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Discusses Advisory Services and Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, Rationalization of the Work of the Commission
The Commission on Human Rights this morning heard addresses from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, the Independent Expert on human rights in Haiti, and the Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights.
Peter Leuprecht, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, said that there were four fundamental evils that plagued Cambodian society: violence, corruption, a still alarming degree of lawlessness and poverty. These fundamental evils must be addressed if the human rights situation in Cambodia was to improve.
A Representative of Cambodia with a few exceptions, violations of human rights were no longer reported in his country. Cambodia had changed and was no longer in the period of armed conflict and confrontation. It was the opinion of the Cambodian delegation that the area of democracy and human rights was growing at a rate several times greater than that of economic progress. The situation was still precarious and violations of human rights recalled at times the progress still to be made.
Leila Takla, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, said that the Board was now active in over 50 countries worldwide with more than 200 main activities. During the year 2000, programmes were implemented in some 30 countries to build national capacities, and develop strategies and structures for human rights through National Plans of Action and National Institutions in the areas of constitutional and legislative reforms, administration of justice, elections and national parliaments; human rights education; training of police, armed forces and prison personnel; the rights of indigenous people; trafficking of women and children; humanitarian law and human rights; and the empowerment of women.
El Salvador, speaking on behalf of GRULAC, encouraged the international community to continue to contribute to the funds of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights without attaching a contribution use to their donations. And India said that it would like to see more resources made available for advisory services in the field of human rights and called upon all States to make unearmarked contributions to the maximum extent possible. India also said that the Office of the High Commissioner should increase focus on national capacity building rather than on monitoring.
Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a report of the Secretary-General on the role and achievements of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights (E/CN.4/2001/102) which covers developments in the process to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes committed in Cambodia during the period of Democratic Kampuchea, recommendations of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, and the role of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in assisting the Government and people of Cambodia in the promotion and protection of human rights including sections on the memorandum of understanding between the Government of Cambodia and the Office of the High Commissioner which is extended until March 2002, implementation of the technical cooperation programme and activities of the Cambodia office of the High Commissioner, Cambodia and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework, and staff of the Cambodia office and the financial situation of the United Nations Trust Fund for a Human Rights Education Programme in Cambodia.
There is a report (E/CN.4/2001/103) on the situation of human rights in Cambodia by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Human Rights in Cambodia, Peter Leuprecht, which addresses major developments and human rights issues of concern, including the eradication of violence, the situation of women and children, and the rights of minority groups. The document makes several recommendations in the field of eradication of violence, the independence of the judiciary, conditions of detention and domestic implementation of international human rights instruments, labour rights, the situation of women and children, the rights of minorities, the rights of human rights defenders and human education rights. After years in Cambodia of division, policies of hatred and lack of a clear direction, there is a need to build consensus based on some fundamental values, such as pluralist democracy, rule of law and respect for all human rights, the report concludes.
There is a report of the Secretary-General entitled advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights (E/CN.4/2001/104). The report contains a summarized account of technical cooperation programmes and activities in 2000 as well as the balance sheet for the voluntary fund for technical cooperation.
There is a note by the Secretariat on the situation of human rights in Somalia (E/CN.4/2001/105). The report, which highlights the most significant human rights developments in the various Somali regions during the past year, states, inter alia, that the Djibouti peace initiative sparked vigorous political activism inside Somalia leading to a sharp polarization of those for it and those against it, including the de facto authorities of "Somaliland" and "Puntland". According to the report, most of the human rights violations that have occurred over the past year stem either directly or indirectly from this polarization.
There is a report before the Commission on the situation of human rights in Haiti (E/CN.4/2001/106), prepared by Adama Dieng, the Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Haiti, which covers the political context in Haiti, civil liberties at risk, prison conditions, the Haitian National Police, the judicial system, recommendations for international cooperation given the expiration of the International Civilian Support Mission in Haiti (MICAH), and recommendations to the Haitian Government concerning the National Police, the administration of justice, management of the National Prison Authority and general recommendations, to the international community, and to the United Nations. The tense situation prevailing in Haiti is related essentially to the manner in which the elections of 21 May 2000 were conducted. There has been deterioration of the system for the administration of justice, but also some progress on issues including, among others, successful measures by the police to combat crimes and the trial relating to the events of Raboteau. To achieve national reconciliation, the international community will have to show solidarity with Haiti, but the solution rests mainly in the hands of the Haitian people and their ability to draw upon their own resources. The international community needs to pursue cooperation and assistance programmes in such fields as the administration of justice, human rights and prisons.
PETER LEUPRECHT, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for human rights in Cambodia, said that the problems confronting Cambodia were enormous. There were four fundamental evils that plagued Cambodian society: violence, corruption, a still alarming degree of lawlessness and poverty. These fundamental evils must be addressed if the human rights situation in Cambodia was to improve. Violence still pervaded many facets of life. There was domestic violence, political violence and mob violence. Firm action must be taken against impunity. Corruption was generalized and systemic. The lack of independence of the judiciary was a serious obstacle to establishing the rule of law.
The Special Representative continued that conditions of detention left much to be desired. Prisons were seriously overcrowded; they lacked adequate medical facilities and nutrition and hygiene were extremely poor. Cambodia was one of the world's 20 poorest countries. The military budget should be reduced and resources presently devoted to the military should be reallocated to areas such as education, health and social services. Firm action must be taken against the exploitation of women and children in its different forms such as trafficking and prostitution.
The people of Cambodia had experienced terrible suffering in the country's turbulent recent history. What they now needed was rule of law and justice instead of arbitrariness and abuse of power; trust and confidence instead of mistrust and suspicion; seeing others as partners and not as enemies; healing, peace and harmony instead of hatred, war and conflict. These were ambitious aims, but it was to be hoped that they could be realized through the joint effort of the people of Cambodia and the international community
PRAK SOKHONN (Cambodia) noted that the report of the Special Rapporteur recognized the efforts and progress made by Cambodia on the human rights situation. With a few exceptions, violations of human rights were no longer reported. Cambodia had changed and was no longer in the period of armed conflict and confrontation. The Khmer Rouge had been dismantled and its leaders would soon be brought to justice. Cambodia had entered into a period of national reconciliation.
The Government now was able to deal with the amelioration of people's lives. The second national conference held last month saw three days devoted to a discussion of the economic and social problems of the country. However, Cambodia had suffered for three decades under the scourge of the Khmer Rouge and all the changes needed could not be accomplished overnight. Pluralism had not just emerged within the political sphere, but the entire society was opening up. Independent associations had been formed, newspapers and television channels that espoused many different opinions proliferated. It was the opinion of the Cambodian delegation that the area of democracy and human rights was growing at a rate several times greater than that of economic progress. The situation was still precarious and violations of human rights recalled at times the progress still to be made.
ADAMA DIENG, Independent Expert on the human rights situation in Haiti, said that it was urgent for the international community to pursue technical cooperation programmes in Haiti in the areas of administration of justice, human rights, prisons, police, the fight against drug trafficking and money laundering. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should undertake a vast programme of technical assistance aimed at reinforcing State institutions.
The Independent Expert expressed his concern at the deterioration of the political climate in Haiti. All parties should make concessions to enable Haiti, which was the poorest country in the Northern hemisphere, to eradicate the numerous scourges afflicting it, including social inequality, exclusion, corruption, extreme poverty, intolerance, illiteracy, lack of health care, infant mortality, AIDS etc. Political polarization constituted one of the greatest threats to strengthening democracy and the rule of law. A matter of serious concern was the shocking impunity enjoyed by criminals. Political leaders and members of the civil society should contribute to put an end to the politicization of the national police and the impunity enjoyed by policemen responsible for human rights violations.
FRITZNER GASPARD (Haiti) said he spoke to supplement the report of the Independent Expert as well as in response to it. Recently, the Haitian Government had proposed elections for 2002 for both levels of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Freedom of opinion and expression were guaranteed in the constitution of Haiti and these rights were not subject to any legal restriction. The rare incidents of violations of public liberties that took place in November 2000 and were reported by the Independent Expert were exceptions. Also, the investigation into the assassination of Jean Dominique, begun by the previous president, was continuing. A new General Inspector and Director General had been appointed to the National Police. The problems of the conditions of incarceration and detention in Haiti were of a larger nature and were not linked to a structural weakness of the State or deliberate political will.
Speaking on the problem of deportations raised by the Independent Expert, the delegate pointed out that these people were foreign-born and were not attached to Haiti. They presented a complex problem and the Haitian Government lacked structures to be able to receive them. The administration of justice needed reform; there were many problems among which were an insufficiency of judges and means. However, numerous efforts had been made to address the problem of impunity. The Raboteau and Carrefour-Feuilles processes were of especial note. Challenges to Haiti in the field of human rights were plentiful, but the international community could show solidarity with the country. Attention was drawn to the need to elaborate a programme for technical cooperation with Haiti.
LEILA TAKLA, Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation in the Field of Human Rights, said that the Board was now active in over 50 countries worldwide with more than 200 main activities. During the year 2000, programmes were implemented in some 30 countries to build national capacities, and develop strategies and structures for human rights through National Plans of Action and National Institutions in the areas of constitutional and legislative reforms, administration of justice, elections and national parliaments; human rights education; training of police, armed forces and prison personnel; the right of indigenous people; trafficking of women and children; humanitarian law and human rights; and the empowerment of women.
JOHAN MOLANDER (Sweden), speaking on behalf of the European Union, said that the United Nations and the international community had a crucial role to play in aiding the building of national structures, and in doing so, strengthening democracy. Technical assistance including the training of judges and lawyers, among others, could be given as a part of the process of reforming national legislation. The international community needed to be prepared to give qualified assistance in support of Government programmes, as the Government's willingness to support such programmes was necessary for their success. The European Union saw the programme of advisory services and technical cooperation as an important contribution to countries' own efforts to protect and promote human rights and offered its support to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the process of streamlining human rights activities in the United Nations. The European Union would welcome the provision of technical cooperation and advisory services in the ongoing investigation into human rights violations in the Togolese elections and requested as well that the Government of Cambodia agree to extend the memorandum of understanding with the Office of the High Commissioner without further delay. As a sound financial basis was necessary, and demands for technical assistance far exceeded the funds available, the European Union encouraged voluntary donations and remained committed to supporting activities aimed at protecting and promoting human rights on the ground.
CLARAH ANDRIANJAKA (Madagascar) said that his country attached great importance to the technical cooperation programme of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and had benefitted from this programme through a project entitled national capacity building in the field of human rights. Among the activities carried out in the year 2000 as part of the project were training for members of the National Commission on Human Rights; provision of documents on human rights to the Justice Ministry and the National Commission on Human Rights; granting funds to the Ministry of Justice and NGOs; recruitment of national consultants to examine relevant aspects of national legislation in relation to international human rights norms; and a training course for teachers.
MIGUEL ANGEL ALCAINE CASTRO (El Salvador), speaking of behalf of GRULAC, said that in its region, activities for technical cooperation on human rights were carried out in several States. Since they had been going on for some time, it was possible to make an assessment of them. The results were positive. Technical cooperation to improve human rights at the national level in El Salvador was effective. However, there were many sectors which had not yet been dealt with. The development of regional and subregional efforts aided national efforts and created synergy between countries experiencing similar conditions. GRULAC called upon specialized agencies of the UN to maintain and increase cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner in order to increase benefits. The Office of the High Commissioner had experience and the extension of its efforts to other regions was anticipated. GRULAC hoped that the 2001 Consolidated Appeal would be as successful, or would be more successful, than last year. The international community was encouraged to continue to contribute to its funds without attaching a contribution use to their donations.
P. R. O. OWADE (Kenya) said that in his country, like in many parts of the developing world, lack of capacity and adequate resources were the greatest obstacles to the effective promotion and protection of human rights. Kenya had undertaken programmes to ensure that human rights law permeated its parliamentary system, judiciary, the police and prison officials. Training of personnel from these key areas was of utmost importance for them to undertake the promotion and protection of human rights.
The High Commissioner's Office was urged to redouble its efforts in the provision of advisory services and technical cooperation to countries like Kenya that requested it. It was imperative to strengthen the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and increase its human and financial resources to enable it to effectively support countries like Kenya in promoting and protecting human rights.
LUIS MARIA RAMIREZ BOETTNER (Paraguay), speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR, said that the countries of MERCOSUR had given much interest in the past ten years to improving human rights. They should also continue to give attention to continuing their cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on this issue. The countries of MERCOSUR attached importance to cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner. As a bloc, the MERCOSUR countries had proposed their first technical assistance project to the Office of the High Commissioner. This was to be a high-level seminar in Uruguay later this year where delegates would be able to exchange ideas and nurture their experiences with technical assistance from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Quito Act had established a reference framework for technical assistance to countries of the Latin America and Caribbean region and the rights to development, human rights of migrants, refugees and children, among others, were to be addressed. MERCOSUR attached importance to the first technical assistance programme and the protection of human rights in the integrated zone of MERCOSUR.
SANJEEV SINGLA (India) said that in considering remedies to problems in various parts of the world, it was necessary to identify approaches best suited to each situation. Genuine and lasting change could only occur through political will at the national level and the building of national institutions and capacities to promote democracy, the rule of law and a culture of respect for human rights. India welcomed the fact that increasing number of requests for advisory services and technical cooperation in the field of human rights were being made. This was an expression of the commitment of States to promote and protect human rights.
India would like the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to assume a larger role through an enhanced programme of advisory services in the field of human rights and emphasized the importance of further strengthening the provision of advisory services and technical cooperation by the Office. India would also like to see more resources be made available for this purpose and called upon all States to make unearmarked contributions to the maximum extent possible. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights should also increase focus on national capacity building rather than on monitoring.
FERNANDO LUGRIS (Uruguay) said that his delegation would like to underscore the importance of applying for technical assistance as discussed by Paraguay which had been speaking on behalf of MERCOSUR. This was the first such request presented by the MERCOSUR bloc in its ten years of existence. Uruguay expressed satisfaction with the way in which the request was received by the Office of the High Commissioner. The seminar in Uruguay next summer would give the countries of MERCOSUR a chance to assess their accomplishments in the protection and promotion of human rights. Uruguay reaffirmed the importance of technical cooperation at the national level. Since the reintroduction of democracy in his country ten years ago, Uruguay had made efforts to ensure an ever greater protection of human rights. Despite great progress, it was recognized that the protection and promotion of human rights was a dynamic process and needed to be continued to be pursued by democratic countries. The cooperation project put forward by the Uruguayan Government strengthened civil society.
MARIE-THERESE DUTLI, of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said that the advisory services of ICRC were active in the areas of the promotion of international humanitarian law instruments and assisting States in adopting national measures to apply this law. The advisory services encouraged the ratification of international humanitarian treaties, which currently enjoyed almost universal membership. The advisory services also encouraged the establishment of national commissions charged with implementing international humanitarian law.
These interministerial commissions, which were active in some 60 States, enabled States to fulfil more effectively their obligation under international humanitarian law. Indeed, the adoption of national measures had often been possible thanks to the work of these commissions. The Red Cross was also cooperating with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in disseminating international humanitarian law. The advisory services of the Red Cross provided technical and legal assistance to national authorities, facilitated exchange of information and contributed to the creation of an environment conducive to respect of human dignity and the protection of fundamental rights and freedoms.
XAVIER MICHEL, of the International Francophone Organization, said that the organization had taken on a new political dimension with the creation of the post of Secretary-General which had been given to Boutros Boutros Ghali. The new step toward international cooperation was of prime significance with the convening of the Bamako Symposium which treated issues of democracy and human rights within French-speaking countries. The Bamako Symposium was a great moment for Francophone cooperation. The States and Governments adopted a normative text which commits them to greater consolidation of the rule of law, free and transparent elections and a national democratic culture based on human rights and the culture of peace, among other things. The International Francophone Organization had also agreed on the creation of a standard monitoring and early warning system in order to react quickly to threats to democracy including mass violations of human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner and the Commission could count of the support of the organization. For French-speaking countries human rights and development were inseparable.
BRANKO SOCANAC (Croatia) said that the technical cooperation programme between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government of Croatia had started in July 1999 and had developed successfully ever since. The human rights field operation in Croatia provided considerable assistance to the Government in its efforts to ensure stronger protection and promotion of human rights in the country. Numerous round tables and seminars on human rights were organized in Zagreb. As a result of the successful cooperation between the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Government, a Human Rights Documentation and Training Centre was opened in 2000, with a view to providing training and possibilities of research on human rights issues.
DEBORAH CHRISTINE STOTHARD, of Aliran, said that last year she had called for refresher courses on human rights for delegates to address the yawning gap between human rights as they were spoken of and practised by delegates and as they were implemented by their Governments and that technical and advisory services be offered to Governments to deal with their "Jekyll and Hyde" syndrome which induced them to espouse human rights achievements while perpetrating yet more violations at home. Many Governments suffered from the impression that depriving their people of human rights was the best way to increase their appreciation of those rights. The Representative offered the example of Myanmar as an example of the problem. Government spending on education in real terms has fallen to less than one tenth of what it was ten years ago. Within Burma, drug use statistics and HIV-AIDS infection rates were of concern, as were military activities and the massacres and extra-judicial killings of hundreds of people.
MARIELLE PELTIER, of the International Movement for Fraternal Union Among Races and Peoples, said that it attached great importance to the advisory services and technical cooperation programmes of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Human rights principles were universal and indivisible and as such their application required careful monitoring, training, pressuring and vigilance on the part of the international community. Sadly, despite conventions and declarations, violations of human rights persisted, tarnishing human history with marked destruction and loss of lives. In this connection, the attention of the Commission was drawn to the alarming situation in Ethiopia, where over 40 students were reported killed and 250 wounded for demanding freedom of expression. Students who sought refuge in the holy places of churches and mosques were dragged out and forcefully amassed to be driven to unknown destinations.
Under this agenda item, the Commission has before it a letter dated 10 July 2000 from the Permanent Representative of the Netherlands (E/CN.4/2001/115) on the rationalization of the work of the Commission. The letter addresses, among other issues, country and thematic resolutions, economic, social and cultural rights, the role of NGOs and relations between the Commission and Subcommission.
There is also a report (E/CN.4/2001/143) by the Chairperson of the seventh annual meeting of Special Rapporteurs/Representatives/Experts and Chairpersons of Working Groups of the Commission on Human Rights, Katarina Tomasevski. The report notes that the seventh annual meeting of Special Rapporteurs/Representatives, Experts and Chairpersons of Working Groups of special procedures of the Commission and of the advisory services programmes decided that the Chairperson should continue monitoring developments in respect of the draft code of conduct and should report her activities to the eight annual meeting and that the eighth annual meeting should also consider the question of reviewing the draft guiding principles of Special Rapporteurs and merging it with the Manual for Special Rapporteurs.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan) said that despite concrete recommendations made in last year's report on the Commission on Human Rights, problems still plagued the Commission. The Like-Minded Group of Countries continued to be concerned by the manner in which some resolutions were presented to the Commission. They reflected certain countries' foreign policy objectives and not genuine human rights concerns. A Working Group of the Commission to examine and filter credible reports of human rights violations should be established. Also, negotiations of the drafts should be conducted in a more open and transparent manner. The present practice of open individual procedures on the situation of human rights in a particular country should be converted into a confidential procedure. Resolutions have become excessively long, concentrating on all elements of an issue instead of being precise and action oriented. The Commission was urged to restrict the length of resolutions to a page and a half. It was also noted that co-sponsors to resolutions made little effort to achieve consensus. Parallel consultations on different texts continued to be held. The six-week rule for availability of reports had not been complied with and reports were received late too frequently. Finally, the interests of human rights could best be addressed by diverse cultural, civilizational, and legal system representation and all efforts to establish such representation in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights were urged.
DAVID LITTMAN, of the Association for World Education, said that while knowing from experience that the direct opposition to representatives of Governments could be hazardous, NGOs had continued to play an increasingly important role in raising country-specific resolutions. It was, however, the country specific issues which provoked direct confrontation with Governments. The ECOSOC Committee on NGOs increasingly functioned as a "court" to judge incidents or the practices of NGOs, although it was not originally structured to be a court. It would be more rational if actions considered as incorrect or defamatory were raised during the Commission itself rather than far away New York. Another issue which should be addressed was the increasing number of NGOs and their grouping together on the speakers' list. While joint statements might be usefully encouraged, such joint statements often did not deal with the heart of the question. Furthermore, repressive regimes should not be allowed to apply their crude undemocratic methods to what should be sacrosanct democratic deliberations at the UN.
YORIO SHIOKAWA, of the International Organization of Democratic Lawyers, began his statement by questioning the process of the rationalization of the work of the Commission given that many cases submitted in accordance with Social Council resolutions 1503 and 2000/3 were not accepted for consideration by the Commission. He wanted to know how the Commission made such decisions. The procedure should satisfy both the Commission and its applicants, therefore a clearer definition by the Commission of what terms such as "gross violation," among others, meant was desired.
LAZARO PARY, of the Indian Movement Tupaj Amaru, said that the number of members and meetings of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights had been reduced, but at the same time the Subcommission was being given broader tasks. The Working Group had suggested merging the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on foreign debt and the Special Rapporteur on structural adjustment. These two areas had negative impacts on social and economic rights and the Commission, rather than merging these mechanisms, should broaden their scope separately. More Special Rapporteurs should be appointed from developing countries and NGOs should be allowed to participate in their selection process. A balance should be struck between civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights. Special procedures were being abused again in the Commission with the clear intention of condemning developing countries which were considered threats to developed countries.