presentation of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (A/HRC/12/48) can be found in press release HRC/09/118 of 29 September and the presentation of the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/12/37) on the same topic can be found in press release HRC/09/119 of 29 September.

In the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, speakers said that the draft Declaration on Human Rights Training and Education should adopt a rights-based approach to education and training, and that the aspect of gender equality and participation of women should also be included in the drafting process. There was a necessity to look at the question of indigenous people in a structural approach. Any acts undermining these people affected the socio-cultural environment. With each language that died out, a whole culture died out with it. It was important for the international community to provide comprehensive and sustainable development for indigenous people. The study of the Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples on the lessons learned and challenges remaining on indigenous peoples' rights to education was very important and useful, and would help States to implement this right fully, which was a cornerstone for development in all societies. The Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was in need of additional resources to ensure that priority concerns regarding the elimination of racism against indigenous peoples and recognition and exercise of the rights of indigenous peoples, along with sound advice on the ways to address these matters, were brought to the attention of the Human Rights Council.

 

Speaking in the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms were International Organization for the Rights of Education and the Freedom of Education, Indian Council of South America, North South XXI, Liberation, International Working Group for Indigenous Rights, International Club for Peace and Research, World Peace Council, Interfaith International, Comision Juridica para el Autodesarrollo de los Pueblos Originarios Andinos, Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, Commission to Study the Organization of Peace, Amnesty International, and Association of World Citizens.

The presentation of the report of the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the first part of the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms can be found in press release HRC/09/117 of 28 September.

 

In the general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, speakers said it was essential for the Human Rights Council to remain permanently cognizant of the ever resonant provision of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which stated that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. As they debated in the Council's room, millions of people continued to wallow in poverty. Poverty alleviation should become the fundamental theme of the Council. In practice, many people continued to be denied enjoyment of their rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights defenders frequently pursued their struggle while risking their own lives and the lives and well-being of their families. The international community was facing a severe challenge in handling the climate crisis, while at the same time coping with one of the most serious economic crises in decades. It was crucial that the difficulties these challenges presented were not used as a pretext to lessen commitment to fulfilling human rights obligations. All States had the obligation to protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political or economic systems and regardless of their diverse historical, cultural and religious experiences. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner. Governments all over the world needed to do more to improve the situation of human rights defenders. There was a need to develop and act on policies to enhance the support to and protection of human rights defenders, which was essential to realize the vision of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

 

Many speakers expressed their opposition to the draft resolution on traditional values, which were being presented under this agenda item, saying it was ironic since the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action actually imposed upon States a positive obligation to work towards the elimination of the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism? It was said that the draft resolution did nothing to enhance respect for human rights, but achieved quite the opposite. It was divisive; it was polarising; and it sought to affirm a concept often used to justify human rights violations. This draft resolution did not acknowledge that many harmful practices, which constituted human rights violations, were justified by invoking traditional values. It was feared that this draft resolution would be the start of an initiative that would undermine international human rights standards.

Speaking in the general debate on follow-up and implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action were Nigeria on behalf of the African Group, Sweden on behalf of the European Union, Thailand on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Uruguay on behalf of the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), Slovenia, Norway, Russian Federation, United States, Turkey and Belarus.

 

The following non-governmental organizations also took the floor: International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, Asian Forum for Human Rights, Centre for Women's Global Leadership, Association for World Education, Mouvement Contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Watch, Amnesty International, International Humanist and Ethical Union, COC Netherlands, Indian Council of Education, European Union for Public Relations, International Club for Peace Research, International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, International Commission of Jurists, Action Canada for Population and Development, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, Universal Esperanto Association, and International Service for Human Rights.

 

Speaking in right of reply were Sri Lanka, Sudan and Iran.

The Council today is meeting in three back-to-back meetings from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In its midday meeting, it will hear the presentation of the report of the Special Rapporteur on racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance, and then hold a general debate on this agenda item.

 

General Debate on Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories

MICHEAL TIERNEY (Ireland) said the background to the discussions at the current session was a serious and sustained effort to move the Middle East peace process on to the final stage negotiations to reach an o0verall settlement, based on the principles already set out in the Quartet Roadmap, the Arab Peace Plan, and other documents. The international community should do everything it could to support that effort. The report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was based on extensive examinations of witnesses and submissions, and it was very regrettable that the Israeli authorities did not cooperate with the Mission. The report required very careful study: on initial examination, its findings were deeply disturbing, providing evidence that serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, perhaps amounting to war crimes and even crimes against humanity, were committed by both sides during the conflict. This required a full and impartial investigation, and there had to be full accountability for any serious violations of international law. The right to self defence, claimed by both sides, did not negate all other rights. It would be for the Human Rights Council in the first instance to consider the findings and implications of the report. Both parties should respond seriously and comprehensively to the findings of the report by investigating all allegations of possible crimes in a manner which satisfied international standards, transparently, and in such a way as to inspire confidence.

 

WENDY HINTON (New Zealand) said that following the hostilities in Gaza and southern Israel, New Zealand had supported the call for an impartial inquiry into the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law that were alleged to have occurred during the conflict. The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission had done its best to execute what was a biased mandate in an even-handed way, and the report held both sides responsible. While New Zealand recognized Israel's right to defend itself, it must do so in a way that avoided harm to civilians. At the same time, New Zealand condemned Hamas' indiscriminate rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, and encouraged the immediate release of soldier Gilad Shalit. The report's findings confirmed for New Zealand its commitment to a peaceful, negotiated two-State solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute. New Zealand welcomed therefore recent positive movements towards the renewal of peace negotiations and encouraged all sides to pursue a path of peace, in word and action, in order to bring an end to the conflict.

 

NAJLA RIACHI ASSAKER (Lebanon) said that the High Commissioner's report on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories met with Lebanon's agreement. When reading the report, Lebanon could only be concerned when faced with the human rights violations committed by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Lebanon agreed with the gravity of the blockade of the Gaza Strip mentioned in the report. The Palestinian conflict was at the heart of the situation in the Middle East. Lebanon believed that peace was the only strategy overall; this could only be possible if Israel retreated to its 1967 borders. There had to be a Palestine State and a solution for the Palestinian refugees had to be found.

 

VETURLIDI THOR STEFANSSON (Iceland) said the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory remained of grave concern and threatened stability beyond the region; at the same time the international community had the inescapable collective responsibility to ensure respect for human rights and humanitarian law. Iceland remained deeply concerned by the continued house demolitions, evictions and settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and demanded an immediate end to settlements and impunity. There could be no lasting peace without respect for human rights and without accountability for human rights violations, and all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights violations during the Gaza military operations must be investigated by credible, independent and transparent accountability mechanisms, taking fully into account international standards on the process of law. Iceland called for a durable solution to the Gaza crisis that addressed Israel's legitimate security concerns. It was imperative that every effort be made to bring the human tragedy in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to an end: this could be done only through negotiations and mediation; the international community must step up pressure on both sides.

 

SHAZRA ABDUL SATTAR (Maldives) said that the Maldives welcomed the report of the Fact-Finding Mission and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Maldives strongly supported the right of the people of Palestine to freely determine their own political and economic system and also supported the right of the people of Israel to live in peace and security. The Maldives agreed that the clear and manifest violations of human rights and humanitarian law that had occurred in Gaza did warrant careful and verifiable scrutiny; that accountability must be established; and that justice must be pursued. The Maldives therefore supported the recommendation, contained in the Goldstone report, that all alleged violations by both sides in the conflict be independently investigated and that those investigations, together with any subsequent prosecution, were monitored by the Security Council. The Maldives strongly believed that a negotiated outcome was the only way to ensure long-term peace, security and stability in the region and therefore called for a final, just and comprehensive settlement with the realization of two States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and within secure and recognized borders.

 

SAEED AL HABSI (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the report of the High Commissioner and expressed appreciation for the efforts made by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to monitor human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The occupying forces had violated basic principles of humanitarian law, particularly the Geneva Fourth Convention, during its military operation in Gaza. It had not differentiated between civilians and combatants. It had targeted hospitals and schools, factories, businesses and mosques according to the report of the High Commissioner. The United Arab Emirates called on Israel to abide by its international obligations according to international humanitarian law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Israel rejected all resolutions of the United Nations bodies.

 

YOUCEF TILIOUANT (League of Arab States) said the publication of the report of the High Commissioner on the situation in Palestine and the Occupied Palestinian Territories was welcomed - the report was published at the same time as the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, which looked into events in Gaza and detailed flagrant human rights violations during the war in Gaza, including violations of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention on defending civilians in times of war. Israel had used internationally banned weapons against defenceless innocents including women and children, leaving hundreds wounded and disabled. Israel encircled Gaza by sea, by air, by land, violating international human rights legislation, and despite all the resolutions and the requests to bring the perpetrators of such violations to justice, nothing had been done. The report also accused Palestinians as though the victims were also violators. All of these violations were tantamount to crimes of war. The violations of human rights in economic terms should also be considered. The Israel occupation should be ended, in the Syrian Golan and Palestine, and this was a pre-requirement to ensure that legitimacy triumphed and the Palestinians were able to enjoy their rights.

 

GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said that the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict was valuable because it presented the violations of fundamental liberties committed by all parties to the conflict. Mouvement contre le Racisme et pour l'Amitié entre les Peuples also thanked the High Commissioner for the analysis contained in her report, which was all the more important as it reminded that the obligations in the area of human rights were permanent and bound Israel as much as the Palestinian Authority. The lack of cooperation of the Israeli Government was also deplored and the blockades against the Gaza Strip as well as the wall of shame, a racist political instrument, condemned. Further, the last Gaza conflict should not make the international community forget the other arms of Israeli politics; the colonization of the occupied territories.

 

DAGMAR HOLSCHER, of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, said that women were and still are particularly affected by the Gaza crisis as they were facing poverty, psychological distress and unemployment. Women's International League for Peace and Freedom therefore welcomed the recommendations of the Mission urging to give special attention to the situation of women when addressing the consequences of Operation Cast Lead. It further called on the Council to endorse all recommendations made in the report and to make arrangements for their successful implementation. The League urged the Security Council to require Israel and Palestinian authorities to undertake independent examinations of the violations of human rights and humanitarian law which had been mentioned in the report. It urged the Council to promote the respect for the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian State.

 

SAMUEL DANSETTE, of International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, reiterated their support to the recommendations of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. It had to be acknowledged that the Mission had been conducted with professionalism and impartiality. Israel should have fully cooperated with the Mission. The legal obligation to investigate human rights and international humanitarian law violations lay primarily with the domestic authority, but if they failed to do so, international instruments had to step in. The Council should endorse the recommendations of the report and the Secretary-General should bring the report to the attention of the Security Council.

 

HANNAH SHABATHAI, of Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America, said that the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem was a testimony to Israel's commitment to standards of compassion, respect for human rights and dignity of all human beings, irrespective of race of religion. Within a remarkable oasis of peace, this sophisticated medical and humanitarian institution was unique in the entire Middle East. There, medicine acted as a bridge to peace. Palestinian and Israeli doctors worked closely as friends and patients were treated regardless of who they were. The organization had been nominated in 2005 for the Nobel Peace Prize. Sadly, after the Gaza war, the Palestinian Authority had decided to cease payment for treatment of its citizens in any Israeli hospital. But Hadassah continued to extend services to Palestinians.

 

SAMIR ABDALLA, of Islamic Human Rights Commission, said the establishment of the Fact-Finding Mission was commendable, and many of the recommendations therein reflected the concerns of the Commission, as the sufferings of the Palestinian people continued to increase daily. The rights of the Palestinian people were not recognised by Israel. Israeli soldiers failed to distinguish between civilians and combatants, and were thus responsible for war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The situation in Palestine remained the longest unresolved issue on the United Nations agenda. Israel should be held accountable for the violation of the laws of war, and failure to do so would raise questions on the integrity of international justice and of the Council itself.

 

LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict and the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were objective and impartial, assessing the violations of international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. The time for accountability had come. It was the duty of every State and the international community to stop condoning impunity, and prepare the ground for prosecution of military leaders and others responsible for crimes of war. A collective Expert Mechanism should be established to consider the implementation of the recommendations and report back to the Council in six months.

 

DAVID LITTMAN, of World Union for Progressive Judaism, said that it was remarkable that in the over 400 pages of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, and that of the High Commissioner, there was not a single mention of the root cause of the Gaza tragedy – namely, the 1988 Hamas Charter, which was a Charter that called for Jews to be killed and Israel to be eliminated. Iran further provided military and economic support for Hamas, in line with its Charter's aims, and with President Ahmadinejad's repeated calls for Israel to be wiped off the map. The World Union for Progressive Judaism solemnly called on the High Commissioner, the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission, and this Human Rights Council, to act now by unequivocally condemning the Genocidal Hamas Charter which was a defamation of religion as well as a blueprint for murder. It also called on the newly elected Director-General of the United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization to insist on the replacement of this well-documented culture of hate and death in schools and television by United Nations human rights education in reality – not simply as "relayed to the Mission".

 

MALIK OZDEN, of Europe-Third World Centre, in a joint statement with World Federation of Trade Unions, said that the Human Rights Council had yesterday heard the presentation of two major reports on the Gaza conflict. These two reports had established the primary responsibility of the authorities of Israel for violations. Israel did not keep its agreement with Hamas and its army had committed war crimes, for which Centre Europe Tier Monde demanded a judicial persecution of those responsible. Israel also continued its policy of seizure and destruction of the property of Palestinian people. As had been rightly stressed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights, there could be no lasting peace without respect for human rights.

 

ROBERT HARVEN, of North-South XXI, said that North-South XXI appreciated the quality of the Fact-Finding Mission's report. They had however some doubts over the international organizations' capacity to take binding decisions. As Mandela had put it, it was the oppressor who decided the form of the fight. International law and the United Nations resolutions were the guiding principles to solve the issue. The adoption of the report by the Council would prove to be a tool to raise international awareness and lead those organizations that had binding power to lift the blockade of Gaza.

 

Ms. L. VAN HAREN, of Defence for Children International, welcomed the references in the report of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for children and armed conflict to some of the child rights violations that were perpetrated during the recent Israeli military offensive in Gaza. At least 352 of the confirmed fatalities had been children, 101 of whom had been less than eight years of age. Educational facilities appeared to have been directly targeted. Eighteen schools had been completely destroyed. Between January and March 2009, arbitrary detention of children had increased.

 

MICHAEL HASSEL, of Hudson Institute, said as the Council returned time and time again to the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Members preferred to take a backward look to the hostilities - the positive efforts currently deployed by the United States to bring the two sides together to negotiate an agreement on the fundamental issues were hardly ever discussed in the Council. Similarly unnoticed in this Council was the improvement of the security situation on the West Bank, which in turn had visibly improved the economic performance of that area to the point that the International Monetary Fund predicted a rate of growth of seven per cent this year. The tone of the report of the High Commissioner appeared to reflect the bias prevalent in the Council, rather than maintaining a position of even-handedness, as behoved the United Nations Secretariat.

 

The Representative of International Educational Development, said the Council should concern itself with allegations against States that did not have independent judiciaries, internal control mechanisms, and were undemocratic. Israel was a democracy that applied the rule of law. The mandate and scope of the investigation was flawed from the outset, and the resolution mandating the Mission was not neutral. At least one member of the Mission was openly biased and the report contained inappropriate language. With this background, it was hardly surprising that the Mission contained many serious errors, both in fact and in law, and endorsed rumours without independent investigation, even rumours which eyewitness accounts had established to be false. The Mission had judged Israel to violate a standard that simply did not exist in international law, that of disproportionate response. The Council should respect the autonomy and independence of Israel's judiciary. This investigation should be closed, and the Council should focus on upholding established principles of international law and human rights, rather than fomenting such a purely political debate.

 

ELIAS KHOURI, of Union of Arab Jurists, said that yesterday the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict had submitted its report which dealt with the crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces in Gaza in a professional and objective manner. The report also found that the Israeli military operation targeted Palestinians without distinguishing between civilian and armed people. Such a violation of international humanitarian law constituted war crimes and crimes against humanity, which put the international community before a test. These crimes were a continuation of other crimes Israel had committed, and the international community remained silent on this issue. The Union of Arab Jurists asserted that it was necessary to bring the authors of such crimes to the International Criminal Court.

 

ESMAEIL BASSIR ZADEH, of Maryam Ghasemi Educational Charity Institute, said that what was happening in Gaza was a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It was well known that children were the real, innocent victims of conflicts such as that in Gaza. The Maryam Ghasemi Educational Institute for the Support of Children called on all proponents of peace to condemn all violations that had been committed against children, and also called on all Nations and everybody to compel Israel to respect the rights of children. In these times of modernity, how the international community could remain indifferent before the crimes in Gaza, the Maryam Ghasemi Educational Institute for the Support of Children asked, also wondering why it was women and children that suffered most from this conflict.

 

FARZANE MOSTOFIFAR, of Institute for Women's Studies and Research, said that the thing that set the Gaza conflict apart from other conflicts was the failure to adhere to international human rights and humanitarian law principles. Unconventional weapons had been used openly and public buildings had been destroyed indiscriminately. The laws on armed conflict were another instance that had not been observed. Israel did not observe the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols. The follow-up of the recommendations by the Fact-Finding Mission and any efforts to raise these issues and concerns at the United Nations General Assembly was not an unreasonable expectation they had from the Council.

 

MAHMOUDREZA GOLSHANPAZHOOH, of the Organization for Defending Victims of Violence, commended the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, possible war crimes against humanity, and numerous evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law by Israeli army were some of the subjects which had been repeatedly mentioned in the report. What could be logically deducted from the destruction of food supplies installations, water sanitation systems and residential houses? Alongside these unjustifiable acts, there were also different violations arising from Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank.

 

GENEVIEVE JOURDAN, of Association of World Citizens, said in the West Bank, the density of the population was very high, with 3,800 people per square kilometre, with concomitant density of suffering. The Palestinian people continued to face a general denial of human rights and food rights, with no resources and a heightened dependency on humanitarian aid, as well as facing drought and armed conflict. Three quarters of agricultural land had not been irrigated for over a year. There was minimal access to drinking water, the quality of which was below World Health Organization standards and even considered dangerous. People were deprived of movement. There was pressure on essential services. How could the international community promote the respect that it ought to bring to the Palestinian people and bring about the establishment of an independent State, the speaker asked - peace should be peaceful and look to the future, and that was a task all should strive for together.

 

BETHANY SINGER-BAEFSKY, of United Nations Watch, said during the debates on the Goldstone report, much was heard on the need for justice, accountability and transparency - and yet, this item, the human rights situation in Palestine and other Occupied Arab Territories, was the only country-specific item on the Council's agenda. Under the Council's related permanent investigation, Israel's actions were presumed to be violations. This was not justice. The chief premise of reform of the Commission was to remove the bias, namely this agenda item, however, the Council had turned a blind eye to recent massacres in Iran and China, focusing only on this agenda item, singling out one specific human rights item, ignoring the range of human rights violations throughout the world.

 

JEREMIE SMITH, of Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, said that the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict had been characterized by a balanced approach. The impunity that Israel and some Palestinian armed groups had enjoyed must be addressed and groups that had been holding their own populations hostage to brutal actions needed to be held to accountability. Further, the acceptance or rejection of the report of the Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict had become a factor on which the future credibility of this Council would largely depend. The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies called on each delegate to communicate the real dangers of impunity to their capitals to ensure that their Governments did not stand on the sides of those that tolerated impunity.

 

General Debate on Human Rights Bodies and Mechanisms

CLAUDIA NEURY, of International Organization for the Right to Education and Freedom of Education (OIDEL), said that the International Organization for the Rights of Education and the Freedom of Education appreciated the work that had been carried out so far by this Council. It had become clear that the draft Declaration on Human Rights Training and Education should adopt a rights-based approach to education and training, and that the aspect of gender equality and participation of women should also be included in the drafting process. The International Organization for the Rights of Education and the Freedom of Education also found it necessary that all stakeholders should be invited for further comments on the first draft.

 

RONALD BARNES, of Indian Council of South America, said that it was their position that all mechanisms addressing the rights of indigenous people should address indigenous people as peoples and not as civil society. He did not agree with what was stated in the Rapporteur's report on the fact that indigenous people had a veto right on decisions affecting them according to the provisions of international law and that thus they had had this right prior to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

MOHAMED KABBAJ, of North South XXI, said that there was a necessity to look at the question of indigenous people in a structural approach. Any acts undermining these people affected the socio-cultural environment. With each language that died out, a whole culture died out with it. It was important for the international community to provide comprehensive and sustainable development for indigenous people. Anthropologists warned of considering indigenous people as primitive people. It was the right of all indigenous people to call for the protection of their identity.

 

DIPMONI GAYAN, of Liberation, said the situation of the indigenous people of north-eastern India was grave, as they were threatened and would soon be reduced to a minority. Constant pressure on economic resources coupled with illegal migration had seriously disrupted the socio-economic equilibrium, and the number of desperately poor had increased. The Government should immediately dialogue with the people of north-eastern India. The rights of indigenous peoples should be protected, including their collective rights.

 

ADELFO REGINO MONTES, of International Working Group for Indigenous Rights, said it had been proven that it was important to have such an important mechanism as the Special Rapporteur on indigenous rights in the Council. The study of the Expert Mechanism on Indigenous Peoples on the lessons learned and challenges remaining on indigenous peoples' rights to education was very important and useful, and would help States to implement this right fully, which was a cornerstone for development in all societies. It would help with the drafting of policies, plans and programmes for indigenous education. The Council should comply with the request of the Expert Mechanism, namely to authorise the study on the rights of indigenous peoples to be part of the decision-making process, as this would herald a new step in the relationship between States and indigenous peoples.

 

MEHRAN BALUCH, of International Club for Peace and Research, said that the Baluch were forced to learn about Pakistan's history, heritage and culture in the Pakistani language, and were taught how to be good Pakistanis, which was a clear example of cultural, social and linguistic genocide of the Baluch Nation. Human rights violations on part of the Pakistani establishment had continued unabated in the regions inhabited by the indigenous people, namely Balochistan. Despite the efforts of the international community, the Pakistani authorities continued to ruthlessly violate the human rights of the Baluch.

 

STEPHAN CICCOLI, of World Peace Council, said that Governments spoke of poverty while indigenous peoples spoke of rights. To underline the barriers to the achievements that had been made, the speaker drew on a United Nations document on poverty and indigenous peoples: the right of indigenous peoples to land and other rights were recognized by international law, but research on the poverty situation on indigenous peoples had shown that they were disproportionately represented among those suffering from poverty. Poverty alleviation must address the exclusion of indigenous peoples to decision-making at all levels, and social injustice bred the poverty of indigenous peoples.

 

HALEEM BHATTI, of Interfaith International, welcomed the recommendations calling on the Human Rights Council to take measures to promote the participation of indigenous people in decision making processes. They were gravely concerned over the denial of basic human rights of indigenous people, including their right to education. More than 5,000 primary schools had been closed down in Pakistan. The international community should press on the Government of Pakistan to stop all discrimination against the people of Sindh.

 

TOMAS ALARCON, of Juridical Commission for Auto-Development of First Andean Peoples (CAPAJ), supported the recommendation stating that States had to take concrete steps to promote the languages of indigenous peoples. What was important was the will of States to take measures to protect these languages. Having a bilingual educational system did not necessarily mean that education had improved. The Human Rights Council had to urge States to provide a real space for indigenous people.

 

LES MALEZER, of Foundation for Aboriginal and Islander Research Action, said the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was in need of additional resources to ensure that priority concerns regarding the elimination of racism against indigenous peoples and recognition and exercise of the rights of indigenous Peoples, along with sound advice on the ways to address these matters, were brought to the attention of the Human Rights Council. Tragically, in 2009 there had been an escalation of killings and extreme physical violence against indigenous peoples. The exceptionally high rate of imprisonment of indigenous peoples and the resultant high rate of deaths in custody was a form of manifest, institutionalised violence against indigenous peoples.

 

Mr. V.K. GUPTA, of Commission to Study the Organisation of Peace, said in the cities, indigenous peoples suffered disparities in many areas, including lack of employment, poor housing and criminal convictions, living in groups outside their traditional communities and culture. The needs of indigenous urban poor were seldom recognised. Indigenous people's traditional resource management practices should be strengthened and integrated into national resource management policies and programmes. Redress and justice for indigenous peoples who were victims of displacement should be provided by the States and entities involved in committing this injustice. There was a need to conduct research on this issue, and the Expert Mechanism should look into it.

 

ORLAITH MINOGUE, of Amnesty International, said that Amnesty International commended the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples for its report. This study provided much-needed insights into measures States must take to ensure that indigenous peoples enjoyed their right to education in a manner that respected their cultures. Amnesty International also welcomed the clarifications provided by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous people concerning cooperation between the respective mandates of the Expert Mechanism, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the Special Rapporteur. Regarding the report of the Special Rapporteur, Amnesty International agreed that the process of getting consent was critical, and to that end reiterated the need for robust mechanisms of dialogue to facilitate mutually acceptable agreements. It was further critical that free, prior and informed consent processes be established by States, with the full participation and consent of indigenous peoples. Finally, as for the return of indigenous lands, Amnesty International was concerned about the continued failure of the Government of Paraguay to comply with two decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordering the return of traditional lands to the Sawhoyamaxa and the Yakye Axa indigenous communities.

 

GENEVIEVE JOURDAN, of Association of World Citizens, said that the Expert Mechanism's report and proposals for indigenous peoples had been received with great interest by all indigenous peoples. These were proposals that fitted well with the rights to participation, decision-making, self-determination and the close links with human rights organizations at the national level. The Association of World Citizens also wondered whether the security protection for indigenous people might also entail the medical and health plan that it had wished for. Further, could the mechanisms play a more pro-active role, the Association of World Citizens asked. Finally, the Association of World Citizens hoped that, through appropriate mechanisms, the guaranteed respect of fundamental rights of indigenous peoples could be provided.

 

General Debate on Follow-up and Implementation of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action

OSITADINMA ANAEDU (Nigeria), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action had marked a significant milestone in forging a new consensus on human rights. As they marked the sixteenth anniversary of its adoption, it became incumbent on the Council, and the international community to seize the opportunity offered by this to earnestly assess the progress achieved as well as the short-comings that remained to be addressed in their efforts at enhancing cooperation for the promotion and protection of human rights. It was their conviction that humanity at large should actively participate in the realization of these rights and freedoms. It was essential for the Human Rights Council to remain permanently cognizant of the ever resonant provision of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action which stated that all human rights were universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated. Drawing lessons from history, one could claim that the strength of the internal dynamics of today's globalising world lay to a large extent on its cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity. Beyond the moral argument, there was also a political imperative to the issue, for without sufficient respect and understanding for human rights and cultural diversities of all, the prospects for building sustainable development and establishing a peaceful and prosperous world, would be severely undermined. As they debated in the Council's room, millions of people continued to wallow in poverty. Poverty alleviation should become the fundamental theme of the council.

 

HANS DAHLGREN (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action confirmed the universality and indivisibility of human rights, and the European Union supported the continuing efforts of the Human Rights Council and its mechanisms to implement them. The Declaration highlighted the fundamental role played by civil society in ensuring the respect and promotion of human rights. Past years had seen the worldwide emergence of non-governmental organizations working on the implementation of international human rights treaties. The Declaration also reaffirmed the obligation of States to create favourable conditions to ensure the full enjoyment of human rights. In practice, many people continued to be denied enjoyment of their rights and fundamental freedoms. Human rights defenders frequently pursued their struggle while risking their own lives and the lives and well-being of their families. The international community was facing a severe challenge in handling the climate crisis, while at the same time coping with one of the most serious economic crises in decades. It was crucial that the difficulties these challenges presented were not used as a pretext to lessen commitment to fulfilling human rights obligations. Persistent discrimination and other large-scale human rights violations facing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were a source of strong concerns. The international community should further strengthen its commitment to effectively protect and promote human rights and their implementation in all countries.

 

SIHASAK PHUANGKETKEOW (Thailand), speaking on behalf of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said that over the years, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had made great strides towards the aspirations contained in the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The Charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which had entered into force last year, clearly stated that one of the principles and purposes of the organization was to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and during the past year, the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had been exerting all efforts to translate the principles of this charter into concrete action. Further, in July this year, Foreign Ministers from all countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations had endorsed the Terms of Reference of an ASEAN Human Rights Body, which was now called the "Association of Southeast Asian Nations Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights". This Commission would formally be launched during the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations next month. The establishment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights could be considered a major achievement in providing the region with a forum for the promotion and protection of human rights.

 

PABLO A. TAPIE (Uruguay), speaking on behalf of Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), reiterated their firm undertaking to protect and promote human rights. In MERCOSUR the issue of human rights was regularly discussed in an institutional space with the participation of governments, national institutions and civil society representatives. MERCOSUR had a significant human rights agenda. The latest meeting on human rights had taken place on 17 and 18 September. Several lines of action had been agreed upon. As regards to the promotion and protection of persons with disabilities, it was decided to start working on the establishment of a compendium of good practices. Relating to the fight against racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia, their countries were committed to this issue and had effectively participated in the Durban Review Process Conference. They had also included in their national census systems allowing for data to be collected on races and ethnicities. As part of their working group on sexual identity and sexual diversity, surveys would be carried out in each of their countries with the help of UNAIDS. A seminar on child labour had also been carried out. Within the framework of the current concerns in the region linked to human rights, they had also set up an Institute for Human Rights Public Polices.

 

ANDREJ LOGAR (Slovenia) said all States had the obligation to protect and promote all human rights and fundamental freedoms, regardless of their political or economic systems and regardless of their diverse historical, cultural and religious experiences. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner. Slovenia strongly supported global efforts to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and encouraged all countries that still had it on their statute books to undertake appropriate measures to establish the moratorium. Protection of human rights was a legitimate concern of the international community, and this was of even greater importance in times of armed conflict. The Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action called on States and all parties to armed conflicts to strictly observe international humanitarian law and minimum standards for the protection of human rights, as laid down in international conventions. Slovenia urged the Government of Sri Lanka to work towards a complete and unconditional release of all civilians still associated with armed forces and groups. All parties involved in conflicts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo should stop recruiting children and release all underage soldiers and return them to their families. The human rights situation in Sudan was marked by grave violations of human rights, and gross and systematic violations of human rights continued to occur in Somalia. Slovenia deplored the fact that the situation of prisoners of conscience in Myanmar was not improving and that political freedoms continued to be denied to the people of Myanmar.

 

BENTE ANGELL-HANSEN (Norway) said that human rights defenders across the globe courageously and tirelessly worked to promote democracy, development and human rights. They fought against racism, torture, arbitrary detentions, hunger, enforced disappearances and all other forms of human rights violations. The idealism and persistence of such individuals and groups had many times changed the course of history, and Governments all over the world needed to do more to improve the situation of human rights defenders. There was a need to develop and act on policies to enhance the support to and protection of human rights defenders, which was essential to realize the vision of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. Regarding the situation of human rights defenders, Norway was particularly concerned about recent developments in Guinea, and urged the Government to respect human rights and restore democracy. Norway was further concerned about recently repeated statements by the President of the Gambia concerning human rights defenders, and called on the Government to protect human rights defenders from all forms of violence, intimidation or discrimination, and to hold accountable those who were responsible for any such acts.

 

ALEXEY GOLTYAEV (Russian Federation) said that the Russian Federation continued to consider the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action as an important platform to promote and protect human rights. However, the world community still had much to do in order to ensure that the reality contained in the document became a reality in everyone's lives. Recently they had heard a lot of talk on cultural diversity being an obstacle to the enjoyment of human rights. The process of implementation of human rights standards should take into account regional specificities. The time had come where existing values could and should be a prime mover. Norms regulating human rights should be based on value, traditions and customs which were in harmony with them. Categories that were important such as the right to life, mercy and compassion were the basis of everyday life and of relations between States.

 

MICHAEL POSNER (United States) said as a new member, the United States' approach to the Council was guided by three tenets: a commitment to principled engagement; consistent application of international human rights and humanitarian law; and a fidelity to the truth. The United States would look for common ground as it sought to build partnerships that transcended traditional geographic groupings to be based on shared responsibilities to the world community. The United States would work for consensus results that protected and promoted human rights, whilst continuing to stand up for its principles, seeking to lead by example by meeting obligations under both domestic and international law. Next year, the United States would report to the Council through its Universal Periodic Review procedure and to the Human Rights Committee. The United States took these reporting processes seriously, and urged all to maintain high standards for the Universal Periodic Review; Governments should not disable the United Nations human rights machinery to shield their own practices from criticism. The Council should approach country-specific mandates objectively and apply more consistency, devoting its greatest attention to countries with consistent patterns of gross human rights violations. If there was success in strengthening the United Nations system and the Council, this would empower women, ensure that the disabled reached their full potential, oppose hatred and discrimination, including against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and the transgendered, and protect ethnic and religious minorities across the globe.

 

FATIH ULUSOY (Turkey) said that he had the pleasure to announce that the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs had deposited, on Monday in New York, the instrument of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Convention would enter into force for Turkey on 28 October 2009. On the same day, the Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs had also signed the Optional Protocol to this Convention, and Turkey was hoping to ratify the Optional Protocol in the earliest future as well. Further, the Turkish Prime Ministry Administration for Disabled People was already established in 1997. Turkey had also adopted the Law on Persons with Disabilities in 2005, which had enabled it to deal with various issues concerning persons with disabilities in a more comprehensive and coordinated manner. Turkey also signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture in 2005 and the domestic ratification procedure was underway and it would be ratified upon the completion of the bureaucratic procedures. Turkey believed that this ratification would constitute a clear display of its openness and commitment to its fight against torture, and was looking forward to becoming one of the 49 States that had ratified the Optional Protocol in a very near future.

 

NATALIA ZHYLEVICH (Belarus) drew the attention of the Council to the issue of women's empowerment. Belarus welcomed the report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights concerning the integration of women and commended this in-depth study. The attention of the Human Rights Council should be focused on the implementation of well-developed mechanisms for the development of women. The Universal Periodic Reviews that were held so far had demonstrated responsible attitudes by States geared at gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Council should give more emphasis on the efforts of States on this issue. Turning to the efforts to combat trafficking in women and children, Belarus believed that this was a challenge requiring an adequate response from the entire United Nations System.

 

KATHARINA ROSE, of International Coordinating Committee of National Human Rights Institutions, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reaffirmed that regional arrangements played a fundamental role in protecting and promoting human rights. The Committee expressed its hope that the ASEAN Inter-Governmental Commission on Human Rights would be established as a truly independent, impartial, expert-driven and well-resourced human rights mechanisms, empowered to promote, protect and monitor human rights in the regional context. It should work in cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. The appointment process of Commission experts should be guided by binding requirements of independence and expertise. The establishment and development of the Commission should be conducted in a spirit of transparency, with the full participation of national human rights institutions from the region and civil society groups.

 

GIYOUN KIM, of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), in a joint statement with International Women's Rights Action Watch; and International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development, said the Council should not be seen as promoting harmful practices by endorsing an ill-defined notion of traditional values. In Asia there were many examples of human rights violations that had been condoned as traditional or cultural practices legitimised by the values of a group or society. The draft resolution on promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through a better understanding of traditional values of humankind in conformity with international human rights law should be viewed with great scepticism and rejected, since the long-term consequence could be an enormous setback in the realisation of human rights and for those who had fought and struggled against this values doctrine. The Council should exclusively focus on universal human rights values, without providing space to any loose interpretation of traditional values in conformity with international human rights law. The universality of human rights did not undermine or limit cultural and religious beliefs or values, but simply enhanced them.

 

CYNTHIA ROTHSCHILD, of Centre for Women's Global Leadership, in a joint statement with International Women's Rights Action Watch; and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, said two weeks ago Governments agreed to support the process of creating a stronger and better-resourced United Nations gender equality entity, and on the eve of the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women, this was a milestone in United Nations reform that came through meaningful collaboration between Governments, United Nations staff and a vibrant civil society campaign. As for Monday's panel, the Centre for Women's Global Leadership would like to state that the Council and Universal Periodic Review process must continue to deepen work on gender; States and the Council must look not only at violence against women, but at other rights issues as they pertained to gender; programming and reporting must not shy away from addressing the needs of people in marginalized groups; and reporting should emphasize that women human rights defenders and defenders of rights connected to sexual and reproductive health were among those who faced specific challenges.

 

DAVID LITTMAN, of Association for World Education, said that since the early 1990s the Association for World Education had been addressing the issue of widespread violence against women daily and it required firm action by this Council. Such violence included female genital mutilation, so-called "honour killings" and disfiguration of women by acid. As the Association had also insisted over the years, the traditional practice of female genital mutilation was slowly creeping into Europe despite State laws condemning this barbaric mutilation of young girls and women. Integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system in every respect required this Council to face these realities and act firmly on all such traditional, social and religious customs.

 

GIANFRANCO FATTORINI, of Movement against Racism and for Friendship among Peoples, said that the sixtieth anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Conventions was a good time to look at the measures that had been taken in 1993 in Vienna with regard to the respect of the promotion of humanitarian law. He said that one could legitimately ask why 3,400 unarmed persons living in a camp had been brutally attacked by diverse Iraqi security forces and why the United States continued not to assume its responsibilities with regard to this event.

 

JULIE DE RIVERO, of Human Rights Watch, said that they were deeply concerned by the draft resolution on promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms through better understanding of the traditional values of humankind in conformity with international human rights law. This resolution did not acknowledge that many harmful practices, which constituted human rights violations, were justified by invoking traditional values. Human Rights Watch feared that this resolution would be the start of an initiative that would undermine international human rights standards. The resolution offered no hint of what the "traditional values of humankind" might be, nor did it explain what made a value "traditional". The Vienna Declaration actually called upon States to achieve the elimination of harmful effects of certain traditional customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism.

 

HILLEL NEUER, of United Nations Watch, said the Vienna Declaration was like a picture of silver, whose purpose was to adorn the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which assured the enjoyment by all of their universal human rights. Minutes ago, the United States had reminded the Council that its priority should be to protect victims from the worst human rights abusers. Given the recent brutal arrest of peaceful demonstrators and other events in Iran and the situation in other countries, the question of whether the Council had discussed these issues was begged. The human rights abusers of the world were not being addressed. Millions of desperate victims around the world were looking to the Council to preserve and adorn the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

 

PATRIZIA SCANELLA, of Amnesty International, said the Vienna Declaration recognised the role played by non-governmental organizations in the protection and promotion of human rights, and that they should be allowed to do so without fear of reprisals. Human rights defenders had been threatened in Gambia, where they were subject to a range of human rights violations. The Council should take measures to protect members of Gambian civil society who came to engage with the Universal Periodic Review process. The Council should pay sustained attention to the serious human rights situation in Gambia. The Council should act on this promptly, and in the strongest possible terms, and observers and other independent bodies should observe the situation.

 

CATHERINE BUCHS, of International Humanist and Ethical Union, said recent events had shown graphically how much remained to be done in integrating the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system in line with the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. They had heard, for example, of the recent lashing of 10 women in Sudan for wearing trousers, their crime apparently having been "dressing indecently". Lashing women was a cruel and degrading punishment and in contravention of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Worldwide, rape was being increasingly used as a political weapon. They had heard of the systemic rape of women and children in Darfur, which United Nations peacekeepers said was now the biggest issue affecting the region. Another example, as they had heard at this session, was the systematic rape of women in prisons in Iran since the June election. The Council had to condemn without equivocation rape, impunity and the barbaric punishments imposed for breaching the perverted view of morality that existed in certain States. What hope was there of "integrating the rights of women throughout the United Nations system" if their most basic rights were ignored by the Council?

 

JOHN FISHER, of European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, in a joint statement with Federatie Van Netherlandse Verenigingen Tot Integratie Van Homoseksualiteit Coc Nederland, expressed concerns shared by many about the draft resolution on traditional values. It was ironic that that resolution was being presented under this agenda item, since the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action actually imposed upon States a positive obligation to work towards the elimination of the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices, cultural prejudices and religious extremism? As every member of a marginalized group knew, "traditional values" was frequently a code phrase, used to restrict access to human rights for those segments of society who, from the conservative viewpoint, fell outside the norm. None of the reasons advanced by Russia for presenting this resolution withstood scrutiny. The resolution did nothing to enhance respect for human rights, but achieved quite the opposite. It was divisive; it was polarising; and it sought to affirm a concept often used to justify human rights violations.

 

PAWAN KUMAR, of Indian Council of Education, said that a concerted efforts had been made in 1993 in Vienna by non-governmental organizations and women organizations to change the existing terminology on human rights that had been defined mainly as rights of men. Equality for women was linked to financial independence, which in turn was a function of women's access to and control of basic economic and human resources. Dialogue on human rights had to include the economic right of women. Many factors led to women's inferior status in the economic sphere, including culturally ascribed rules about access to resources. Many States had not been able to fight patriarchy and could not enforce legislation and rules meant to preserve the rights of women.

 

AMELIE MARCHAL, of European Union for Public Relations, said that human progress could only take place when all members of society were accorded respect, dignity and an equal opportunity to participate in the developmental process. Despite the successes achieved by women in the political, professional, scientific and other fields around the world, there continued to be a certain attitudinal and societal biases that prevented women from fully realizing their potential. Even though women had proved themselves to be capable of taking on many of the highly sophisticated tasks that men normally considered their preserve, there continued to be societies that had enacted legal systems that denied women equality with men.

 

MARLEN LISET PALACIO MONTOYA, of International Club for Peace Research, said one consequence of the attitude that tended to treat women as secondary to men was the climate that they created in the home. The change in social attitudes would take a long time, but one in which both education and, more importantly, religion could play a very important role. Despite the progress that women had made in terms of education and enlightenment, the workplace still continued to discriminate against women. In the realm of politics, some of the most effective and respected rulers had been women. Discussions on gender issues needed to identify specific attitudinal and societal barriers that stood in the way of women progressing and achieving their potential. The Human Rights Council should make specific recommendations after studying the condition of women in different countries, about the measures and initiatives that were needed to be taken by concerned Governments and societies.

 

PRAMILA SRAVISTAVA, of International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, said women's advocates were targeting new international mechanisms in their bid to erase inequalities between men and women and promote the advancement of women and girls. As a strategy for women's empowerment, the agenda adopted in Beijing spelt out critical areas for action to remove obstacles to women's active participation in all spheres of public and private life. Gender equality and women's empowerment were critical to all areas of development, and gender experts were urging that they be fully integrated into the implementation and monitoring of all eight Millennium Development Goals. The challenge was to bring about changes in policies, programmes and spending priorities on a scale that benefited the most disadvantaged populations. Increasing women's access to education, health services and economic and political opportunities was a good investment, and increasing women's ability to make strategic decisions about their lives was good for development.

 

LUKAS MACHON, of International Commission of Jurists, said the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action reiterated the primary responsibility of all Governments to promote and protect human rights, including through urgent measures in cases of gross and systematic as well as chronic violations of human rights. The International Commission of Jurists wished to draw the Council's attention to the serious situation of Russian human rights defenders, in particular of those investigating human rights violations in the North Caucasus. A dangerous pattern had emerged in those attacks, which had targeted some of the most articulate and effective critics of human rights violations in Chechnya, among them journalist Anna Politkovskaya, assassinated almost three years ago. The failure to bring those responsible for Ms. Politkovskaya's killing to justice had been yet another sign of a climate of impunity for attacks on human rights defenders. In 2009, the killings had escalated with the killings of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, journalist Anastasia Baburova, non-governmental organization (NGO) head Natalya Estemirova; and humanitarian NGO head Zarema Sadulayeva and her husband. Following that series of killings, urgent and concerted government action was needed to protect the right to life and physical integrity of human rights defenders and to end impunity for such crimes and restore confidence in the rule of law.

 

HOSSAM BAHGAT, of Action Canada for Population and Development, in a joint statement, wished to comment on the draft resolution on traditional values. Ninety years ago, his country, Egypt, had been deeply engulfed in a struggle for national liberation and the building of a modern, independent and truly civil State. That year also witnessed the moment still cherished to this date, when the pioneering women engaged in that national movement had decided to lift their veils and had shown their faces in public. The message they had wanted to send was clear: an independent, modern State and robust civil society were only possible through the participation of all citizens and the enjoyment of equal rights by all human beings. That move had been demonized and vilified at the time, since it had been seen by some sectors of society as an assault on so-called traditional values, which treated women as sexual commodities that had to be fully covered for their own protection. The organizations did not subscribe to the simplistic view that all tradition was negative or that societies were on a fixed linear path from the darkness and backwardness of traditional societies to one of enlightenment and modernity. But they knew from their history and their current struggles that "tradition" was a mixed set of views and practices that could often legitimise violations and block efforts to stop them. Members of the Council should oppose this draft resolution on traditional values.

 

ANDREY KUVSHINOV, of Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, said that at this Council the Russian Federation had presented a draft resolution which purported to address how a better understanding of traditional values of humankind in conformity with international human rights law could contribute to the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The publicized goal of this draft resolution was enhancing local ownership for international human rights standards, but introducing a concept of "traditional values, and linking it with international human rights law" put the Human Rights Council on a very dangerous path. There was an inevitable danger that the concept of traditional values would be used to narrow the scope of international human rights law. In recent years there was a clear trend of increasing Russian Government backing of the Russian Orthodox Church and Church influence over exclusively secular issues. There were substantial grounds to believe that the current resolution presented by the Russian Federation was designed to advance views that "it was impossible to accept a situation in which the realization of human rights overrode belief and moral tradition". The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network therefore urged the Russian Federation not to use the term "traditional values" but to reaffirm universal values and to acknowledge the positive responsibility of States to combat harmful traditional practices.

 

MIREILLE GROSSJEAN, of Universal Esperanto Association, said that Esperanto, as a neutral language that was used in more than 100 countries, allowed egalitarian contacts between cultures, and protected languages of minorities. For this reason, Universal Esperanto Association was committed to the defense of linguistic rights. It also wished to inform the Council that in India, the ethnic minority Chakma was suffering from discrimination related to their mother tongue. In Slovakia, a law had been promulgated which threatened the use of foreign languages, and the Universal Esperanto Association was of the view that legislators' intention was to protect from a overly strong intrusion of English language. By contrast, Universal Esperanto Association wished to commend Malaysia as it would re-establish the utilization of Malay instead of English in some parts of its education.

 

MICHAEL ANDERSEN, of International Service for Human Rights, said the Special Procedures had long been regarded as a cornerstone of international human rights architecture. Sixteen years ago, the Vienna World Conference on human rights recognised the need to strengthen the system to allow them to carry out their mandates in all countries of the world, with all countries committing to cooperating fully with the mechanisms. However, the world was still far from achieving this lofty goal. The Council must find ways to encourage all States, in particular Member States, to fully cooperate with the system of Special Procedures, aiming at establishing clear standards for cooperation. All States should enhance their cooperation in all aspects of their work.

 

Right of Reply

VIVEKA SIRIWARDENA DE SILVA (Sri Lanka), speaking in a right of reply, said the delegation of Slovenia had made reference to country situations that were normally taken up under item four and not item eight. Therefore, Sri Lanka respectfully urged the Slovenian delegation to make comments in conformity with the thematic focus of the item. The delegation of Slovenia made reference to so-called civilians associated with armed forces, and Sri Lanka wished to state that there were no civilians associated with armed forces or groups as mentioned in the statement. Since the defeat of the LTTE, all the children who were forcibly recruited by the LTTE were currently undergoing rehabilitation and re-integration into society, and the Government of Sri Lanka was committed to complete this process as a matter of priority. All interested parties should not abuse the agenda item for political purposes, which could have far-reaching negative implications on deliberations in the Council on all matters, including country situations.

 

RAHMA SALIH ELOBIED (Sudan), speaking in a right of reply, said that, in its statement to the Council, Slovenia had presented incorrect information. Slovenia had not followed accurately developments in the situation in Sudan. Slovenia had presented misleading information presented by certain parties with specific interests. All reports by United Nations bodies had shown that the situation was returning to normal, as had been recently reported to the Security Council. Sudan was working diligently with the African Union and the Arab League and others to improve the situation and to ensure that they could hold free and fair elections next April.

 

HAMID BAEIDI NEJAD (Iran), speaking in a right of reply, with regard to references made in Slovenia's statement, reiterated that the shopping list of the countries mentioned in that statement was incompatible with agenda item 8, as well as the Council's Rules of Procedure. With regard to references made in that statement on unsubstantiated allegations concerning minors in Iran, Iran clarified that there had been no execution of anyone under 18 years of age in recent years. Using unsubstantiated information in a statement was quite unconstructive.

For use of the information media; not an official record

Source: United Nations Human Rights Council

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