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Summary record of the 23rd meeting, held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva, on Tuesday, 25 March 1997 : Commission on Human Rights, 53rd session.

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Economic and Social
3 April 1997
Original: ENGLISH
Fifty-third session
Held at the Palais des Nations, Geneva,
on Tuesday, 25 March 1997, at 3 p.m.
Chairman: Mr. SOMOL (Czech Republic)
MINORITIES (continued)
This record is subject to correction.
Corrections should be submitted in one of the working languages. They
should be set forth in a memorandum and also incorporated in a copy of the
record. They should be sent within one week of the date of this document to
the Official Records Editing Section, room E.4108, Palais des Nations, Geneva.
Any corrections to the records of the public meetings of the Commission
at this session will be consolidated in a single corrigendum, to be issued
shortly after the end of the session.
GE.97-11301 (E)
page 2
The meeting was called to order at 3.20 p.m.
ALL MIGRANT WORKERS (agenda item 11) (continued) (E/CN.4/1997/65)
MINORITIES (agenda item 17) (continued) (E/CN.4/1997/82 and 83;
E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/2 and 28; A/51/536)
(continued) (E/CN.4/1997/91 and Add.1; E/CN.4/1997/NGO/19; A/51/542/Add.1 and
1. Mr. BOHR (International Organization for the Development of Freedom of
Education) said that, while the Commission's increased focus on minority
rights was welcome, the approach to minority issues was still largely negative
and minorities were too often seen as a problem. Cultural and religious
diversity was feared as a potential source of conflict.
2. The traditional European model of the nation-State had been based on
the maintenance of religious and cultural uniformity. That model must be
questioned in terms of its compatibility with human rights, and the right to
education must not become a pretext to use the educational system as a means
of social control. Instead, attitudes towards minorities should be based on
the fundamentally different premise that diversity was a source of creative
enrichment and social progress.
3. Education should foster mutual understanding; merely grouping people
together was not enough to engender tolerance. Education must be pluralistic
and geared to helping each individual discover his or her own identity. Most
countries' educational systems were anti-democratic since they did not
incorporate freedom. The tension between unity and diversity could become a
healthy one if civil society was allowed to play a central role in managing
and designing education and if education truly promoted tolerance and respect
for others.
4. Ms. PARKER (International Educational Development, Inc.) said that many
of the current wars and near-wars involved the use of religion for political
purposes. The reports of the Special Rapporteur on the question of religious
intolerance (E/CN.4/1997/91 and Add.1) cited isolated incidents in some of
those countries without discussing the underlying wars or the political
manipulation of religion.
5. The Special Rapporteur had not, in fact, addressed the struggle of the
Moluccan people against Javanese rule. In response to renewed efforts to
resolve the situation, Indonesian authorities were encouraging the migration
of Muslim Javanese into Moluccan areas by granting them special privileges.
Those migrants had fomented violence against the Christian Moluccans and tried
to sow discord between Christian and Muslim Moluccan villages, which had
coexisted peacefully for centuries. Moreover, a genocidal birth-control
policy sought to limit Christian Moluccan births, as part of Indonesia's
strategy to divide and conquer.
page 3
6. In the war between Kashmir and India, the problem was not Islamic
fanaticism, as the Government of India asserted, but India's refusal to
implement the series of Security Council resolutions calling for a plebiscite
on the status of the territory. Despite the Indian Government attempts to pit
non-Muslims against Muslims in Kashmir, the political leadership of the
territory had recently established a council which included many non-Muslims.
She welcomed the renewed efforts of the United States and of the new
Secretary-General to resolve the conflict, and hoped that the Commission
would strongly support them.
7. A bill had been submitted to the United States Congress on violations of
religious freedom in China, perpetrated inter alia through ethnocidal Chinese
policies that manipulated religion in Tibet. The bill, whose example should
be followed by other Governments and United Nations bodies, would deny travel
documents and government funds to the parallel organizations that usurped the
role of legitimate religious leaders and organizations.
8. Lastly, the Special Rapporteur could become more effective by analysing
the context of situations of religious intolerance and alerting the
international community to situations that were leading to war.
9. Ms. OLGUIN (International Indian Treaty Council) said that the religions
of indigenous peoples were inextricably tied to their ancestral homelands.
International monitoring and mediation were urgently needed, owing to the
failure of colonial nation-States to enforce basic human rights standards with
respect to indigenous peoples.
10. The peaceful attempts of the Aazhoodenoo of Ontario, Canada, to reclaim
their original ceremonial and burial grounds had been met with violence and
repression from government officials, who had even murdered one young tribal
member. In Guatemala and Mexico, military installations and the tourist
industry continued to bar indigenous peoples' access to their sacred sites.
At the newly excavated sites of the pyramids in Teotihuacán, Mexico, the
construction of a shopping mall was being promoted with government funding.
11. The representative of the United States had asserted that that country
enjoyed a high level of religious tolerance because its founders had fled
Europe in search of religious freedom. However, the indigenous peoples of the
United States knew the other side of the story all too well, having been
engaged in a legal battle for years to protect their religious freedom.
12. It was essential that indigenous peoples should have access to the
United Nations at a time when domestic forums were unresponsive.
13. Mr. WATCHMAN (International Indian Treaty Council) said that most
families of the Dineh nation and the Navajo Nation Tribal Council had rejected
an "accommodation agreement" proposed by the United States Government because
it would effectively prevent future generations from maintaining the
traditional Dineh religion. They had been informed that, if they did not
accept the terms of the agreement, they would be subject to forcible removal
as from 31 March 1997.
page 4
14. He asked the Commission, therefore, to endorse formally
resolution 1996/36 of the SubCommission
on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities, which emphasized the spiritual connection
that indigenous peoples had with the land and recommended that the Special
Rapporteur should explore the situation of indigenous peoples whose ability to
practise their religion freely had been impaired.
15. Mr. CHOEPHEL (United Towns Agency for North-South Cooperation) said that
China had initiated a number of repressive measures in recent years to curtail
religious freedom in Tibet. Because Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns were
vocal supporters of Tibetan independence, many of them had been imprisoned,
tortured or killed. Thousands had fled to Nepal and India to seek education
in monasteries and nunneries established by Tibetan refugees.
16. In 1993, documentary evidence had been found of China's policy of giving
only limited news coverage to religious issues within Tibet, while providing
wider coverage for foreign audiences as a public-relations ploy. In 1994, the
Chinese authorities had publicly ordered a halt to the spread of Buddhist
institutions, as well as a campaign against the Dalai Lama himself. In 1995,
they had interfered in the ancient religious process of Tibetan Buddhism when
the Dalai Lama had recognized the eleventh Panchen Lama, and, in 1996, they
had conducted "patriotic reeducation"
sessions in which Tibetan monks and
nuns had been ordered to denounce Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama and the
eleventh Panchen Lama. In November 1996, China had taken further steps to
suppress Tibetan Buddhism, inter alia through censorship of art and
17. His organization thus appealed to the Member States of the
United Nations to stop the cultural genocide in Tibet.
18. Mr. LOREDO (International Association of Educators for World Peace) said
that, in 1991, the Cuban authorities had decided to define Cuba as a secular
State rather than an atheist one and to allow religious citizens to join the
Communist Party and hold public office. Nevertheless, the constitutional
guarantee of religious freedom in Cuba was thwarted by other legislation,
including other provisions of the Constitution itself, while the Penal Code
included the novel offence of abuse of religious freedom, such as opposing the
Marxist objectives of education, and made unlawful association a punishable
offence. It should be noted, in that connection, that any association not
having prior permission, which was very hard to obtain, was considered an
unlawful one.
19. Another disturbing sign of intolerance and discrimination against
religion was the ban on the construction of new churches and the persecution
of prayer groups in private homes.
20. Mr. J.A. FERNÁNDEZ (Cuba), speaking on a point of order, said that the
same people were representing two different nongovernmental
(NGOs) at the Commission's current session. He asked whether that violated
the rules of procedure concerning NGO participation, and wondered whether the
persons concerned had invented non-existent organizations in order to use the
Commission for unscrupulous purposes.
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21. The CHAIRMAN said that he saw no contradiction between the rules of
procedure and an individual's representation of more than one NGO. The
speaker's credentials were in order.
22. Mr. J.A. FERNÁNDEZ (Cuba) said that the relevant rules, as contained in
Economic and Social Council resolution 1996/31, were clear and that he had
asked for a legal opinion, not the personal viewpoint of the Chairman. The
Commission should take note of anomalies in the participation of NGOs with
dubious backgrounds and activities.
23. The CHAIRMAN said that no rule had been violated and that he had made a
personal ruling in his capacity as Chairman.
24. Mr. DLAMINI (Observer for Swaziland) said that delegations should use
their right of reply to articulate their views. NGOs did not enjoy the same
status as Member States in the Commission and although they had a role to
play, they must not be allowed to throw stones at Member States. In the
future, NGOs must be thoroughly screened to prevent a recurrence of the
current situation.
25. The CHAIRMAN said that he would never deny the right of reply and that
any delegation was free to disagree with any statement. With respect to the
point of order raised, however, the accreditation of the speaker in question
was in order.
26. Mr. LOREDO (International Association of Educators for World Peace) said
that, although the establishment of the Department of Religious Affairs in
1988 had facilitated relations between the Cuban Government and the churches,
the latter still had to negotiate laboriously for their rights, which were not
recognized by the prevailing system. Churches still did not have access to
the communications media; in 1995, the Government had banned the sale of
printing or communications equipment to churches. The establishment of
parochial schools was prohibited, and few members of religious orders were
allowed to enter the country. The teachings and actions of priests and
ministers were closely scrutinized.
27. The extremely difficult situation of the Jehovah's Witnesses had eased
somewhat, but State repression of the members of the various churches had
increased in the first half of 1996. Religious practice was on the increase
in Cuba, as people became less fearful of religious persecution, but
repression had become more subtle, partly as a result of the pragmatic policy
of selfcensorship
or silence adopted by the churches themselves.
28. He hoped that the Pope's projected visit to Cuba in January 1998 would
give a new impulse to the longheld
desire of the Catholic Church and others
for reconciliation and peace.
29. Mr. WAREHAM (International Association against Torture) said that
it was clear from the report of the Working Group on Minorities
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/28) that there was no consensus on the definition of the
terms “minority” and “national minority”. Blacks had generally been regarded
as a minority in the United States, but incontrovertible statistics and
page 6
analyses demonstrated that there were two separate and unequal nations, one
black and one white, within the geographical boundaries of the United States.
Poverty and infant mortality rates were far higher, and life expectancy lower,
among the black population; a disproportionate number of African men were
incarcerated; two thirds of the land owned by blacks in 1910 had passed into
the hands of whites; and black churches were being burned down.
30. There was a thin line between racial and national discrimination, as
revealed by the recent debate over “Ebonics”, a language spoken by many black
people in the United States. The suggestion that standard (United States)
English should be taught to blacks as a second language was strongly resisted
by those who realized that the recognition of Ebonics would lend weight to the
view that Africans in the United States had developed into an independent
nation. Clearly, then, the protection of the rights of national minorities
must start from a factual analysis of their actual status in society.
31. Ms. YRGAARD (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) said
that migration had to be examined in conjunction with the process of
international economic liberalization, which had freed flows of capital,
investment, communications and technology without freeing flows of labour.
Moreover, the economic situation left many people with little choice but to
migrate in order to survive.
32. Economic globalization did not relieve the sending and receiving States
of their responsibility to protect the rights of migrant workers. Sending
States must provide them with better education and information before they
left home and improved consular services once they arrived in the foreign
country. Receiving States must work to prevent discrimination against migrant
workers, protect their fundamental human rights, help them maintain their
culture, religion and identity, and protect them from exploitation and
working conditions.
33. All States that had not yet done so should ratify the International
Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members
of Their Families, which focused on migrant workers as human beings rather
than as a source of labour. Governments should also be addressing the root
causes of increasing racism and xenophobia in their countries rather than
imposing more restrictive entry requirements on migrant workers.
34. She urged the Centre for Human Rights to turn its attention to violence
against migrant women, the rights of undocumented workers and the
implementation of antidiscrimination
policies relating to migrant workers.
She also called on the Commission to adopt a resolution recommending to the
General Assembly that a world conference on racism be held in 1999.
35. Mr. ALI KHAN (World Peace Council) said that the founding fathers of
democratic movements in many developing countries emerging from colonialism
had seen true democracy as the best defence against bigotry and intolerance.
Unfortunately, a dangerous new form of religious bigotry, one backed by guns,
had emerged. It was relatively easy to identify States which
institutionalized intolerance, but it was more difficult to hold accountable
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those violators of religious freedoms who recognized no borders and reappeared
under different names, claiming superiority for their particular brand of
religion by force of arms.
36. Extremist armed groups were the real threat to religious tolerance. In
the name of religion, they had killed Kashmiri Pandits, attacked Shiites, and
persecuted Ahmadiyas and Christians. He called for a protocol that recognized
the problem and proposed that measures to combat it should be added to the
Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of
Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief.
37. Ms. JOICE (International Progress Organization) said that intolerance
was not inherent in religions but that religion and belief were exploited for
divisive political purposes. Institutionalized prejudice was especially
dangerous, as it inevitably led to the prosperity of some segments of society
and the oppression of others.
38. The founding fathers of Pakistan had reassured religious minorities,
especially the Christians and Hindus, that everyone in Pakistan would be free
to practise his or her religion. All that had changed when the country's
first constitution in 1956 had established it as an Islamic Republic. Since
then, civil and criminal law had been progressively Islamicized, in clear
violation of the most fundamental human rights.
39. The Blasphemy Law of 1986 had been repeatedly used against Ahmadiyas and
Christians; according to it, the evidence of a single Muslim who accused
someone of making disparaging remarks about the Prophet Muhammad was
sufficient to have that person executed. Hearsay evidence of that sort had
even been considered a mitigating factor in the recent brutal murder of a
40. The Law on Separate Electorates also severely discriminated against
minorities by depriving them of full citizenship and the right to vote
irrespective of their religion. In short, there was ample evidence,
documented by the international media and the Human Rights Commission of
Pakistan, that the Pakistan State was sanctioning a consistent pattern of
violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
41. Mr. SAFI (International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations)
said he rejected the thesis that the Muslims living in Indianheld
were a minority: the Kashmiris were a peaceloving
people waiting to exercise
their right to selfdetermination
in accordance with Security Council
42. Although Muslims had borne the brunt of Indian repression, all religious
groups had suffered under the Indian occupation. He had no objections to the
resolution on tolerance and pluralism proposed by India at the fiftysecond
session of the Commission (1996/19), as long as the idea of peaceful
coexistence was not used to legitimize the suppression of people in Jammu and
Kashmir living under illegal foreign occupation.
page 8
43. The Special Rapporteur should be wary of sources inspired by the Indian
Government which asserted that the socalled
religious situation in Jammu and
Kashmir had been brought about by a minority of terrorists. The truth was
that religious discrimination was practised there and that the Kashmiri people
was united in its rejection of Indian repression. The Indian Government was
trying, for its own political purposes, to portray the freedom movement in
Kashmir as an extremist religious movement, when in fact it was a movement
seeking the right to selfdetermination
in accordance with international law.
44. Mr. MESDAGHI (International Falcon Movement) said that, after years of
continuous repression of nonMuslims
in Iran, the policy was being extended to
Sunni Muslims. Several Sunni leaders and clerics had been abducted and
murdered by operatives of the regime, and one had been sentenced to five years
in prison for tearing down posters of Khomeini and Khamenei. Such repression
and harassment was rooted in the views of Khomeini, who had not recognized
Sunni Muslims as citizens with equal rights.
45. Official papers and Friday prayers were used to insult Sunni Muslims in
general. The killing of Mowlavi Mohammad Rabi'i, the Sunni religious leader
in western Iran, after he had protested against insulting remarks about Sunni
leaders made in a television series, had sparked off an uprising in Kermanshah
province in November 1996, which had been brutally put down by the regime.
46. After giving some details of the persecution of members of other
religions in Iran, including Christians, Baha'is, Muslim Sufis, Jews and
Zoroastrians, he urged the Commission to put pressure on the Government of
Iran to end that tragic situation.
47. Mr. GALILEE (Observer for Israel) said that his Government took a grave
view of recent attempts to rekindle division and hatred between peoples, and
called upon all Member States to take active steps to combat them. It
welcomed the measures taken by various countries and organizations to combat
racism, xenophobia, antiSemitism
and all forms of racial intolerance.
48. Having reaffirmed his Government's desire to achieve a just, lasting,
comprehensive and durable peace settlement with the Palestinians, as part of a
historic reconciliation between Israel and its Arab neighbours in general, he
said that it was appalled at the unrelenting antiSemitism
prevailing in the
Arab press, citing a number of instances.
49. It was to be hoped that the implementation of the Programme of Action
for the Third Decade to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination would bring
about a new era where peace would not be limited to political agreements
between States but would reflect a state of mind free from racial hatred and
religious intolerance.
Statements in exercise of the right of reply
(Mexico), having congratulated the Special Rapporteur
on his report (E/CN.4/1997/91) and on the methodology employed, said that his
references to Mexico were, to say the least, imprecise. Although referring to
information and documentation provided by her Government on State initiatives
and action to promote reconciliation and respect for the religious freedom of
page 9
certain religious minorities in Mexico (para. 36), he had not explained the
nature of the problem, thus leaving the impression that her Government failed
to respect freedom of conscience, belief and religion. The incidents in
question had, in fact, been manifestations of fanaticism between private
individuals in a small sector of the population of the southeastern
part of
the country, and the local and federal authorities had taken prompt action to
ensure mutual respect between the religious groups concerned.
51. Her Government agreed with the Special Rapporteur about the importance
of education as a means of combating religious intolerance. Under the
Constitution, Mexican State education was lay and required to combat
ignorance, fanaticism and prejudice.
52. Mr. STEVCEVSKI (Observer for The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
said that the constitutional name of his country was the Republic of
Macedonia. The resolution mentioned by the observer for Greece fully entitled
his delegation to use that name.
53. Mr. MANOUSSAKIS (Observer for Greece) said that the text of
Security Council resolution 817/1993 was selfexplanatory
and could not
be interpreted as implying that The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
could be referred to by any other name. Furthermore, the Interim Accord
between Greece and The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, signed on
13 September 1995, left open the question of the determination of that
Republic's name, thereby proving that The Former Yugoslav Republic of
Macedonia recognized the existence of a dispute over its name.
54. Mr. STEVCEVSKI (Observer for The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
said that Security Council resolution 817/1993 had once again been
misrepresented by the observer for Greece. He saw no point in elaborating
55. Mr. NAZARIAN (Observer for Armenia), referring to a statement by the
observer for Azerbaijan which included a reference to the statement made by
the Chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
at the Lisbon meeting of that organization, said that, as the President of
Armenia had made clear at the time, Armenia did not accept some elements of
the statement in question and would not be guided by those elements during
56. The reason for its nonacceptance
was that the statement in question
failed to reflect the substance of discussions which had taken place during
the Minsk process, predetermined the effect of the outcome of the Minsk
Conference on the status of NagornoKarabakh,
and unnecessarily hardened the
position of Azerbaijan. A further reason for nonacceptance
was that
had not been represented at the Lisbon meeting.
57. The observer for Azerbaijan had also spoken about the socalled
minority of NagornoKarabakh.
The fact that Armenians had been and were a
majority in NagornoKarabakh
was wellknown,
as was the fact that their
struggle for selfdetermination
was rooted in past and present suffering and
in their aspiration to live in freedom and security.
page 10
58. Mr. MOUSSAEV (Observer for Azerbaijan) said that there had never been
any such thing as the “Karabakh people”. There was an Armenian ethnic
minority, just as there were minorities in any other States, and prior
to the conflict that minority had enjoyed broad political, economic and
cultural autonomy within Azerbaijan. At the same time, there had been
over 200,000 ethnic Azerbaijanis in Armenia without their right to
or to autonomy ever being mentioned in that country.
59. Armenia's solution to the problem of selfdetermination
for the
Azerbaijanis in their midst had been the simple one of forcible expulsion from
the lands on which they had lived for centuries. As a result of such ethnic
cleansing, Armenia had become a monoethnic
State with practically no ethnic
or religious minorities. Consequently, it was easy for Armenia to advocate
unlimited realization of the right to selfdetermination.
60. Armenia's position on the statement of the Chairman of OSCE at the
Lisbon Summit was contrary to the position of the international community, as
reflected in resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly, as well
as in decisions of OSCE and other international organizations.
61. Mr. NAZARIAN (Observer for Armenia) said that, when the people of
in 1990 claimed its right to selfdetermination
by peaceful
and constitutional means, the Azerbaijani authorities had organized and armed
a mob to perpetrate massacres of Armenians in Sumgait and other
Azeri cities. In 1991, the leaders of the Azeri regime, assisted by the
Soviet Army, had organized the depopulation of the Armenian regions of
Northern Artzakh and the deportation of the Armenian population of
and surrounding areas. According to Helsinki Watch, more
than half a million Armenians had been affected by those acts of primitive
62. Ms. BI Hua (China) said that respect for and protection of normal
religious activities had been her Government's consistent policy, and Tibet
was no exception. In 1970, the Government had allocated a large sum for the
renovation of religious sites in the autonomous region of Tibet, as a result
of which more than 1,700 monasteries and nunneries housing 46,000 religious,
or more than 2 per cent of the total population of the region, had been
renovated and were open to the public. Attempts to use the forum of the
Commission to split China were damaging to normal religious activities and
would not succeed.
63. In 1995, the eleventh incarnation of the Panchen Lama had been chosen by
drawing lots in accordance with established historical custom, the choice
being supported by most religious people in the region. Contrary to the
allegations made by certain NGOs, the choice had been contested only by a few
separatists in exile.
64. Mr. AMOR (Special Rapporteur on the question of religious intolerance)
said that he wished to emphasize the high quality of his dialogue with almost
all States and NGOs. Dialogue was essential, but it had to be free from
accusations, harassment, pressures and threats. In exercising his mandate, he
would continue to proceed in an independent and impartial way without any
preconceived ideas other than those imposed by the human rights framework of
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the United Nations. In that connection, it should be borne in mind that,
whereas the freedom of belief was not subject to any limitation, the freedom
to manifest one's belief, as interpreted by the Human Rights Committee, could
be restricted under certain circumstances.
65. His report to the Commission (E/CN.4/1997/91) was impartial and
should not be read selectively. The delegation of Iran should understand
that, when he spoke of clericalism, he had in mind both its religious and
manifestations. With reference to his report on his visit to
India (E/CN.4/1997/91/Add.1), he wished to make it clear that, within the
time available, he had had contacts with all partners, whether official or
unofficial, and even with the general public. Discussions on the topic of his
projected visit to the United States were well advanced and the visit seemed
likely to take place in the near future.
66. In the past year, considerable progress had been made in developing
procedures. China and Pakistan had made significant contributions
to the application of the procedures that had been worked out, and Iran,
despite certain difficulties in connection with the Baha'is in particular, was
maintaining useful contacts with him. He wished to thank the Governments of
those three countries.
67. Another positive development was that States were beginning to submit
documents and explanations to him without waiting for allegations to be made
concerning them. The advantages of being able to study a situation in a
serene and unhurried atmosphere were obvious.
68. In conclusion, he noted with regret that, unlike the phenomenon of
religious intolerance itself, the means available to him were diminishing.
His next report to the Commission was not to exceed 20 pages in length. Such
limitation of the possibilities of fulfilling an important mandate were
tantamount to a form of censorship. Because of the financial situation, it
would not be possible for him to analyse the 79 replies from States to the
questionnaire on education and teaching programmes and manuals or to embark
upon an indepth
investigation of other urgent issues, such as the question of
religious sects.
SESSION (agenda item 16)
CN.4/Sub.2/1996/41, E/CN.4/1997/76, 77 and Add.1 and 2,
and 108; E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/6; A/51/309; A/52/56)
69. The CHAIRMAN invited the Chairman of the SubCommission
on Prevention of
Discrimination and Protection of Minorities to introduce the SubCommission's
report on its fortyeighth
session (E/CN.4/1997/2E/
70. Mr. EIDE (Chairman of the SubCommission
on Prevention of Discrimination
and Protection of Minorities) said that the SubCommission
had responded in
several ways to Commission resolution 1996/25. Despite the number of general
and specific mandates given it by its parent bodies, it had managed to
rationalize its agenda for the 1997 session, reducing the number of agenda
page 12
items from 23 to 13, thus facilitating an indepth
study of the items to be
considered. In addition, following an address by the then Chairman of the
Commission, it had given further consideration to its methods of work.
71. Of the two mandates given it by Commission resolution 8 (XXIII), the
Sub-Commission had fully complied only with the first, since guidance from the
Commission was needed on action to be taken with regard to the second, namely,
that the Sub-Commission should bring to the Commission's attention any
situation which appeared to reveal a consistent pattern of gross violations of
human rights. The SubCommission
had, in the past, regularly informed the
Commission of such specific situations, but had decided that, at its
session, it would take no further action since the situations in
question were already under consideration by the Commission.
72. Other elements of the report included the administration of justice and
the rights of detainees, in connection with which the Sub-Commission had
considered the final report on the question of impunity of perpetrators of
violations of civil and political rights (E/CN.4/Sub.2/1996/18) and had
requested the Special Rapporteur on the issue to draw up a revised version of
the set of principles for the protection of human rights through action to
combat impunity. It had also recommended that two of its members should
compile and update the important study on the right to a fair trial and a
73. Economic and social rights had also figured more largely in the
work. In that context, it had, in its resolution 1996/25,
appealed to the world's leaders, meeting in Rome for the World Food Summit
in November 1996, to reaffirm the fundamental right to be free from hunger;
it was gratifying that the Summit had taken note of that appeal and that,
since further work in the field would involve the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO), a representative of FAO had addressed the Commission at
its current session.
74. With regard to minorities and indigenous peoples, the Sub-Commission had
requested the Commission to extend the mandate of the Working Group on
Minorities for a further two years.
75. The Sub-Commission had also thoroughly reviewed its working methods with
regard to the selection of the subjects of studies and the commissioning,
number, treatment and timeframe
of studies and reports. The results of that
review were to be found in annex V to its report. All ongoing studies five
in number would
be completed in 1997 and the Sub-Commission had decided not
to propose any new study or report unless it was specifically recommended by a
competent working group. Only one new study, therefore, recommended by the
Working Group on Indigenous Populations on the subject of indigenous land
rights, had been initiated. The Sub-Commission would thus have the
opportunity to discuss its study programme in depth.
76. He hoped that the Commission would recognize the efforts made by the
to rationalize its work in order to achieve the common goal of
advancing human rights everywhere, while enhancing complementarity and
avoiding duplication in its relations with the Commission.
page 13
77. Ms. VOHRA (Observer for the International Organization for
Migration (IOM)) said that trafficking in women differed from other forms of
migrant trafficking because it was both a gender issue and an abuse of basic
rights. The problem had reached global proportions as women were being
trafficked, around the world to be forced into prostitution or held in
78. Her organization was committed to bringing the problem to the forefront
of international attention as one of the most potentially dangerous forms of
violence against women migrants and to providing support to some of its
victims. In addition to organizing international and regional seminars on the
topic, it provided technical cooperation for the establishment of effective
migration systems.
79. A series of rapid research studies on trafficking in women for sexual
exploitation in Western and Central Europe had been in progress since 1995
under IOM's Migration Information Programme, and the geographical scope of
research was currently being expanded to include the Caribbean and SouthEast
Asian regions. Information dissemination programmes were being conducted in
countries of origin and a quarterly newsletter focused on issues relating to
trafficking in women was being published.
80. IOM was also providing casebycase
assistance to migrant women
vulnerable to abuse and women who had been trafficked, to enable them to
return home in dignity and safety. Two pilot projects for the return of
trafficked Chinese, Cambodian and Vietnamese women and children from Thailand,
where they had generally been forced into prostitution, had been launched.
81. Mr. LOGAR (Observer for Slovenia), speaking also on behalf of the
delegations of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia, said that, thanks to
the International Workshop on Minimum Humanitarian Standards
(E/CN.4/1997/77/Add.1), the issues surrounding a declaration of minimum
humanitarian standards had been clarified. Noting that the idea of a
declaration had received the support of all OSCE members and that the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia had specifically
referred to the Turku Declaration on Minimum Humanitarian Standards, he said
that international human rights law, and humanitarian law as a whole, had
generated a “grey area” with regard to the applicability of basic standards of
humanity in certain situations, where they were often most desperately needed.
82. Most human rights treaties provided for derogations from a number of
human rights standards at times of public emergency threatening the life of
the nation. That left too large a margin of doubt as to whether or not a
public emergency should be proclaimed and, since the Second World War,
proclamations of states of emergency had become a regular practice, going far
beyond the actual needs of the situation.
83. International supervision of such proclamations was still very weak and
many States had not ratified major international human rights treaties. Thus
a substantial part of the world community was deprived of the benefits of
fundamental humanitarian standards. The existence of disputes and ambiguities
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regarding the applicability of humanitarian standards in a growing number
of States in which civil order had collapsed reaffirmed a need for an
international declaration on the matter.
84. Such a declaration would confine itself to the core of irreducible
standards, constituting the lowest common denominator, from which there could
be no derogation whatsoever. The aim was not to set new standards but to
reaffirm the most fundamental rules for their applicability in any situation.
Minimum standards would have to be respected by all: in situations of
internal armed conflicts, problems often arose with regard to entities other
than Governments which considered that they were not bound by such rules. A
declaration would be a promising step forward in strengthening the protection
of the innocent and vulnerable in situations of violence not covered by
international humanitarian law and would remedy the existing uncertainty and
85. The delegations whose spokesman he was recommended that the Commission
request the SecretaryGeneral
to undertake an analytical study on minimum
humanitarian standards and consider convening an openended
seminar under the
aegis of the Commission.
86. All member States could surely support further study of the question of
ensuring fundamental standards of humanity in any situation of unjustified and
disproportionate violence; it would in no way constitute interference in
matters within the internal jurisdiction of States. Democracy, development
and respect for human rights would not be achieved unless minimum humanitarian
standards were applied in all situations.
87. Ms. SPALDING (International Association of Educators for World Peace)
said that action by the Commission at its current session might well determine
whether persons with disabilities would gain increased access to human rights.
There were officially over 500 million people in the world with disabilities,
but everyone experienced a disabling time at some point in life.
88. Her organization had been encouraged by the understanding of some member
States, notably Ireland, Canada and Sweden, the last of which had supplied the
Special Rapporteur on disability of the Commission for Social Development,
whose report on monitoring the implementation of the Standard Rules on the
Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities was before the
Commission on Human Rights (A/52/56). Such monitoring would lay an essential
foundation for the promotion of human rights and for real redress through
existing mechanisms and possible future ones. It was the view of her
organization however, that a joint special rapporteur should be assigned to
serve the two Commissions.
89. Ms. PARKER (International Educational Development, Inc.) said that, when
the needs of those injured or disabled in war were not fully met, as in the
case of the Gulf War, a double violation took place. The use by the
United States of weapons containing depleted uranium in that War had resulted
in thousands of people in Iraq being newly disabled, while the discards
created a massive problem of radioactive pollution.
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90. Iraqi civilians had suffered exceptional disability rates from those
weapons: abnormally high rates of cancer and kidney disease and abnormally
high numbers of children born with missing limbs and other congenital defects.
United States and British military personnel and their children had had
similar problems. The medical situation in Iraq was such that the
continuation of sanctions clearly violated international law, especially where
they affected medical care.
91. While appreciating the efforts made to define minimum humanitarian
standards, she noted that the International Court of Justice had ruled that
humanitarian standards were applicable by all parties in all wars and that
countries were obliged to comply with the full array of human rights. Rights
that were nonderogable
had the force of jus cogens and applied to all States
at all times. As the comments of the Friends World Committee for Consultation
(Quakers) (E/CN.4/1997/77, chap. III) made clear, the problem lay more with
compliance than with any lack of binding standards.
92. Slavery presented a particular problem in Myanmar. The State Law and
Order Restoration Council (SLORC) forced villagers to carry military material
for use against local people, mostly those belonging to ethnic nationalities.
SLORC relied heavily on enforced porterage and labour to construct housing,
roads and the new petroleum pipeline. Many people died of exhaustion,
malnutrition or torture.
93. That situation required special and urgent attention, but the
United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery was
experiencing extreme difficulties owing to lack of funds. It was imperative
that States should contribute to the Fund and that its Board of Trustees
should maintain its independent character.
The meeting rose at 6.05 p.m.